Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Keg Jeg - Leeds and Glasgow

Our recent tour brought us to Leeds in the UK to play at the Brudenell Social Club. Leeds, while not the first city we ever played in England (Liverpool has that honour. RIP Quiggins), it served as our 'home base' for years as we would frequent the UK on various tours. Our good friend Jase lived in the Hyde Park neighbourhood of Leeds in a sliver of a house in an amazing neighbourhood of terraced houses which looked straight out of any grainy ancient dismal footage of an English slum somewhere in the mid century. Charming of course. Since then, Jase has moved away, and we don't crash on floors so much anymore, but our tour had us playing right around the corner from our first real home in England at the Brudenell.

The sky was gray, the air was cold, the run up to the show was boring, and i'd just eaten a bunch of junk food and had a pint of good cask ale. Feeling guilty about being a lazy lard lad, I stepped outside for some air when I spotted piles and piles of empty kegs behind the venue. Empty kegs are not so heavy, but they have a good weight, and they are bulky to handle. They have places built into them for carrying/lifting and after picking one up, I immediately thought they would be a perfect surrogate for a kettle bell.

Borrowing from my typical kettlebell routine and parts of Charles Bronson's "Solitary Fitness" I devised a workout with the empty keg.

3 sets of 8 "Dynamic Tension" deltoid/chest/stomach exercise. Standing up straight, I held the keg length ways (horizontally) out in front of my chest. Held it there for a few seconds, and slowly lowered it down to my waist. Then back up for another hold and repeat. Did one variation of this, and that was to bring the whole keg from my waist all the way above my head.

3 sets of 8 Military Chest press. Holding the keg vertically by it's two handles, I flipped it so the bulk ofthe empty keg was above me. Standing, and starting at the chest, I pressed upward with both hands until my arms were fully extended, then back down to a "clean" position.

3 sets of 8 Squats. Horizontally again, and with the keg above my head, arms fully extended, i did some squats. Wearing jeans was a bad idea, though. Even in cold weather.

3 sets of 8 rows. Leaning over my legs, bent slightly at the knee, almost like a semi deadlift, I did some rows with both hands, and the keg horizontal.

The next night in Glasgow, there were more kegs, and a big indoor space to do the exercises in. My usual workout buddy is Ben aka Young Guv. He joined in.

We did as above with the following additions:

Tricep extensions
Farmers Walk holding two kegs
Alternating Bicep curls
and push ups balanced between two kegs

Anyways -- if you are on tour and in a band, you are probably playing at a place that serves alcohol, lots of which is draft beer. Go out back, find the empty kegs, and get busy before your set.

Ledges and Blocks in France

Spring and summer touring usually means better opportunity to improvise outdoors. Recently we played in Rouen, France. It's about one hour outside of Paris -- it felt a bit like being on the set of Alphaville: Tall modernist buildings and tower blocks mixed with only a shadow of the charm of classical looking French architecture. Stained concrete, and a working port. Rouen is on the Seine river, and the venue was inside a giant port building, beside two huge loading cranes. A short walk down the embankment and I was in an empty stretch between a warehouse and a barge, out of most peoples views and among what looked like abandoned or closed market stalls. I found a ledge and cement block and started making up a routine.

This was about knee-height on me (despite the shitty perspective), and blocks exactly like this lined the entire building. I started by doing box jumps - 3 sets of 10. I then moved on and put my hands in the middle of the block and did some awkward leaning pushups - 2 sets of 20. The raw peddles and stones in that old block were tearing my hands up a bit, so I moved over to the smoother concrete ledge to the right, and did some dips. Dips are a very easy exercise to improvise just about anywhere you can hang on to. Then, I put my feet on the block, and did some decline push ups. 1 set of 15.

To my right was this giant sandstone (?) block which was being used to hold down one of the empty market stalls. I put my feet on the block against the building, and my hands on the 160KG block, and did some more dips, this time messing around with lifting my legs and holding them out to see if that created any extra balance/resistance/whatever.

I then returned to my trusty original block, did 20 more box jumps and called it a day as a group of drunken French yahoos (probably coming to the show) got out of their Citroen parked on the embankment and started stumbling toward my once serene workout spot. Thanks Rouen, that was easy enough.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Currently away amongst all the bricks and aluminum siding a person can handle. Speaking of handles, I now have two where my obliques used to be.

Yesterdays workout:

Monotonous "get back in to it" run around the perimeter of McCarren Park for 30 minutes. Temperature 5 degrees C. 100 pushups, 50 crunches, 25 prisoner squats.

Today's in the apartment workout:
Jumping jacks, 100 Push Ups, 30 transverse ab upside down type things, 25 crunches for obliques, 25 burpees, 50 prisoner squats, 50 plank jacks, 50 plank with oblique twists,some other junk and
20 Dips:


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Get ON The Van

Reality #1 of being in a touring band is that you spend more of your time in a moving vehicle than you do at rest. Idle time can be really poisonous if you don't find ways to engage with the immobility. There are equal threats to your mind and body. If there was an intellectual version of Deep Vein Thrombosis i'm sure i've suffered through it more than once. So what is the answer to the still within the motion. Air Drumming comes to mind but I think the 365 degree exhaustion that follows (yours and anyone who has to share a car with you) probably isn't worth it.

Life on the road can mean a lot of things to a lot of people - reflection, excess, pain, joy, pleasure, and despair - but most of all it means sitting down in the same position for hours on end feeling the blood pool in your feet. Switches in posture usually produce a few minutes of human geometric relief, but once you realize you weren't meant to have your feet above your head for 8 hours at a time, or that balancing your entire body weight on one elbow makes for a sore back and shoulders, you're back to square one.

On our most recent tour of the West Coast of the United States we had some long drives to contend with. Here are a few things you can do in and out of the van, in or out of motion, with a fairly high amount of respect for the personal space of your travel-mates. If you're shy about working out in fast food parking lots or beside a flowing gas pump then you might have a bit of trouble getting started (i'm not exactly the best, believe me). However, if you're willing to stamp out lethargy with a small amount of embarrassment that will actually do your mind and body some good, then dive in.

This will be divided into two parts: those things that you can do while the van is moving, and those things that you can do when everyone else is off peeing and getting snacks. Of course, if this was your routine or something, this would probably take about 20 minutes or more, so you'd better hope the lineup at Iron Skillet is long, or that McDicks is having trouble with the deep fryer.

Here's my VAN WORKOUT:

1 - Stasis in Spaces

i) Push/Lift - This is stolen from Charles Bronson's book "Solitary Fitness" which is a great resource for exercises that mostly involve just your body and a sparse surrounding. Put the lower palm of your right hand over the top of your wrist on your left hand. If you're sitting down, your hands should be between your legs, parallel with your belt buckle (ish). Lift as hard as you can with your left, and push as hard as you can with your right. Hold for 10-15 seconds and do the opposite (lef ton top, right on bottom). 3 sets each direction. This will activate your back, chest, arms, and some abs.

ii) Make the Candle Flicker - Also a rework from Bronson's book, this involves long exhales focused on a single spot. This is also a helpful exercise for anyone who might be a singer or plays a wind instrument -- but for our purposes it's all about your abs. Either looking upwards toward the ceiling of the van, or straight ahead to the back of the seat in front of you (try not to exhale all over whoever is driving), take a deep breath and make the exhale into single concentrated stream that hits one spot. Use your stomach to push the air, and not your throat. In close enough quarters, put a tissue against the surface you're breathing against and hold it there as long as possible. Increase the weight/ply of tissue (or even go for cotton) for a tougher workout. Also can be done with a candle across a table.

iii) Hot Seat - This is maybe the most embarrassing to admit since no one will ever look at you the same in a car after you own up to doing this. Also it involves this: Flex each of your ass checks - left, right, left, right, left, right - for as many reps as you can stand.

iv) Pedals - Balancing on your ass and keeping your back straight, lift both your feet off the ground and make a pedaling motion. This is generally good for balance, stomach, and legs. Start by using your hands for balance -- this will just work your lower half/stomach -- and then try and do it upright without holding on to anything.

2 - Bumper Olympics

i) Incline Push Ups - Feet on the bumper, hands on the tarmac. Incline pushups off the back of the van.
ii) Inverted Rows - Head under the bumper, feet straight out, hands on top of the bumper. Pull yourself up while keeping your body straight and stiff. Movements will be slight, since you don't want to go face first into the undercarriage, but this leaves room for control.
iii) Box Jumps - Only do this if you trust your van's suspension. Stand a short distance away from the back bumper, and leap up, both feet at once, and land on the bumper with your toes. Balancing on the thin rail will make you use different muscles to balance than if you would on a regular box. Since bumpers are not very high, this exercise is limited, so try and do high reps, quickly. Try not to set the car alarm off.
iv) Dips - Feet straight out, hands facing forward on the bumper with your back to the van. Lower and raise like you would on a regular dip.


It Speaks for Itself

Monday, October 3, 2011

Farmer's Walk

Today I executed a very long and arduous, yet easy-to-do exercise task.

The Farmer's Walk involves passing along some indeterminate distance with an equal weight in either of your hands. Imagine a farmer carrying two pails of milk, two bails of hay, two cow heads...whichever bucolic or gruesome substitute you care to imagine. It's incredibly simple, but will significantly use muscles you might not even care to acknowledge while walking without any weights. Strong back, good traps, and a firm grip.

Today, I walked 1km with 20kg (a rough estimate based on what I can remember 20kg feeling like, could be more, could be slightly less) of groceries in either hand. This was not easy and I had to rest along the way. As a method of turning this ordinary and completely mundane activity into a regimented exercise, I used the city blocks in my neighbourhood as small tracks or 'sprints.' Each block was about 150m. After each distance i'd set the bags down and squat beside them. Then, lifting with my legs and arms, i'd stand up and do another 1-200m until I was home.

It was actually fairly exhausting, but as the strain on my arms became less and less avoidable, I started to employ little tricks to shift which part of my body was taking the weight. For instance, when I stood back up, i'd raise the bags so that my fists were just about in line or above my navel, and slightly "slouch" (someone with a better vocabulary for fitness can advise a proper word) so that some of the weight was on my biceps, and some was actually on my midsection/core. Made all the difference for the last few blocks.

While on the road, similar activity takes place during loading, which is the first real regimented 'road fitness' that I'd engaged in. Every band member loathes the load, since it involves lugging heavy equipment in and out of small spaces, up stairs, on to stages, off of them, and all the rest with great repetition. For extended misery there are a few variations: The rainy load-in, the short handed load-in, the spite load-in, the leave-before-you-get-arrested speed trial....etc etc. If you are on the road, though, giving a small amount of extra attention to how you're lifting those things that you are lifting actually turns into a great workout.

The Farmer's Walk is best applied to loading in with two guitar heads or two combo amps. The combos are generally heavier since all the machinery (speakers and electronics) are in one box. For an extra challenge, carry two at once up a flight of stairs.

My disclaimer for this exercise in a band, though, is to not try and descend stairs while balancing large amounts of weight. You're not a fireman and/or you have terrible balance; and, at the end of a show you're both tired, and likely intoxicated. Traversing steps with a hundred pounds throwing you off is certain doom. The Kinks and the Who can smash their amps, but we are probably not at liberty to do the same and especially not in the name of a workout. Shame, that.

Merely carrying your groceries might not suffice as an official Farmer's Walk workout, but whenever you're presented with the challenge to carry something weighty for some distance, keep it in mind as motivation ---- if that's your thing. Can be almost any weight. Enjoy (the discomfort of lugging around a bunch of heavy shit in your spare time)!