Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The war continues but small battles are being won.

My scale weight still hovers in the low 170's, which is 15 pounds above what I always considered my "goal" and "looking good" weight. However, in the last month of following the Training Peaks Virtual Coach training plan I've noticed some good things.

Visually, I can see that I have a waist again! Mrs. Zen has even noticed it. My ab muscles are almost showing through the adipose layer and it seems like the belly doesn't stick out as much. It also seems like my upper body musculature is bigger and more defined. This is a good thing - I've always wanted my upper body to be more muscular.

From a clothing point 0f view I was able to wear a couple of my "smaller" medium shirts without feeling like I was stuffed into a sausage casing. I've been wearing my "fat pants" for months but lately I've been noticing they are really loose. I may give the "normal" pants a try again and see how they fit.

From a numbers point of view, I seem to be working off the body fat. Within my own ability to use calipers on myself, I seem to have dropped about 3% in about a month. I'm still 3 or 4% off of my August '06 low. I've also gained about 1/2" on my bicep/upper arm circumference. I've also gained on chest and thigh measurements and in general all of my muscles feel more solid.

This all seems headed in the right direction. I'm just now moving out of the "base" phase of the training plan and into the "first build" phase. Heavy weights with low reps in the lifting workouts and starting to work the aerobic system on bike.

I'm excited with what I see.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Hits Keep Coming - TRX Suspension System Perspective

As I started researching the TRX Suspension System I thought immediately of my friend PKQ. She travels quite a bit and likes to keep in shape so I thought the system might be perfect for her. Yesterday I invited her over to watch the product DVD and run through one set of the Friel-suggested routine I've been doing.

PKQ arrived at about 4:00 and we promptly sat down to watch the setup/workout video that comes with the product. As the workout came on I could see her eyes getting wide and we had a couple of good laughs about the above-average physique of the woman demonstrating on-screen. At one point PKQ said, "You know, it may not have been the smartest thing for me to come workout like this just before I leave on a business trip."

Eventually it was time to face the music and go down into my newly-cleared basement workout area. In a previous post I believe I mentioned having to wedge resistance training equipment into a tight space - I believe I have done so adequately. And to head off the inevitable question - No, I have NOT been playing the guitar while on the rollers. I have to save something to work on next season ;).

PKQ ran through the workout with me and was constantly impressed with how much more difficult exercises are when adding the suspension element. A couple of hours later I received an e-mail stating:

BTW, when I sat in the car, I felt things I've never felt. I can truthfully say those feelings continue. This is really gonna' hurt. Thanks, my pal, for the workout. :)
In a similar vein, Mrs. Zen asked today to show her a couple of "easy ones." We did a squat plus high row combo, a "Y" shoulder raise, suspended crunches, TRX kneeling rollout, and a TRX suspended pike. Throughout the exercises it was obvious that she was taking it easy. She's not very serious about resistance exercises, preferring yoga and aerobics. However, after dinner as we were leaving the restaurant she pointed to her IT Band area and said, "Wow! I can really feel it right here."

When I was first researching the system I was afraid I would outgrow it as I did the elastic band systems, but the more I use this the more I find it won't be the case. There are always ways to make the exercises harder - bringing feet together or going to one leg, working more against gravity, etc. If one were to outgrow this system, they would have to be very fit indeed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Review - TRX Suspension Training System

Late in 2007 I was using the rather meager fitness room that my company provides for doing some free weight work and the more I used it, the more I wanted to have some sort of resistance training equipment at home so I turned to my good friend Google to help me find something. I wanted to keep the price low, $200 max, and I wanted something that would fit in the very limited space in my basement where I would wedge rollers, trainer, computer/DVD player & monitor in amongst the boxes of "necessary" items (like the boxes that haven't been opened from our move into the house 10 years ago) and the washer/dryer.

One of the first pages I came across was entitled "Home Gym Reviews" on a blog called the "Exercise Equipment Expert." This looked promising. With a little digging I found a page Best Home Gym Under $200. That page seemed made for me! With an eager eye I went to read and what a great read it was! Watching the video of the "system" in action it looked simple enough, small enough and was priced right - I was very intrigued.

Now, of course I don't believe everything I read on the web, so I went to the website at Fitness Anywhere and looked around. They have articles about pro athletes using the system, health clubs and rehab clinics. They have articles by major sports magazines. I was sold.

I received my TRX Home Training Bundle on Tuesday and got to really put it through it's paces today. The bundle comes with the Suspension Training System itself, a door anchor, workout DVD, Quick Start Guide, Core Workout DVD (with 2 different routines), mesh bag for packing and fold-out exercise guides.

I watched the DVDs on Tuesday and I was immediately impressed with the quality of the instruction provided. Each exercise is very clearly shown by a knowledgeable expert who talks you through the mechanics and important points. Of course the instructional videos make everything look easy - more on that later.

Yesterday I went through one of the core workouts and with only 10 minutes devoted to figuring out the movements and doing the exercises I made myself suitably sore today. Yesterday was supposed to be an easy day so I didn't work these exercises as hard as I could and don't really consider it a true test of what the system can do.

The TRX Suspension Training System uses one's body as the weight, varying the difficulty of the exercise by leaning more or less against the straps. Fitness Anywhere calls this "functional strenght training" meaning you are exercising your body in a much more true-life way. Weight lifting trains each muscle in a linear fashion but suspension training utilizes the small muscles that help stabilize the body to a much greater degree. This burns more calories and improves balance, flexibility and joint mobility better than traditional weight training. The system was developed by a Navy Seal for use by people who have to maintain top fitness in cramped quarters.

For tonight's workout I was trying to work the same muscle groups as the Friel-suggested training I've been doing. Specifically I was trying to simulate:

  • Squats
  • Seated rows
  • Leg press
  • Chest press
  • Deadlifts
  • Lat pulls
  • Hamstring curls
  • Crunches
I had to make a couple of substitutions. For leg press I opted for one-legged lunges and for deadlifts I swapped a jackknife-like maneuver. For the crunches, I did them face down, feet suspended, pulling my knees to my chest.

VERDICT: This is one very tough workout. I set my sights on doing the same 30 reps that my workout calls for and I wanted to do 3 sets. Most of the exercises I got close to 30 reps but at the end of the second set I knew I was done. As I move around tonight I feel the same level of muscular exhaustion that I would from regular free weights. The added dimension of having to balance while doing the exercise is a level of complexity that I knew would increase difficulty but I didn't know how much. I thought my balance was good and was perhaps a little overconfident. I was quickly shown the error of my ways.

Overall I am genuinely impressed. I feel completely confident that this system will fulfill all my home gym resistance training needs and have no reservations in recommending it to anyone that will listen.

Shameless Plug: After trying the TRX I liked it so much and I believe in it as a training system so much that I became an affiliate. If you find my review helpful and do decide to buy a system, please click my link or one of the banners to get to Fitness Anywhere. It costs you nothing and makes me a couple of bucks. Thanks!