Thursday, July 17, 2014

Minnesota Scottish Fair & Highland Games

Well folks, the first games is under the, kilt.

I know it's been months since my last blog so let me help catch you up. In April I tosses around my first weights. Last weekend (July 12th) I competed in my first games up here in the Twin Cities. the journey in between those dates was a rocky one. I began with a great vigor practicing with a great group of folks and learning some of the technique needed. Brian Hare has been my primary coach, and that's a good thing since he's a VERY solid amateur. His wife, Jessica, also competes and she's only 5th in the WORLD! In addition to them, there's been other guys, like Jon Dahlin, who's been a rock star helping me with my posture (Reverse C) in the stone puts and my orbit (in the weight for distance).

A few weeks later tragedy struck and I broke my index finger playing softball.  I couldn't write, type, or nearly pull up my own pants. It was rough. No lifting, throwing or anything for like 4 weeks. It was a tough time, but as I came out of it, the guys encouraged me to follow through and try to do these games. In truth, I didn't want to give up on them, so I signed up knowing that I wasn't going to be at my best.

In the midst of that time, I realized that it was important for me to show my kids (who were watching and cheering me on in practices and in the games) that it is good to set a goal and follow through with it...even with some set backs.

Needless to say, I'm so glad I did participate in the games. So here's how things went down.
It was a pretty cool (high temp was like 71 degrees) and cloudy day with about a 50% chance of thunderstorms predicted. (Just like good ol' Scottish weather, eh?)  There were 5 in our B class of competitors. One other guy had never participated in the games, but he was scary athletic and didn't do too bad. Another guy, Dave H., was a former collegiate thrower who had trained under Brian for years. One guy I didn't know but could tell he had done some other games in the past, but his form was way outta wack. Strong like bull, but wild like...I don't know...something wild. And then there was the Hulk. the Hulk was a beast of a dude who came in from neighboring SD to beat our butts at the games. He's competed at like 9 other ones and was built like a tank. Muscles bulging out of his shirt like stupid body builders and male models, he completed the look with a full head of curly hair and a thick manly beard. Man, how I've always wanted to be like the Hulk.

Well, big surprise, the Hulk took our division followed by Dave H. I was lucky to walk off the field under my own strength. We participated in the traditional Scottish order of doing the games. S we began with the Stone Shot puts. The Braemar stone was 22 lbs and the light stone was 16 lbs. I didn't seem to fair any better on the light weights than the heavies. I think that has to do with practice and form. I threw the Heavy stone 25'9" and the open stone 27'4". Not great, but as I kept reminding myself--every throw was a Personal Record!

On to the weights for distance. I had probably practiced these the most, but my footwork really needs some help (as well as setting my orbit). With the heavy weight (56 lbs) I threw it 17'10" which was good enough for 2nd in our class (Hulk threw it 6 feet longer). But I was so jacked up from the good showing on the heavy weight that I faulted on my first throw with the light weight and then got around too fast on my spin so that there was slack in the chain. Needless to say it only went 23'9". Here's a pic from the heavy weight toss.

About this time my back went out on me (when I was whirling around like a bird in a tornado tossing the light WFD) so I was feeling some pain. No excuses, just giving you the facts. Then we had the hammer throws. I was excited about this because it had been my best event in practice. I had set a goal for 70 feet on the light hammer...but I didn't get close. I only had 51'4" on the heavy hammer (22 lbs) and 60'9" on the light hammer. I really gotta work on my technique!

That was it for me competing decently at all. The next was the caber, which was tough since it had started raining hard at this time. It was coming down so much that my own family left. It was tough to get a good grip on the caber (20 feet, 107 lbs) but I hoisted it up only to lose it before I had a shot at trying to flip it. I think I'm going to start practicing with any kind of heavy poles I see laying around. Weight for height wasn't much better as I couldn't get it over the 10 ft "qualifying" round. I"m not terribly disappointed since I had only practiced this event once. Same thing happened with the Sheaf toss. I had only practiced once and with a 16 lb bag--not the 20 lb bag that we were using for competition. The qualifying height was supposed to be 16 ft, but since they couldn't read the measuring tape correctly around 16 ft, it ended up being 17 ft. I was closest on my third attempt, but still about a foot and half short. Gotta get back to the farm it seems!

All in all, it was a great experience and definitely something I hadn't done before. Seeing as how my goal was to compete in the games next year at this time, and with only 3 months of training under my belt, I feel good about this time.

What's next? I'm shooting for the Celtic games in the Quad Cities (IA/IL border) on Sept. 20th. Since I just moved from that area, it'll be fun to go back and I know some folks from up here that are planning on making the trek down there. Here's to a healing back, stronger core, and longer throws! Thanks for reading...
Until next time, see you on the field!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

First Throws

Throughout this journey I have been desiring an opportunity to meet up with folks who are involved in the highland games in this area. I can lift and train and lose weight all on my own, but learning technique and getting the ins and outs of the games is a totally different matter.

Fortunately, this has totally changed in the last two weeks. On Saturday, April 12, I met with the guy who puts on the MN Highland Games. We talked about life, God, training and throwing. so much fun to connect with another person who has a passion to throw things around and serve the Lord at the same time. Very cool meeting. Well Jeff put me in touch with another great guy, Brian Hare, who is a fellow competitor and coach for newbies like me. Last Saturday, April 19, I got to meet up with Brian and a couple other guys and begin learning the techniques for throwing the hammer and weight for distance (WFD).

We began with the hammer and while I most scared about this throw, it turned out is was a lot easier than the WFD. So the other guys are chucking the hammer 75-115 ft. Me? not so much. first toss was 46 ft. Once I started to understand the physics of it (this is going to be a major growth area for me because I am NOT science-minded) I got a better. My 7th and final toss on the light weight hammer (16 lbs) was a whopping 66 ft. Ugh. Looks like I have a ways to go, but I know of quite a few things I could do to help. Size is great, but technique is EVERYTHING.

Needless to say that I have no technique on the WFD. I need a lot of work on it, but the guys really spent a good amount of time with me teaching me about highs and lows and planes. It'll come. But hopefully sooner rather than later because while my goal was to compete in next year's games (and just sit by and idly watch this year), I have been encouraged by all the other competitors that I just need to get going on it.

SO....I will be competing in THIS YEAR'S Minnesota Highland Games on July 12th, 2014. I'm confident I won't be among the top competitors (remember, I still have the caber toss to master), but I am incredibly grateful and excited for a new group of friends that are on this journey with me.

thanks for your support and if you're interested in seeing the games and you're going to be in the Twin Cities in mid July--make a point to get out to the games!

Until next time...see you on the field...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Plugging Along

It's hard to believe that it has been almost 3 weeks since my last post. For those of you following the journey, I have kept up the workouts and the eating schedule (5-6 smaller meals with higher protein intake). Last week was tough for me because I was at a conference where my meals weren't under my control and I wasn't given time to workout. It was hard because I have been feeling so good about lifting and doing cardio. What was harder, though, was getting back into the swing this week.

I started back with cardio and noticed right away that I didn't have the stamina I had before the week-long break. I had originally thought that maybe exercise is like life--that it is good to take a vacation every once in a while. Nope. Just goes to show that keeping it up on a regular basis is very important. At the beginning of that break I also celebrated my 39th birthday (if you can still celebrate moments like these). Let's just say I HAD my 39th birthday. the biggest thing that this means for me is that my goal of competing in the games when I'm 40 is closer every day.

During the workouts the last few weeks I have hit and broken Personal records (PR's ) on both squats and deadlifts. It has been since high school that I've even attempted squats with a barbell on me, and I know I have never even tried a deadlift before. But things are going very well on that front. The explosion is increasing and I can tell that my legs, arms and core are all getting stronger. Even my oldest kiddo (almost 12 years old) is joining me in some workouts at home. It was a blast on Sunday to pump some iron with my boy, get all sweaty, and teach him about solid 80's rock n roll bands.

One thing that has brought this journey into more focus is that my loving wife got me a kilt for my birthday. It is the clergy tartan. I know that many of the highland games athletes wear the kilt from Sportkilt, so I'm giving them a shout-out here. I love this kilt. It breathes well, it is durable, and super nice. Big props to this company. I'll be buying all my stuff from them from here on out!

The next thing on my radar, since the weather is finally nice enough to go outside (and most of the snow is melted) is to find a couple stones and begin throwing them around. I'm also looking for someone in the Twin Cities area that I can work with on technique and training for the actual highland games events. If you know of any one, please let me know!

Lastly, for those interested, the MN Scottish Festival is on the horizon on July 12th. I'm planning on being there to take everything in I can about the events (although some want me competing even in this year's games). We'll see.

Until next time...see you on the field.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fitness for the Future

When I think of these big dudes throwing weights around, pitching trees end over end, and hurling stones in the air I can't help but think that I'm lacking...desperately. I'd love to think that I look something like the silhouetted man to the right, but I know I look more like the one below it.

Comparisons happen all the time. when we're at the gym, when we're shopping at the mall, on the field...everywhere. If we let the voices inside our heads get to us then WE WILL ALWAYS LOSE. Whether we are a 13-year old girl, a 60+ woman or a pushing-40 man we will never be good enough if we compare ourselves to the next person.

Honestly, I have to say that this has always been hard for me. With my larger frame I wasn't the quickest on the basketball court. I wasn't the tallest or best shooter. But I had heart. Our parents tell us that this is what matters when we're young, but we're too YOUNG to understand that. Now I know that heart, passion, and focus can account for a lot in life. Is it easy? Heck no. But if you've got the heart and focus for it...IT WILL COME.

The reality is our perception of what fitness is needs to change. We're not hopping on the treadmill because someone told us to do it. We shouldn't be pumping iron to look like the next guy. We do these things to be a better version of ourselves. Recently on Facebook I saw this great image that now sits on our fridge.

For us to continue a life of being fit, it doesn't matter where we start. It matters that we're in the midst of it. I have a goal--a destination, if you will. That's to compete in the MN Scottish Fest Highland Games in 2015. But fitness for me isn't just about next summer. It's about today and what I do for it. If I take a day off from lifting, I remind myself the muscles a break to recover. If I go cardio-crazy for a day, it's because I am trying to be better than I used to be. No comparisons--except to my former self. Friends, I hope you will see your fitness not as a comparison to others, but as a move toward your future.
May you always seek to be well.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Barnabas Team

Early this morning I did something I have never done. I participated in a 7k road race. No, I didn't run in it. I volunteered as a "cheerer" with a group from our church for the Get Lucky 7k race. When I got to thinking about it, I said we ought to call ourselves "The Barnabas Team".
Barnabas, from the the Bible, was known as an encourager. In the book of Acts (4:36), we're told his name even means "Son of Encouragement". Throughout the New Testament, Barnabas is seen financially supporting the ministry of the apostles (Acts 4); was one of the first to support Saul following his conversion (Acts 9); and is an early missionary to other cities (Acts 11 and following). Barnabas encouraged, cheered on, and support those on the front-lines of the ministry work. He too participated, but his chief was to encourage.

So as we cheered, yelled supporting comments, blew our noise-makers, clapped hands, waved pom poms and gave high fives in the below-30 degree temps to the 11,000+ runners along the river in Minneapolis I truly felt like a Barnabas. Much of what these folks were doing I couldn't do. I don't run anymore. With a torn meniscus and cartilage loss in both knees I could only really stand on the sidelines and encourage them on.

When thinking about being an encourager for others in the midst of a difficult weight loss journey, or on a tough road race I believe its important that you use the right words and meet people where they are on the journey. Some of the racers today desperately needed our Barnabas team. We were at the 3.5 mile mark of the total 4.3 miles. You could see that many had hit the wall. Some were fighting through, but all were on the road making it happen. Letting people know that they are "doing great" "Keeping a great pace" or whatever worked for our group. We also were able to let them know that the light at the end of the tunnel was coming. Right after where we stood the road went downhill for a bit and then flattened out toward the finish line. They had less than a mile to go. For some folks, the knowledge that they were almost done was worth it for us. The smiles on their faces, the lightened steps, even the cheers we got back from some of the racers was amazing.

So, on this journey I want to thank my own Barnabas team. My wife and kiddos, those at the church who promise to be there to watch my first Highland Games, and of course my trainer, JR. Without great cheerleaders in your corner the race can be extra long and you may even have the desire to quit. With folks like Barnabas, though, it doesn't seem so bad and reminds you that you CAN do what you set your mind to do.  So thanks to my own Barnabas Team!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Throwing Stones

As this journey continues, I thought it would be good to give readers a bit of an education on the events that take place in a typical highland games competition. Through my reading and looking at different games on the web I have discovered that not all games offer each event. So when I say "typical" that's what I mean. There are a total of 9 different events that can take place in the heavy weights of the Highland Games.
They are:
Braemar Stone put (20
-26 lbs)
Open Stone put (16-22 lbs)
Weights for Distance (both 28 lbs & 56 lbs)
Hammer Throw (for distance--16 & 22 lbs)
Caber Toss (100-180 lbs, 15-22 feet tall)
Tossing the Sheaf (16-22 lbs for height)
Weight for Height (56 lbs)

Of course, the highlight event for many on-lookers is the Caber Toss, there is much more involved throughout the games. Typically the competitor competes in each event. The winner is the person with the top accumulative scores. (So it is possible to win one event and not win the entire thing, although as I've seen if you can get a top score on the Caber Toss, you're pretty golden).

The origin from each of these events harkens back to the days of the Scottish Warriors fighting the English with anything and everything they had. Stones? Check. Big @$$ weights? Check. Trees? Check. Long hammers? Check. check. check. The dudes who could chuck the weights the furthest and the highest were rewarded the opportunity to kick some English butt first. So today we throw tough weights around not just for fun, but also for history. And who doesn't like history if you get to wear a kilt and drink a pint after?

So the first events we look at are the Stone throws. Not unlike the shot put in the track and field events, the lighter stone (truly a stone folks--like go out in your backyard--if its thawed out--and pick up a freakin' rock and toss it) typically weighs around 16-22 lbs. There is a board in the front of the throwing space (called a Trig) which you aren't supposed to cross over. The movements can be varied, but with the lighter stone (called the Open Stone) you are allowed to spin or glide your way up to the trig for extra momentum. With the larger stone (called the Braemar stone-20-26 lbs) you simply keep your feet still (until release) and chuck it as far as you can.

The motions and movements required for these particular events are much different than the others in that you are staying mostly stationary. It's all about explosion, moving your hips, and some serious muscle to throw those babies a LONG way. I'm excited about these two events because in junior high I learned how to throw the shot put and liked it. So I can't wait until the 50 inches of snow we've had this winter finally melts and I can find a couple stones to start chucking around. I may even go somewhere to pick a couple up...just to have something to practice with.

Well, that's all for now. Hope you enjoyed the reading and until next time,

See ya on the field...

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Body in Motion Stays in Motion...

I don't know how many times I've heard fitness gurus use this phrase in talking to couch potatoes like myself. Of course they are talking about physics (something I don't understand and really don't care to understand). A body in motion stays in motion and a body in rest stays in rest. Its pretty simple.
      As a former couch potato, I didn't understand what the big deal was. So what? I like rest. I don't mind moving from one couch to the other and then to the recliner. I'm moving positions aren't I? Guess not.
      Well after getting back into the gym at the beginning of the year I can say that I'm starting to understand what all the hype was about. It is so much easier to stay moving (going to the gym, walking, running--which I don't do, lifting, etc.) when you first get going. and when you're carrying this kind of weight it is tough to get it moving. That's why I started easy at first. I've done the hit the gym hard for 7 days and never look back (until the ankle tweaks or the knee gives out). It never worked. So this time I decided to change it up. For the first few weeks I just went 2-3 times. No guilt about not going more than that. I was beginning to get the body in motion so that steps. Baby steps...right Bob? Baby steps out the door. Baby steps into the gym. Baby steps on the rat wheel (treadmill). It was all about baby steps.
       Then last week hit. For some reason the reason this big body liked the feeling of working out. I am feeling stronger (benched 140 today for the first time and the elliptical is my new best friend. Actually, it's second to my trainer, J.R. Bonus. (sounds like a cool big-dude name, doesn't it?) JR is a former professional (FAKE) wrestler but still in pretty good shape for his age...which is like ancient. Anyway, suffice it to say that this body has gotten into motion really well. The knees are holding up, and while I know there will be setbacks, I'm sure that this body will stay in motion much more than stay at rest.
       So to go along with the blog today, we offer a Health Tip of the Day courtesy of JR Bonus. JR's Health Tip of the Day is: Get off the couch!
     Thanks for all the support friends!
See ya on the field...