Last weekend I underwent an epic 36 hours of working out at The SHOP in Dallas. As you might recall from my previous post about my first SHOP experience, it is not for the faint of heart. The SHOP is run by Drew Skaggs (S.H.O.P. stands for the Skaggs House Of Pain), a member of Rice’s 2003 national championship baseball team. After graduating with degrees in Chemical Engineering and pursuing a career in commercial real estate, Drew finally stopped pursuing a “double life” (working to pay the bills and pursuing his interests in his offtime) and devoted his efforts fulltime to his passions: fitness, nutrition, strength, conditioning. He was already an incredible resource of information about the most cutting edge research in these areas but now that he is living and breathing it fulltime, The SHOP has become a mecca for elite athletes. Drew is more than academic, though; he practices what he preaches and leads by example.
To set the context, I’m in better shape than I was during my first SHOP visit in January. With Drew’s help I’ve added three pounds of muscle, shed four pounds of fat, taken a minute off of my 5k PR, and taken 80 seconds off of my 10k PR. I was only going to be in Dallas for about 36 hours but Drew promised that we could do plenty of damage in that amount of time. To add to the excitement, we were joined by a mutual acquaintance, a former professional athlete, who is quite a fitness enthusiast himself. He happened to be in Houston so it was easy for him just to drive up to Dallas with me.
We arrived around 8:30 PM Thursday evening, changed clothes and immediately hit The SHOP. As had happened last time, Drew took me way out of my comfort zone with many exercises and movements I had never done – or even heard of – before. We started with Turkish Get-Ups using a dumbbell or kettlebell. I have no idea why the Turks would ever want to get up that way but it was a really intense way to begin a workout! We followed this with heavy dumbbell Farmer’s Walks superset with ab wheel rolls. At this point it was clear to me already how out of shape my forearms were because they were completely exhausted already!
We finished off the workout with anaerobic conditioning. Drew set up three stations: battle ropes, mountain climbers, and the airdyne bike. Each us was at one station performing 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise. Then we rotated stations and rested for 40 seconds. We completed a full circuit three times and I never thought 9 minutes could last so long! My heart rate peaked in the 190s and finally we were done. Drew made his famous SHOP recovery shakes and then we were off to bed for recuperation.
No rest for the weary, though, as we were up at 5 AM for pre-workout nutrition: omelets with plenty of fresh veggies. Some other SHOP regulars joined us at 6:30 for workout #2. We began with heavy deadlifts. I used a trap bar instead of a straight bar just because I’m less accustomed to it. Next up: single arm dumbbell bench press superset with kettlebell swings. Then we wrapped up with overhead press superset with single leg glute bridges. For post workout nutrition we had second breakfast at Company Cafe, where I had a deep bowl of sweet potatoes, eggs, and grass fed buffalo – Mmmmm!
My business meetings took me most of the day Friday, but I made it back to The SHOP in time for workout #3: Wrestlemania! Drew has been studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so we rolled out the mats and he taught us a few moves. Then we had six two-minute rounds of one-on-one grappling, with one person sitting out to rest each round. The goal was to get the other person to submit without any intentional punching, kicking, or other strikes, just grappling. Just as I remembered from my days wrestling back in school, such an experience is absolutely exhausting. Maybe people with great technique are less exhausted by it but, for me, I basically end up with all muscles flexed all the time.
Because I didn’t really know what I was doing, my approach can best be described as a “turtle” strategy. Each round I found myself pretty quickly with my face in the mat so most of my effort was focused on countering my opponent’s attempts to manipulate me into a submission hold. While I was mostly “successful” with that – in that I managed to fend off such attempts until the end of the very last round, when I found myself in a choke hold – I wasn’t “winning;” I was “not losing.” Next time I’ll need to take more risks to get more offensive practice. Still, it was a lot of fun and a heck of a workout.
Friday evening we grilled up steaks and salmon that Drew had caught in Alaska. Add some spinach with lots of garlic, tomatoes and avocado, Napa cab, and raw milk white russians (in honor of all the Big Lebowski references we had been making) and it was a heck of a meal. Then back to sleep before the final round.
Saturday morning we woke up early again for sprouted grain english muffins with peanut butter then began workout #4. As most of our muscles were pretty decimated by this point, more crazy lifting would have just led to overtraining. Accordingly we focused on mobility first with lots of PNF stretching. We then superset forearm captains of crush with reverse situps on the incline bench. My torso was already so sore from all of the stability work that I wasn’t able to do much on the situps.
We then changed location to a hill near The SHOP. I don’t know exactly how long the hill path was (estimate: 200 meters) or how steep (estimate: 10% grade) but we sprinted up it three times and then recovered with SHOP shakes. As we returned to The SHOP it had been almost exactly 36 hours since we had arrived and we had completed four killer workouts.
Looking back, two insights stand out to me:
1. We really didn’t do that much. The volume of our work was pretty significant for a 36-hour stretch, but nothing exceptional for four separate workouts. However, the quality of what we did was through the roof: difficult exercises conducted with 100% focus and maximum intensity. This corresponds with my desire to work out smarter, not longer, and it’s an aspect of The SHOP that I love: a commitment to results, not simply to tiring you out.
2. Most of what we did was new/different (to me, at least). No matter how optimally you train, there is always benefit to mixing it up and shocking your body out of its adaptation. This is another aspect I love about The SHOP: because Drew is so committed to staying abreast of – and even innovating beyond – the cutting edge of fitness research, I can always count on it for a shock.
I’m back in Houston now and I still hurt. My neck especially (the muscles, not the spine) is reeling from the wrestling. There was a time when I had a 19″ neck that would have been ready for it. While my narrower current neck is certainly more practical for finding bow ties that fit, I could have used the extra bulk during Wrestlemania! I am thoroughly convinced that it is no coincidence that “SHOP” has the same number of letters as “EPIC” because that’s the only way to describe the 36 hours and 4 workouts we undertook. Now I’m pumped and ready for more – but maybe after a little R&R . . .