May 12, 2013 posted by

The Value of Boot Camp

The Value of Boot Camp

I started a boot camp today. It’s not someone else’s but one of my own devices. I made it up because I don’t have any focus. Not to get fitter, though I will, but to change my habits, mindset, and toggle my brain so it makes a decision on what my next challenge is going to be.

Power 90 in home boot camp” was our first hit fitness program. Back then—the 90s—fitness boot camps were all the rage and still had a military feel. We played off the theme, in a kinder, gentler and funnier way that only Tony Horton could present. Because in order to be successful a boot camp you don’t necessarily need someone like Lee Emory or Louis Gossett Jr screaming at you. All that’s required, really, is revamping your brain so that at the end you’d believe in your ability to accomplish things. Then your own self can take over.

i miss sgt hartman

I don’t lack the ability to believe in myself but I still do boot camps. For me, it’s for nostalgia. When I challenge myself to a extremely difficult physical or mental test with secularity of focus it takes me back to my beginners mind; a place of wonder about how things just might turn out. And it’s really only in this state where you become open and truly creative. And that is the power of doing boot camps.

Since being back from Nepal I’ve lacked motivation. I still train, so fitness isn’t the issue. Work and life in general are all going great. My void is what my next big endeavor is going to be and I’m lacking vision. I need clarity. This camp is to put myself through the wringer, attacking my weak areas of fitness while turning the screws a little with my schedule and diet; with the ultimate aim of freeing my mind to create my next challenge.

Boot camps can be any amount of time. In the military they’re generally 3 weeks to 90 days (sound familiar?). But they can be longer, or shorter. When I create my own I like to follow a theme. Sporting events work best because then when things get tough you have others to turn to for motivation. I do these a lot so I get creative, even using things like characters from novels for my template. And, when I’m not in a creative mood, I’ll follow one of ours.

I always have unique targets for my fitness, which makes it hard for me to follow anyone else’s agenda to a T. This time is no different. My goals include running, cycling, climbing and general fitness. I’m feeling old and creaky from slacking on yoga and mobility work. And I have a pie in the sky event I’d like to do but I’m so far away from it, physically, that I can’t even begin to conceive of how to train for it. And with all this in mind I need to spit something out, starting today.

Tour of California. It’s an 8-day cycling stage race that’ll get a ton of press in the state I work. It’s a little short but that’s okay. My fitness base isn’t that bad. And anyone can do anything for 8 days, right, so I can make my boot camp almost unrealistically hard and have virtually no excuse to quit.

Here’s what the next 8 days will look like, for me:

Cycling – unfortunately it’s what I need the least work on so I can’t mirror the race as much as I’d like. I’ll still ride, daily, at least 10% of the race time on a single speed mtn bike.

Climbing – If I climb for 8 days I’ll exceed the climbing I’ve done all year. I need base so that’s what I’m going to do. If I climbed at my limit each day I’d almost certainly get injured so there will be strategy between very easy days (since I just need to move on rock and condition my skin), targeted training, and prehab training.

Running – Like climbing, I’ve not done much this year and none that’s been focused. Like climbing, I’ll get injured if I run hard 8 days straight. So, again, I’ll do some running everyday but it might be mileage, drills, or mountain ruking (aerobic level run/hiking).

Mobility – is awful. Daily yoga and one more element (foam rolling and/or a Beachbody workout like Asylum Relief, X2 Mobility, or something new that we’re working on).

Base Fitness – is good but can—always—be better. I’ve been working with a new program we’re creating and going to bump this up a notch. Unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly what I’m doing but it’s cool, we’re still making it better, and you’ll see it soon enough.

Individually this doesn’t look so bad. But it’s 5 different physical elements a day for 8 straight days, and that’s a load no matter how it’s sliced up. It’s going to take planning, diligence, likely some amount of suffering and good old-fashioned will power. In short, it’s exactly what I need right now.

Will keep a log in the comments so that it’s easier to visualize.


  • Day 1:

    Morning recovery yoga
    1 hr ride on the SS (hilly)
    ran 10 1-min intervals with 2-m recovery (hilly)
    Climb – 2 X 10b, 2 X 11d
    Weight train – 30m upper body session
    Rice bucket – standard workout
    INS stretching session

    Shaping up to be an interesting week.

  • Day 2:

    Morning recovery yoga
    45m aerobic run (hilly)
    1 hr ride on the SS (hilly)
    Foam rolling 30m
    Prehab workout (feet, pelvic girdle, shoulders)
    Climb – 1 X 20 min ARC (aerobic restoration & capillarity)
    INS stretching session

    Good active recovery day. Feel better, but ARC set sucked. I’m a baaaad climber right now.

  • Day 3 of ToC Challenge:

    Morning recovery yoga
    1:10 hr ride on the SS (hilly)
    30m aerobic run (all drills)
    Climb 1.5 hrs – 3 X 3X3 sets – power endurance
    Upper body compound workouts 10 movements
    INS stretching session

    Felt better today in general. Still a terrible climber but better than yesterday. So bad not only does what I’ve climbed in the past seem impossible to fathom, what I climbed last fall seems the same way!

    • What do you mean by “morning recovery yoga”?

  • Hi Steve,

    how do you split up the training during the day? You do yoga in the morning, but what about the other training units? How much rest do you have between the different trainings, or you do all in one block?

    greetings from Hungary

  • Hey Zoltan!

    I’ve got a post about you coming up fairly soon, when I finally get to the Yak Attack/Nepal stuff. Been too busy!

    For this week I’m really just doing things whenever I can around work. It’s not so much a training plan as a kick my butt back into shape plan. Usually I do yoga, work a while, ride and run (or reverse) so I do those two together. Work some more, maybe do something in between (depends on what’s on the schedule that day), and then finish at night. I have a climbing wall/gym in the garage (it is the garage, more accurately), so it’s pretty convenient, though I did climb outside on Sunday. I’m also making up what I do based around my schedule and how much time I have, which the goal here to get back into the habit of forcing myself to train when it would be easier to have a beer and stop, or keep working and not stop, etc. Essentially to get training back at the forefront of things again.

  • Day 4 of ToC Challenge:

    Morning recovery yoga
    1:30 mountain ruke (lots of snow still at 8k on the north faces)
    45m aerobic-as-possible ride on SS, hills (of course)
    Functional warm-up (X2)
    Climb a stack of various drills (fingers holding up surprisingly well)
    Lots of stabilization work (upper body)
    INS stretching session

    Had nothing on the run. Felt glycogen depleted even though I’m eating a ton. Kept thinking about Neil’s Yak Attack comment, “after you few days you find yourself really looking forward to the rest day.” Mine’s not til Monday. Feel better now after all the stabilization work and stretching and eating. Pretty worked but it’s supposed to be hard, right? Probably earned a cocktail.

  • Looking forward to reading it. 🙂

    I have now about 12-13 hours training per week. That’s on six days with one rest day. Mostly biking, running and one gym session. I would love to do some more upper body training and/or core, and yoga, but I am struggling how to fit it in the weekly routine. Maybe I will try your boot camp approach for one week and see how it goes. 🙂

    Only 4 more days to go for you. Bring it! 🙂

  • Day 5 of ToC Challenge:

    Functional warm-up (X2)\
    Running drills with 10X strides (barefoot)
    Asylum Strength
    INS stretch
    Climb – worked on 5 new traverses that will be part of a upcoming challenge (pic coming)
    Ride – 45m on SS, hilly, tempo

    Switched up the daily schedule. Good day. Tired but adapting. Felt strong on the bike and not horrible climbing. Running was tough but, sheesh, it was 7am.

  • Day 6 of ToC Challenge:

    Functional warm-up (X2)\
    1:15 on the SS (hilly, finally out rode the race for once)
    10 minute run, tempo (brick workout, immediately after ride)
    10 movement upper body workout (experimental)
    Rice bucket

    Fingers a little stiff so went into recovery mode for climbing. Good ride, though, and actually felt okay running and wanted to go further.

  • Day 7 of ToC Challenge:

    Functional warm-up (X2)
    1:15 on the SS (hilly, finally out rode the race for once)
    10 minute run, tempo (brick workout, immediately after ride)
    Climb – worked out and did two more traverses that will be part of upcoming big day.

    Suffered on both ride and run, after which a salted bagel was a revelation (it seemed like there’s been plenty of salt in my diet but you never know for sure how the body adjusts when you’re changing your daily schedule. Shut things down slightly earlier in hopes of finishing with a big (er) day.

  • Day 8 and final thoughts:

    Stabilizer workout
    2:30 ride, road bike, app 40 miles with 4k of climbing
    1hr hiking
    Climb – worked on 7 of the big day traverses

    Finished the week with a test run of my next challenge (which I’ll probably try as soon as I recover, though it’s a baby version of a much larger thing). I was very tired last night and still tired this morning but the week was awesome. It’s a good tired. Not overtrained. Nothing hurts except muscles. In other words, just what I needed to get back into the swing of hard training. None of the individual sessions themselves were too hard, making it hard to quit or easy to continue (depending on your glass half full perspective) but the cumulative effort made it something I really had to focus on each day in order to get everything done. It will now be much easier to switch to short and more intense efforts. Also think, once I’m recovered, that I’ll have made some significant fitness gains, especially for climbing and running. Cycling will improve as well as 8 straight days of riding also has some benefit.

  • Curious what the mega challenge is that you’re thinking about. Hope you post about the baby version so that I can try and Scooby-Doo mystery my way to the answer.

  • The mega challenge is in a fall and it’s too far off, with too many variables (work primarily) to mention it yet. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a few years but works been too insane to train enough. Not sure why I think this year could be different. Maybe training’s getting more efficient.

    In the mean time, I’ve been planning bike supported climbing days. Test run is a Half Dome day, 20 pitches in the local canyons all bike supported (topping out at 12a). The El Cap day is 30 pitches, and it’s going to be much harder because it has many 12 pitches. Then there’s the Eiger Day, which is 27 pitches but over half of them hard with climbing up to 12d. I’m a LONG way from that one right now but, hopefully, can be ready in a couple of months. The biking is not insignificant as these are in different canyons and as high as 2,000′ up the canyons.

  • I have a bunch of different routines I’ll do depending upon how I’m feeling. They’re all similar to Rodney Yee’s AM Yoga, which I’ll also mix in when I don’t feel like thinking. It’s pretty much 20-30 minutes of restorative yoga and I move much better any day I make time to do it, but I find it especially important when I’m training hard.

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