A Merry Rogue

One working Dad's journey to find "healthy".

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tractor Tires, Cinder Blocks, & Sledge Hammers 3.0 (Almost Certifiably Crazy version)

If you haven't read "Tractor Tires, Cinder Blocks, & Sledge Hammers . . . Oh My!" and "The Neighbors Probably Think We're Nuts (Tractor Tires, Cinder Blocks, & Sledge Hammers 2.0)", then you should probably go read in order to catch up.  Then come back & continue to read the post below.

Each time we've done this workout we have added, change, or modified something.  Ever and always raising the bar just a bit higher.  Yesterday was no exception to that.  Earlier in the week, Ted had done the workout (without me . . . jerk) but instead of doing a timed session he did a certain amount of reps per exercise.  Unfortunately we didn't time the workout to see how much of a time difference there was between this style and the timed, but I'm sure it went just a bit longer than before.  I'll leave out the warm ups and cool down, being that nothing has really changed there.

Both exercises are done twice.

Tire Flip:  Flip the tire a set distance three times (down, back, and down again).  About 5 to 6 flips each direction for a total of 15-18 flips.  The distance is roughly 50 feet.

Farmer's Walk & Kettlebell Swing:  Holding cinder blocks, walk 50 feet, then back.  Do 5 Kettlebell swings using a 20lb kettlebell.  Repeat twice more, switching the grip on the cinder block each time.

We changed this so that we do both exercises twice as we do in Sessions #1 & #3.

Cinder Block Stack:  Move stack of 4 cinder blocks from the ground onto a platform at about waist high (we use wood placed on top of saw horses).  4 blocks done 15 times for a total of 60 reps (first onto the platform, then back down to the ground).

Chains:  Ted attached the chains to the footing of the shed out back so that we don't have to get creative on how to hold down the other end of them.  We shot for 120 reps (60 each arm).  However I am sure we went over that mark.  Both of us got quite creative with this.  For my first go at this, I did 30 up & down, 30 circles out, 30 circles in.  Alternating right then left arm.  Then I did the same but did 10 reps of each where I did both arms at the same time.

The second round I used the same beginning, but then added in two variations.  First:  Holding both chains to the right side of my body, moved them in a circle to the left.  Left first, and the right followed.  Then went back the other direction.  Right first, then the left followed.  This made for a pretty good core workout in addition.  Second:  I held both chains in one hand and did 5 reps each of the "up & downs", "circles in" & "circles out".  Then changed hands and repeated.

Both exercises are done twice.

Sledge Hammer:  Hit the tire, repeatedly.  Over, and over, and over, and over . . . We really didn't set a goal for this one.  You just hit the tire until the other person is done with the Sandbag workout.  We do change stances and grip though.  I did 10 hits then changed.  Right hand side swing, right hand overhead swing, Left hand side swing, left hand overhead swing, repeat.

Sandbag:  For this we laid out a rectangle (about 20' by 50') and each corner was a place you had to stop and do the lifts with the bag.

Do 5 push ups to start, lift onto shoulders and run 50' to the next corner.
Do 5 bent over rows, put back on shoulders and side shuffle (defensive shuffle) 20' to the next corner.
Do either 5 squat to shoulder lifts or 5 squats, put back on shoulders and run 50' to the next corner.
Do 5 overhead presses, put back on shoulders and do crossovers 20' back to the start.
Repeat once.

All in all, this was a great version.  One of the biggest differences is that in the timed version, I find myself breathing harder more often.  In this version, I found myself physically exhausted afterwards.

Of coarse after the workout, we went on to do fight choreography for the fest show for a few hours . . . no big deal.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How To Make A Homemade Sandbag

When Ted and I began to talk about putting together our outdoor workout (see here and/or here), one of the things I wanted for the workout was a sandbag.  I had seen several online videos and figured it would be a but kicking exercise to toss into a workout.

The routine I came up with was to use the sandbag to do a circuit of 5 pushups, 5 bent over rows, 5 squat lifts, 5 overhead presses, and then run with the sandbag on your shoulders.  Turns out it is a "kick your butt" kind of exercise.

Having read or watched several "How-tos" on how to make them, I'll let you know a few things that most people leave out.  First, we'll start with the price.  Most will say that you can make this for about $30 or under. Problem is that you can't buy one set of the items by themselves.  So I will tell you the price I paid total, even though all of what I bought was not used in making the bag.

So here is how to make your own for around $40 bucks.  I stopped at 2 stores to get all the supplies I would need.  If you look harder, you could find some of these for cheaper.

1 Military sea bag (the thick canvas kind) - $20 (Military Surplus store)
2 contractor bags (heavy duty trash bags) - It was about $7-$8 for a roll of them. (Home Depot)
2 Rolls of Duct Tape - $6 (Home Depot)
1 bag of Pea Pebbles - $1.97 (Home Depot)
1 bag of Rubber Mulch - $5.97 (Optional - Home Depot)

First, take one of the contractor bags and cut open the Pea Pebbles and empty it into the contractor bag.  Then do the same for the Rubber Mulch.  I did a bit of mixing after I added both to the bag.

I then put the bag onto it's side and shaped it to roughly the size of a large pillow, wrapping the excess bag around it.  I then taped the bag shut and then proceeded to duct tape the entire bag.  This will help the bag to be stronger so that it does not bust open.  This of coarse is not a guarantee.  It may still bust open.

A little piece of advice . . . don't do this on pavement
My fiance always tells me to double bag when we are at the grocery store.  Of coarse I never want to, but that small percent of the time when the bag actually does break is annoying.  So . . . I double bagged it.

You'll notice I moved to the grass
If you are someone who takes the time to tape the bag, you may not need the second roll of duct tape . . . I did.

After the duct taping, you are ready to put the sandbag into the canvas sea bag.  In a lot of instructions, they tell you to cut off the handles.  I left them on.  I am not exactly sure why, but I may have a use for them some day.  Notice the duct tape on the straps to "tie" down any stray ends.

Fantastically!  The exercises that we do with this could be a workout routine of it's own.  The second time through the routine I couldn't get all five overhead presses out.  Of coarse after everything else I did that involves shoulders & arms, it really isn't surprising.  

Now this is my first attempt and at making one, and I would probably do a second slightly different.  The one thing for sure is that I would not use the Rubber Mulch.  I would also try to find a scale to use to better plan out the weight of the bag.  The Pea Pebbles weigh about 50-55lbs.  The Rubber Mulch about 25-30lbs.  This was the best guess by one of the workers at Home Depot.  Now given that they store these outside, the Pea Pebbles were quite damp so add a few pounds.  At best guess, Ted and I figure the total weight of the bag to be about 90lbs.  This is a very heavy bag.  A 50-65lb bag would have worked just fine.

Next time I plan to use a scale and just two bags of the Pea Pebbles and weigh out the amount of pebbles i want to use.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Neighbors Probably Think We're Nuts (Tractor Tires, Cinder Blocks, & Sledge Hammers 2.0)

Oddly enough, the people I work with out at the Renaissance Festival here in Minnesota tend to joke about that a lot.  With The Dueling Grounds, which is a stage combat group here in the Twin Cities, we joke about that a lot.  If you saw your neighbors sword fighting in their back yard, what would you think?

Now with the Robin Hood and The Merry Men Show, add in our strange workouts to the stage combat practice.

As I hinted in the last blog post, we added two new pieces to the workout.  One is a brand new workout, the other is the sandbag to replace the punching bag.  I'll outline the workout again and note the changes.  Due to a sore shoulder, Ted sat this one out and took some pictures for this post.

No change here really.  5 minutes of stretching and some medicine ball tossing to warm up the body.  

No changes here either.  All exercises are done for 1 minute and are done twice, alternating between the two with a 15 second rest period in between.

Tractor Tire Flip:  Lift tire, flip, repeat.  I had originally planned to do 5 tire jumps whenever there was a change in direction . . . I did it the first time . . .

Sometimes finding a good grip is difficult
You'd almost think this was the easy part

 Cinder Block Farmer's Walk & Kettlebell Swing:  Walk for 20 yds holding two cinder blocks, set one down, do 5 Kettlebell swings, repeat.

We did make a change here.  There are now two workouts in this session.  Both done for 2 mins 15 secs with a 30 second rest period.  The Cinder Block Stack & Pass remains, then we added Chains.

Cinder Block Stack:  (without Ted, there is no "stack & pass")  Stack all four cinder blocks on top of each other on the ground to your side.  Pickup one cinder block at a time and stack on a platform.  Then take off of the platform and stack back on ground.  Face other direction and repeat.

I was pretty sure he took much more of these . . . 

Chains:  I can't say I have ever seen this done with chains.  Typically it is done with about 2" thick rope.  The 20 foot chains worked great though.  We did tape the ends to give us a stiff handle to grasp.  The other end of the chains are criss-crossed and set under the tractor tire . . . then we put the punching bag on the end . . . then we put a cinder block on top.  There are three motions that I used.  Up and down, circles out, and circles in.  The effect you want is to make a wave through the chain as you do the motion.

The only change here is that we replaced the 75lb punching bag with a 90lb (approx) homemade sandbag.  In my next post, I'll provide detailed instructions on how to make one . . . and how not to make it so heavy.  All exercises are done for 1 minute and are done twice, alternating between the two with a 15 second rest period in between.

Sledge Hammer:  Hit the tractor tire with a sledge hammer.  I used a side swing and an overhead swing, switching grips after 10 hits.  We are still unsure on the exact weight of the hammer, but it feels like it weighs a ton by this point in the workout.

Sandbag:  My intent was to make the bag about 75 lbs . . . it's a bit heavier, but it worked.  This workout goes:  5 push ups (on bag), 5 bent over rows, 5 squat lift to shoulder, 5 overhead presses.  Then set bag on shoulders and run.  After the lifting, I got about three 20 yard runs in before the timer ran out on the minute.

5 Push Ups
5 Bent Over Rows
5 Squat to Shoulder Lifts
5 Overhead Presses

Now Run!

So there you have it.  Leave a comment or share with your friends.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tractor Tires, Cinder Blocks, & Sledge Hammers . . . Oh My!

Stop.  Remove the thought of Wizard of Oz reference from your head and re-read the title of this post with a George Takei "Oh My!" at the end.

. . . there you go.  Now you may proceed with the rest of the post.

Some of you may or may not have been aware of the plans that Ted and myself have had for some time now to do a strongman style workout once a week. 

If you are confused, replace "strongman" with "Crossfit" . . . and you'll be close.  If you are still confused, Google it . . . or just read the rest of the post. 

  If you have been following along to this point you know that Ted and myself have been working on getting back in shape and loosing weight.  If you know us personally, you probably know that we are a bit crazy.  Which would help to explain why we would even attempt something like this.  We both have changed the way we eat to be healthier and also began working out.  Recently I began biking to work and Ted also had his first bike to work just the other day.  The following is just one more thing that we wanted to do to help us along our way to being healthier people.

The biggest challenge of getting this workout together was getting all of the equipment we would need for it.  We have one or two more items that we would like to get and add to the workout, but as we found out this past Tuesday, this was more than sufficient to start with.

1 Tractor Tire (5.5 feet in diameter by about 18 inches wide)
4 concrete blocks
1 Sledgehammer
1 75lbs Everlast punching bag.

They're not just for tractors anymore ( . . . or sandboxes . . . or planters . . )

The workout has five sessions and each session is five minutes.  For Session 2 and Session 4, each exercise is done for 1 minute.  Each person does each exercise twice in the session with a 15 second switch delay between the 1 minute.

  • 5 minute warmup.  Stretching and 10lb medicine ball toss.

  • Tractor Tire flip
  • Farmer's Walk - Walk for 20 yds with a cinder block in each hand.  Stop, do 5 kettlebell swings with one of the cinder blocks (repeat)
  • Cinder Block Stack & Pass (5 minutes) - I really don't know what else to call this.  I stood facing one direction and Ted stood facing the opposite direction next to me.  With the 4 cinder blocks stacked next to me I would pick them up and pass them one-by-one to Ted.  He would put them down on the other side of him.  Then he would pass them back to me.  Then we would switch directions we were facing and repeat.  This was inspired really by the "side lunge to shelf" (Ted calls it the "Fedex") from P90X.
  • Sledge Hammer - Simple, hit the tractor tire with the sledge hammer repeatedly.
  • Punching bag - This was improvised as we plan to have a sandbag eventually.  For this, basically we just did a fireman carry with the bag (lift onto the shoulder) and walked/jogged 20 yards.  Then going into a squat, dropped the bag and lifted onto the opposite shoulder, walked 20 yards, dropped the bag, did a rack & press and lowered the bag onto both shoulders and walked 20 yards - repeat.
5 Minute cool down.  Stretching & medicine ball toss.

Even after one go at it, this is one of my favorite workouts.  Ted and I plan on doing this exercise routine about once a week (or as our busy lives permit).  The past few days I could really tell that the workout worked my entire body.  Most noticeably were the core & leg muscles.  One exercise we have talked about adding would be a rope workout to add to the upper body portion of the workout.

The one thing I do plan on doing for next time is to make a sandbag to replace the punching bag.  While it did the job, it was still very awkward to try and lift & carry.  The original workout plan we had created called for a homemade sandbag.  The sequence would go as follows:

5 pushups on bag, 5 bent over rows, 5 squat & lift (to shoulder - alternating), 5 overhead presses - 20 yd run with bag.  Repeat.

Next week, we may even have someone to take pictures of this insanity to post & share. . . just a fair warning.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Android App Comparison: My Tracks vs Cardio Trainer

Since I began biking again, I started using the Google My Tracks app on my Android phone to track my rides. It game me a ton of information.  Total time, moving time, average speed, average moving speed, elevation, max/min grade . . . etc.  So it wasn't until recently that my friend Ted (his blog here) started using Cardio Trainer that I even considered changing to a different app.

I'm not one to count calories of what I eat, but the calories burned, time, distance, speed . . .etc, are all interesting to me.  Unfortunately calories is the one thing that My Tracks does not do (without an additional heart rate attachment anyway).  So to try it out I downloaded Noom Cardio Trainer last night.  This morning for my bike commute to work, started up both of them to track my ride.

Here is a link to both of them uploaded to Google Maps:

05/10/12 AM Commute (My Tracks)

05/10/2012 AM Commute (Cardio Trainer)


Map & Distance
In both apps, the actual route plotted out on the map was identical and accurate. My Tracks reported the distance as 6.75 miles and Cardio Trainer reported the distance as 6.74.  To investigate I went to Google Maps and plotted out the route myself and got a total of 6.7 miles.  Both appear to be very accurate (they both use Google Maps for their mapping).

My Tracks:  1
Cardio Trainer: 1

Cardio Trainer only gives you one time, whereas My Tracks gives you both Total Time and Moving Time.  What I've found for exercises where you are moving (ie: using the GPS) Cardio Trainer pauses the app when you are not moving.  I am not sure if this stops the calorie calculation or not.  When I am sitting at a stoplight for about 30 seconds, my heart is still beating like crazy, therefore I am still burning calories.  I may have to watch the app more to see if it pauses entirely or if the calorie calculation continues while it is paused.  The other thing I noticed in looking at the map points for Cardio Trainer is that the app has a delay in resuming when paused.  I am unsure what affect this may have on the ride results.

Here are the time results from this morning's ride.

My Tracks:  31:27 Moving Time, 35:18 Total Time
Cardio Trainer:  32:41

Based on time alone (taking out the Calorie calculation question), I have to award the point to My Tracks for this round.

My Tracks:  2
Cardio Trainer:  1

Again, My Tracks provides more data than Cardio Trainer when it comes to speed.  Cardio Trainer provides Average Speed (12.38 mi/h), and Max Speed (24.54 mi/h).  My Tracks provides Average Speed (12.4 mi/h), Average Moving Speed (13.9 mi/h), and Max Speed (28.5 mi/h).

One thing I noticed is that My Track's rounds to the nearest .10th when it uploads from the app to Google Maps.  In checking the app, the Average speed was identical.  The difference in the Max Speed I am unsure of.  It may be due to a difference in the settings for how often the app pings the GPS satellites.

As for accuracy, without purchasing an speedometer for the bike, I can't really verify the accuracy of the speed.  Either way, My Tracks wins this round.

My Tracks:  3
Cardio Trainer:  1

Calories & Ease of Use
This is one area that Cardio Trainer gets a plus due to the fact that the app will calculate your calories burned straight out of the box.  Just go into the settings and input your weight and your set.  My Tracks does not have this option.  So Cardio Trainer gets a point for that.  As for accuracy, I am going to see if I can borrow a heart rate monitor to wear one of these times and see what kind of results I get.

My Tracks requires that you have an external sensor attached (via Bluetooth) in order to track calories burned.  Cardio Trainer has this option as well, but only offers one $80 sensor that you can buy to pair with the app.  My Tracks has 2 sensors it is compatible with, as well as ANT+ (wireless - only available on certain phones), and SRM (power meters, speed, and cadence sensors).  SRM requires ANT+ as well.  If you have the money to spend, My Tracks is a definite plus in the area due to the available options.  Point for My Tracks    

As for ease of use, both are pretty easy to use.  Cardio Trainer has a built in music player, and also allows you to track other exercises that don't use the GPS (point and point).  My Tracks allows you to upload directly to your Google Maps and share with Facebook.  Cardio Trainer allows you to share to Facebook and Twitter and you have a website you can go to and see all of your history (and share from there as well.  There is also a Facebook app for Cardio Trainer and you can find your friends' who use the app as well.

That leaves us at:

My Tracks:  4
Cardio Trainer:  4

All in all, both are very cool apps.  It all depends on what you are looking to get our of the app.  If you are looking for an all around useful app to track all of your different exercises, then Cardio Trainer is the app for you (you can also schedule reminders for your workouts).  If you are just looking for a GPS tool to track your running or biking, then My Tracks might be the one for you.

As for me, the jury is still out.  I'd like to spend a little more time with Cardio Trainer to see if I end up wanting to use it more, or if I just keep going back to My Tracks.  It may also depend on the results of testing the calorie calculation against an actual heart rate monitoring device.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Excuse the dust

You'll have to *cough* excuse the dust cloud as I dust off this blog.  It has been a while since my last post (. . .ok, quite a while!).

I've never been one to share my thoughts on a regular basis.  I'm quite surprised that I made it as long as I did at the beginning of the year.  Now, here we sit at almost the halfway point in the year and I am not as near to my goals as I had planned at the beginning of the year.

From about the end of February/beginning of March, I have not kept a consistent workout routine.  I hit the gym here and there as well as kept my diet the same.  I have seen some improvements in the way my clothing fits, but not much else and I haven't stepped on a scale since the beginning of March.

Then two weeks ago I got my bike out of storage and began biking to work.  I am currently averaging 4 times per week where I am using the bike to commute to work.  The ride is just under 5 miles each way.  Going to work is a bit harder as it is up hill (coming out of the river valley), and going home is a much faster ride (going downhill most of the way).  On the days that I have not been able to ride to work I take about an 8 mile ride in the evenings.

Today I added a Kettlebell workout once I arrived at work.  Using the dumbbells I did a rough 20 minute single run-through of my routine that I was doing back in January.  Altogether it was a good workout despite having to use dumbbells.

The plan now is to continue to ride to work at least 4 times per week with one additional ride somewhere int he week or weekend.  I have two different routes that I currently take, both about the same for mileage as well as difficulty (ie: hills).  There are two other routes that I have plans to take that have longer, steeper hills.  These I will use on the days that I am really looking for a challenge.

One different route that I am going to try today will take me an entirely different way.  I am completely unfamiliar with it and have no clue how difficult the ride will be.  It is a longer route (at 8.2 miles) but will also take my past an Anytime Fitness.

Which brings me to the second part of the plan.  Three times per week I plan to do a workout at the gym.  This week I am resurrecting the old Kettlebell routine.  As I found out this morning, I can do that routine using the dumbbells here at work if I am pressed for time.

I plan to change the workout routine each week.  Next week I will do the body weight routine that I created about a month back.  It is all push ups, pull ups, dips, and squats/lunges.  Hopefully I can still make it to work on the bike after this workout.  The week after that I will do my weight lifting routine.  Then restart the cycle all over again.

Other than exercise and biking, you'll probably start to see more and more posts about the planning a wedding, moving, and preparing for the Renaissance Festival.

Just as a teaser, here is a photo from last weekend where the Merry Men walked in the Cinco de Mayo parade in St. Paul, MN.  Mr. tall and handsome in the back there has lost 50lbs at last count (see his blog for that adventure.)
Wat (my son), Will (Me), Little John, Much, & Winter

You can also check out the Robin Hood and the Merry Men page on Facebook!


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