|Posted by Strength & Speed on January 15, 2019 at 10:25 AM|
Atomik Climbing Holds is a known leader in the world of Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) holds and climbing. However, they recently expanded their line of products to include balance products. As someone who previously had balance issues in OCR (2016s inclusion of Z beam at Conquer The Gauntlet Wichita knocked me back into the middle of the elite field), I was curious to see what they had to offer. Atomik has two different versions with several difficulty levels for each.
The two versions are:
1) Two footed version
2) Single foot version
The two footed version comes in three difficulty levels (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced). The single foot version only comes in two difficulty versions (Beginner and Advanced). I decided to go with the two footed Beginner, two footed Advanced and the single foot advanced. Design: The design is simple but clever. A flat top and a bulge at the bottom make them look like an upside down Bosu ball.
Durability: Atomik always has amazing durability. I've had many of my holds for years and treat them very poorly often dropping them from heights when changing out the holds on my rig (something I don't recommend doing). However, even with my poor treatment I've never had one break or crack. These balance trainers are made out of the same high quality material and still look brand new despite frequent use at home and in a Conquer Fitness ninja competition.
Choices: Atomik offers their full line of colors to choose from with an almost overwhelming number of options. Seriously, take a look at these color choices. Use: While I got them for myself, the person in my house that loves them the most is my four year old daughter. She calls them lily pads (I got green versions) and we will spend an hour crossing them, walking in a circle or trying to change positions without falling. They are so much fun and you can tell your spouse you bought them for the kids. (You're welcome.) We also used them as part of the Conquer The Gauntlet Pro Team takeover at the December event. They provided a nice change of pace and something different to members of the gym. The balance required to cross helped test full body instead of just grip strength.
Overall: The advanced models I am going to give a 5/5 stars. I love the challenge they present and the single foot/two foot variation make for different challenges. I've seen people use other homemade products for balance that are similar but I have also seen people roll their ankles badly on those homemade or lower cost solutions. Despite hours of playtime on these Atomik balance trainers, I've never rolled my ankle. I want to say the design makes it impossible, but I feel like someone will take that as a challenge. Regardless, I can't figure out how you would roll an ankle on these trainers. The beginner model was great for kids, people with very poor balance or if you were going to do other exercises on the trainer besides just walking across it.
They would be a 5/5 stars but for most of the people who read my website, they are probably more of a 3.5/5 stars, because you will find them too easy. I didn't get to test the intermediate model but I suspect based off the beginner and advanced that it works pretty well. However, my recommendation is to go with the two footed advanced, single foot advanced and if you want some more options pickup more single foot advanced models or a two footed intermediate. Every year watching ninja warrior many of the top athletes get knocked out early because of balance obstacles. Balance is just like any other skill, if you don't practice you won't get better at it. I'm just glad we have companies like Atomik to help us to continue to push our limits.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on November 19, 2018 at 5:50 PM|
When I say the word ultra-endurance to people they typically think skinny runner logging a ton of miles that probably can’t do a single pull-up. However, there is a world where you need ultra-endurance running capability combined with ultra-strength in your upper body, it is called Ultra-Obstacle Course Racing (Ultra-OCR). This is the world I train for, enjoy and thrive in.
Ultra-OCR usually involves running for a set period of time (usually 6, 8, 12 or 24 hours) on a course that is around five miles in length with around 20 obstacles. It is the big brother of OCR which usually runs between one and 13 miles of obstacles on a single lap course. In OCR and Ultra-OCR, sometimes the obstacles are very easy like crawling through this pipe, swimming across the body of water or going over a five foot wall. Other times the obstacles look like something out of ninja warrior with monkey bars, rotating wheels and hanging grips. Sometimes it involves strength like carrying a sandbag or turning a heavy crank attached to a several hundred pound sled, yet other times it tests your fears through things like ice baths, electricity and 40 foot cliff jumps.
These are the races I run and to prepare for them I train with weights. To effectively do obstacles for 8 or 24 hours, you need to overload your body with the progressive stress of weights. I use three main products in my training and used these extensively as I prepared for then completed the record setting 48 hour Ultra-OCR Endure The Gauntlet, a charity event that raised money for Folds of Honor (scholarship money for children whose parents were killed or wounded in US Military service).
1) Harbinger Big Grip Bar Grips: Grip strength is of paramount importance in OCR and Ultra-OCR so there is no better tool than Big Grip Bar Grips so you are working on grip strength with every single exercise. Anytime I touch a bar, my grips go on them. It ensures I am constantly stressing grip regardless of the exercise.
2) Harbinger Dip Belt: Too often athletes I train and work with will focus on bodyweight only exercises. While can be great for sport specific movements, it often leads to a plateau. Athletes will get better and once they reach a certain level they no longer have to adapt to get stronger. This is where the dip belt comes in and is great for things like dips or weighted pull-ups. The ability to add insane weights lets you overload the muscle. This is a feeling I know all too well after trying to cross a set of monkey bars for the 15th time after 18 hours of running/walking.
3) Harbinger Weight Vest: Besides the Big Grip Bar Grips, this is a staple of Ultra-OCR training. The extreme races require you to wear a wetsuit to prevent hypothermia. It is unfeasible to train in a wetsuit in most conditions. However, you can wear a weight vest for practicing obstacles with a similar amount of additional weight on your body. Whether you are doing hill repeats to strengthen the legs, climbing over a wall or crossing a rig, Harbinger’s weight vest with adjustable weights gives you the tools you need for success.
Strength training is not just for bodybuilders, powerlifters or strength athletes. It isn’t even just for Ultra-OCR athletes. Strength training is for all athletes. The strength and power developed from working with weights can fix imbalances, build bone density, increase testosterone and make you a better athlete in your chosen sport. Train hard and go out and crush your goals
|Posted by Strength & Speed on November 12, 2018 at 5:45 PM|
The world of ultra-endurance is growing with people wanted more than a marathon (26.2 miles) or more than a century (100 mile) bike ride. My sport is Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) and is no exception. Since 2011, athletes have been tackling events like the 24 hour long World’s Toughest Mudder and as of 2017 the CBS Televised 8 hour Toughest Mudder Series. The events require going over (usually) a 5 mile strength of land with around 20 obstacles. Some involve crawling, some hanging from your hands, others strength to carry or climb over a wall and sometimes they test your fears with things like a 40 ft. cliff jump.
I’ve been competing in endurance sports since 2003 with my first marathon followed in 2004 by my first (unofficial) ultra-marathon (a 40 mile unsupported run from Baltimore to Washington D.C.) and my first iron distance triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). However, I didn’t find my true sport until 2014 when I raced my first Ultra-OCR, the 24 hour long World’s Toughest Mudder.
The distances covered in Ultra-OCR are a little lower than of a regular running course of the same length. The uneven terrain, the obstacles, the water crossings and often the extreme conditions requiring athletes to put on a wetsuit to prevent hypothermia slow your pace. However, I would argue the stress on the body can be greater. You are not just taxing your legs but your arms, your back muscles, your grip strength and putting your body through some terrible conditions including ice baths, swim crossings and adrenaline inducing cliff jumps. In 2014, after World’s Toughest Mudder, an especially windy and cold year, I had trouble controlling my body temperature for three days afterwards.
I go to the race every year and every year the hardest part is not the terrible conditions, sleep deprivation or exhaustion, it is the walk back to the car when my feet hurt more than anything. The course designers can do whatever they want to me, but when they make me walk a half mile back to the parking lot they break my spirit every year. This year is different though because I got my first pair of OOFOS.
OOFOS recovery sandals (and now shoes) are the best post-event purchase you can make. OOFOS feel good any day of the week and they feel better after a long training day/week. However, nothing can compare to putting on OOFOS after an ultra-endurance event. The shoes literally make me change my stride from “I can barely walk” to “I’m walking almost normal”. I’ve tested a lot of products from the fitness industry and there are few where you can feel the effect immediately, OOFOS is one of these products.
I’m skeptical of all new products and I was skeptical of OOFOS too. The first time I tried them on I’ll admit I did the stereotypical “ooo” that gives OOFOS its name. They are comfortable, there is absolutely no doubt there. However, the first time I put them on after one of my endurance events, it was life changing. They are now part of my race essential kit as much as my running shoes that I use on race day.
If you don’t own a pair of OOFOS, you need to order some today. Not even my post-cheat meal feels as good as OOFOS after a long event. The best part is you don’t have to run insane distances to get this feeling. It is available to anyone that pushes their body and wants to recover faster, whether that be 10k, 10 miles, 100 miles or just someone that spends a lot of time on their feet. Do yourself a favor and stop living in the past. OOFOS are the future of post-endurance recovery and that future is now.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on October 24, 2018 at 8:00 PM|
I’m an Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) athlete whose specialty is Ultra-OCR (events that are 5+ hours in length). Ultra-OCR usually involves running a five mile loop with around 20 obstacles for a given amount of time (usually 6, 8, 12 or 24 hour). The obstacles are sometimes easy like crawling under wire and other times really hard like something you might see on ninja warrior. While I’ve had a lot of success in Ultra-OCR including a top ten finish at the 24 hour long World’s Toughest Mudder in 2016 with 90 miles, three top 10 finishes at the CBS Televised 8 hour Toughest Mudder series and a 2nd place Team finish at 2017’s World’s Toughest Mudder, I really like to push limits with my own challenges.
In 2016, I went from permanent OCR facility to permanent OCR facility across the United States for a full week and ran almost a marathon on each one. Called OCR America, the event raised $3,500+ for the charity Folds of Honor (scholarship money for children whose parents were wounded or killed in military service). By the end of the week I ran 161 miles (averaging 23 miles a day), completed 1000+ obstacles and climbed 31000+ feet of elevation.
In 2017, I took on another challenge I created called Ultra-OCR Grand Slam, where I tried to do well in every OCR in the world. I ended up finishing 1st or 2nd at every 24 hour OCR in the USA (2nd Terrain Race 24, 1st Dirt Runner Midwest Mayhem, 1st* Shale Hell 24 and 2nd Team World’s Toughest Mudder). I even flew to Australia and finished 10th at True Grit Enduro 24.
In 2018, I knew I had to go big so I created a charity event called Endure The Gauntlet. The plan was to multi-lap the hardest OCR series in the US, on their hardest course (Tulsa), in one of the hottest months (August) for not just the longest amount of time but double that of the longest race. The 48 hour event would also raise money for the charity Folds of Honor. I finished this event just recently at the end of August after pushing myself to the absolute limit both physically and mentally covering 91 miles and destroying my hands.
While my body was devastated the day after I almost looked normal walking around thanks to OOFOS. Previously I have worn the OOFOS sandal post-event, but the OOFOS shoe takes things to the next level. With feet that were swollen, bruised and had tender spots in all sorts of weird places the soft upper felt great on my foot. The sandals would have worked too, but the shoe was even better. This soft top combined with the patented OOFOAM foot-bed make this the perfect post-event recovery option.
I can’t thank OOFOS enough for their support and how their product has changed my training and performance. During periods of heavy training I wear them to speed recovery so I can train again harder. Pre-event I wear them to maximize the effects of my taper. Post-event they are speeding my recovery so I’m ready to race again sooner.
You don’t have to go for a 48 hour ultra-endurance event to get their benefit. Anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet or just wants a comfortable pair of shoes will love OOFOS. Despite being the only endurance athlete in my family, my entire family now owns a pair. Do yourself and your feet a favor and say thank you by picking up a pair of OOFOS recovery shoes.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on January 14, 2018 at 10:50 AM|
Over Christmas I asked Santa for sandbags that I can use for my own training and for training clients. Santa was kind enough to bring me two models Brute Force Training bags, The Athlete and The Strongman bags. That being said, I paid for these bags and Santa was kind enough to wrap them for me then give them back. Now let’s get down to the good and bad of these bags
Price: I am not going to lie these things are expensive, at least on my budget they are. Right now as I am writing this review you can get the same to bags as I bought for $130 and $160 on the Brute Force web site. This seems expensive for an empty bag with handles and a couple of empty fill bags inside. However, when you compare this price to other sandbag type training tools on the market targeted towards Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) enthusiasts the price may be cheaper, depending on size. Also, with the Brute Force bag you control the weight inside. So as you get stronger you can make your bag heavier while other bags on the market will make you pay for another $130+ bag.
Durability/warranty: Each bag is made 100% in the U.S.A., which as a vet I find kind of cool. The bag itself is made from a similar material that military duffle bags are of. Which if you have seen of the abuse those bags get put through that should be an indicator of how tough these bags are. In case you do damage your bag Brute Force will repair the bag if it falls under their warranty, which covers “normal wear and tear, zipper issues, manufacturing defects and generally anything else (… ) within reason”. When you receive your bag included is a care sheet that outlines what you should and should not due with the bag in order to keep the bag in as good of shape as possible. Basically don’t drag it across rough jagged surfaces and don’t set it on fire (apparently someone did that).
Versatility: About the only thing I can’t do with these bags is max out on a lift, but I also didn’t buy the biggest bag. Furthermore, single rep max lifts are usually not the point of sandbag training. For most of us using sandbag training it is to get ready for a specific obstacle in an OCR race or to use the dynamic load as a different way of training as opposed to the static nature of barbells and dumbbells. I have yet to go truly heavy with my bags, but even with only 45lbs in the bag lifts like cleans and even curls take on a whole new aspect of core training. If you are unfamiliar with sandbags, basically think of the weight as a pendulum you now have to control and absorb as opposed to a barbell that provides a more rigid and controllable object.
One major difference between a Brute Force sandbag and others in the OCR world are the handles. And to be quite honest, the handles are one of the main reasons I went with these bags over others. Brute Force attaches not one, not two, but nine handles to their sandbags (unless you opt for the bag with none, but that’s your choice). Each set of handles is positioned to be able to give you a different grip for different lifts and exercises, which makes them a much more versatile tool in anyone’s workout regimen. As a certified personal trainer I feel that the handles make the bag much more beginner friendly. More handles lead to more exploration as to how to best use them. If you have a bag with only two straps coming off of the ends, it can be more difficult to find the best ways to use it. Also with all of those handles included on the standard bag you are saving money. Other bags will make you pay around $30 for an extra attachment that you have to configure yourself.
Lastly on the topic of versatility we have the load itself. As I talked about earlier you can put as little or as much weight in each bag as you want (each bag is rated for a certain range of weight). Which is a nice way of saying you have to go out, and put the sand in the bags yourself. If you want to buy the sand it is roughly $4 for a 50lbs bag of play sand. So for my 2 sandbags I used 4 of the included fill bags and 150lbs of sand for a whole $12. With those three bags I have four fill bags with 25, 35, 45 and a 55lbs respectively, this is where the true value of Brute Force bags comes in. I can load all of those bags up in my one Strongman bag and go get a killer workout, OR I can now use four different weights with my clients across a range of abilities and strengths. The fill bags take about 15 seconds to switch out.
In closing I am a HUGE fan of these sandbags. While yes the upfront cost is steep, the value of Brute Force Sandbags over other sandbags in the OCR market is astounding. Whether it is the ability to make the weight personalized, or the usefulness of the different handles Brute Force Sandbags are definitely my choice for sandbag training for OCR. Check out all of their gear at www.bruteforcetraining.com I don’t have a promo code to give you because this was not a sponsored review, I’m just a fan of their product.
(all images from Brute Force website and social media channels)
Jared Has a B.S. in Fitness & Wellness and is a Certified Personal Trainer. Jared was a college athlete competing in both soccer and track. Since beginning OCR in 2014 Jared has competed in numerous races, he qualified for OCR World Championships in 2016. Jared finished in the top 50 in the 30-34 age group on the OCRWC short course, he also completed the 15k standard course completing each obstacle and keeping his band. Jared is a member of Team Strength and Speed as well as the owner of JRen Fitness
|Posted by Strength & Speed on May 4, 2017 at 7:00 AM|
Last year we covered Inspirational Star Wars quotes on May the Fourth. Since we used up most of the good quotes last year, this seems like a perfect opportunity to go in the opposite direction. Here are my favorite pictures and memes from fatest human in the Star Wars Galaxy, Jek Porkins. Enjoy!
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 15, 2017 at 4:05 PM|
If you have not looked into the value of adding some mental training to your repertoire you are missing out on achieving your peak performance. I covered a little bit of the importance ofmental training in my book “Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite ObstacleCourse Racing” but there are so many topics to cover, I could not cover mentaltraining in depth. To truly understandall the benefits it really requires a book focused on just mental training.
I recently picked up Matt Fitzgerald’s book “How Bad Do You Want it” and wasblown away with how great his book was. He provides real life scenarios of top level athletes using the power oftheir mind to unlock their full potential. He takes examples of athletes like cycling’s Thomas Voeckler, GregLemond and Cadel Evans explaining how they could summon super-humanperformances when the conditions were right. Add in some running examples of Sammy Wanjiru, Jenny Simpson and StevePrefontaine and you have an all-star line up of truly amazing stories.
I personally thought it was the best book on mental training that I have read sofar. It is definitely something I planon reading again as I get ready for major competitions. The stories included in the book and thescience that supports them will help you create your own stories of greatness.
His book was go good, I wanted toread more on unlocking my personal mental potential and immediately picked upanother book called “The Champion’s Mind” by Jim Afremow. With such high expectations, I wasimmediately disappointed. MattFitzgerald is heavily involved in both competing in running/triathlons and anexperienced journalist. His bookreflects that. Jim’s background is inpsychology and his book reflects that. Althoughhe works with athletes, he is not a high level athlete himself unlikeMatt. Matt understands the importance ofthings like reserving mental strength for races , periodization, trainingcycles, peaking and the importance of rest. I felt like Jim’s book did not reflect that as well focusing more onjust doing your best every day. In reallife when you give 100% everyday, that leads to burnout, injury and loss inmotivation. Unlike Matt’s book, I won’tbe reading Jim’s book again.
Matt used real life examples andJim’s book is filled with fictional stories that don’t necessarily translateinto real life. Bottom line is if youare looking to pick up a good book on mental training, buy How Bad Do You WantIt”. “The Champion’s Mind” fell short ofexpectations.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 1, 2017 at 10:40 AM|
Not surprising to anyone, but movies often show stuff that is completely inaccurate, improbable and sometime impossible. They are provided to us so companies, actors and staff can make money while providing the rest of the world with entertainment. Here are some classic examples pulled from a variety of sports based movies. Typically the underdog comes from behind to win the big game or match even though he does a lot of the following. These are my top 5 movie falsities that have been brainwashing you negatively.
1. Train hard and it will make a difference in a week
The season starts and the team is getting their butt kicked all year. However, the first playoff game is in a week….so it is time to step up our training. Actually, if the big game is only a week away you should probably train hard for two or three days and then taper. If it is a race, then maybe you should have been tapering the last two weeks. Either way a week of hard work is not going to fix things unless you come up with a magical play like the flying V.
2. Go hard all the time
BEAST MODE!!!! Wait a minute, as my favorite OCR athlete and Olympic Biathlete says “Beast Mode is a Myth”- Marco Bedard. Training montages often show tons of high intensity work really crushing things to get to that peak level. However, for events like running, OCR and even team sports, your fitness is built through consistent low to medium intensity work mixed with some high intensity training. Which leads directly into the next falsity…
3. A lifetime of sloth can be fixed in a couple of weeks
If there are two people and one has been training hard for months and years on end while the other just started training this season. Chances are the sloth is going to lose. There are exceptions due to the genetically gifted but chances are the new athlete is in a for a loss.
4. Nonsense training leads to dramatic results
Nonsense training actually violates the rule of specificity. Specificity means you practice whatever task you have to perform because it will make you better at it (better neurological pathway, stronger muscles for that activity, more fluid movement, etc). Paint the fence, carry this bucket up this hill, toss eggs back and forth or whatever else is portrayed in movies often loosely relates to the actual activity they are being trained for. These scenes typically just make dramatic parts that film well. Those athletes would be better suited training for whatever sport/race they are doing instead of doing supplementary exercises.
5. Bad attitudes are turned into great ones
The people who do really well in sports do not show up thinking, “Man I hate practicing”. In fact it is the opposite. It is the love of the game, which makes their behavior obsessive and even unhealthy. Although unhealthy is usually the difference between achieving results and someone’s opinion of not achieving an appropriate outcome based on work input. Chances are if you are someone you know is showing up to train with a bad attitude they will no longer be part of the team/club/sport in a couple of weeks or months.
Pay attention next time you watch any sports based move of an underdog coming from behind to win the big one. Chances are perpetuating several or all of these falsities. I guess telling people that a mix of genetic gifts and a lifetime of hard work produces great results does not make for compelling movies. Aw well, at least you know the real answer now.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on February 15, 2017 at 3:00 PM|
Idecided to pick up Phil Knight’s book ShoeDog, about the founding and history of one of Nike. Today, Nike is viewed as a giant in the shoeand athletic clothing industry. However,they were not always like this. Afterreading this book, it gave me a whole new perspective on Nike and how difficultit can be to start a business.
ShoeDog takes a look at Nike focusing on the early days and follows through all theway up to modern day. The later years ofthe story are mostly glossed over, but the early years are very in depth. Hearing how they struggled to make ends meet,took large risks and were almost sued out of existence in their early daysreally gives you a new view of the company. Their persistence and innovation revolutionized the running industrydespite several points in the story where their existence seemed like it wasdestined to fail.
Thebook is also filled with a ton of stories that are just interesting to hearincluding stories about the legend Steve Prefontaine, how Nike came up withtheir name and Bill Bowerman’s historic waffle design on the bottom of Nike’sshoes. While Nike is sometimescriticized today because they are often viewed as “the man” or “a superpower”when it comes to the athletic world, just like every other company they startedout very small (as Blue Ribbon Sports).
Ireally enjoyed hearing the backstory associated with Nike. While obviously written from a biasedperspective (owner Phil Knight is the author), in my opinion he still sharedsome stories that does not paint Nike in the best light. However, he explained his side of the storyand how he saw the situation at the time. If you are a fan of Nike, a fan of running or just someone who likes toread about the backside of the athletic industry, this would be a good book toadd to your reading list.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on July 15, 2016 at 10:40 AM|
Out There: A Story of Ultra Recoveryby David Clark was my recent ultra-distance audiobook I finished. I often like to choose my audiobooks based on training focus because I think it helps me get in that appropriate mindset. So if I plan on doing a lot of endurance work, I will listen to books about ultra-running, if I am in a strength building phase I will listen to books by other trainers and if I am dieting for a bodybuilding show, I will listen to nutritional books to reinforce my dietary behavior.
Out There was entertaining but it did not speak to me. I can see how a lot of people would love this book because it is the underdog type story. The author, David Clark, was an alcoholic for years effecting everything from his personal to professional life. Although he actually seemed to hold things down pretty good considering how much he was drinking. He eventually (much later than I thought), finds ultra-running and replaces one addiction for another.
This definitely speaks to anyone trying to stop their addiction (I avoid using the term battling, because I think it is ridiculous to use the term battle when you are fighting yourself). However, I have never had an addiction problem like drugs or alcohol so I had trouble relating to the main character for large parts of the book. For a while it seemed like he was going to run an ultra or two and then call it a “career” but he eventually gets to what I would consider an impressive level.
Overall, it was a good book, not something I would run around recommending to people unless you are interested in addiction or ultra-running, which should not be surprising. Pick it up if you are looking for something to listen to while training for your next ultra or bypass if you have not read some of the other ultra-books I recommended.