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.