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Surgeon/Athlete’s Extreme Challenge
My stated goal, for no good reason other than Clarence Bass
mentioned it in an email, was to try a marathon row: 42,195 meters (about
3-3.5h) My longest continuous row ever (I have rowed over 2 million k) has been
10k. I am primarily an anaerobic athlete who excels in the 1-3 minute zone.
[Editor: He set a world speed skating record at 3000 meters.] This was a way to mark an end (leaving job as orthopedics
chairman, climbing CEO ladder, etc) and a new beginning (moving the family back
to Denver—refocusing on our family’s interest in health and fitness.) Of
course, the night before my management team took me out for dinner and quite a
I set the rower at 42,195 (preset under custom workouts)...I rowed for a minute and said, Ridiculous. I reset to a half marathon (also preset), tried a minute and said, At least try. So I reset to the marathon and started, cautiously, with the caveat that I would not be totally stupid since I can't afford to be lying in bed for 2 days. I found that rowing steadily was boring and tiring, so I rowed at different paces depending on the music and the hockey game on the TV (no volume). I averaged around 2:21/500m pace overall. Mentally, it was all hard, but from 5-10 k, I did well. Passing 10k, I felt a sense of breaking new ground. The biggest problem was rear end pain.
From 10-12 k was pretty hard. After 12k, I started to
dwindle. Through trickery, closing eyes for long periods and pretending I was
Spartacus enslaved on an ancient Greek ship rowing across the Mediterranean, and
that I would be executed if I stopped rowing, I asymmetrically and somewhat
painfully made it to 20k. I had slowed to about 2:26 average pace. I could do no
more in large part from the butt pain. I got off the rower and then did 30 min
on the spinning bike, to prove to myself that it was the rear end discomfort
that limited me. Then I was finito, done. Overall I did 20k (twice my
longest row), just under half marathon...a little over 90 minutes.
Predictably, the best one can usually do in a high performance attempt is 20% over previous, given good training...so falling apart at 12k was understandable...overall, fun, and useful in a mental discipline sort of way…I think I will row for extreme distance 1x per month. I fell asleep at 9pm last night…500m intervals now sounds wonderful!
Unquestionably, anaerobic athletes focusing on peak performance need to periodize, as Clarence and others have taught. Extreme over-distance fatigues the body, and prevents high intensity training especially if done frequently. On the other hand, unless one is training for a specific competition, trying new things and pushing one’s envelope in different directions is fun and healthy, as long as you don't hurt yourself. I feel pretty good today and look forward to a HIT weight workout and then doing some rowing intervals later today.
* * *
I can't fool you. My bravado from earlier today proves
wrong (lactic acid on brain). Unable to lift a dumbbell and ended up doing very
easy row and falling asleep! Now I remember why I have a wife, kids and job: Too
keep me from doing stuff like that. A good lesson (learned for the 1000th
time): Incremental effort
increases provide sustainable results and overdoing things especially for the older athlete is often counterproductive.
Thanks for the ongoing fun and motivation.
Wade Smith, MD
Dr. Smith looking fit and powerful. Look at those legs! Thanks, Wade, for sharing
(He had a hip replacement using the anterior approach, just like Clarence.)
Barbell Aerobics Strategy Works
The “old” Ripped guy in Muscle and Fitness with the crazy abs. That was my first impression of Clarence Bass. I was a teenager reading Muscle and Fitness, paying more attention to the big guys in the magazine like Arnold and Lou.
Twenty years later, in early 2000, becoming an “old” man myself, at 36, I bought my first Clarence Bass book, Challenge Yourself. The photo on the cover was astonishing; he’s still got it at 60!
During my teenage years I was able to lose the weight that troubled me as a child. As a 10-year-old, I remember having to lose 20 pounds to be eligible to play football with the 12-year-olds! But after college, then marriage and kids my weight slowly crept back up. I had been strength training and doing moderate intensity cardio for 20 years, yet my weight went as high as 233 lbs. at 5’9.” I would look at lean people and think to myself, What does it take?
So you’re telling me “one hard aerobics session is enough—if combined with frequent walks…” Clarence called that his “Barbell Aerobics Strategy” in Challenge Yourself (page 91). I couldn’t believe it. I emailed Clarence and told him that I did 5 “hard” 30-minute cardio sessions a week on the Stairmaster. His simple response was, “I don’t do that.”
Well, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I continued the 30-minute cardio routine 3-5 times a week for 10 more years. I faithfully visited Clarence’s website, looking forward to his first-of-the-month updates. I also bought a couple more of his books and videos. I really love his material—he’s personal, well researched, and very motivating! His pictures do all the “selling.” Even though I continued my old ways, Clarence’s words “most people have the capacity to do what I have done” would run through my mind. Would the “barbell aerobics strategy” work for me? The last year and a half of those 10 years I worked at my health club [Ed: Centurion Fitness] 6 days a week, yet was only able to get down to 210 lbs. My waist was still 37 inches. I was 45 years old.
In late 2009, I finally gave in. If I wanted to look like Clarence Bass, I decided it might be a good idea to train like him! Hey, it only took me 10 years! I started the barbell aerobics strategy—one hard interval session (10 minutes more or less + warm-up & cooldown) and 5-7 days of “comfortable” walking. In addition, I significantly reduced my number of sets of strength training. I continued to be careful about what I ate. (See below)
In the beginning, the comfortable walking seemed slow. My heart rate would only be around 80 bpm, and I wouldn’t even break a sweat. Clarence talks about patience being a key to success, so I stuck with it. I imagined a lion stalking his prey. He must stalk slowly and carefully or his prey will get away. (The goal getting farther away summed up my previous attempts. My results never seemed to match my efforts.)
The once-weekly high-intensity interval sessions were significantly more intense, but actually more enjoyable than what I had been doing for all those years. For months I used the Concept 2 Rower and was able to beat my previous session every week. This confirmed that a once-a-week hard session was enough to improve. [Ed: Progressivity is a key to success; continually challenging yourself is an important part of the strategy. Infrequent training makes that possible.]
Pretty quickly I started seeing results. Within 6 months I dropped down to 177 lbs. and ultimately down to 165 lbs. at about 6% body fat. My waist is now less than 30 inches, at 48 years old! Funny thing is, my results still don’t seem to match my efforts, only now the results are better than I could have ever imagined. I made more progress in those first 6 months than I had in decades of doing it my way. [Ed: Dean lost less than a pound a week on average—a comfortable and sustainable rate. He lost faster in the beginning, and slower as he approached an ideal bodyweight.]
WOW! Look at that body—and smile. Congratulations Dean.
Baton Rouge, La.
UK Security Expert Discovers Tabata Protocol
Continually maintaining a decent fitness level is hard work for anyone. It is ten times more difficult for a police officer involved in operational duty and shift work. I know, because I was that person for thirty years. Like many officers out there, I worked away at strength resistance exercises and aerobic exercise for decades. The aim was to be both strong and fit, so that my body would always be able to manage the rigours of those sudden foot chases, which culminate in a struggle to restrain the suspect. Sadly, again like many other officers, many times the weariness brought on by night shifts, onto late shifts, often knocked the resolve we all need to get to the gym.
Towards the end of my career, through the website of a strength & fitness guru Clarence Bass, I stumbled across the writings of a Japanese scientist called Izumi Tabata. I was both doubtful and intrigued with the research because he was suggesting that an optimum level of aerobic and anaerobic fitness is achievable with just a four minutes workout. Surely what he was espousing couldn’t be true. Everyone knows that you have to pound away three times a week for about forty minutes, to even maintain a modicum of fitness.
With nothing to lose, I tried out the Tabata protocol on a Concept II rower. The first time I performed it after my strength training in the gym. What a mistake that was! I managed six sets of 20 seconds rowing with ten seconds rest and felt ill as I stumbled out of the gym. I had found that there is a price to pay with high intensity aerobic interval training – it is hard work.
I had the perfect method of testing out Dr. Tabata’s research on myself. I was required to take a fitness test every year and one aspect of the test was the bleep test, where having performed a certain number of lengths of a prescribed distance, the ‘bleeps’ get closer together requiring the runner to move faster to meet demand.
About ten months prior to the test I halted all aerobic activities due to a serious incident which left me injured. Out of the hospital for several weeks I still had trouble moving about, but I could row. So I commenced including a session of Tabata’s on the Concept II rower twice a week, as part of my rehab training--and thereafter.
The physical test came and I easily ran to over 12 minutes [staying ahead of the ‘bleeps’ longer than younger colleagues] and, importantly, recovered quickly afterwards. The repeated high intensity intervals, with short rest periods, appeared to have also improved my recovery capacity.
A big advantage of the Tabata protocol is its flexibility; you don’t need a gym – you can arrange a workout even in your own back yard. (See photo below) All you need is an ability to time yourself. Over the past few years I have tried working on a punch bag, running wind sprints across a gym, free standing squats, a stationary cycle, the Concept II rower, and even the clean & press with a barbell.
This photo shows
Martin doing the barbell clean and press in his back yard.
He does ten sets of ten reps, with 30 seconds rest in between! (Photo taken a few days ago by his daughter)
In Dr. Tabata’s original experiment the study group exercised every day. Don’t try it – you will require at least two days to recover in order to perform well the next time. [We recommend once or twice a week, not more.]
One aspect which I know to be true is that hard exercise is a stress reliever – the sense of accomplishment you feel after a hard workout is definitely a good way to deal with worry and anxiety.
So, if you are ever in a quandary over which training method is best, try Dr. Tabata’s way. You'll enjoy high-intensity intervals; they're challenging and leave no time for boredom. [Check with your doctor if you are new to training or have any health issues.]
[Martin Cooper is a retired UK Police officer. He still requires a high level of fitness due to being involved in Close Protection operations. He consults on Personal Safety issues within the UK and internationally. www.mdcconsultants.co.uk ]
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