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Throwing Hammers and Other Things

One of the events in the Highland Games that I have not yet attempted is the hammer throw.  It differs from the hammer throw in track and field both in the weight of the hammer, the implement itself, and the technique used for throwing.

In track and field, the hammer head is attached to a D-ring handle via a flexible cable.  Women throw a 8.82 (4 kg) hammer and men throw a 16 lb (7.26 kg) hammer.  The thrower is able to turn his body as he builds up speed for the throw and move towards the toe board.



In Highland Games, the spherical hammer head is attached to a rattan, bamboo, plastic, or wooden handle. There are both heavy hammer and light hammer throws and the weights are 12 and 16 lbs for women, and 16 and 22 lbs for men.  The thrower must throw from a fixed position which is typically facing away from the toe board.



So, being without a hammer and needing to work on technique with lighter weights, I made one out of a 50" piece of PVC pipe, two 2.5 lb weights, and a lot of Gor…

Getting smoked by a seven year old.

When taking on new endeavors, humility is invaluable.  For example, when you decide to run for the first time in a few months and your seven year old freakishly athletic son wants to run with you, you have to know up front that he will, in fact, leap over puddles, turn in circles, run backwards, and periodically sprint while you struggle to maintain your 12 minute mile "jog".  And when you get home and collapse on the floor, he will go down to the basement to practice speed rope intervals for another half hour so he can set the world record at "First in Fitness" in March.  

Well, if I compared myself to Francis, or quite frankly, anyone who is not me, I'd probably get pretty discouraged about my running.  I talk about my shortcomings a lot when it comes to my strengths and abilities, but the truth is, I'm very happy with what I can do.  At a bodyweight of 130 lbs, I can deadlift 224 lbs, squat 174 lbs, and press 85 lbs overhead.  I can also throw heavy rock…

Building up miles

Probably the most challenging thing for me (aside from overcoming my fear of heights and death) in training for the tough mudder will be getting some miles under my belt.  Most running programs would not have a novice attempt a half marathon (which is about the same distance) unless he or she were already running 15-20 miles a week.

Running, although its one of our simplest activities, has a lot of demands that need to be met gradually.  All modes of exercise should be approached with moderation.  Our bodies will adapt to the stresses we apply to them, but it takes time.  Tendons and ligaments need to get stronger.  Neurological coordination needs to improve.  Muscles need to grow and reinforce themselves.  Just remember, the first guy to ever run a marathon died.  Too much too soon is rarely a good thing.  We must give ourselves some time to adapt to the demands we place on our bodies.  Although death from running is not my primary concern, overuse injuries certainly  are.  What'…

And now for a plan . . .

I have set some goals for myself for the next year that are going to be a bit challenging for me.  I plan to compete (or at least demo) in the Triad Highland Games at the end of April and then do the Tough Mudder race sometime over the Summer or early Fall.  In planning my training for both events, I've had to do some self-assessment which has proven rather humbling.  I'll admit it.  I'm kind of lazy and thrive mostly on bravado and stubbornness.  But, when it comes to actually having to perform at a high level, you can't fake it and bravado will only get you hurt.  You either have it or you don't.  Luckily, I'm not too far off the mark and have a good idea as to how to get the rest of the way there.

The Highland Games are a collection of events that mostly involve throwing heavy things, the most recognizable event being the caber toss.  (Picture a guy in a kilt tossing a log and you're mostly there.)  They also throw stones, hammers, and other weights for …

Turning 40 and the Tough Mudder

So, next year, I turn 40 and either senility has already set in or I am having a mid-life crisis because I have decided to train for the Tough Mudder.  That’s right.  I’m going to run 12 miles through mud, climb walls, crawl through mud, negotiate barbed wire, probably eat a little mud, get shocked by electrified wires, fall into a mud pit,  and who knows what else.  

And guess what else?  I have convinced two of my friends to do it with me.  Stephanie has run a marathon, but has only recently started strength training with me.  Suzanne has also run a marathon, but also trains with a strength and conditioning coach five days a week, and recently completed the Mud Run, six miles of similar shenanigans.  I believe the furthest I have ever run is about 5 miles, however, I can do more pullups than either of them combined.  (This makes me feel better for being an endurance sissy).  So we have a gal with strength, but limited endurance (me), a gal with endurance but limited strength (Stephan…

A Lesson in Sportsmanship

For the past two months, I've been training for a Highlander competition put on my by friend, Gant Grimes, in Wichita Falls, TX.  A Highlander competition is a hybrid between a Highland Games and a Strongman competition and includes both throwing and strength events.  Training for this competition was quite a challenge, but I've been wanting to try something new and so I figured that the worst that could happen would be that I wouldn't really like it.  I currently don't have a coach I work with and so most of this was largely self-taught.  I'm not a thrower and literally had one throwing session with a friend of mine who taught me the basics a few months ago.  From there, I mostly I relied on watching a lot of YouTube videos for technique and email exchanges for program tweaking.

The six events I had to compete in were as follows (weights were higher for the men):

1.  Weight over bar.  This is throwing a 28 lb weight over a bar that gets increasingly higher as eac…

Training the individual

My job as a trainer and coach is a pretty fun one as jobs go.   However, one of the first and most important lessons I learned was that there is a big difference between how I train myself and how I should train others.  Individuality is perhaps the most important factor in developing effective training programs and one must recognize that everyone has different goals, abilities, and perceptions regarding strength training and fitness in general.  Their goals are not my goals and the most important goal is to improve quality of life and make daily activities easier and more enjoyable.  There are a few questions I must answer regarding a new client before deciding on the proper approach to take.

What is the individual's daily routine?
The average person's daily routine will require that he or she be able to be mobile, climb stairs, pick up and carry things or small people, and perform household chores and yard work.  If a person is regularly carrying heavy grocery bags and/or ch…

Shoulder Abuse and Recovery

Even though I am really too old and frail to be taking up Olympic weightlifting as a serious sport at my age, I have a hard time not doing things I really enjoy.  As a coach of some rather talented young lifters, I also decided that it would probably be a good idea to have first hand knowledge of competing on the platform and so entered a competition in February.

Well, if I had taken a good hard look at my training log, I would have realized that my shoulder issues from the year before had not really resolved.  And maybe I would not have ignored the pain and horrible sounds when I put the bar overhead.  I might have also realized that there was a problem when three weeks out from the comp, both lifts had decreased by about 30 pounds.  Oh, and there was something about falling off a horse and having an injured hip as well.  You can probably tell by now that I don't really exercise caution, restraint, or common sense when it comes to training myself.


Long story short, I lifted at th…

What exactly is Foundational Training?

Well, it’s a very important concept related to adaptation.  And it can mean the difference between progressing safely with an exercise program and suffering debilitating injury. 
If, every time we picked up a barbell, our bodies instantly accommodated that stress by getting stronger and maintained that strength in a general way for a long period of time, foundational training would not really be all that necessary.  But that’s not how it works.

 Our body adapts to what its used to doing.  And whether that is walking, splitting wood, or carrying a child around all day, our bodies will try and adapt to become more efficient at that activity.  When we suddenly change what we are doing, our bodies will undergo stress as it tries to adapt to the change.  There are some changes that take place immediately such as increased heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature, but the long-term changes that result from applied stress are the ones that we need to be careful with.
When beginning a…

Time to talk diet . . .

Well, tis the season and all that. What am I talking about? Well, diet season of course. A lot of us have finished our holiday binges and have maybe tried on a bathing suit or two and been horrified by what they see in the mirror. New Year's resolutions, preparing for Spring Break, or just a desire for change in the post-holiday lull inspires many people to try to shed some pounds.


How do they do this?

Well, its pretty well known that gym attendance seems to increase exponentially for the first month or two after the holidays. And the infomercials on all the latest diet fads and exercise programs seem to get twice as much airing. However, very few people are really able to accomplish their goals without the aid of a personal trainer, boot camp coach, nutritional program, or Tony Horton. Many people blame this on a lack of motivation. But, the truth is, a lot of people work very hard and have a hard time ever seeing results and it has little to do with motivation and a lo…