Two Friends: Endless Inspiration

Two Friends: Endless Inspiration

From bleacher running up the steps of Gerald Ford Stadium to wind sprints on the lawn of The Star in Frisco, last Sunday I supported two people doing big things in Dallas by attending each of their group workout sessions, and barely survived to tell the tale.

New Running Shoes? Keep These Things in Mind...

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Didn't realize it but it had been over 9 months since I bought this pair of Brooks Ghost.  We've been through a lot together.   From spartan race training, thru the Austin Marathon, and even during this summer these bad boys kept me going.  But, knowing when to buy your next pair of running shoes is half the battle.  Many people (myself included) will run their shoes in to the ground and wait until their wheels are literally falling apart before shelling out for a new pair.  New running shoes are expensive! But for me, saving money isn't the primary factor why I wait until the last minute.  It takes a while for my feet to acclimate to any shoe and once I do, I want to avoid this process as much as possible.  However, here is my first piece of advice: It is time for a new pair of running shoes every 6 months for regular runners, or you've hit 500 miles..which ever comes first.  And so, it was time for me to retire my shoes, and do a little shopping. 

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Now for my second piece of advice: Buy your next pair of running shoes from a running shoe store. Here are a few reasons why: First, people who work at running shoe stores are trained to find the ideal fit and style of running shoe which varies from person-to-person.  Additionally, most of the people employed by running shoe stores are runners themselves.   It is easier to talk to a fellow runner about what you are looking for in a running shoe.  Lastly, employees at running shoe stores are not held to recommend any particular pairs of shoes, unlike brand specific stores such as Nike, New Balance, etc.  These are all fine choice depending on what works for you, but in selecting a running shoe, you don't want to limit your selection based on brand.  Why? Because another brand might fit better.

This leads me to my 3rd point: Buy the shoe that fits the best.  It is tempting to buy a shoe that looks good, but that pair will sit in your closet if it hurts your feet after the first few miles.  Find a shoe that fits well, and worry about the aesthetics later.  There are a lot of variables that go into choosing the right shoe, many of which I couldn't tell you off the top of my head.  But you know who does? Your local running shoe store.  Ask them to put you through a proper fitting. They will ask a lot of questions, watch the way you walk, and allow you to even test drive a few pairs of shoes.  Be open and honest during this process for they will be using your answer to decide which direction to take you.  After that is all said and done, you will probably end up with a few options for your next shoe.  Below were the 3 I had to choose from: The Brooks Ghost, Asiscs DS Trainers, and the Nike Vaporflys. 

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Please pardon my hair cankles, and allow me to fanboy for a second.  The Nikes you see above are of the shoes worn by Kipchoge during the famous BREAKING2 Event in Monza, Italy earlier this year.  I gotta tell ya, these shoes feel unlike anything I've worn before.  The fitting expert I was working with from Luke's Locker told me how there's a carbon fiber plate that gives structure to the shoe while allowing it to be super light-weight.  Compared to the latest iteration of my classic Brooks Ghosts, these nikes weigh 30 percent less.  Zero/ultra flyweight running shoes aren't anything new, but this pair still has the support desired for those who seek to run longer distance races or apparently nearly break the 2 hour marathon mark.  

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With that said, the weight of the shoe was a factor I considered only after deciding I liked the fit of each shoe.  Looks and the reputation of each shoe was also considered after the fit.  I ended up going with the Asiscs Trainers for two reasons: the fit was good and the shoe was a little bit lighter than my Brooks.  I've worn Brooks Ghosts forever however, so I wouldn't be surpised if I went back to them after a few months.  

 

In summary,  whether you're looking to buy your first pair or 100th pair of running shoes, getting fitted every so often by a running shoe expert from your local running store is a good habit to form.  

I Tried Out For The Olympics

With the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea are less than 2 years away, and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan, 24 Hour Fitness and the USA Olympic Committee teamed together to host open tryouts for the next winter and summer games.  Turns out, the USA Team is in need of talent to compete in the following sports:

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The funny thing is, I really didn't plan to tryout until I walked in to my local 24 Fitness on the morning of the tryouts for a regular gym session.  When I saw that they still had some openings, I thought why the heck not? And so, for you're viewing pleasure, behold my humbling experience of trying out for the  Olympic Games. 

The tryouts consisted of 6 tests: 10 Meter Sprint, 30 Meter Sprint, Verticle Jump, Horizontal Jump, Underhand Weighted Ball Toss (15 lbs), and a 30 second sprint on a power output bike.  For each of the tests we were allowed 3 attempts.  Unfortunately, the day of the tryouts the 30 M Sprint was unavailable due to rain.  We could start with any event, and I chose to kick things off with the 30 second sprint on the power bike. Bad idea.  This was by far the test that hurts the most.  Sure, 30 seconds doesn't sounds like a long time, but the test is looking for two things: Max power output and average power output.  So you have to go all, out, period.  Right before I started one of the trainers was telling me about her nephew who was a collegiate cyclist, and that his max power was around 1350 watts.  My max? 980 with an average of 508.  Then they divide your output by your body weight to get my final score.  Needlesstosay after my first test, I didn't think I was doing too well.  To make things even worse, my legs felt like Jello going in to the...

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 Verticle Jump.  I know right? What was I thinking! It wasn't more than two minutes later that I decided to do the next most challenging test for me after turning my legs into mush.  To measure my verticle jump, they measured the overhead reach of one arm, and set the verticle stick accordingly.  No extra steps were allowed, I just had to jump straight up without forward momentum. Well there are no suprises here, but I did improve with each of my 3 attempts.  I went from 23 inches, to 24 inches, to a final 25 inch verticle.  At least I showed progress 😅. 

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 The hortizontal jump and the 10 meter sprint went fine I guess. Not sure how I compared to the other athletes that day, but my best sprint time was 1.75 seconds.  My best standing broad jump distance was 2.50 meters.  I found the 5th and final test to be the most amusing, the weighted ball toss.  The objective of this test was simple, throw the ball underhanded as far as you can.  Although we are using a light-weighted ball at 15 lbs, the movement was awkward.  We had to start in one place before we tossed, but we could fall forward once the ball was released.  So I thought If I just fell forward with everything I had it would help with my distance.  Result? not so much.  But it did make for good video.  My longest throw was 12 meters, which apparently is about half the distance of a basketball court.

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Well I'm sad to say that it looks like I won't be going to the Olympics any time soon.  I was also suppose to conduct the 30 Meter sprint on my own within 24 hours but I didn't really have the means or another person to document this final test.  Besides that I knew my scores weren't anything extraordinary. However, I think I could have approached my Olympic tryouts in a better way.  For starters, save the 30 second sprint for the last event! Also, take your time recovering between events.  Trying to jump as high as you can just a few minutes after a 30 second cycle sprint is dumb.  Overall, this was both fun and humbling at the same time.  I found out some weaknesses I need to work on, and I can't wait until the next Olympic trials.  Thank you to all the 24 Hour Fitness Staff who help document my trials.  You guys are awesome! 

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Evolve - Changing the Game of Group Fitness

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  "I'm going 50 different directions but it all comes down to one thing, passion. That's the one common denominator no matter what branch of fitness.  I love it."

- Sharif Abboud

 

Let me tell you about one of my favorite trainers in Dallas and his brand new gym, Evolve.  Admittedly, I'm a little bit bias when it comes to Sharif and his gym, but for good reason. I've been training with Sharif over the last 5+ years.  I am hooked on his group fitness classes, and I'm not the only one.  He is one of the most requested trainers in the Dallas Area.  His classes are filled with people from all walks of life coming from all parts of the DFW Metroplex.  Located in the heart of downtown Dallas, Evolve serves as the ultimate platform to show off his patented group fitness style. The following is just a taste of what it's like to experience a group fitness class at Evolve.

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 The class begins with a warm up, a brisk walk or run on the treadmill, some calories on the row, or some steps on the stair master. Sharif and his wife and co-owner/manager Madison kept Group fitness in mind when designing the gym layout. The cardio area is stragically organized for an instructor to keep people moving on all types of machines.  Power Bikes, Row Machines, Treadmills, Stairclimbers, all are located just a few steps from each other, and are constantly used in class.  

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It was Sharif's attention to detail that allowed him to create a cardio area while keeping the space functional for group fitness. "I'm obsessed with it. That same mindset went into the creation and layout of all parts of the gym. It's all about flow and energy. If you get that right, then it all works." The result is a functional space that is versitile, suiting any type of workout from Olympic lifting, Interval Training, Cardio Work, or agility workouts.  

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 During the warm up, Sharif speaks with each person taking his class. He finds out what limitations or injuries might be bothering them, and modifies their workout accordingly.  "I always make it a point to say their name and acknowledge them at least one time before they walk out of here.  Sometimes, that acknowledgement means the world to them. Others might not even recognize that I'm doing it.  But that attention to detail over time will allow me to specify the workout the next time they walk through the door."  

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Each class has an overall goal, it could be strength, speed, power, or a particular muscle group.  Not too often do you find group fitness classes (outside of crossfit gyms) with this kind of fitness variety. It's also another reason that keeps people interested and coming back for more.  

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Every station for today's circuit is designed to compliment the other. First, we start with the Plyo Push-up on two Bosu Balls, then move into an air squat jump while holding a weighted slam ball.  Now that the heart rate is up, we go into plank position with alternating knee-to-elbows. Now that the core is burning, we go into mountain climbers using turf gliders to get even more speed and core-twerking sensation.  Finally, the next station brings us to our feet, but now we are strapped to a bungee cord doing side shuffles to a sideways lunge.  This is a first ever for me working with a bungee cord, and I am struggling keep from face planting with every lunge.  By this time, I'm sweating profusely. My breathing? Heavy. My legs, core, and shoulders? Spicy....and we are only half way through the circuit.  

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 "You will NEVER get good at my workouts," explains Sharif.  "I am constantly changing my circuits, making sure everyone gets a different experience with each workout.  Fitness level doesn't matter, progressions and modifications happen, but the base movement stays the same. You were back squatting 205 lbs while the person behind you was squatting with an 18 lb kettle bell.  It's the same movement, and both of you feel the same amount of work." This is one of the reasons so many people seek out Sharif in the first place.  I've taken his classes for over 5 years now and I haven't been to one yet that didn't kick my butt, in a good way.  

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After the first round was over, we then move back to the treadmills and row machines.  Between completed circuits, we get 3 minute metabolic conditioning mini circuit before we break: 1 minute each of row machine, treadmill, and burpees.  Sharif knows that these exercises are not fun, and so he is talking constantly during this time.

"Treadmills, you are 20 seconds in, 40 seconds left.  You get out what you put in.  Keep this pace." Sharif also loves to call out people throughout the workout.  "David, I need you to rip through those burpees, you've got 30 seconds left." Sharif is great at constantly touching base with each person in the class.  He knows when and how to push people to their limits without being overbearing.  Good friend and fellow blogger Mai-Lyn aka DeepFriedFit said that her first class with Sharif was a great one, and thought it had just the right amount of intensity.

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"Row machines you've got 20 seconds left, I need everything you've got!" By the end of these 3 minutes, everyone has found a new gear; an aerobic level of fitness that is hard to attain by yourself. You feel like you've accomplished something as a team by surviving these 3 minutes, and that brought our first round to an end. We completed two more rounds by the end of the workout.

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"You do what you can with what you have."  says Sharif.  Before opening his gym, Sharif held classes with a few kettle bells, some fitness bands, and a concrete floor.  His class was just as effective and just as popular.  The reason? Variety. "We started out pushing a plate on a towel."   says Madison "But it doesn't matter. Other group classes I've experienced don't have that same variety, and tend to become boring. That's one thing that will never happen in our classes." 

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Sharif is a talented and passionate trainer with a unique approach to group fitness. He is supported by his wife and co-owner Madison who has the skills and experience to do every thing else necessary to ensure their gym is successful. Together, they have created a gym that already has a cult following. I imagine this is just the beginning, and I fully expect Sharif and Madison to hold true to their gym's name and take Evolve to the next level. 

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What is the Best Protein Bar?

I eat protein bars all the time.  But I've never taken the time to compare the countless options of bars available at my local grocery store and gym.  So I decided to try and answer this question: What is the Best Protein Bar?

Some Things Never Change

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I get very nostalgic each time I go back home.  Wichita, Kansas itself is a town built on nostalgia.  In a lot of ways, my hometown remains just as I remember when I left 8 years ago.  Same roads, same favorite restaurants, same movie theatres, same routine.  My parents also seem to be caught in this time loop.  Their routine hasn't changed in the last 30 years of my existence.  One thing though that has inspired me is how dedicated they are to staying active. Every single evening, I'm talking about EVERY SINGLE NIGHT..my parents would run or walk for at least an hour.  They would go travel around the entire neighborhood, covering 4-5 miles in the process after every dinner.  Didn't matter if family was in town, or if it was a holiday.  If it was too cold, or raining outside, my parents would take turns walking a mile on the treadmill while watching American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance.  

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Both my parents have raced in the past.  In fact, both my mom and dad have completed marathons.  Of the two, I could only find pictures of my dad during his racing days.  I fondly remember awaiting his arrival at the finishing line for one of his marathons.  That race finished at Lawrence Dumount Stadium, an old semi-pro baseball field in downtown Wichita.  I remember following my dad and running around the bases with him as he finished the last 100 meters of what would be his last marathon.  During that race, he had knee problems that kept him from running his normal stride.  But did my dad give up? NOPE! Instead, he found that skipping was possible without too much pain and so he skipped the remaining several miles to the finish line. Incredible.

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I admire my parents for so many reasons.  When I think about what I've learned from them I can point to two things: Consistency and Perseverance.  Sometimes people ask me how I'm able to run marathons and complete Ultrabeasts.  Aside from all the specific training plans and workouts, the key in my opinion is being consistent.  This applies to consistently executing your training, eating right, getting rest, and sticking to a game plan for race day.  Of course there are times when one or all of these things get sidetracked.  I'm no professional athlete, life often gets in the way of my preparations for these races.  Therefore, practicing perservance and overcoming obstacles that get in your way is just as important to accomplishing any goal period.   

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My dad has ran 6 marathons and other countless races. Most of these races happened while raising me and my brother.  I remember waking up during a few saturdays wondering where my dad was at.  He would always come back slightly out of breath with such a runner's high that was contagious.  I would ask him where he went and how far he ran and would be amazed at his response.  I couldn't imagine running to the end of the neighborhood let alone to the edge of the city! Even on weekdays, I remember both my parents waking up super early during summertime to get their miles in before it got too hot.  To this day, my parents put in work.  Friends still living in Wichita recognize my parents as "that couple that walks all the time".  

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During this most recent trip, it seems that my hometown could be on the verge of significant change.  The highway is getting longer, new restaurants are popping up, and downtown is building a number of new urban apartments and lofts.  Wichita, once known as the biggest small town in America's heartland, appears to be evolving into something new.  I'm not sure how some of the locals feel about these changes, but I'm excited to see my hometown try to be something more.  At the same time, I'm happy to see that when it comes to two of the most important people in my life...some things never change, and that's just fine with me.