Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Continuing Minimalism in 2008

I'm always hesitant to state New Years resolutions. So, there was no obligatory New Years Post because well, I rarely feel obligated to do anything. But, since we're into January and I've had time to reflect, I'll be happy to give my thoughts on my goals. I won't call them "resolutions" because they are not really that. They are a refinement and further commitment to things I've already been doing.

I'm not one to set a bunch of goals for the year for training or anything. Now, I do have a couple of goals and yes they even have numbers attached to them. However, these goals will be the results of higher level goals or initiatives. Those initiatives and their proper execution are what matters; the results or the numbers usually take care of themselves.

Continue Minimalism. That's the high level goal; the goal in which all other goals and initiatives are derived. If it doesn't fit in under that one, it is an antagonist..

This takes the guess work out of a large part of my training. I don't have to worry about doing 10 different things. I can stay out of analysis paralysis hell. I can continue to pour my focus and my energy into a few movements and in turn, I will continue my journey to mastery of those things.

You see, I don't think it is necessarily easy or natural for many of us to narrow our focus to a few things even in training. It is counter-intuitive in our complex culture. I see it at work all the time. We get inundated with many initiatives and information. Consequently, we get overwhelmed. The end result is usually low and/or sub-standard productivity even though we work harder and longer.

Prioritization seems to be a rare skill in my work and in some of the training I witness. Commitment is also rare. If you prioritize things, you inherently make a commitment to something; You've made a decision to elevate something above everything else. So, the inability to prioritize is also the inability to commit, and it is also the inability to decide.

That's why minimalism will continue to be my friend. It is easier to prioritize things when the list is shorter. It is easier to make commitments when you don't over extend yourself. Decisions are easier to make when you have fewer choices.

So, the lower-level goals (and I'll stick to training and personal goals):

Training: Jerks and Snatches 4-5 times per week and progressively increase the volume when training for the competitions. Row 10-15K meters per week. Do some sort of joint mobility and squatting everyday even if it is for 5 minutes. If I have time and energy, do a few circuit or met-con workouts per week. It won't be at the expense of the Jerks or Snatches. It will provide a break from any monotony I might feel and provide an additional conditioning challenge. When I'm not training for a competition (and that won't likely be until after September), then I may take up learning a new skill like Weightlifting.

The goal of that training will yield results and those results will be a noticeable improvement over the last competition. The other and equally important goal of that training will be to maintain strength and continue to enhance my mobility and conditioning.

Diet: When I'm not traveling, continue to consume large servings of veggies through the vitamix. I find that when I do this, my diet naturally gets cleaner and my cravings for crap diminish and my appetite is reduced. Drink 2 liters of water per day. My bodyweight will drop further if I stick to this plan.

Other: Travel and spend more time with friends here in St. Louis and in the rest of the country. Attend Martial Arts class when possible. Read a couple of books per month. Write a couple of blog entries a month. These goals will enable me to be a good friend, keep my mind active, and maintain balance.



mark blakemore said...

very wise!! i like your simplicity and how it leads to absolute effectiveness.

Catherine Imes said...

Thanks Mark. I find it is working well for me not just in training, but life in general.


Peter said...

Cate, thanks again for a much needed nugget.

I was in your "red" team at the January AKC Certification in San Diego, and carried many teaching points away from your detailed instruction. And I'm looking forward to getting my KB set to work on some flight time (the AKC techniques don't quite work with my RKC bells).

I work as a full-time MD, wearing the office Medical Director hat, and am working with our own IT crew on our electronic medical record implementation, plus promoting the practice via our website and blog. Information overload is a way of life...but you hit it right on the head. Prioritizing is a must, or you...dither.

Thanks again, for a spot-on post!

Peter Kim

Catherine Imes said...

Thanks Peter.

It was great meeting and you did a great job. Yes, doing the techniques with the other bells (especially the smaller 16kg bells) is less than ideal.


Peter said...

Thank you, Cate.

And although this is only a bit related to your post, a query:

In the interest of minimalism, do you have any advice (or know of any AKC postings) on setting up a foundational practice?

By that, I mean a regimen for a beginning KB-er, primarily interested in health and fitness goals, such as weight and bp lowering, but that would also serve as a base for future focused work (e.g. martial arts supplementation, or GS prep).

Catherine Imes said...


Yes, the following assumes that the individual has a safe grasp of the basics.

Let's say it is a man, and they are comfortable with the 16kg.

I would start with the Push Press or the Jerk (depending on the skill level). The emphasis should be on a definitive lockout to build overhead stabilization. I would try to start with single arm sets of 2-3 min per side, and start at 6rpm. Depending on the ease or difficulty, I would maybe do 2 sets at this duration and pace. The emphasis here is on skill development. Gradually increase duration and pace.

After that, I would work snatches. One set, in the same duration range. 12-14rpm is the pace that one should start. The focus is on technique initially. Once the individual is comfortable with their technique and they are not tearing their hands, then they can speed up a little or increase their duration.

Swings...Initially, I would encourage beginners to do more swings. This is where they are going to get the conditioning benefits for weight loss because the stuff above needs to be practiced with skill development in mind before going all out and using it for solely conditioning. Maybe even do as many as 4-5 sets 20-30 per hand range to start. Rest as needed, but the idea is to push yourself on these since you are going relatively light to start. Once you are comfortable with this movement, then the individual should work with the next size up from the bell that they use for snatches.

Now, that is one workout. If you want a truly minimalist fitness program, you could do one arm long cycle clean and Jerk. It is comprehensive. I've done this for 30 min without stopping. It is great cardio, but easy on the joints. You can switch on the minute or every 5 min. So, you may have days where you Jerk and snatch for time(slow), and then do swings for conditioning. You may choose other days to just do a relatively long set of long cycle.

I also encourage folks to run (if it is feasible for their body type) or row for some of their conditioning work. I personally love the C2 rower.


Peter said...

Awesomely succinct. Plenty to work on there for a long while - and the new 'bells are due this coming Monday :)

BTW, when I read "jerk" or "push press," I assume that means the movement done repetitively from the rack position, or short cycle?

Long cycle, cleaning for each rep before the pressing movement, is usually specifically qualified as such?

Catherine Imes said...

Yep, that's what I mean. The goal is the Jerk, but as you know it's a little more difficult. That is why I emphasize a lockout with a pause in both cases.


Peter said...

Cate, a "long cycle" query after working for a bit: any suggestions on not getting fried? :)

I've been doing alternating days of jerks and snatches, and recently adding 1-arm LC C&J and swings back in for conditioning. But it's a bit haphazard.

I'm also trying to design a schedule based on Scott Sonnon's 4X7 program, which I believe you're familiar with, and will likely be the basis for the upcoming AKC Fitness seminar in NYC this summer. I think it's sound, especially since I do some low key martial arts (aikido, and kung fu with my kids) 2-4 days a week.

So, some specific "short cycle" queries:

1) I've always viewed the snatch as a technically demanding lift (from my RKC instructional materials) - do you recommend working for several weeks or cycles on the 1-arm jerk before adding the snatch? Once added, would you keep the snatch and jerk on separate days, or if on the same day, does their order matter, and what length rest period between them would you suggest?

2) I feel like I'm getting a great cardio challenge from the 1ALCCJ, while working the overhead strengthening, too. How do you feel about using this as a main conditioning focus - perhaps even to the point of relying on it as the "base," and later branching into jerks, 2-hnd jerks, 2-hnd LC, or snatches depending on one's needs (e.g. GS, or supplementary exercises)?

3) I *think* my technique, since the San Diego certification, has improved dramatically, and I'm very focused on bell position in my hand. But at this early stage, my limiting factors are first, my grip, then maintaining good "rest" posture at the bottom of my jerks and the top of my snatches at 6 minutes -- both give out before my cardio does. Any suggestions on building endurance there?

4) Finally, what do you think of teh 4X7 protocol? And if you'd recommend a more standard alternating regimen, how do avoid burning out your grip, or just plain banging your body to bits? :)

Catherine Imes said...

Hi Peter,

I'm just now seeing the comment. So I apologize for not responding sooner.

I don't know much about 4X7, but I've heard good things about it.

In terms of the other stuff, gradually add volume. This may mean that one day you snatch, one day you jerk, one day you do LCC&J. Then maybe one or two days a week you snatch and you Jerk.

On days that you snatch, follow up with swings.

On days that you Jerk (2 bells) follow it with single arm Jerks.

I would dedicate sometime to LCC&J (one bell) and switch hands as needed for conditioning.

Email me if you'd like and I'll try to provide more assistance.

Email: catherineimes AT Sbcglobal dot net