January 27, 2012

Tip of the Day: Engage!

Four weeks into this fitness challenge, I have to agree with Julia: this is starting to feel great!

Like Julia, I haven't found it easy. I've been on 15 airplanes this month. I've done 9 of my 29 workouts while on the road, in two different US states and three different Canadian provinces. I'll add to all of those totals in February, no doubt. But I feel good about the fact that a daily workout is my new default mode: early in the morning, late at night, adapting to the location and the equipment available.

Benefit number one is that I'm starting to feel fit again, and I love that. I'm already measurably stronger than I was on January 1. And even though I'm not running very much, today I ran a strong time on one of my standard courses — still a few minutes off my personal best, but significantly faster than anything I've been able to do so far in 2012.

Benefit number two is a more positive attitude in general. That's probably not entirely attributable to the exercise, but I firmly believe that it helps. I'm definitely more motivated and more engaged at work today than I was when the year ended. I've also seen a difference at the rink, where I've got more energy to keep up with my kids and a more enthusiastic and positive approach to coaching.

But maybe the most surprising benefit of the challenge has been the conversation. For me, working out is at heart an antisocial activity. Although I enjoy playing hockey and I enjoy socializing at the canoe club, I don't really like fitness classes or the gym, and I don't seek out running partners on a regular basis. I've done 29 workouts so far this year, and I've done 28 of them either alone or with Kate.

But in the meantime, I've realized that the CKC Fitness Challenge has created a small network of people to share my progress with — and there are many, many more out there. Kate has joined in. My parents (who are both over 60) are three weeks into P90X. By talking about the challenge with others, I've found two more colleagues at work who are also doing P90X, another who has qualified for the 2012 Boston marathon, another who was a spare for the Canadian taekwondo team at the 1996 Olympics, and still another who has a personal objective to work out every day, to improve his fitness and his running times.

So let's keep that conversation going!

January 25, 2012

January 20 Fail

I have a confession to make.

No, that is not me on the rowing machine. My confession is that on January 20 (last Friday) I had my first miss in this New Year's Challenge. I spent a very long day travelling from Maryland to Halifax, including two separate flights that departed from Montréal, and didn't make it home until midnight. I will confess that I snoozed through my 6 a.m. alarm that morning, thinking that I'd be able to work out at home, and thereby missing my opportunity.

I did make up my P90X workout for Friday, but that doesn't change the fact that I missed a day.

Speaking of P90X, this is Week 4 — Recovery Week — which means a change in routine. On the travel schedule, it's been more of the same, I'm afraid; a two-day offsite in Wakefield, and another two-day visit to headquarters in Ottawa. I've added the latest location to the map.

January 19, 2012

Tip of the Day: Clear Your Mind

From today until Friday, I'll be working out at the Hampton Inn in Lexington Park, Maryland. There's not much in Lexington Park to draw anybody outside at this time of year, and there's not a great gym at the hotel. It's one of those hotel gyms that just barely meets the minimum requirements. On the other hand, I'll give Hamption Inns credit: if you have to put your "fitness centre" in a cramped, ground-floor room and you are extremely limited in your equipment choices, you could do a lot worse than the Star Trac Instinct Dual Adjustable Pulley system. I was able to improvise almost everything from the P90X Shoulders & Arms program on this single machine.

I also have to give Hampton Inns credit for their gym decor. I love the message to "clear your mind," one of the primary benefits of exercise and coincidentally Tony Horton's Tip of the Day for Yoga-X … which happens to be on the program for tomorrow.

January 16, 2012

Tip of the Day: Pace Yourself

I started the day in a fairly miserable state. After a terrible night's sleep, I ignored my 5:50 alarm and snoozed through my designated exercise time. On the plus side, that meant I could do my workout (after the kids were in bed) with my favourite training partner. (And no ... I don't mean Tony Horton. He's very reliable and all, but frankly we're not entirely compatible). And today was (finally) the day when I started to feel like the workouts were paying off. At the start of week 3, I am getting measurably fitter. Onward and upward!

View CKC Excellence 2012 Fitness Challenge in a larger map

Also, I've created a Google Map for the CKC Excellence 2012 challenge, so that my fellow challengers and I can capture all the different places we are working out. Since the group includes people from all across Eastern Canada (nobody publicly declared from the West ... are you out there?), I thought a map might be a neat way to capture some of the challenge geographically. Julia has already joined in! If you want to be added to the list of collaborators so that you can add your own favourite workout locations, drop me a comment to this post and I will add you.

January 11, 2012

On the Road

Day 10 complete and I still haven't missed a day. Hooray!

I suspect that when I eventually do miss a day of working out, I will have my busy travel schedule to blame. Some travel days make a real workout impossible. However, I am in D.C this week for some meetings, and I've been able to adapt my routine for this trip. The best way to do that is to stay in a hotel that has a great gym. I can report that the Courtyard Crystal City has an excellent gym, especially for a middle-tier hotel. (Unfortunately the WiFi is not as excellent, but that's another story.)

In this fitness challenge I've made extensive use of the iPod Touch Kate gave me for Christmas. I'm quite enjoying the P90X App, which schedules the workouts for the "Classic" program, and includes a tracking feature for all the strength workouts so that I can record the weight and reps and view the history (so far) right on my iPod. You can also separately purchase "guided workouts" for each routine that include mini-videos for each exercise.

Yesterday before supper I did the P90X "Plyometrics" routine, which is driven by a set of timed intervals. For that one I used the Seconds Pro app, which I higly recommend if you need to do any kind of complicated interval training. The "Pro" version allows you to create and save completely customized interval timers that you can use to guide your favourite workout. I have a Timex Ironman watch with a variable interval timer that is almost as flexible … but wristwatches are just so 20th century, aren't they?

Hard interval training, by the way, was always my favourite kind of workout when I was a real athlete. I am reminded that coach K_____ used to name his favourite interval workouts a la "Piece of Cake" … always one of our favourites. When I trained alone on a regular basis after I moved to California, that Timex Ironman interval timer came in really handy for this one.

Piece of Cake

120 seconds ON, 20 seconds OFF
60 seconds ON, 15 seconds OFF
30 seconds ON, 10 seconds OFF
20 seconds ON, 5 seconds OFF
10 seconds ON, take a few minutes. Repeat.
All done at faster-than-1000 metre race pace.

Maybe I'll work my way up to that one in time for racing season this year!

January 09, 2012


Technology is your friend. Or else it's your nagging conscience.

Well, that hurt.

Still hurts, actually, when I climb the stairs. Or sit down. But the worst part of the start-up suffering should be over, so maybe now is the right time to share a few perspectives on my new fitness challenge.

For 2012 I am joining Julia Rivard and 19 other members of the CanoeKayak Canada family in making a New Year's Fitness Resolution. My resolution is to work out every day from 1 January until the day of the 2012 Olympic Games closing ceremony. That's a total of 224 Workouts, as Julia has noted in her new blog about the experience.

Why are we doing this? I suspect that each of those 21 people had their own reasons for joining in. Julia's launch introduction is an eloquent statement about finding a way to reconnect with and pay tribute to the athletes on our Canadian team, and to join them in their quest for excellence. I also think that being an Olympian should come with a lifelong committment to physical fitness. And although I have not been entirely consistent in my own committment on that front, I'm looking forward to getting fit again. I did something like this once before, sticking to a once-a-day committment for 2008 and the first half of 2009. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was a great year and a half of my middle-aged life.

For days 2 through 91 of the challenge, I'll be doing the P90X "Classic" Program, with some minor customizations that I will probably mention at some point over the coming 13 weeks. This will be my fourth time through the drill with Tony Horton and friends, but the third time was quite a while ago. I start the program at 201.5 pounds, and (according to the black magic hidden in my wife's bathroom scale) a disheartening 20.5% body fat.

I am now safely through Week 1 without dropping the ball, although the week was not without its challenges. On January 4th, I departed for Ottawa at 7:15 a.m., worked until 5, worked out in the company gym, raced to the airport without showering, and arrived home just before midnight. Fortunately, I was upgraded to business class, so my neighbours didn't have to get too close. Jan 5th and 6th I started my workouts after 11 pm, for various reasons; that's not my favourite way to get this done, but sometimes it's unavoidable.

In case you are wondering what I did on Day 1, I executed my Alternative Minimum Workout (AMW), which is my own personal benchmark for whether I give myself a check in the workout box for any given day. Yes, I admit it: I find Julia's hour-a-day standard too strict. I am simply going to admit up front that I am not going to get that done every day. My personal AMW benchmark is a 4.5 km run that starts and ends at my house. On New Year's Day, in something less than peak physical condition, I ran that course in 21:30. By summer I will be doing it in under 19 (strenuous) minutes. I'm not going to shrink my daily exercise to that level, but I do think that counts as a workout.

The map for the AMW run can be seen here, courtesy of MapMyRun and my Garmin Forerunner 305. Since I tend to travel more than a little bit these days, I get to run in some interesting locations. I'll post some of my more unusual routes on this blog as I go. I'll also post here about the P90X program, my progress on the challenge, and some of the fitness technology I like. I know that this fitness venture is a bit of a change of direction for this blog, but then again it's been dormant for almost two years. I hope I can come up with a few interesting things to say. Who knows … maybe with my new fitness I'll find the energy to write a few things about Olympic and amateur sport again!

P.S. It turns out that today marks 200 days remaining in the countdown to the Opening of the 2012 Olympic Games. And a CanoeKayak Canada Olympian, Kristi Gauthier, was at the British Consulate in Ottawa to help the High Commissioner mark the occasion. Go Kristi Go!