Friday, 24 January 2014


This is gonna be a short post.  I just wanted to mention something that probably seems almost intuitive in most every field of human endeavour but perhaps get brushed aside as relates to exercise and fitness.  That is, if you want to get good at something, do that something every dayEvery. Single. Day.    
Like I said, this seems almost too simple and obvious.  If a person wants to get good at playing a musical instrument, they practice it every single day.  If you want to be a great painter, you’d better be painting some shit every day.  Wanna be in the NBA?  You’d better be working on your jump shot daily.  Oh and by the way, you still won’t be in the NBA, you pygmy, but at least you’ll have a good jumper. 
As an example, when I was in high school, I played guitar for at least an hour or two each and every day.  It wasn’t out of some grand desire to be a great guitarist.  I just really liked it, so I got in the habit of doing it regularly.  If I walked by the guitar, I would inevitably pick it up and play for a bit.  And I got quite good (not amazing, but pretty decent) in a relatively short amount of time.  These days, I might pick up my guitar once or twice a week.  And you know what…I’m no better than I was back in high school. 
Again, this all seems quite obvious.  But translated into the arena of fitness, the waters get all muddied.  People (myself included) get so focused on training splits, periodization schemes, fear of ‘overtraining’, etc. that it’s very easy to forget this most basic fact.  If you want to get excellent at something…do a lot of that thing.  So much of the dialogue around training and muscle-building talks about the ideal ratio of rest days to work days, the number of times you should train a body part or full body per week…push/pull, training/not-training through soreness, blah, blah, blah
And a lot of this makes sense.  In no way am I advocating that a person can be in the gym squatting 1RMs each and every single day…there’s a logical limit to this.  But one thing’s for sure, if you want to improve your squat, you damn well be doing a lot of squatting - as much as your body’s recovery abilities will allow. 
The best example I’ll use is with chin-ups.  For years I was stuck in the 12-18 sort of range for max number of strict chin-ups (no kipping).  On a good day, I could get into the upper teens but was never able to push past that.  I did all sorts of things…adding weights, longer rests, etc….but nothing gave me any indication that I was likely to push much past that threshold.  During this whole time, however, I was operating under that pervasive bodybuilding dogma that you don’t want to train body parts too often.  I.e., I would at most train pulling exercises like chin-ups maybe twice per week, sometimes only once, thinking that anything more would lead to overtraining. 
However, for the past month or so, I’ve been making sure to do chin-ups every single day.  Not a lot of them.  Just one set to (or almost to) failure.  Every. Single. Day.  I set a reminder in my Outlook calendar.  It prompts me to get up from my desk and go find a bar or overhang nearby (stairwells often work well) and crank out a set.  And you know what….it works.  Today I hammered out 26 straight.  Not an amazing number, but at 240lbs bodyweight it’s not bad either.  I’ve got 30 in my sights now. 
This extra chin-up regimen has no effect on other aspects of my training.  I still do all of my other usual stuff and longer workouts on a more infrequent basis.  I even do weighted chins once a week or so as part of an upper body push/pull workout, as well as ring muscle-ups once or twice a week.  The extra ‘daily’ chins take all of 2-3 minutes – hardly an inconvenience to my day – yet they’ve made all the difference.  The volume is so low that they don’t cause any kind of issues with DOMS or ‘overtraining’.  The only noticeable side effect is being able to do more chin-ups. 
The same thing applies to push-ups.  A while back, I got into a rhythm of finishing every day with a set of push-ups to failure, just before bed.  That led to pretty steadily increasing push-up numbers, getting up to the mid seventies.  And again it took hardly any time and the volume was so low as not to affect other aspects of training.  I’m currently experimenting with sprints.  I’ve traditionally done a ‘long-ish’ sprint workout once every week or so.  The past week, I’ve been doing a quick series of between 5 and 10 roughly 100-yard repeats on my lunch break.  Again, this is not very scientific (I use a parking garage and don’t formally measure the course) and takes virtually no time (maybe 5 minutes, including rest breaks between).  It’s too early to tell if it’s made me faster, and difficult to gauge progress without someone there timing me, but I’m hoping to be able to feel the improvements to my quickness. 
So there you have it.  I feel as if I’m the purveyor of perfectly obvious advice.  Nothing groundbreaking here.  If you wanna get good at something, do it every day.  Now if I can only translate my own advice into my writing, these blog posts are gonna get a whole lot more frequent…and potentially a little bit better too. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year's Polar Bear (aka reverse "ball drop")

I rang in the New Year today by doing a polar bear dip in the frigid Ottawa River.  It was pushing minus 30 degrees here today...damn cold!  Needless to say, it was a very brief swim, and I'm going to keep this post similarly brief.  I just wanted to post a link to my profile on the event website:

The event raises money for the Childrens Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and for all of the kids fighting cancer there.  I find New Year's an optimistic time of year, with all of the plans and hopes for the future.  It's humbling to think of what these kids have to face in the upcoming year, and they need all the help they can get.

If you've ever gotten any useful information (or maybe even just a laugh) from reading this blog, I'd ask you to consider making a small donation to this cause through the link above.  They are accepting pledges until the end of January.  I realize that there are a lot of good causes out there, all competing for your attention and resources. But even a couple of dollars would help a tonne.


...And here are a few pics from the event today.

"Getting undressed (my face tells the story of how enjoyable this was)":

 "The hole in the ice":

"Getting out (as quickly as possible)":