Browse Tag: running

SURVIVING THE APOCALYPSE (OR AN OBSTACLE COURSE)

levi clampitt obstacle course

Shit will become cray-cray.

Regardless of how you think it will go down (or *if* it even will), we will need to prepare for it.

The truth is, we will all have our own personal apocalyptic moments far before the zombie insurrection or nuclear holocaust. While mine might be a grizzly bear encounter, yours might be something as common as just having to rush to the hospital.

We can call these “obstacles to life”.

Having completed 2 actual obstacle courses this summer, I can honestly say these simulate “when the shit hits the fan” moments pretty well.

My team and I recently ran the Dirty Donkey Mud Run. We registered for the elite category (Kick Ass) and our captain donned a go pro to capture the footage.

 

This isn’t a post to sell you on why you should run these, however, but rather on how to prepare for when you do.

THE 2 SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES

Obstacles courses are generally 5 km in length, have anywhere from 10 – 20 obstacles, and are a great tool to uncover your weaknesses.

If all you do is run for preparation, however, these will suck. Along the same token if all you do is strength train, once again, these will suck.

Here’s how not to suck:

BALANCE STRENGTH AND CARDIO

To run an obstacle course without dieing requires us to not only have good control of our own weight but be able to lift external weight as well. For the former, I am referring to relative strength (i.e pushups, pullups, jumping, running) and for the latter, absolute strength (carrying logs, pressing pipes and such, and pulling things such as crates).

To develop this strength, following a program that is a hybrid of gymnastics and strongman will yield the most results.

While you will need strength to bypass many obstacles, it is actually your levels of cardio that will make or break you (and by “cardio”, I mean simply how well you can breathe).

Like I discussed in How to Win a Race (Without Running), we don’t necessarily need to run long distances to develop our cardio. In fact, I haven’t ran further than 400 meters this year yet I took 4th in this last race (despite wearing a #20 pound vest). I credit this to 3 things:

  1. My training consists of short, very intense workouts
  2. ZMA supplementation
  3. Using stimulants pre-workout

Note: I explain these more fully here.

The one exercise that will stress both these attributes beyond belief is hill sprints. Not only are these a great upper-body and core exercise (surprisingly), but they will give you insight into whether your lungs are up to par or not.

LEARN HOW TO SHIFT GEARS

When we do high-intensity exercises such as sprinting, an all-out set of pushups, or we are simply excited / nervous before a race, our heart rate increases.

It does this in large part so that it can pump more oxygen to our cells. This is a good thing. It becomes a bad thing, however, when it is allowed to stay high. When this happens, we can overheat.

With regular running (see: steady state) we typically don’t have to worry about this since we run at the same pace and our HR tends to mirror that. And with strength training, our heart rate sky rockets, but since we rest a lot more, it is allowed to recover. With obstacle courses, however, we don’t get this rest since we are doing both running and strength exercises.

2 ways we can face this:

#1 Ignore it

The faster you can address your high heart rate, the better (and more comfortable) the rest of the race will be. You don’t, however, even have to pay attention. I have ran many races where I allowed it to stay high and didn’t focus on my breathing. Did I feel like crap afterwards? Absolutely. I think I probably even killed some brain cells.

#2 Calm yourself

Obstacle courses are largely stop-and-go. It is when we are at “breaks” (the slower parts of the race), that we will want to slow down our breathing as well. This will become especially important sometime near the start of the race. During this time, we naturally run faster and may or may not be hyped on caffeine.

 

As you can see, I started the race like a bullet. If I wanted to survive the next +4 km, however, I needed to take a moment to steady my heart rate. I did this once I hit a straight stretch of running and by simultaneously slowing down my speed (slightly) while focusing on big, slow belly breaths, I was able to shift to 2nd gear (or “second wind”) within a a minute.

This isn’t anything new but once we become stressed out and totally embroiled into what we’re doing, we tend to forget about this little breathing aspect. Even as I write this, I notice my breathing is shallow. Breathe, Levi, breathe…

The best workouts to practice this “shifting” will be Crossfit as many of their workouts combine running, high reps, and strength exercises with little or no rest.

 

DID YOU SURVIVE?

Have you already ran an obstacle course?

What helped (or what didn’t)?

THE 4 KEYS TO WINNING RACES (WITHOUT RUNNING)

She was ahead of me for 99.9% of the race.

It was a 5k and despite only having one run under my belt in the past 6 months, I was sitting in second place and 1 minute behind her at the half-way point.

I am not really a competitive person but I felt the urge to win. Not because I wanted to be put up on an altar, but so I could have a platform to say this:

We don’t have to run to be a great runner.

So with that fuel,  I passed her 50 feet before the finish line.

It wasn’t a stellar time by any means (21:36), but I have done this before. I have purposely chose not to train in the conventional way and placed high in races (best time in 5k is 19 flat).

I don’t train this way to be different.

I train this way because conventional distant training will beat you up. With enough miles, running eats up your muscle and testosterone while paving the way for muscle imbalances and inflammation (from cortisol release).

For many people, running is antagonistic to their goals (of looking awesome and being strong).

Still, however, it has its place. For some, it supplies a “high” like no other, and for others, their sport or job relies on it.

This is for them.

HOW TO BECOME A GREAT RUNNER

1. THE MIND COMES FIRST

Anyone who has ever ran will know how big a part the mind plays. Usually, when people slow down (or never get going in the first place) it is the mind that fails first.

The thing is, the mind will tell us some crazy stuff in an effort to get us a quit and the only way to silence the sewage that it will be producing is to learn how to coach yourselves. This mainly entails what we should say to ourselves and how we should think about what we are experiencing. There are plenty of psychology books out there that can help you with this and I will be dropping my own flavor some time in the Fall.

2. TRAIN THE CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM

I said it once and I’ll say it again: We Do Not Have To Run To Get In Shape.

I’ll make it easy on you and summarize that link in one sentence: Instead of running, do other things that make breathing tougher.

For myself, this means lift heavy(ish) weight with little rest in-between and/or for high reps. The demand that this will put on our cardiovascular system will be much higher than a 1 – 3 mile run ever could produce (Don’t believe? Test it with a heart rate monitor).

Still, however, this will not be enough. For most people, they will first have to work inside-out. They will need to clean up inflammation (from a combination of sleeping more and slightly better eating) and they will to need to clear up any deficiencies. The big deficiency that will wreak havoc on our breathing (which I have personally experienced many times) is that of the magnesium deficiency (read about that here).

Other than that, if you want your system primed to go, try supplementing with caffeine/coffee. Any stimulant will activate the fight-or-flight mechanism and in doing so, open up the air passages.

One last thing, please learn how to breathe. Mouth should be wide, movement should be seen in stomach and not chest, and you should literally sound like an air machine. Below is a video of me running a hill last year with a 60 lb vest on.

 

3. DEVELOP THE POSTERIOR CHAIN

Most runners already have decent quads and calves, but their posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) tend to be lacking.

This posterior chain, when developed, is what allows us to go fast. When it’s not, however, than it can be tough to “get up and go” no matter how much juice we put in to it.

If you look at the picture at the top of this post, note the difference in our form. We were both running as fast as we can, but she is still in “quad mode”.  Her back leg is bent and there is no push from her backside. Now look at me. My back leg is almost fully extended and I am getting a huge push from the all-mighty gluteus maximus and glorious hamstrings.

This is how animals such as cheetahs and tigers cover a lot of ground in such a short amount of time and this is how we should finish races.

To be able to do this, we must make sure we are doing not only doing glute activation exercises (discussed here) but utilizing loaded squats, deadlifts, and lunges in our program as well.

4. WORK ON YOUR SPRINT FORM

Remember when I said we wouldn’t have to run?  I lied. The truth is, we have to run a little (but it’s not as far as you think).

If we can improve our 50 meter dash time, than we can improve our 1 mile (and longer) run time as well. This is because all races (yes, even marathons) have some aspect of the race that we have to (or at least should) sprint. In fact, most runs look like this: Run fast, cruise, and then ran as fast as our body allows. The shorter the race, the more we will be relying on this.

Now I am not saying we should run the whole race like a sprinter (it’s very energy costly ), but we should at least learn how. And if you are new to running, this should be your first stop.

While I am a hardly a sprint coach and would rather direct you to youtube, here are some pointers:

  • Be on the balls (the toes) of your feet and lean forward.
  • Hands should be like closed scissors.
  • The more we get pump our arms (elbow joint close to 90 degrees), the more power we can generate with our legs

When you start off, you are going to look ugly. That’s just how it is.

I see so many people refuse to sprint, not because it’s hard but more-so because they care what other people think.

If you are able to drop that thinking, with time and diligence, you’ll nail it.

HOW TO USE THIS

If your track and weight room are very close, here is what’s optimal:

  1. Drink some coffee or another pre-workout before hand.
  2. Start with dynamic warmup emphasizing skips, bounds, and form running. (15 minutes)
  3. 20-30 m acceleration starts (10 or so) and/or vertical jump maxes.
  4. Deadlifts. (5 sets of very heavy weight should work)
  5. High intensity interval training. (no more than 15 minutes)
  6. Go home, carb up (to replace lost glycogen), and maybe pop some ZMA.

When I was serious about training, this is what I did. Now it is more lax and I don’t feel the need to combine weight lifting with cardio. Whatever the case, this is how I do “the impossible” (stay strong and run long distances fast) and I do not see why it wouldn’t work for you.

DEATH OF THE OVER EXERCISER

So you want to know how often you should be hitting the gym if you want to reach your fat loss goal?

The answer is way less than you think.

We live in a society, however, that thinks that more is better. We think if we can just get to the gym 6 times a week, then we will automatically win. If we can just log more miles or cut more calories, the prize will be ours.

This type of thinking will only take us down a road of frustration.

The reality (and slighty less revelatory) is that only better is better. Quality is of the highest quality so to speak. This is true for our 3 big goals: fat loss, mass gain, and performance enhancement.

Can we talk about this?

THE RULES

If you read me for a while now, you know I don’t like putting people in boxes and I certainly don’t like stating what we can and can’t do (because there are just too many crazy, talented people out there who will be the exceptions to my advice).

So I am not going tell you how often you should workout.

Instead, I am going to give you 2 rules.

#1 BE ABLE TO SEND THE SIGNAL

This is the quality I was speaking of. We are not just showing up to show up, but showing up to perform BETTER. Now better can mean many things so we first have to figure out the signal that we are trying to send and then work on making that signal better.

In general –

  • If our goal is fat loss, we want to mix low intensity exercise (like walking) with high metabolic work (like lifting weights).
  • If it is muscle growth, we need to do more volume consistently.
  • If it is performance, we need to get better at what we want to get better (sometimes not so obvious for people).

When our body adapts (ie when we see progress), so does the signal. So that means we have to constantly keep going back to the drawing board to make that signal stronger and clearer. The people you see coming back to the gym year after year who seemingly don’t progress? They failed to change their signals.

If we are unable to send the signal, than our recovery is probably lacking.

#2 BE ABLE TO RECOVER

You can train all you want, but if you are not allowing the time and the materials for the proper adaption (discussed here and here), then you will not see squat for an adaptation.

The thing is, most exercise is stressful. If you  are already living a stressful live (from lack of sleep, bad food, allergies, emotional bullshit, etc.) than adding MORE STRESS will not be in your favor. Stress on top of stress without a means to recover and become stronger equals becoming fat(ter). For real. We can thank cortisol for that.

In my experience, people add way too much unnecessary stress through the way they exercise.

They don’t go hard but they don’t do light exercise either (which can be restorative). Instead, they dance right in the middle in a place I call “No Man’s Land”.

Most of the exercise people do requires only moderate (mediocre?) intensity. This is things like distance running, spin class, and other aerobics. When they do lift, they tend to leave a lot of effort on the table.

Now this is great for beginners and people just getting into this, but after a while the signal will just not be strong enough.
At the far left of the graph will be a load of low-intensity exercises. This includes walking, skating, yoga, mobility, hiking, and other things that we can do while keeping a conversation.

We skip the middle (because the signal sucks) and go straight for the goodies at the far right. The goodies is lifting weight (either external or body) and doing things in a faster, heavier, tensor manner.

The far right? This is hard. This is stuff that invites our mind to tell us why we shouldn’t or can’t do it (AND this is exactly why we must). This is the signal we need.

 

SO…

“How often should I workout?!”

Start with twice a week and go from there. Most people will only be able to handle two hard workouts a week. Very few will be able to do 3. Even fewer 4.

Now the light stuff you can do everyday. In fact, I urge you to do this everyday. Walk to work or to the grocery store. As far as keeping fat off or improving wellness, this habit will make the biggest difference.

Now to tie up some loose ends:

  • Everyone should exercise at least once a week. There are no exceptions to this. If you are in pain and/or think you’re too old, give machines a try
  • Dudes should work out more than dudettes. Testosterone exists for a reason. If you do not use it, you’ll lose it.
  • Runners will think they need to spend a lot of time in “No Mans land ”. While this may be true of professionals, it is not so for amateurs. You can get better by doing light and intense sessions only (will speak on this soon).
  • If your goal is strictly health and longevity, the max you probably want to train will be twice a week. The reasoning being, the less training, the less “wear and tear“ we accrue.

Okay.

I feel good about this.

Thanks for reading.