A little while back I impulse bought a landboard and little beginner (1.4m2) kite. Took it out to Sandymount beach with almost no wind and kind of flew it; had a hard time. Then last week there were more winds and up it went, woohoo! it wasn't enough to drag my ass around the beach (that came later) but enough to get the hang of which line to pull and figure-of-eight it through the power zone.
As Fortune would have it, also out kiting was Ben who very kindly let me have a crack at Samurai 5m2 monster. Here's a few pics, including it dragging me around,
(Yes, Jez, I should've looked into this when you first mentioned it a decade or so ago :-))
This time last year I was the heaviest I've ever been and now, thirteen months later, the lightest I've been as an adult. In a year I've lost at least 10kg (22lbs, 1st8lbs). The significance of today however is that I weigh pretty much exactly 75.0kg which is the qualifying weight for Lightweight Rowing AND I did a benchmark 2,000m row. It wasn't very fast, 7:06, but then I am recovering from a sore throat and have a lung full of phlegm, not to mention still being on a calorie restricted diet (ergh).
According to my fancy Tanita scales I'm currently at 8.3% body fat. Which is pretty damn low; not quite "walking anatomy lesson" but certainly on the way. For comparison, male athletes vary between 6% and 12%; more here.
So, how did I lose 10kg? After hours of reading and assimilating scholarly nutritional texts, womens' magazines, physiologists' deepest secrets, and all the while studiously avoiding the fridge's whispered promises, I put together the following plan. My Magic Formula For Losing Weight is...
...eat less and exercise more.
So that's basically what I did for a year.
In some future blog I'll write more detail about what I did and ate. In the meantime I will say engaging in aerobic and anaerobic exercise was key, so if you're casting about for more on weight loss there's something I wrote a long time ago, how to get, and stay, motivated.
As a final aside, to row Lightweights at Cambridge University means being not more than 72.5kg. If I were to weigh that my body fat percentage, assuming I miraculously didn't lose any muscle mass, would be 5%(!) Another reason I'm happy not to be in university...
One of the problems with protein supplements is quite often they taste foul. In a store in Ireland I was limited to a selection of basically one type, Body Fortress, and it's so grim I can barely drink it. In a desperate attempt to make it more palatable I ended up mixing it with various juices, apple, cranberry, and about anything else I could get my hands on in the Google fridge. The best I can say happened was "taking the edge off it". The worst however, in the case of fresh squeezed orange juice, was some bizarre fermentation process that made me feel queasy for about six hours.
America, being the Land of Plenty and far better skilled retails sales people, provided me the chance to sample a few protein products before I made my purchase. I ended up with Max Muscle's vanilla caramel swirl Gourmet Protein. I love the hubris of "gourmet". But anyway, it actually tastes fine and I have no immediate drive to mask its taste with household drain cleaner.
In preparing to hit the town tonight however, I discovered something that really fleshes out its bouquet and depth: two scoops protein, one scoop Jack Daniels. That Tennesse magic put to the task of building a better body. Mmm, delicious!
Whoa. According to the gym scales here I weigh 84kg / 186lb / 13st 3lb. This is the heaviest I've been in my life, and that was when I was training and eating like a freak at Gold's in California in '01-'02 (and I definitely don't have the body I did then). I haven't really done any aerobic work since my accident last year, and no strength work for a few months. Coupled with the free & decent food in google.ie this weight gain is looking like it has some solid foundations...
The food here in Google Mountain View is exceedingly good. It's mid-range restaurant quality, sometimes better, and there's a strong emphasis on using organic produce. The cartons you can use to take food away are recycled cardboard. I've come away from meal times feeling stuffed, which is very rare as apart from the occasional fried breakfast in London I tend to eat small meals.
So combined with the gym here and free, excellent meals I think I'll train for size & strength and leave the slimming to somewhere where the food's not as good :-) Ireland, for example.
As a random aside, I dropped by a local supplements shop and I was reminded the stuff you can buy in America is pretty amazing: over the counter hormones, powerful stimulants, and a range of "ordinary" supplements that boggles the mind. I stuck to a tub of blended protein and some glutamine (a particularly "good" protein). Leave the endocrine experiments to the freaks...
I need to strengthen my back and legs for the heavier weights I'm working on. This got me thinking...
The red ones are 32kg, and the green ones are 24kg. (Total=112kg / 250lb / 17st9.) The blue straps are called Eagle Loops from Ironmind, designed to develop "talons of steel" or something like that.
Good for climbing training. Not that I'll be doing much of that any time soon... ;-)
Down the side of the blog here there's a couple of links to my training log. A rather empty log that's for sure. So I've restarted training in the last week, and luvvin' it.
Also, the links were actually broken as the London Kettlebells guys revamped their site. Anyway, they're all fixed now. My day-to-day sport logs at workdiary (and anything major I'll
brag mention over at LKB blog).
Back in April, on my birthday even, I put out a little .NET application that helped in timing intervals for training. In particular it defaults to the tricky-to-time Tabata whose brutal schedule consists of eight 20s-on, 10s-off periods (i.e. 3:50 mins total). At the time it didn't work without the as-yet-unreleased .NET 2005 Beta and it wouldn't work on 2003 and I couldn't get my device to work and ... anyway. It's all working again now,
Copy this onto your device e.g. in \Program Files (I don't know how to do Pocket PC installers yet) and then run it from File Explorer. This ought to execute on a desktop machine too; it does on my XP box here.
N.B. This version includes a 10s countdown after hitting Start. Then the pain starts. The lurid colours are deliberately full-screen like that so you can see the changes when your device is a way away from whatever punishment you're dishing out to yourself.
119kg for four reps on the leg extension machine. Hit it today. Wanna max the bench within a month...
*almost in tears*
(partly since I still haven't bought a house in east London)
After being kindly wished well by Robert I ended up being reminded about 43 things, a "I wanna do this, and this, and this!" site. Browsing through it I grudgingly admitted to myself how many of the things flashing by I've had on my mental to-do list (and even more grudgingly how long), but at the same time heartened by how many of them I'd already done. For example learn no-handed trackstands. As I was writing a reply I thought I'd fling it up here: How to do No-handed Trackstands!
One of my "things" is this :-)
My self-prescribed upper body rehab program on the go, Dad & I set up the rings and effectively lowered the pull-up bar to within reach of the 'chair.
The yellow grips are discarded bits of roadwork piping offcuts I found a coupla months ago and used for another project. They're quite a wide grip: can't get my hand all the way around so they simultaneously work thumb and grip strength. I can only do about three pull-ups now!
More pics below...
The rope work is really simple: attached around the pull-up bar and its support bar, then looped down through the grip, and then into a sort of filament, and then same again the other side.
If I slip the grips out of the way (not shown) I can pull up on the rope just in case my hands have been naughty and need a thorough punishing...
I've done bits and bobs in terms of physical activity over the last five weeks but for the most part, very little. A couple of outdoor "walks" in the wheelchair, occasional bouts with the stretch bands, and a couple of goes on the gym rings recently set up outside. Not much. Last night I was quite emotional and down and figured this is probably in part lack of exercise. It's also in part the fact it's Summer and I can't fucking walk but not much I can do about that right now...
So, 'nuff moaning, First training entry in five weeks.
Today's surprise discovery. Skating with someone on piggy-back is really, really hard.
I've been skating on and off for about ten years and am reasonably decent at it, even teach it. In terms of strength I can deep squat twice this person's bodyweight (=2x55kg). Yet, skating with her on my back was seriously challenging: you have no hands for balance, the glutes and lower back are working like crazy being leant forward so far, and to support the weight on each foot for more than a moment requires demonic ankle strength and coordination. Give it a try...
32kg (70+lb) standing a.k.a. military press, baby
At last, this solid goal achieved. Single rep, barely completed. But completed! God I love being a meathead. Such simple pleasures in life :-)
Bit of background: this is a tough move. Not only is a 32kg kettlebell awkward due to its off-centre handle, it's laterally off-centre to boot. If that wasn't enough, it's a standing press rather than the wussy seated version (with its nice comfy back rest, piped music, and saunas 'n smoothies for afters). So it additionally requires solid core and leg stability too.
More to the point, I've worked pretty hard to get to this weight, and here I am goddammit! Stoked!
Now, if I could only do this with my left arm...
Over the weekend I learnt through a new physio friend about mBT, essentially a shoe with a curved sole that promotes instability thus neuro-muscular/proprioceptive training, lower limb blood flow, and postural and gait adjustment. The especially neat bit though is having links to more skeletons! They've used some optical motion capture to compare body movements before-and-after using mBT to produce some really beautiful animations.
Incidently, I learnt from an Alexander Technique teacher about where the spine inserts into the skull - I, apparently like most people, had a mental model it's at the back of the skull with the head sort of hanging off it. It's not, it's close to the centre. You can even see this in the intriguing top-down skeleton animations. Cool.
The shoes retail for £129.99 upwards but seem to be on eBay for about two-thirds that. I'm gonna get those red ones...
So you've got a load of competition kettlebells (and if not, why not?) but they're all the same colour. Boring boring boring! Not only that, their similarity of hue is hindering rapid and effective identification. You're a busy person, you don't have time to pick 'em, look at a little insignia, or any other tedious nonsense. You need kolour-koded kettlebells!
Any kettlebell can look good in black. But... *yawn*
After having figured out the sanctioned Girevoy colour scheme, yellow for 1pood (16kg), green for 1.5pood (24kg, etc), and red for 2pood I hit up the local auto-spares shop for the most egregiously bright cans he had to offer, and a can of white primer to provide a light background for the colours.
First off I tried laying the 'bell out on some paper and spraying around it. This is frustrating for a number of reasons: hard to evenly cover the bottom, having to keep moving around the thing, my inability to coordinate my limbs to spray in smooth arcs, and whatever I did just seeming to waste loads of paint (I think this is a designed-in "feature" of of spraycans...).
So I came up with an idea: concoct a spinning KB painting rig so all that's needed is to spray a single point while the thing turns in the air. Basic solution is tie a rope, one end to something that can hold the load and the other end to the KB. Spin, and paint. I knew in my mind's eye that if I had only one attachment to the KB it would slide to one end of the handle and start wobbling crazily, so it needed two attachments. The solution to this also yielded another handy benefit: you can wind the KB up so it spins on its own.
Slung a piece of old rope over my pull-up bar, and attached both ends to the KB handle. Wind the KB up on the rope:
All wound up...
Release the KB, let it get a bit of speed, and then start spraying! After a couple of spins I realised it's possible to literally hold the can in one place near the bottom of the bell about 10cm max from the surface. As the KB unwinds and speeds up it drops slowly toward to the floor effectively removing the need to spray up and down.
First "Jupiter's surface" primer coat
As you can see, I'd laid out a large piece of cardboard to protect the wall from spray. I was astounded to see almost nothing reached it; presumably a really high proportion of the paint actually landed on its target. I'm sure the spraycan manufacturers won't be pleased to hear this.
Couple of primer coats and several green it looked like...
Being a sunny day, I barely waited more than about five minutes between coats despite the KB itself being in the shade. I manually worked around the handles a bit to get on the inside. As I know I'm going to sand the handles down to the metal I'm not bothered about uneven spray there.
With its 2pood friends, before and after
One down, five to go...
The only mod to this method so far I'd make is to use better quality rope, e.g. climbing rope. The little section I'd scrounged from the trash is starting to tear, and as it was wound up shed lots of little bits of material which have stuck to the paint. I don't really care as I can probably get it off with some T-Cut and even if not, hey it's just a lump of weight!
Comments, feedback very welcome.
Thanks to a tip-off from the iron freaks at LKB, I recently picked up a Reebok "Iron Vest", a 20lb neoprene garment intended for adding a strength component to aerobic workouts. Having not been to a London Friday Night Skate in absolutely ages I resolved to go, and introduce a new friend to the joy of group skates...
You think it's funny now, Bucko...
(The flak jacket in the photo is in fact the "Iron Vest".)
The combination of a two hour 12 mile blast in skates I'm not really used to, not skating substantially for over a year, 100km intense fixed-gear traffic cycling the last few days (after a 4 month lay-off, whoops), and wearing 10kg of metal added up to a solid thrashing.
Wearing the Vest is a curious experience. Because it fits so snugly there isn't the immediately obvious sensation of wearing extra weight. It only becomes apparent when you actually try to do something, be it anything from walking to hauling oneself up an incline - there's this mysterious extra load that proprioceptively seems to manifest as almost a lethargy or fatigue condition: disproportionately higher heart rate, that extra twinge of exertion in muscles, peculiar sensation of towing something.
Overall, great to finally do some sustained aerobic work that made me beg for mercy.
Incidently, I'm running a mini-project with the Vest, but that's for another blog...
I took the mini interval Tabata timer I wrote last night and added programmable work/rest periods, total number of intervals, separate total and interval timers, and, crucially, a fixed 10s countdown to get in position. I think this is pretty well as much functionality as a high-end stopwatch.
Download IntervalTimer_20050410.exe. Still 20KB :-)
Hmm, I'd only really intended this as a way of learning a bit of .NET but it's proved itself quite handy already. Now, if I would only get the b*astard to deploy onto my phone...!
Ever since acquiring a .NET PocketPC phone I've had delusions of writing software for it, even to the point of obtaining an MSDN development license through their cheap deal for ISVs. Months however passed with other distractions, and generally being daunted (GUI dev from years of writing unix system software is a big jump).
Lacking a stopwatch or decent clock, I wrote an application for timing training intervals.
"Yatta" means "Go!" in Japanese. Dr Tabata is Japanese.
Specifically, workouts based on the Tabata Protocol, a thoroughly brutal 4min experience consisting of 8 intervals of 20s on, 10s off. There's a great description including graphic accounts of workouts over at T-Nation.
The app simply waits for its banner to be clicked then starts timing:
Work it! Interval count is on the right
Progress bar counts up on the work, back down for the rest. That's it!
Yeah, that's 20 kilobytes. You might need a modern .NET core download; try it and see.
I've rustled up a Kettlebell meet-up this coming Friday 11th March, 13:00 onwards. There'll be a bunch of cool people there goofing about. We'll do some KB demos, have lunch, compare toys & notes, and maybe even run a few challenges... Details at this Events mailing list post
I've been jonesing pretty badly the last couple of months for new kettlebells. I've had a 16kg ("pood") KB since August after attending Lee Hadden's seminar. While it's incredible what can be done and for how long with a single piece like that, I've been ready for more. Enter the realms of double-handed work and some heavier weights...
One thing that's been pissing me off is that they are, IMHO, quite expensive. The cheapest going rate in the UK is £50 for the 16kg which just really seems a lot of money for a lump of iron. Anyway, I swallowed my frustration and made a deal with Neil at powerseekers and picked up a full set on Sunday. Two each of 16kg, 24kg, and 32kg (the standard sizes).
It was one of those happy coincidences where Nik had happened to have already rented a car so we drove across town (30km!) after a fairly heavy club night and picked them up. I really enjoyed the drive: good chance to chat with Nik in person, learn some more of London (we navigated with my GPS + TomTom software set to "Shortest route" which sends you down all manner of bizarre little alleys), meet other KB users, and as it happens pick up about 500 CDs from a super cool music journalist who was throwing them out (gotta love freecycling!)
When we got back I took Nik through the basics and handed him my old 16kg 'bell. It was great seeing someone, esp. family, get excited about it too. I also managed to pretty thoroughly cane various muscles with the heavier weights and new moves I could do. Excellent! Feels great.
It might seem sad, but I was ridiculously excited about this on Saturday night. Over the last few months I have really got myself into a real froth over training. I'm in the process of figuring out how as goddam if I could just bottle this enthusiasm...
Watched the rings training DVD with Jordan Jovtchev and, suitably inspired, went out to plunder one of the car parking spaces that handily has wooden beams:
All set, ready for pushups, here we go...
I did some rows and held myself just straight up as though about to do some dips. Even this position with the arms into my side was fairly tough. I can barely imagine the strength required for an Iron Cross. One day...
Over a month after I ordered them and over three weeks after my CC was billed my Power Rings have shown up:
I've been having a lot of fun with beginner gymnastics and have been eagerly awaiting these. My biggest strength achievement today was leaving them (mostly) alone and writing some software for a client instead of messing about with these new toys...
For what it's worth, these rings, the DVD, and shipping came to $159.40 which at the exchange rate at the time worked out to £88.35. Compare this identical product on sale in the UK at a ridiculously overpriced £99.95 for just the rings. That's even more pounds than the dollar cost! Their kettlebell prices are even more obscene costing over twice their competitors. As I've said before, greedy UK importers seriously need to go stuff themselves.
I've been goofing about with acrobatics and then gymnastics. Been great fun so far - being such a beginner my "workouts" consist of sets of a static hold held for a total of 60s (e.g. 15s four times).
Adding to my repertoire of now--woohoo!--three static holds, the L-Sit,
Held it for about seven sets of 10s. You know you're not a gymnast when your legs start shaking even before the 10s camera timer goes off... Heh.
PS I'm keeping a training log at Londonkettlebells.com)
Wow, over a week sans blog. Well, I'm keeping a training log over at the most excellent London Kettlebells forum. Been really enjoying messing about with some progressive gymnastic bodyweight exercises courtesy of this article. Today I held the Tuck Planche for several sets of ten seconds. Lame for a gymnast, stoked for lil' ol' me ;-)
It was taught by Yakov, this short pot-bellied coach in his 60s at least, about the least likely looking guy. Was pretty free-form - a few rolls, handstands, cartwheels, variations and then one of the guys I met there showed me hand- and headsprings on big mats. Surprisingly, I managed to pull a few altho' the landing pad was a foot or two lower than the launch which make things a lot easier ;-)
Had a go on the rings - they are far, far harder than they look on TV. Even just holding on and swinging back and forth is hard work, and I'd consider myself pretty fit. I recently ordered some Power rings for home use and am looking forward to having my ass severely kicked.
There was a young guy there who was an elite gymnast. Back to the TV again, it's one thing seeing this stuff on the tube but in real life it is truly awesome, and inspiring. What's a little worrying at the same time is that a few of the guys I spoke to had been doing it a couple of years and were absolutely nowhere near the skill of this chap doing double flips. Hmm, I don't want to take that long; physical activity is so much more fun once you're through with the tedious incompetent first stages.
There was a posse of dudes practising breakdancing. A few of them could do front and back somersaults from more or less standing, and big phat floaty ones, not the snappy little hurried jobs. Nice.
Good stuff, was pretty exhausted by the end of it. Also signed up for acrobatics induction at Circus Space Monday after next. Looking forward to this too, a few people I know who've done it say it's challenging and fun.
Only regret was not doing this all when I was a teenager...
A band to reduce a bit of the hassle of getting your mouth around the jawstrap. This hardly warrants an extra entry but this blog software doesn't allow inline images in comments, so here it is:
Quite a few sporty entries recently and this is no different! Thanks to a few calls to random numbers listed in a 'recommended supplier' directory of SW1x laborers I chanced on Lee, a top geezer who installed my pullup bar (BT500 from Decathlon in Surrey Quays). It was one of those things where I probably could've done it myself but for 30q the job was done and I knew it was all sorted. I'm confident of being able to hang off this thing with all the gay abandon a freaky gym nut could hope to handle.
Lee is delighted for me to hand out his number: +44 7976217486.
When you can do more than 20 reps of a given exercise any further progress is strictly in the realm of muscular endurance rather than strength gains. Building strength means increasing resistance. This is a bit tricky with pushups, a bodyweight exercise.
I needed to add my kettlebell's 16kg mass into the mix somehow. Stuffing it into my training fleece was an option, albeit it an incredibly dumb and probably stupid-looking one, as was wrapping a belt around my head. I was about to try that when I thought "why not grip it with my jaw?"
I tried with a sock first: too springy and slack. Having seen a circus performer spinning from the Big Top held up only by her jaw and a leather strap it was obvious that that would be the ideal choice. Even if I'd felt like carving up a belt none of mine are wide enough (of course I had to stuff a couple in my mouth to find this out...).
Then I got it: I have a pile of car footwell rubber mats in the shed (don't ask) and at only a pound each I can afford to hack them up. After a few experiments, a bunch of prototypes, and a puddle of rubbery saliva it was ready.
The Homemade Kettlebell Jawstrap!
It's about 25cm long and the groove cut-out is where your tongue goes, an attempt to reduce the gag reflex.
A few bricks are needed to step up the height that the kettlebell consumes.
The Kettlebell Pushup! It's dark because it's 1am.
It definitely works. I could only squeeze out about 15 reps before my arms gave out and I choked it all up. Immediately then discovered this configuration has a built in drop-set mechanism so without missing a beat battered my pecs & tris for another few of reps without the KB weight.
It's not all that hard keeping a grip. The gag reflex really is the biggest hassle, and it's not that much of a hassle. Crucial part of weight training is mind-over-matter so maybe not such a bad thing to throw into the challenge. My pecs have much more of a post-bench feel than post-pushup. And a pumped neck is odd ;-)
Ah, the things to do on a Saturday night...
Experimenting some more with KB juggling today. Changing how the KB rotates in the air caused me to catch in a way that kept the thumb out of the grip forcing me to catch with just the fingers. I discovered what turned out to be a fairly intense grip training exercise.
Pics and explanations follow...
For background, during ordinary snatches where you don't let go of the KB the grip looks like this: (Imagine all these pics are in the air ;-)
Firm grip around KB
So the bell of the KB is flung out.
In juggling however, the KB tends to rotate so that the handle is spinning in line with the arm, i.e. in the plane of rotation. So the catch tends to happen at the end of the handle:
Handle Catch: KB is rotating in line with handles
This exercise requires a catch in a hammer curl type of position. My brachioradialis was quite sore the day after my first KB juggling experiment!
I wanted to see if it was possible to have the KB rotate in such a way that I was catching it in the same manner as the ordinary snatch, i.e. to re-engage the forearm flexors.
To do this I needed the handle to "scoop" as it spins. Here's how: release the KB as it's travelling toward the end of the the snatch upswing. The handle rotates away under the bell, out the back, over the top, and then back toward its original release position. With any luck, the KB is heading back to Earth and is in some place you're able to reclaim control over it. The catch is thus overhand:
Grip Open Catch
I was finding my thumb wasn't getting involved thus the load of decelerating the iron fell to my four fingers. Result: battered finger flexors, and a tougher grip in days to come.
Possibly the cheapest piece of functional home gym equipment's gotta be a hand-gripper, bar perhaps a 10kg plate. Whereas it's quite easy to ignore a 10kg lump of iron lying on the floor, resisting picking up and squeezing a hand-gripper presents a serious challenge, at least for those of us with Y chromosomes. Can I close it? How many reps can I do? Can I do more than my friend? If I use this regularly, just how Herculean and irresistible would my forearms be?!
Now imagine that appeal combined with a real challenge: that the gripper itself is so hardcore you can't even close it...
...the top of the range version being so tough that only five men in history have been certified as able to touch the handle tips together.
And so the allure that drives sales of IronMind's Captains of Crush grippers. Considerately, IronMind also produce products for those not competing in World's Strongest Man but even so, their entry-level product requires 100lb of force to close. A typical "hard" squeezer from a gym store is 30-50lb.
So obviously I couldn't resist. The Trainer (100lb) and #1 (140lb) arrived this morning.
This pic took about eight takes. I can barely hold my mouse now.
I can close the Trainer for about four reps (both hands, surprisingly). The 140 pounder isn't even tantalisingly close so another $17.00 shipping fee from the States won't be needed any time soon. (It's cheaper to buy from US even with a third of the cost being in shipping. Greedy UK importers can go screw themselves.)
The build quality on these products is great: all metal, knurled for excellent grip, and plain comfortable. Fun too!
For the last few months I've been training exclusively with kettlebells, an old-skool form of weights used in Russia. They're like a cannonball with a handle on them, provide some brutal work-outs, and have recently been popularized in the US by Pavel Tsatouline. They're mostly unheard of in the UK1. Credit Karen in SF for putting me onto them.
They're amazingly good fun, and today I tried playing catch with one - complete with cheesy video.
The first encounter on a seminar by UK expert Lee Hadden I told him this was the most fun I'd had weight training, ever. The fact I was practically disabled from three hours of throwing iron around the next ten days only barely diminished that ;-)
Anyway, there's a sub-discipline of juggling which is throwing KBs in the air and catching them. Bear in mind the standard unit of KB is a 'pood', 16kg. That's a bit heavier than a typical car battery.
I had a go at it today, and guess what: amazingly good fun!
Here's an unedited video 3.4MB. I'm not throwing it super high and I drop it too. You should see the garden. (I put down some doormats and garden rugs to soak the drop. The doormat got ripped to shreds.)
The first time I realized I could keep up with an undelayed Tube on my bike over a substantial distance (>10km / ten stops) was quite a shock. The Tube's top speed is 80km/h so at least when it's rolling it's not hanging around. In contrast the very best I can manage is about 36km/h for any distance.
Last night I took on what I consider one of the toughest Tube challenges: keeping up with the Victoria Line.
The Victoria Line has a reputation for being quite a fast train, zipping up from Brixton to Walthamstow at quite a pace. I don't know if it actually is faster but certainly it feels fast.
I departed Brixton station on my fixed gear bike as a friend descended into the station. Her waiting at the platform for a couple of minutes was matched by my circling the Brixton Square loop before heading the right way up the A23 (I have had, for about seven years 'til last night, the north/south directions in Brixton inverted; quite a shock unscrambling that!)
Re-oriented correctly, I didn't hang around, pushing myself pretty hard and "catching a bus" whenever I could. This hairy manoeuvre is a great way to cover some distance: accelerate hard as the bus pulls off and pedal into its slipstream. An adrenaline rush and a kilowatt energy burst later and a cyclist can be rolling behind it at 50+km/h (comfortably 15km/h over what I'd be doing without the windbreak). Watch those brake lights...
After several hard intervals the climb up City Rd finished me off and I more or less coasted down Pentonville Rd. For the first time ever I didn't want to stop at the £1 7" pizza place, my system was so thrashed. As I rolled up onto the pavement at the front of King's Cross I'd been beaten by only seconds. Woohoo!
It's pretty cool, having put the work in with exercise, diet, and a bit of self-discipline being able to match or beat about every mode of transport in zone 4 in London. The only vehicle faster is a motorbike when there's not so much traffic (the rest of the time their width gets them snarled in traffic). Or a fitter cyclist :-)
Comments welcome here or by email.
Back at the end of July, I took a last minute decision to blow off Festival of Peace and meet up with Eva & Emily at the UK Urban Games (it was Emily's idea; I'd totally forgotten about it). The galling £15 entry for the last few hours turned out to be worth it for the excellent company, BMX flatland, FMX, and B-Boy (breakdance) finals, not to mention slamming hard on my ass trying out an Indoboard (like a physio's balance board but wildly overpriced, sketchier, and intended for skate/snowboarders: of which I'm neither :-).
I've now finally got around to mixing the video of the flatland finals, and putting it online!
Rather than take pics I shot some video on my little camera of the flatland finals. After six years of procrastinating over learning a movie editing suite I was chatting with the Legg early this morning and started playing with Windows Moviemaker. Man, what a sweet piece of free software! Within maybe a half hour I'd gone from total n00b to this 2 minute mix:
It's too bad I only had a 64MB card in my camera (since rectified) as there was a ton of even more sick moves later.
It was quite strange having not been in the scene for nearly ten years to come back and recognise riders from the early/mid nineties still riding. As strange as that, I can remember my last proper flatland bike before it was stolen in great detail: every part, nut, bolt, cable, feel of the grips, how its weight moved, my trainers on the tyres, the indescrible sensation of balancing a roll. It must be quite a mix of emotions for a real athlete to give up after so long. I still occasionally have flatland dreams to this day, busting moves I was at the time years of practice away from ever pulling.
(By real I mean as in someone more skilled and dedicated than me, rather than the sport: BMX flatland is one of the most physically technically complex sports in existence, up there with dance, gymnastics, ice skating. Those moves in that video are done by finalists, each with 5+years of obsessive practice.)
After having my imagination captured by free-running / parkour I've started looking at urban street architecture in terms of running and jumping around and over it. And wondering how I'd train for this. By some bizarre fortune it turns out there are seven outdoor exercise stations spread out around a playing field almost adjacent to home! (I'd seen it before but not with the eyes of a budding freerunner...)
This evening, after a one km warm-up run I spent a very pleasant 45mins jumping, twisting, handstanding, pull-up'ing and generally taxing my ankles, wrists, and shoulders. What fun! And with a pull-up bar I have pretty much everything I need to hammer most muscle groups and thus avoid a gym membership... Woo-hoo!
Recently learnt about Urban Freeflow from a Guardian article on Parkour. Parkour, a French creation (pars-course?), is using the urban landscape as a gymnasium, focussing on fluid flowing movement and visual elegance. The article had an apt comparison between their activities and Spiderman.
It's pretty clear to me from checking out their vids & pics that these guys (and it's all male so far as I can see) are seriously fit and agile.
Since stopping BMX and to some extent aggressive skating I've been looking around for a sport that is dynamic and "extreme"; climbing (used to) fit the bill but I'm only really interested in the challenge rather than the outdoors aspect, and indoor walls are pricey. Which leaves martial arts, acrobatics, and heck even breakdancing--having seen an awesome display in NYC's Union Sq I have even more respect for breakdancers. Parkour seems to combine all of the above: free, creative, demanding, performance art, and dangerous.
The best bit so far has been some fantastic dreams last night. Bless my mind (and 3mg of melatonin)'s ability to simulate low gravity environments and preternatural physical prowess... Fun!