Intense Workout at The SHOP

This morning I had one of my most intense workouts in recent memory, courtesy of The SHOP. The SHOP is an awesome gym in Dallas. It is a no-frills, high-intensity gym with lots of heavy equipment - it's basically what Rocky's gym would be like. It is owned and run by a good friend of mine, Drew, who also blogs about fitness / nutrition.

Although I have referenced The SHOP several times in my blog, this was my first time actually visiting. I was in Dallas to pitch Smart Office Energy Solutions to the newly formed Dallas Angel Network last evening so I stayed the night and scheduled a workout before driving back to Houston.

This morning began early with a 4:55 AM alarm. After a brief pre-training breakfast (just a grapefruit for me; a yogurty / oatmealy / fruity concoction for Drew), we were in The SHOP warming up. Warming up was necessary because The SHOP is in a non-temperature-controlled garage environment (coherent with the raw, hardcore workout philosophy) and the temperature this morning was in the low 30s Fahrenheit.

We were joined about 5:30 by one of The SHOP's regulars, a professional athlete who also happens to be a Rice alum. Drew played on Rice's national championship-winning baseball team that sent many players to the pros and it is partially through that network that he winds up coaching so many professional athletes. I suspect that they like the same things in his methodology that I do: a highly analytical approach (What else would you expect from someone who double majored in Chemical and Environmental Engineering?) and a commitment to research / results, not fads.

I made my requisite excuses about taking it easy because it was my first time (and I had a long drive ahead of me that wouldn't be too comfortable with a traumatic muscle strain / pull / tear); then at 5:45 we had "wheels up" and began the workout in earnest. We started with box jumps and sledge hammers. I was barely able to jump up onto the first level of boxes; when they added three more levels I had to swallow my pride (and resolve to improve!) and stick to the first. I had never used a sledge hammer before, but there was something immensely satisfying about slamming it into a huge tractor tire with all my force. It took me awhile to get the technique down (and I still have room to improve) but it was fun.

Next up were dead lifts. It has been a long time since I have dead lifted and this time I chose to use a trap bar instead of straight bar just because I had never done it before. I kept the weight pretty low but it felt good and I'm sure my glutes are going to be sore tomorrow.

This was followed by push press and glute ham raises. Push press (standing military press with a little help from the hips) felt good but my form had me catching the weight too much with my back. I did half my sets and then switched to incline dumbbell press for the other half. Glute ham raises were a joy - by which I mean basically the opposite of joy, but the severe pain they caused brought about joy that they were accomplishing their objective.

The next round featured ring pushups and single leg hip thrusts. Ring pushups are done with hands grasping gymnastics rings (for additional stability work) and feet elevated. Because that's not hard enough we also wore weight vests - 20 lbs for my first two sets and then 90 lbs for the last one. The last set took me to total failure and I only managed to squeeze out that last rep with an epic grunt.

The grand finale comprised two circuits of heavy rope drills. Each circuit had 3 20-second variations: short alternating arms, long alternating arms, and two-arm power slams. I had never done heavy rope drills before and I was really impressed with just how much of a workout 20 seconds of super anaerobic activity could provide. When we arrived at the last variation (the power slams) of the first set, I challenged everyone to go shirt-off (which was humbling since these guys were way more ripped than I . . . for now!) - it was freezing cold but our internal furnaces were going full bore.

I mistakenly thought we were only doing one circuit so I really sold out on the power slams, completing a couple extra reps after my 20 seconds were over - I didn't want to leave anything out there. Much to my chagrin, Drew informed us that we were only halfway there. After the first two variations of the second circuit, I was totally spent. Again I had to swallow my pride as I wussed out of the final variation. My heart rate was through the roof and I was feeling faint / nauseous. I was bumping up against my limit and the last set would surely have pushed me over - not something I needed right before hopping on the road for four hours.

Afterward we refueled with pumpkin-berry-banana-yogurt-oatmeal-flax seed-protein shakes which, after a few minutes of deep breathing / recovery, I was able to handle. Wow, what an intense experience - lots of new (for me) movements and nothing left by the end. This inspired me in a few ways:

1. I had forgotten how much I loved morning workouts. Despite the exhaustion level I achieved, I remained pumped and energized all day. It also feels great not to have the "I need to find some time to squeeze in a workout" monkey on my back all day.

2. The caveat here is that I clearly need to do a better job of fueling up before morning workouts so as to avoid the depletion at the end. In the last year I've reached that about-to-faint level four times and actually thrown up on one of those occasions. Each time it was a morning workout after not consuming much nutrition.

2. Anaerobic activity is awesome. In recent years I've tended to think of aerobic activity as my main weapon in my fight against body fat but this morning's workout showed how effective anaerobic activity can be as well. By the time I left Dallas at 10 AM, I had already burned more than 1900 calories - the most I've burned before 10 AM as long as I've been measuring! Without doing much else all day (spending a great deal of the time stationary in the car) I finished the day having burned 3800 calories - 550 more than my daily goal.

I was very excited about my first ever The SHOP experience and it didn't let me down. Now I need some rest as the soreness is already starting to set in.

Official The SHOP post including limited video of this workout: here.


2010 Wrap-Up

Wow, 2010 was a hell of a year! I got engaged, got a dog, started up a company, lived in Switzerland for the summer, and really advanced a number of my personal and professional goals. A year ago I posted my resolutions for 2010 and periodically I have posted status updates (one week, one month, three months, and seven months into the year). Now is an appropriate time to look back at what was accomplished, what was not (and why) before putting forth goals for 2011.

1. Date night once a week with Katie
2. Spend social time in person with friends or family once a week
3. At lease one Skype or phone call with distant friends or family once a week

I am pleased that these relationship goals were far exceeded almost every single week. The Switzerland trip was helpful in keeping distant relationships alive with personal contact but, even without it, I was Skyping with friends and colleagues around the world frequently.

1. Calories in less than 3,000 per day: I originally targeted 3,250 calories per day then revised down to 3,000 as it became clear that that would be necessary for me to reduce body fat. By midyear I was still averaging 3,141 calories consumed per day and my final average for the entire year was 3,119. While I failed to meet my goal, 3,119 is MUCH less than the 3,700 I averaged last year and the 3,900 I averaged the year before. At my age my base metabolic rate should be getting a little slower each year so this trend of improvement is good.

2. Calories out greater than 3,250 per day: I originally targeted 3,500 calories per day but revised down at the same time that I adjusted my consumption goal. By midyear I was averaging 3,163 calories burned per day and my final average for the entire year was 3,168 so I failed to achieve this goal as well. This is a huge drop from my 3,750 average the year before (although it's unfair to make a direct comparison; the year before my expenditure was based on estimates while this year I have been using BodyMedia, a much more consistent measurement), which I attribute to the non-pedestrian lifestyle of Houston, lots of sitting at a desk (When there are no other employees in your company you rarely get up to go ask someone down the hall a question!), and more socializing leading to more skipped workouts. For the first half of the year, some of the workouts I was doing simply didn't burn very many calories either. Wii Fit, for example, really is fun but not hard. Midway through the year I eliminated it from the workout rotation and my average daily expenditure increased a bit after that.

Even though I missed both my intake and expenditure goals, I still maintained a caloric deficit throughout the year. By the end of the year I theoretically burned about 17,500 more calories than I consumed, meaning I theoretically should have shed about 5 pounds of body fat. But did I? Bod Pod analysis at the end of the year indicated that in fact I lost about 2 pounds of body fat. While that is positive, it is far short of my goal. In the year to come I will multiply the BodyMedia measured caloric expenditure by 99% as that produces results more in line with the actual fat loss I achieved last year.

3. Maintain lean weight greater than 155 lbs: Although cutting was a higher priority for me than gaining muscle, I didn't want to lose strength and lean mass. Despite a few dips throughout the year, I generally stayed above this 155 lb lean mass threshold and finished the year with about 1 lb of extra muscle.

4. Less than 90 g fat intake per day: I failed to achieve this goal every single week and ultimately disregarded it. Fat gets kind of a bad rap in the US; it is a very essential part of a complete diet. The calories I was consuming were relatively balanced and came from fresh (mostly local) sources and that is my real priority.

5. 1 hour of Wii workout / week: See above for explanation about why I eliminated this goal.

6. 1 hour of flexibility work / week: I adhered to this pretty strictly for the first half of the year but A. it was tough to meet my calorie burn goals when devoting so much time to stretching and B. I just really had a hard time getting psyched up for it. I'm a big believer in doing what motivates you; exercise shouldn't be a chore. So eventually I began incorporating flexibility into other areas of my life (like reading), freeing up dedicated exercise time for higher-intensity activities.

7. Win Men's doubles "A" beach volleyball tourney: Failed. I competed in only two tournaments this year with a #3 out of 5 best placing. Heading to Switzerland for the summer (prime tourney season) hurt my opportunities and the last tournament of the season here in Houston (in which I was scheduled to compete) was canceled, wiping out my last chance. Doh!

8. Run three races: Accomplished by early April

9. Run a 5k race under 22:00: Accomplished by the end of January! My PR going into 2010 was 23:45 but my first race of the season brought me a new PR of 21:43. As I trained throughout the rest of the year I brought my best time down to 21:07.

10. Run a 10k race under 47:00: Accomplished by early April! I originally set this goal at 55:00 but my training run times were coming in in the low 50s in January. So I revised this down to 50:00 but my first really hard training run (in preparation for a March 10k race) finished in 47:50. So I set my new target at 47:00, which I barely missed in the March race (47:02!) but blew through at a 10k race in April (45:56).

11. Swim 2,000 consecutive meters: Accomplished by the end of March.

12. Read one book for pleasure each month: Accomplished (even read one more!)



1. Mentor / help at least one person each week: Accomplished!
2. Engage at least one of my own mentors each week: Accomplished!


1. Read at least one professional book, book summary, or article each week: Accomplished!
2. Develop foreign language skills at least once each week: Accomplished!


1. Post "to do" goals at the beginning of each day and accomplishments at the end of each day: Accomplished but I'm not sure this was as useful as it could have been. Look for a subsequent post from me about this issue in greater detail.

Smart Office Energy Solutions

1. Close $100k seed investment round by end of March: Accomplished! Even oversubscribed by 50%!
2. Several other goals that were no longer relevant weeks into 2010! Perhaps it was a bit naive to post annual goals for a business so young and dynamic; more fundamental targets might be more appropriate.

Professional Brand

1. Present original thought leadership / research: Accomplished by end of July (Leveraging Social Media for Executive Careers)
2. Earn 300 twitter followers: Accomplished by end of August (finished the year with 400 followers)
3. Achieve Klout level of 50 for social media influence: Accomplished by end of December
4. 5 daily LinkedIn profile views: Failed. There were some peaks and troughs but I spent most of the year at the same level: 2-3 views per day.
5. 1000 blog hits per month: Failed. Again, peaks and troughs but most of the year was spent between 300 and 500 views per month. One reason I'm sure was my decline in content production (53 posts in 2010 vs. 78 in 2009 and 197 in 2008!).

As hinted at earlier, I'm currently giving serious thought to my social media strategy for 2011. 2010 was a great year of experimenting and data collection but 2011 needs to be more focused.

So there you have it: some successes, some failures, some almost-successes, and some total flops. I'm proud of the successes and have tried to learn from the failures. I'm also proud of having adapted goals as I moved throughout the year; some goals became irrelevant and I didn't stick to them blindly; some goals needed to be tweaked and I did. Goals are great to have, but one must not lose sight of the bigger picture. The next post will be about adapting these learnings into goals for 2011!