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Archive for January, 2012

January 29th, 2012: New Muscle Bound Log

Muscle Bound Log #17 is up! I hope you enjoy the read!

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January 29th, 2012: MUSCLE-BOUND #17: THE NEW SWING

This is Lisa.

Me & Lisa

Me & Lisa

A few things you should know about her, in no particular order:

- She’s a kook.

- She’s got a raucous tavern laugh that you can hear across the gym, one that generally puts a smile on people’s faces.

- She runs Triathlons and Iron Man Competitions.

- She wears Bert & Ernie or Oscar the Grouch mittens and taunts her gym clients with them.

- She used to play Dungeons & Dragons with her brother, she loves Bugs Bunny, she gives toy dragons to her niece, she knows enough about comics to be dangerous, and she’s a geek at heart.

- Finally… she’s my trainer.

When I decided I was going to run the Spartan Race, I knew that my current program just wasn’t going to cut it. Traditional weightlifting targets specific muscles but it does little to help the supporting muscle groups. It also does little to boost long-term endurance.

I already knew this going into training years ago. I knew that the body was divided along a 50/50 split into slow-twitch muscles and fast-twitch muscles. I knew that slow-twitch muscle fibers fired more slowly, but for longer periods, making them ideal for distance. I knew that fast-twitch muscle fibers fired rapidly, giving athletes bursts of energy for immediate short-term needs. Short-twitch vs. fast-twitch—think marathon runner versus 50-meter sprinter. Think gymnast versus Olympic weight lifter.

Staying in that Position - 30 seconds

Staying in that Position - 30 seconds

I knew this, but at the time I focused on working the fast-twitch muscles through weightlifting and satisfying the slow-twitch muscles through a bit of cardio. I wanted the muscle bulk… I wanted the sweeping chest and wide shoulders.

The Spartan Race, however, was a healthy dose of both and I remember what one athlete said when he ran the Spartan… it taught him where he was lacking in his training despite being in great shape.

I needed to switch things up, and I knew my endurance sucked. I knew it from when I was Scuba diving and came out of the water panting. I knew it from running short sprints. I also worried that I’d lose the muscle bulk I’d built up so far. But I needed more endurance and better 360 degree performance. So I asked around the gym for a good trainer, and one of two names kept coming up… someone who fit my needs… Lisa.

Simple Pull-Ups

Simple Pull-Ups

I met with Lisa to decide on a program, and I was sold on her almost immediately. She’d studied and graduated in Phys. Ed/Kinesiology from McGill University, and she wanted to test me on our first workout to evaluate my physical fitness before building a program for me. In an age where trainers were handing out cookie-cutter programs, Lisa was tailoring my needs according to her evaluation workout. And man, did she put me through a hell of a program that morning. My strength was okay, but my endurance sucked rocks. I had the power, but none of the follow through.

More so, she could tell where I needed work. By the way I moved my legs on certain exercises, she knew that my hip flexors needed to be strengthened, or that the pain I experienced on one part of the knee versus another part indicated this weakness or that. And she based my program on her observations and my feedback.

Because Kinesiology is human kinetics and how muscles and joints interplay, essentially, all the exercises and training are built around working the body as a whole. So there are no exercises that target a specific muscle group. They will target the major muscle groups and all the supporting branches at the same time. It won’t be just my biceps, for example, but my forearms and my shoulders and my upper back. She targets my balance and she works to strengthen my core. She uses some free weights, but I work more on balance balls, bosus (dome-like balance balls on which you see me doing push-ups), medicine balls and floor mats.

Bosu Pushups

Bosu Pushups

In the coming blogs, I’ll go into the exercises she’s giving me and their results, but here’s an example of the exercise she makes me do and its progression of difficulty.

Pushups: She started with simple pushups, but given I could churn out about 30-35 in one go, she made me go slower and at the apex of each pushup, I had to tap my shoulder with one hand. I knew where this was headed, so I decided to move to double taps immediately… tapping both shoulders (one at a time naturally) at the apex of the pushup. That brought my core into the workout. When she saw I could do 10-16 of those after a few weeks, she raised the stakes. At the apex of each pushup, she made me shift into a side-plank (resting on one arm, facing sideways, raising the other arm above my body). That brought my balance into the exercise. When I could do 10 easily, she made me incorporate a leg raise from that side plank position. I now brought my groin and hip flexors into what started out as a chest and shoulder exercise.

More to come in the weeks ahead, but I will say this to round out the issue. If I was afraid of losing muscle mass, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I feel stronger, more powerful than before, and across the body rather than at specific parts. The muscle fibers also feel denser, and my balance has improved 100%.  I won’t be as large as my gym peers who stick to weights, but my joints are actually less stressed and I’m gaining the long term endurance and short term power I need if I hope to do things like the Spartan Race.

Happy with the Results

Happy with the Results

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January 22nd, 2012: New Muscle-Bound Blog

A new Muscle-Bound issue is up, talking about the Spartan Race. Enjoy the read!

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January 22nd, 2012: MUSCLE-BOUND: THIS IS SPARTAN!


So in last week’s issue, I mentioned taking my health and fitness in a new direction for 2012, and that my goal was to participate in the Spartan Race. Well… the Spartan Sprint to be precise. What’s the difference, you ask? Well I’m glad I asked on your behalf, but we’ll get to that in a sec.

Like many people in this age of viral awareness, I first heard about the Spartan Race through my friend and former Ubi coworker, Geiger. Now, Geiger is a fun and creative soul who makes social ADD look hip. He’s always scary a pleasure to talk to and the only person I know who does a hysterical impersonation of Christopher Schwarzenegger Walken. That’s right… he knows how to do an impersonation of their unholy lovechild who sounds like them both. It’s truly frightening.



So the pics you see in this blog are courtesy of Geiger and his 2011 run through the Spartan Sprint in Ottawa, with his consent, of course.

The Spartan Race began in 2005 when Joseph DeSena, Richard Lee and Selica Sevigny organized a 48 hour “Death Race” that would serve as the launch platform for the international Spartan Races a few years later. It included running, jumping, swimming, crawling through obstacles and what I can only assume was a lot of crying. Take one part SEAL Training, one part American Gladiators, two parts the Book of Revelations, and you get the idea. It was a test of endurance and strength, and the point wasn’t to win… it was to finish.

Fast-forward to 2010, when the smaller, supposedly less gruelling Spartan Race is held in Vermont, drawing 500 competitors, and a fitness event is born. Wait, event or experience? Well, whichever is more 2012, that’s what you have. Now, 36-50 Spartan events are held across North America and in England, each for one of four categories.  Anyone who completes the race gets a Spartan medal, a t-shirt, a beer and bragging rights. The top placers get free admittance to the bigger races. Everyone gets to celebrate at the BBQ and party afterwards.

This is Geiger!

This is GEIGER!

The Spartan Race itself is the blanket term for the four individual events. So… what are the four events?

> Spartan Sprint: Depending on which horizon of the Americas you live on, the sprint is a 3-mile or 5-6K race, with about 10 obstacles. The top placers in this category get free admittance into a Super Spartan of their choice and the website promises that 99% of participants will finish the race. See… being in the 1% still isn’t hip, but I digress.

> Super Spartan: This 8-mile/13K run takes you through 15 mud-soaked obstacles. This is not for the weak, and the top three men and the top three women earn the additional prize of free entry into the Death Race. Hold on, wait… that’s a prize?

> Spartan Beast: This is a 10-12-mile/16K race with numerous obstacles and a promise to winnow the fit from the insane.

> Death Race: This 48-hour marathon is a test of endurance that promises a 90% fail rate. There is no set mileage or obstacle count. There is only survival and, I surmise, cannibalism.

Geiger: The Running Man


Now, I know what you want to ask… just what sort of obstacles are they promising, Lucien? The obstacles vary and are only revealed on the day of the race. With heats running every half-hour to handle the number of participants, you can arrive early and watch others go through the experience first, or sign up for an early heat and enjoy the mayhem after from the comforts of the finish line.

According to friends of mine who participated, and from what I’ve read, the obstacles can include:

- Crawling under barbed wire in mud

- Cross mud pits

- Carrying heavy rocks a small distance

- Running past men with padded poles who are trying to trip you

- Jumping a fire pit

- Climbing a sloped wall

- Climbing a rope

- Scaling cargo netting

- Etc.

Getting the picture? It’s boot camp, but without the attempt to humiliate you. If you can’t complete an obstacle, they make you do 10 or 20 burpies from what my coworker Mateo Lopez told me (Burpies are dropping down into a pushup position, doing a pushup, vaulting to your feet, jumping up and then dropping back down).

How many participate in this thing? Last year, New England saw 2,000 racers and Montreal over 3,200. Globally, we’re talking over 100,000 racers anticipated for 2012, and the number is growing. Most people hear about it through word of mouth but the website offers you locations, dates, sign-up sheets and videos, so I encourage you to visit:



And thus we come full circle except for one last question I can hear some of you asking…

…why are you doing this?

Because it’s scary. And because I needed a new goal. Training without goals can turn exercise into a tedious experience. Thing is, my weight-training program wasn’t going to be enough, and the Spartan Race offered me the opportunity to reboot my program and give me a new direction. I jumped at the chance and interviewed a trainer who graduated in Kinestheology from university. Her credentials? She runs marathons, triathlons and Iron Man competitions….

Next week, we’ll get into my new program and I’ll introduce you to my trainer, Lisa.

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January 15th, 2012: New Muscle-Bound Post

After a long hiatus, Muscle-Bound is back with issue #15.  Please, enjoy!

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January 15th, 2012: MUSCLE-BOUND #15


It was 2008 when I began reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Well, sorry, Mr. Covey, I’ll admit that I haven’t finished your book yet, but it did start me on the road to better health among other things.

The book framed the question of productivity this way: If you run a factory at full tilt, caring only for output, your equipment will break, bringing production to a standstill for long periods of time. But if you spend time maintaining the equipment, your output will not be as high in the short-term, but you will continue producing over the long term.

The idea struck me like a bolt from the blue. In translating this lesson to my writing, I was effectively ruining myself by focusing on writing (output) while I ran my body into the ground (the machinery or production). That’s when I decided to get into shape. If I was serious about writing for the rest of my life, my mind and body were as important to the process as my computers and word processors.

In 2009, I decided that I would lose weight and get in shape.  At the beginning of 2009, I was 292 pounds (definitely in the frigid north above obesity if obesity was the equator of my mid-section). I was heavier than Homer Simpson and 8 pounds away from being a live performance of that episode where Homer gains weight to work from home. Only, I wouldn’t be able to stop the release of nuclear gases with my ass.

I started hitting the gym 4 days a week. By the time April rolled around, I’d turned the effort into a habit, and I’d dropped to 282 pounds. Not bad, but I wanted better results.

So I turned to a trainer and decided to catalog the experience.

By the time December 2009 rolled around, I managed to reach 210 pounds through diet and exercise. I was happy. I kept up with the trainer for a while after that, but I soon dropped my trainer in favor of saving some money. Forty-five dollars a session was expensive. Besides I knew what I needed to do and how to maintain it.

Now, usually in weight loss stories, this is the part where you’d expect the other shoe to drop, or me to have fallen off the wagon, or maybe taken the gravy express train back to 300 pounds plus. No such doing, I’m happy to say, though maintaining the diet and exercise hasn’t been easy either.

We are now January 2012, two years after I stopped blogging about weight loss. I will admit that I have gained back about 10 pounds, putting me at 220, but my weight’s been stable for over 6 months and the exercise has remained steady except for a two-week period when a cold knocked me on my back like Homer Simpson fighting Drederick Tatum.

Maybe I watch The Simpsons a bit much.

Problem is, especially in exercise, maintaining can be a dangerous thing. Maintaining leads to boredom and boredom leads to diminished results…

…so I decided to shake things up a bit. I decided to set my eyes on a goal and to pursue that goal much as I had with the first Muscle-Bound log. So, in the following months, you will see a new series of articles about my quest to improve my health in order to participate in a 5K marathon with 10 Obstacles called “The Spartan Race” this summer.

Stay tuned….


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January 1st, 2012: Happy Birthday to a Special Someone

Three years ago, I was playing with my 9 year old niece and 7 year old nephew in the swimming pool. My niece was trying to drag me to the edge of the pool while my nephew was just swimming around. Finally, my niece reaches out to her brother with one arm around my biceps and the other outstretched to him.

And she cries out with dramatic pathos: “Help me, my obedient slave!”
My nephew cries back, truly upset: “I am not your obedient slave! I quit!” and he goes swimming off.

Happy Birthday, Christiana. You’re going to make an awesome supervillain.

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January 1st, 2012: Happy 2012

Happy 2012, folks. I hope this is a wonderful year for everyone!

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