Tried It Tuesday: Review of GoMacro Bars

Disclaimer: Through Raynforest, I received free product in return for writing a review.  All opinions are my own.

I’m participating in a link-up hosted by Sara of Lakeshore Runner, called Tried It Tuesday. Every Tuesday, people post about something new they tried, and for me this week, it’s going to be the nutrition bars by GoMacro.

I don’t discuss food or nutrition that often on the blog, mostly because I’m not doing the cooking in our house, and I don’t find it that interesting a subject to write about. That doesn’t mean I’m immune to nutritional considerations – and if you remember this Friday Five post, I’ve not only put more thought, time and effort into strength training, but also considering my macro-nutrients especially protein (mostly to control my appetite between meals).

GoMacro is a company based on five principles:

  1. Macrobiotic – a macrobiotic diet is the key to a long, healthy life.
  2. Vegan – Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
  3. Wholesome – If nature did not make it, they don’t use it.
  4. Gives Back – Pay it forward. Give Back. Change the World.
  5. Sourced Sustainably
Unlike these bars, I’m neither Gluten-free, nor Vegan, nor Macrobiotic, I just have some awareness of what is good and bad to put in our bodies, and going over the list of ingredients in the GoMacro bars is a relief compared to most times I do that. It actually takes longer, because the word “organic” precedes each and every ingredient. Compared to the granola bars and Greek yogurt snacks I pack (sometimes), they’re a little heavier on calories (somewhere upwards of 200 calories, varying from flavour to flavour), but I was really pleasantly surprised by how they tasted.
Starting from Top Left: protein pleasure, protein purity, morning harvest, sunny uplift, balanced goodness, prolonged power, protein replenishment, sweet revival, protein paradise, sweet rejuvenation, wholehearted heaven 
Several of the bars are marked high-protein, and I’ve indicated those in my individual notes. Here’s how they struck me:

  • Protein Purity – sunflower butter+chocolate (HIGH PROTEIN); sunflower butter is the stronger flavour, chocolate is subtle.  Nothing offensive, but not really that pleasing either.

  • Prolonged Power – banana+almond butter (HIGH PROTEIN); tastes just like it sounds. was hungry as my breakfast had no extra protein.  Banana taste is subtle, almond butter is smooth.  Didn’t completely satisfy instantly as I wanted more, but it kept me going until my lunch-time workout slot.
  • Protein Pleasure – peanut butter chocolate chip (HIGH PROTEIN); a little bland considering the ingredients.
  • Sunny Uplift – cherries + berries; I was feeling low, and I’m not that into fruit, but this was a nice pick-me-up.

  • Balanced Goodness – granola + coconut; close to a typical granola bar, tasted OK.  Also included dates and raisins.
  • Protein Paradise – cashew caramel (HIGH PROTEIN); probably my favourite,not too sweet, but still a treat. Apparently the caramel substitute is mesquite-based!

  • wholehearted heaven – almond butter + carob; when people talk about health food in a negative way, this is probably the kind of taste they’re referring to.
  • morning harvest – apples + walnuts; this is a great combination, sweet in a breakfast-y kind of way.
  • sweet rejuvenation – sesame butter + dates; I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I don’t really like dates, but they must have been ground up pretty fine so the taste didn’t bother me and the sesame seed flavour isn’t overpowering either.
  • sweet rejuvenation – cashew butter; Can you tell by the picture that I was keen to eat this one? The cashew chunks give it a bit of a crunchiness, and it’s a little sweeter than straight peanut butter.
There they are! I think I’ll be stocking up on Protein Paradise and Sunny Uplift, though when I need to fuel for longer bike rides, having Prolonged Power might be a good idea. The website has a Store Locator, and US residents can order online.

Have you had GoMacro Bars before? What would be your favourite flavour? What are you looking to get out of a MacroBar? Energy? Recovery? Macronutrients?

Fitness Friday – #WorkoutHack: Dumbbell Doubles For A Quick Getaway

Disclaimer: I am not a certified fitness professional.  Please consult your doctor before undertaking a new exercise program.  Workouts on Iron Rogue are provided for inspiration and discussion.

You may remember from 2 weeks ago that I’ve been emphasizing strength training in the last little while.  The workout I’ve been using is based on the Muscle Primer workout from Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle by Tom Venuto.

The Muscle Primer workout is a whole body workout that Mr. Venuto prescribes for beginners to get ready for more weight-lifting.  I thought I would do it for 3 weeks then move on to workouts that were divided up into back/arms, chest/shoulders, and leg days. Unfortunately, that’s not how Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle is designed, and they recommend sticking with the Muscle Primer for 3 months (up to 6!) and that’s doing it 3 times a week, when I’ve been closer to twice for the last 6-8 weeks.

I do my workouts at lunchtime at work, and lately there have been training courses, meetings, and a heavier workload getting in the way of my workouts.  One of my pet-peeves with weight lifting is how it can take longer if a particular piece of equipment (even a bench) is occupied by someone else, and how setting up weights on bars etc. takes extra time.  A few times I’ve wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is all the rage for time-efficiency and effectiveness these days, but I’ve been guilty in the past of grabbing a workout from social media (Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs), doing it once for kicks, then doing something new the next time – I often say I have fitness ADD (which is great for triathlon), and it works well for diversity of training and muscle-confusion, but not so much for seeing progress in terms of strength/power and/or technique.  So when I wanted a quick workout a few weeks ago, I decided to try and build my own, based on the muscle primer workout with the following principles in mind:

  1. Stick generally to the same strength exercises of the Muscle Primer workout; build the same whole-body strength
  2. Pair exercises in such a way that they can be done back to back; with little overlap between muscle groups, one muscle group rests while the other is working.
  3. Pair exercises in such a way that the same dumbbells can be used for both exercises without having to go back to the rack and seek out different ones.
  4. Use as little extra equipment as possible.
Here are the individual exercises:
  • Deadlift/Romanian Deadlift – These are great for posterior chain (used for going up hills).  I do Romanian Deadlifts when I’m not confident about the weight I’m lifting, and I think they’re beginner-friendly for starting to lift.
  • Bench Press – OK, you need a piece of equipment here, but luckily between flat benches and adjustable benches, you can usually find something in a gym.
These two represent the exercises that I can do with the heaviest weight.  

  • Split Squats – These are like lunges without stepping forward (or back).  I’m not comfortable elevating my rear foot very much, but sometimes I’ll place it on a step or even the foot rest of a piece of equipment (bench, rack).
  • Bent-over Rows –  These can be done single arm with a bench, but I prefer to stand bent over with weights in both hands (see pic).  They take the place of the lat-pulldown which I’ve been using for back strength when I have time for longer workouts.
Bent-over Row

  • Shoulder Press – I confess, I like doing this one on a bench with a backrest to support me and heavier weight, but when I’m doing the dumbbell doubles, I go a little lighter, more reps, and stand to engage my core for good form
  • Bicep Curls – I generally alternate arms.
These complement each other from a push vs. pull perspective.  The triceps are being used in the press, but they get to rest during the bicep curls.

Two-handed Tricep Extension

  • Two-handed Tricep Extensions – Dumbbell tricep extensions come in a dozen different flavours, but this is the one they use in the book, so I had no reason to change it.  Using both hands means I can grab a heavier weight, which can come in handy for doing the other exercise in this pair (see pic)
  • Calf Extensions with a Dumbell – I’m not in love with this one as I find most calf-exercises a little awkward.  On days where I have time, I break my own rules and use a machine (leg press).  Still, you can mount a weight on your shoulder and put your foot on any raised surface (provided you feel good about your balance).  I’m using a spin bike in the pic, but the foot of a bench or a step would be fine too.  Notice I put the weight on the opposite shoulder to the leg I’m doing the calf raise with.
Calf Raises

Now, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so using the same dumbbells for each exercise might not make sense for everyone, however, I think I have a fairly typical build/strength profile (especially for a runner/triathlete) with more lower body strength than upper body strength, so I don’t think these pairings are too “out-there.”  Moreover, you can vary the reps you do as long as they stay between 6 and 15 (8 to 12 being even more ideal).

Here’s how the numbers shook out the last time I did this workout:

  • Deadlifts/Bench Press (two 45 lb dumbbells, 12 reps)
  • Split Squats/Bent Over Rows (two 35 lb dumbbells, 10 reps)
  • Shoulder Press/Bicep Curls (two 20 lb dumbbells, 15 and 12 reps respectively)
  • Overhead Tricep Extension/Calf Raises (one 30 lb dumbbell, 15 and 12 reps respectively)
I did two sets of each: each “double” or pair twice. I tried to not stop in the middle of a double, and also not too much between sets. I rested a little between doubles, but not too much, usually just enough to replace the weights and grab new ones. The good news is the major muscles fatigued by one exercise never stopped me from doing an exercise, the only thing holding me back was getting gassed cardiovascularly, or needing to rest my hands due to lack of grip endurance. So while I’m not going to label this a HIIT workout (I wouldn’t know the rules of what constitutes that exactly), you can see it will get your heart rate going well, while building muscle.

Official time from that “dress rehearsal”: 14 minutes 36 seconds. I did 3 minutes on an elliptical (though I prefer a rowing machine – it was occupied) as a warm-up, and a minute plank on my way to the change-room. Iron Rogue Out!

What do you think? Do you love dumbbells?

I Mustache You A Question

I was tagged by Robyn Baldwin to do this Mustache Questionnaire… who am I to refuse?

  • This mustache and this both are… bananas!

    Four names that people call me, other than my real name:

  1. Alex.  BIGGEST PET PEEVE.  There’s nothing wrong with the name Alex, except it’s not MY NAME.  I used to joke to people that called me that that there’s a dyslexia epidemic, until I came across someone who actually had dyslexia.  Has anyone seen my foot? Oh here it is, in my mouth.  It got bad enough that I actually (in a moment of low self-esteem, probably in my teens) considered changing my name to save everyone the trouble.  Nowadays, I correct people right away so they can’t get into the bad habit – I have to confront the embarrassment head-on.
  2. Papa – only two people call me that, but they do say it A LOT.
  3. Ax – due to #1 and what must have been a record-setting number of disparaging nicknames as a kid, I generally refuse to answer to anything but my actual name.  This one nickname gets grandfathered in since my oldest friends still use it.
  4. Axe-man – see #3

  • Four jobs I have had – My career as an engineer has been quite checkered, but if you’re not in the industry, it probably doesn’t seem that varied.  I think this list is more for crazy/joe jobs, so I’ll list those.
  1. Cleaning after pets at the Ontario Humane Society
  2. Tutoring (French, Math, Physics)
  3. Translating Academic Papers from German to English (or at least, proof-reading the translations)
  4. Wireless Network Engineer

  • Four movies I have watched more than once:
  1. Star Wars (all of them) – I think it was generally accepted practice in my generation (for boys at least) that social ranking was determined by who had seen the movies the most.
  2. Pulp Fiction – This is one of the movies I decided I must own on DVD once I first got a DVD player.  Highly quotable, in fact, it just gave me the idea to put “Bad Motherf***er” on some of my tri stuff (helmet, bike, etc.) just so I can paraphrase the diner scene.
  3. Swingers – From the same list as Pulp Fiction, maybe not quite as timeless.
  4. The Good The Bad and the Ugly – I love this movie, but I mostly put it on this list so anyone who’s seen it will now have the theme stuck in their head.

  • Two Books I recommend:
  1. A Prayer For Owen Meany – If this book isn’t the only book to make me laugh out loud AND cry, then it’s definitely the record holder for number of times it’s done both.
  2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – This book might not be for everyone, but if you like it, we can be friends, and if you’ve read it, you’ll better understand my sense of humour or even my worldview.  I try to emulate Douglas Adams a fair bit in my own writing.

  • Four places I have lived:
  1. Toronto: Grew up in Scarborough, first place of my own in North York, currently in Mississauga.
  2. Waterloo, ON: University
  3. Braunschweig, Germany: 1 year exchange
  4. Leeds, UK: Grad School

  • Four Places I have been:
  1. Thailand
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Germany
  4. Switzerland

Honourable Mentions: France, Mexico, Turks & Caicos

  • Four places I would rather be right now:
  1. Costa Rica – any place warm/tropical would do right now, but I dreamt of this place the other morning.
  2. Seville – This place made a great impression on me culturally (architecture, food, music); it’s also warmer than here, and very relaxed.
  3. New Orleans – Ditto
  4. Bed – Warmth, comfort… you know.

  • Four things I don’t eat:
  1. BRAAAAINS – this is part joke about how I’m not a zombie (yet), but some people do eat brain.  I consider myself an adventurous eater, but here’s where I draw the line.
  2. Leek – I really don’t like the taste of this one.
  3. Brussel Sprouts – Does anyone like these?
  4. Avocado – this one’s weird, I think it’s the texture, because I have no problem with guacamole.

  • Four of my favourite foods:
  1. Spaghetti and Meat Sauce – this was number one when I was a kid, and I’m not gonna change…
  2. Burgers
  3. Steak
  4. Muffins – I had to admit these were my weakness when I found that I could avoid sweets entirely, except I’d crack and get one of these mid-mornings.  I can say no to ice cream, chocolate, cookies, cake, donuts no problem, but muffins slip the net far too often.

Honourable Mentions: Butter Chicken, Peanut Curry, Pancakes, Jambalaya…

  • Four TV Shows I watch:
  1. New Girl
  2. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  3. Brooklyn 99
  4. Saturday Night Live

Honourable Mentions: I’m working through Orange Is The New Black on Netflix, Game of Thrones (season 2 so far) on DVD, and when House of Cards comes back… hooo boy.

  • Four things I am looking forward to next year:
  1. The Lightning Kid going to school – I’m also terrified at how well he’ll cope and if he’s ready for it all, but it’s a major milestone to be in an actual school instead of a daycare.
  2. Triathlon Season – Half-Iron, Off-Road and Winter Triathlon are all possibilities in 2015.  I haven’t nailed down goals or a schedule, but there’s sure to be something exciting.
  3. Visit to Germany – We go every year, and the travel gets a little less stressful every year as the kids mature… I think.
  4. Camping – Not a certainty but we’ve wanted to go camping as a family since before we were a family, and we’ve basically waited till the Lightning Kid is out of diapers completely… maybe that’s what I’m actually looking forward to the most.

  • Four things I am always saying:
  1. No hitting, no screaming, no breaking things – the 3 biggest rules in the house, and repeating them has barely helped with complying…
  2. No Retreat, No Surrender – this started as my mantra for toilet training, but I’ve applied it parenting and advocating for the Lightning Kid’s education and inclusion.  It works for athletic goals too.  It’s a Springsteen song and a Jean Claude Van Damme movie.

  1. Alley-Oop! – Every time I pick one of the boys up.
  2. Ugh. – I guess I’m not always a happy camper…

  • Tag 4 people
  1. Hayley Goleniowska of Downs Side Up
  2. Morgan of Wildly Fit

Friday Five: The Five Things I Would Have Posted About If I Could Have

The blog went on a bit of a hiatus for the last month and a half, but I finally got a chance to wrap up my review of the Samsung Gear Fit Smartwatch earlier this week.  There were tons of topics I wanted to post on during that hiatus, and the truth is, I’m still really swamped with work while the holiday madness is on the horizon, so I guess it could happen again.  Still, I want to move forward, so rather than try to write all those posts that were timely weeks ago, I’m going to use a Friday Five to get caught up on the big ticket items and move forward from there, OK? These are the posts I woulda-coulda-shoulda posted:

  1. Featured Blogger at Fitfluential – Running Apps: Did you guys see my guest post on the Fitfluential Blog? In October, I covered Running Apps, what’s available, what’s important, etc..  Here’s the link to the article.
  2. Levac Attack – This year’s Levac Attack came and went, and I wish I’d been able to do more to promote it.  We were in a new location (Port Credit) and it was a fun course, with a 15 km option this year in addition to the usual 5 km, 10 km and half-marathon courses.  While we enjoyed it, I think it marks the close of our stroller running career as Shark Boy rode his bike for a lap then chose to hang out near the finish line and gorge himself of Timbits.  The Lightning Kid started to cry after a lap, so my wife and I had to split up our running and did the last 5 km of our 10 km runs separately – each taking turns to watch the Lightning Kid.  It was another big success raising money for Mount Sinai hospital, and I’ll keep hoping to get some more of my local bloggers involved next year!
  3. Angus Glen 10k/Half-Marathon – This is my wife’s favourite race as it has an awesome post race meal inside the Angus Glen country club.  Due to an organizational/scheduling snafu, we scrapped our childcare plans for the day, which was just as well as I had a splitting headache and didn’t feel like running, so I watched the kids while she ran it.  We also met my friend John and his wife there – she scolded me for not recruiting her to watch the boys, but once she saw how they tore it up running around the inside of the country club, she might have had second thoughts!  My wife was really happy with her time, as it wasn’t a personal best overall, it was certainly faster than she’s run all year, and that’s especially impressive considering how hilly the Angus Glen course is.  John PR’ed his half-marathon, which I thought would be impossible considering how hilly it was, but he had done the Scotiabank Marathon weeks earlier; being in marathon shape makes a half-marathon no big deal, I guess.
  4. New Phone – In spite of a protective cover, I cracked the screen of my Samsung Galaxy S3. One crack wasn’t so bad, but then this happened:

    And here’s how:

    Anyway, we were due for an upgrade at work soon enough anyway, so all I had to do was stick it out for a couple of weeks, and ta-daaa! Samsung Galaxy S5.  So far, I really like it, and though the S5 comes in an Active version that is waterproof and shock-proof, which I didn’t get.  I still like this model, especially now that I have a Lifeproof case on it to make it waterproof.

  5. A photo posted by Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) on

I’m still getting used to the phone, having to make little changes to make the user experience more like what I’m used to, and I have yet to use all the new bells and whistles it offers (HR sensor like on the Gear Fit Smartwatch, ANT connectivity – hopefully to connect to my Garmin accessories).  I can post a review of the phone and the case in the near future hopefully.
  1. Weight lifting – The general, haphazard approach I’ve taken with my off-season is to lose weight, or more accurately, get leaner.  I’m using the principles from Tom Venuto’s Burn The Fat – Feed The Muscle; but not only am I not adhering to his prescription very closely, I haven’t even finished the book cover to cover.  Still, it’s gotten me re-engaged with strength training and considering macro-nutrients a little closer. I’ve known that protein is supposed to make you feel full, but I usually felt just as hungry for a mid-morning snack when I ate egg whites as when I ate cereal, and unfortunately, healthy snacks like veggies or nuts never seemed to satisfy.  I’ve been playing around with making a smoothie with hemp protein (from Manitoba Harvest) alongside my breakfast (which is starting to include more protein sources too).  While I’m wary of simply adding too many calories to my day, it’s better to have them earlier than later, and feeling full right through till lunch has kept me away from the Tim Horton’s more and more often.  On the exercise front, the idea has been to schedule in strength workouts as first priority, with the idea that cardio is easier to come by – I could run or even bike outside my lunchtime workout slots more easily.  While work and family chaos, high-priority items and emergencies have kept me from being on point and regular with workouts and nutrition too often during the last month and a half, when I have been good, I’ve seen results.  Pounds come off the scale and go on the barbell.  Some of the strength gains might be actual muscular strength and some might be more me getting more confident with the lifting technique and willing to push it more.  If I keep up some endurance work, I shouldn’t really bulk up, and generally when I’ve gotten too swamped to fit in the endurance work, I’ve been too swamped to weight lift too, so it kind of works out.  I’ll be posting a time-space efficiency hack of my workout routine in the near future so stay tuned for that.

Is your off-season regime radically different from your on-season? Is there a phone upgrade you’re craving?  Do you know of a hidden gem race like Levac Attack or Angus Glen?

Gear Corner: Review of the Samsung Gear Fit #Smartwatch

Ever since smartwatches were announced (and yes, it was well before Apple announced theirs) I’ve wanted one.  It would have to be waterproof and fitness oriented, though which narrowed down the selection somewhat.  The Samsung Gear Fit would fit the bill (and work well with my phone the Galaxy S3 since they’re made by the same company), and when one went on sale, I couldn’t pass it up.

Once I got it out of the box, it was quick to pair with the phone.  There is a Gear Fit Manager app to download, and the fitness features require a separate app.  The first one (from here on, I’ll refer to it as the Manager) let me make some adjustments to the watch’s display and interface.

I didn’t like the default wallpaper (too colourful) and went with a purple one.  The other default I ddidn’tlike was the orientation of the screen for data.  It was perpendicular to the way I usually look at a watch.

Bluetooth pairing went seamlessly; there was hardly anything to do – the connection can be initiated from the phone’s app side or the watch. I think people who struggle with Bluetooth pairing won’t have any trouble.

As I started using the watch, there were things I liked right away. I loved getting notifications through the watch – I usually keep my phone on vibrate because I don’t like it making obtrusive noises, but sometimes I still miss notifications or calls. When your wrist buzzes, it’s hard to ignore. You can configure what kinds of notifications get sent to the watch: text messages are probably important, notifications from Google+ communities (for example), maybe not so much. The notifications don’t get sent to the watch when you’re using the phone, which is a very intelligent feature.

The watch has a pretty good range from the phone (I think I got as far as 50 feet from it), so it can be handy to leave the phone somewhere nearby yet safe and secure. Of course, that range gets decreased by walls or obstructions.

Beyond the convenience of having an interface to the phone on my wrist, the biggest benefit of the Gear Fit is as a fitness device. There’s an accelerometer inside which tracks arm movements and is used to drive the step counter, much like the Fitbit Flex. Unlike the Fitbit, however, you can look at your progress on the Gear Fit’s own screen. Making 10,000 steps a day is a great way to keep burning calories throughout the day, and better yet, you have proof of how tiring chasing kids around really is.

The Gear Fit has a Heart Rate sensor, which I was really excited about. It’s worth noting though, that you have to hold still to use it, so you can’t track your heart rate continuously while working out. It’s better for spot checks like seeing what your resting heart rate is; I tried taking measurements during a run, and even though I stood still it wouldn’t get a reading because I was too sweaty or something. The heart rate readings don’t interface into third party apps like Endomondo (see below).

Heart rate aside, the Gear Fit has its own interface to apps like Endomondo and Strava, so that you can start and stop tracking your mileage through the watch. This is probably my favourite feature, since this kind of thing (starting/stopping, pausing) is always awkward. Now, I put the phone in a Spi-belt (or armband) and don’t fiddle with it once I’m out the door.

The Gear Fit has an interface to the media player, so that you can start, stop the music (or even video) you may be listening to (or watching) or skip tracks. That’s a lot easier than mucking about with the phone that was nicely tucked away in a pocket. I did notice one time that when I used Endomondo to pick my music, there was a serious lag between when I’d hit a control on the smart watch and when the action (e.g. skipping tracks) took place.

The accelerometer in the Gear Fit doesn’t just track your steps while walking, but you can put the smart watch into sleep mode to track the quality of your sleep, like the Fitbit. The screen makes it easier than the Fitbit to start tracking, but I didn’t like how the assessments were presented. It simply gives you a total amount of time, and a percentage that you were motionless. At least Fitbit tried to differentiate (and illustrate the occurrence of) restless sleep vs. waking, even if it got it wrong some of the time.

The Gear Fit can be used for alarms, but it doesn’t store the alarms locally; the phone must be on and connected (via Bluetooth) to the watch for alarms to work. In my opinion, that makes the alarm feature next to useless.

Staying connected to the Gear Fit drains the phone’s battery quite aggressively, and the Galaxy S3 didn’t have great battery life to begin with. Turning off Bluetooth occasionally (when you didn’t need them to be connected) was a good way to save a little battery life. The watch’s battery typically lasted about 2.5 days between charging. It charges with the regular charging cable that works for Samsung and Blackberry, but needs an adapter cradle. This cradle is roughly 1 square centimeter and black, so of course, I eventually lost it. I’ve ordered a new one from Amazon, and I’ve written this post from notes I’ve taken during my ownership of the Gear Fit. I’d probably have more details in this review if I was still using the watch (and rest assured, I will again), but I’d really like to get this review finished and move on to other posts.

Overall, with smartphones getting bigger and bigger screens, the smartwatch form factor has a lot going for it, and a fitness oriented, waterproof model like the Gear Fit is close to perfect for the tech-savvy, connected fitness enthusiast.

What do you think of smartwatches? Cool, or dorky?