Sports and Fitness Website Finalists for Mashable Open Web Awards

Mashable’s Open Web Awards is nearing an end.  The finalists were announced earlier this month and voting will continue until December 14th when the winners are crowned.  Of the 25+ categories, there is a dedicated category for Sports and Fitness related sites.  The 3 finalists include FitFiend and Gyminee, which are both health and fitness social networking sites.  Both are also relatively new on the scene - in fact, FitFiend is still in Beta.

FitFiend describes itself as a “social network devoted to health, fitness, and athletics. It is a community that connects FitPros and FitFiends.”  The site allows users to track workouts and connect with other people (be them fit pros or “fiends” - which I assume is someone totally obsessed with fitness… hrmmmm).   One feature that FitFiend seems to promote, and which seems to be helping the community site, is the whole pro to client connection.  It’s the Linked-In of the fitness world, perhaps moreso than the MySpace…

Gyminee, on the other hand, seems to be a bit more mature of a website, probably due to it’s relatively longer existence.  Gyminee offers much of the same as FitFiend but also includes food tracking, challenges, detailed workout programs, iPhone support and a PRO version, among other things.  From a design perspective, Gyminee is stunning, in comparison to FitFiend.  Again - this is likely a result of the maturity of the application.

However, the Open Web Awards are nary complete and it’s ultimately up to the community (and circle of influence that the site owners have) which site will be the victor.  Regardless of which site wins, both have gained immensly from simply being finalists for the competition and their membership has likely increased as a direct result.

Crossfit vs p90x vs Kettlebells

A conversation recently came up over at twitfitter on the relative differences of Crossfit and other newish intensity based fitness programs (like p90x and kettlebells) and whether or not fitness programs like Crossfit will take over the globo gym and behind the back wrist curls will become a thing of the past or perhaps they’re just a fad.

I took the position of Crossfit being superior to the others and took a quick jab at curls in general being an inefficient exercise.

I thought the conversation was pretty good.  See for yourself over at twitfitter, here.

Snacktime with Kielbassa Snack Sticks!!

I was hard up for some food this evening, so had to make a trek out in the snow to the grocery store to find some healthy snack alternatives. Near the deli aisle, I spotted what at first looked like a pack of peperoni sticks, but what turned out to be turkey sticks! Yes, the Old Style (the brand name) Kielbassa Turkey Snack Sticks are a turkey based kielbassa that actually tastes rather good.

The bonus? Not only are these things pretty tasty, each serving (just under a stick) is only 2g of fat and has “only” 360mg of sodium (lots, but small compared to most meat sticks). The Kielbassa snack sticks also pop a good 7g of protien and only 1g of carbohydrates.

Combined with some cheese sticks and some crackers, I’d say we have a fairly good zone snack on our hands (despite the arguably high salt content).

Some low carb, low fat turkey kielbassa with some cheese and crackers makes a great Zone snack.

Lance Armstrong Set to win Eighth Tour de France?

Lance Armstrong is going to attempt to win the Tour de France for an eighth time, coming out of retirement for the 2009 cycling season.

With seven consecutive Tour wins from 1999 to 2005, Armstrong is an icon around the World, known for an ability to fight not only severe lactic acid build up, but undeniable odds, also winning a serious battle with cancer in 1996.

Armstrong has also dealt with a very weak relationship with the French sports community. The guy has been accused again and again of using banned substances in previous seasons. In fact, the Tour de France organizers, the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), said in October that his return would be “embarrassing.” In his memoir, Every Second Counts“, Armstrong talked about the countless times that he’d get surprise visits from anti-doping specialists to make sure he wasn’t using.

And he never was. Despite wild claims otherwise, Armstrong has never tested positive for banned performance enhancing substances. Yep - it turns out he’s all natural power and win or lose in 2009, I’m certain he’ll give us a display of pure fierceness that we’ve come to expect from the man.

The Pull-up, the Pull-up Bar (and how to build one cheap)

There’s an old joke that goes something like this: a man walks into a bar and asks the bartender why his head hurts.  The bartender responds, well you just walked into a bar.

Ok - not a real joke - I just made that one up (as if you couldn’t tell).  But let me now segue into the premise of this post.  That is, the pull-up bar.

Next to some floor space and a barbell, in my opinion, the pull-up bar is the next most important item on any home gym builder’s shopping list.  What kind of bar to get and how much one should spend, however, is a little tricky.

Let’s first look at why a pull-up bar is so super good to have at your disposal:

  • Pull-ups are entirely functional, natural movements.  Think about it for a sec - the ability to pull is fundamental to our existence.  Our bodies were made to climb and I can guarantee you that at some point throughout your genealogical history, one of your ancestors was in a life or death situation, having to pull themselves up over a ledge or something.  Fortunately for you, they were able to do it.
  • Pull-ups work a broad range of muscle, from shoulders, traps, biceps, triceps, forearm, grip and all sorts of core.  Add kipping and intensity to your pull-ups, do more work in less time, and you’ve suddenly got a strength workout combined with a fierceness that tests both the anaerobic and aerobic systems and can leave you gasping for air.
  • A pull-up has many variations and progressions, from jumping pull-ups to L-Sit pull-ups and muscle-ups, there’s a variation that is accessible to all - even the weakest of us and the exercise can always provide additional challenges for the strong.

These were just a few of the reasons why pull-ups second to few exercises and the pull-up bar should be added to the top of your list of “to get” items for your home gym.

Now, what kind should you get?  There’s those bars that can be squeezed between a door frame and others that hang on the top of the frame.  The former is likely a waste of money and the latter is not very versatile and is likely costlier than the best pull-up bar in the biz - yes, I’m talking about a cheap, homemade pull-up bar.

When I say cheap, I’m talking about a low cost versus cheap as in my car fell apart after 3 days use cheap.

The biggest problem with many store bought pull-up bars is that you can’t kip on them.  While some of you may say, I don’t need to kip, true, you don’t - in fact, you don’t need to do anything.  But I’d have to add, if you want to get strong, you’d be far better off if you did or at least did most of the time.  I won’t get into why (beyond what I have said already), but here’s a great discussion of kipping versus not kipping.  If you don’t know what kipping is, watch this.

The next biggest problem with store bought bars is the cost.  You’re looking at at least $30 for the better of the kinds of consumer bars.  What you can build at home can cost as little as $20 and half an hour of your time.  The results, however, is a pull-up bar that can hold multiple people and allow you to kip and do clappers (if you ever could do clappers in the first place, that is).

What you need:

  • 2 exposed joists
  • 2 18 inch 2×6 boards
  • 6 carriage bolts, nuts and washers
  • a 3/4 inch pipe
  • A drill with a 3/4 inch bit

See the pic above.  Drill out 3/4 inch holes about an inch off the ends of the 18 inch 2×6’s.  Clamp them to the joists and drill out holes for the carriage bolts.  Unclamp the boards from the joists and bang each end of your pipe through the 3/4 inch holes (note that I’ve used a inch hole in my own to get the pipe through easier.  Best to get caps for the pipe though to make sure it doesn’t fall out while performing pull-ups though).  Bolt the contraption to the joists where you previously drilled.

Done.  Easy peasy… Now let’s taker ‘er for a ride…

New Home, New Gym

I recently moved.  Both my wife and I found ourselves driving a 45 minute commute twice a day and eventually I made the suggestion we move closer to work and we figured there was little stopping us, so we did it.

We’ve been in the house for about two weeks now.  One of my first priorities was to setup a small area in the unfinished basement to workout.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have much equipment.  I’m a firm believer that all anyone really needs is a bar, some weight and some space.  That said, I have a pair of rings as well that I abuse on a regular basis.  The grip tape on them has been worn out several times now.

One thing that’s been missing from “my gym” has been a pullup bar.  At my old house, there weren’t many options for putting one up.  I toyed with the idea of a bar that works in a door frame, but from what I’ve heard and read, you can’t kip with those things.  I like to kip.  For me, a pullup bar has to be rock solid.  Also, given my frugal nature, a bar has to be cheap as well.

Fortunately my new house is right around the corner (literally) from a Home Depot.  The other day I picked up the following:

  • 2 2×6 cut 18″
  • 1 48″ steel pipe 3/4″ diameter
  • 6 5/16″ carriage bolts, nuts and washers

That’s all it took for a sweet, totally solid pullup bar that I can kip on till my heart’s content.  I drilled out a 3/4 inch hole in each 2×6 and used the carriage bolts to attach to two joists in the basement.

I also purchsed some $25 rubber matting from Walmart to keep my feet from freezing off in the basement when barefoot and to buffer the sound of the weight hitting the floor.

Finally, 10 Unbroken Muscle-Ups!!

Finally, after lots of work, I’ve finally hit my goal of 10 unbroken muscle-ups.  Frankly, I could have hit this goal months ago, but I’ve been busy (which is also the reason for such infrequent updates in the last little while).  Unfortunately this feat was attained at home and there were no witnesses.  Fortunately, however, I managed to catch it on camera…

October Handstand PR - 15 Seconds!

Ok - I know I’ve been pointing countless videos of my handstand efforts, but I keep progressing, so I’ll just keep posting.

In an attempt to focus on the following details, I’ve been finding it much easier to maintain balance:

  • Arms fully locked out
  • Tighten core (abs and glutes in particular)
  • Legs together

39 Second Flag

Saw this video linked from Beast Skills. Dominic Lacasse enters the Guinness book of World Records with a 39 second flag hold. Brilliant.

The Crossfit Cert Experience

This past weekend I attended a crossfit certification in Toronto at Moss Armory. In all honesty, I really had no idea what to expect, but I was absolutely blown away by the whole experience. I’ve often read in the comments on the crossfit main site from others who’ve raved about crossfit certs and how amazing they’ve been, and through the course of Saturday morning to Sunday evening, I’ve been completely convinced of the same.
I expected getting squashed by a couple of hardcore workouts, so no surprise there, but for some reason, what I didn’t expect was the professionalism of the whole thing and the incredibly high quality of the lectures and teaching.
It was a brilliant weekend and I encourage anyone thinking about attending a crossfit cert to do it - it’s worth every penny and then some.

Handstand Progression

Still working on the handstands.  It’s a slow process…

Crossfit Invading Globo Gym?

I’ve been a little under the weather lately.  But tonight was the first night in almost a week that I decided to head to the gym and do some weight lifting, avoiding any high intensity work in favour of more strength type training.

To my dismay, I saw more crossfit type functional training at the gym than I’ve seen there in a very long time.  It was very nice to see.  There were clean and jerks, deadlifts, floor wipers, kettle bell training and other things going on, but a couple guys were also doing the virtual shovelling ( that came up on the crossfit website just a couple of days ago.

Anyway,  I thought it was interesting as the globo gym isn’t known for such training.  Honestly - I didn’t see a single curl being done.  Seems like they should invest in a few more pullup bars and maybe a couple sets of rings.

Heroes Hayden Panettiere Workout

The Summer has only a couple days left and while that means shorter and cooler days are looming, it also means that the Fall TV lineup is right around the corner. Personally, I don’t have many favourite TV shows anymore, but as a glutton for super-hero related stuff, I like to set aside space on my PVR specifically for NBC’s Heroes.
Heroes Season 3, “Villains”, begins September 22 and looks sweet as usual. With the season premiere being less than a month away, I thought it prudent to do some Heroes related research to see what king of training the cast actually go through. I came across this video of Hayden Panettiere’s workout at a “training session” in West Hollywood with her trainer :

Now, granted, Hayden has youth on her side (she’s 18). So maintaining a fit physique requires minimum effort (relatively anyway). Keeping up with this “routine” her “trainer” puts her through, along with a middle of the road diet would probably keep the cameras on here for some time to come. But seriously this routine is as good as my baking and unfortunately is a similar routine to what probably 80% of the people do at a given time at a gym.
Here’s two reasons why I think it sorta sucks:

  1. Stair Master - unless you’re stair mastering full tilt, you’re looking at a waste of time. Working glutes isn’t a bad thing at all, but there are more efficient ways of doing so. Lunges ring a bell. Cleans and snatches fit the bill too. The bonus of these exercises is being able to get more work into less time. Intensity is the name of the game. 15 minutes of lunges and cleans with weight will get you light years further than an hour on the stair master. And there’s nothing more bothering to me than watching people on the stair master for an hour, reading magazines. If, however, you’d like to incorporate stairs in your routine, then just use a box or some real stairs and go hard. Bah… I loathe the stair master.
  2. The Curl - curls with heavy weight aren’t the greatest exercise as they target such a specific group of muscles and are such a non-functional exercise. However, heavy curls do promote biceps tone\hypertrophy and if that’s what you’re looking for, then so be it. But curls with a small weight (less than 75% max, I’d say) are useless. You’re not going to “tone” anything with that - in fact, you’re not going to be doing much of anything for yourself either. With curls, go heavy or don’t bother. And if fitness or getting lean is a goal, then curls are worthless and at best just a bonus exercise (with max weight).

The biggest problem with these exercises is that when included in a routine as major elements, they’re really just a waste of time. A superior workout, done in a 10th of the time would have simply been something like 50 dumbbell snatches + 50 lunges.

Fort Lauderdale Handstands

Was in Fort Lauderdale for the week.  It was hot and muggy, but still had a blast.