Category Archives: Rants and Raves

Death To Cardio

So long, Stairmaster!

After racing the NYC Triathlon last week, I’ve decided that I’m never doing cardio again.

In fact, I actually stopped doing cardio workouts a long time ago.

You may have seen me running, swimming and biking in this recent video clip, but that wasn’t cardio training – it was skill practice.

In the context of my overall training schedule, I don’t even see the race itself as cardio. It was a one-off endurance challenge, and really more mental than physical.

Trading Cardio
The difference between seeing your workout as “cardio” vs. seeing it as “practice” may be a subtle distinction, but I believe it is an extremely important one. People who “do cardio” tend to have one objective in mind: weight loss. As I’ve discussed before, exercise alone is not a very effective way to lose weight (you have to eat less crap in order to do that!), but the mindset you bring to any activity can greatly impact your experience.

Swimming for sure!

Rather than forcing yourself to simulate movement on a piece of machinery for a set amount of time, a better way to approach your training might be to work on skill improvement. While there are certainly benefits to “gym cardio” (improved circulation, increased cardiac output, higher oxygen uptake/utilization efficiency), part of what makes exercise worth doing is the activity itself. I personally never met anyone who genuinely enjoys an hour alone on the stationary bike, but it’s fun and exciting to do something like a triathlon – and all of us have that potential.

Skill Power
You can become a perfectly good runner without ever worrying about how many calories you burned, what your target heart rate is or even knowing exactly how much distance you’ve covered. And you’ll probably enjoy the process a whole lot more without wasting mental space on trivialities. Treat your workout as skill practice and the shift in perspective turns any health benefits into an added bonus. You might even forget you’re working out and start having some old-fashioned fun!

Don’t get me wrong – exercise isn’t always gummy bears and double rainbows, but it shouldn’t be torturous either. There are plenty of times when I feel challenged during a workout, but pushing through those uncomfortable moments leads to a better understanding of my body – as well as personal growth.

I firmly believe that any “fit” person ought to be able to run a few miles or swim to shore should they find themselves in such a predicament (in addition to being able to do some pull-ups, of course!). Besides, if you focus on improving at physical skills, you’re inevitably going to get in better shape along the way. Having a good body is nice, but being physically capable is empowering.

2012 NYC Triathlon Race Report

Ever since running the NYC Marathon back in 2009, racing the NYC Triathlon has been next on my fitness bucket-list. Well after last Sunday, I can now scratch that one off too!

The tri was a great experience, and finishing is an accomplishment that I will be proud of for the rest of my life. However, I went through many different feelings and emotions throughout the race. As the famous Dickens quote goes, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

The Swim
The hardest part of the whole race was dealing with the anxiety in the morning. From the moment I woke up I had butterflies in my stomach; I didn’t really settle into my groove until a few minutes after I got in the water. As someone who never really swam as a kid, jumping feet first into the Hudson was the part that I was most anxious about. (Only the pros dive in head first, thankfully!) Once I settled in, however, the swim went very well.

Though it has a bad reputation, the water in the Hudson was no more disgusting than the water at Coney Island where I did most of my open-water triathlon training. There was some seaweed to contend with and I bumped into a log once, but it was pretty minor compared to some of the horror stories I’ve heard from other triathletes (though I did catch an elbow in the face near the start of the swim).

The downstream current in the Hudson definitely helped with my time, though I found myself getting pulled to the left as well. I spent a good deal of the swim trying to steer myself back to the middle. Though I couldn’t see or hear much in the water, I was reminded very loudly by some of the crew who were following along in canoes to “STAY TO THE RIGHT!”

As the visibility in the water was virtually nonexistent, I didn’t realize I was close to the end until I was within about 100 meters. Needless to say, I was quite pleased to see it when I did!

The Bike
After the swim there’s a barefoot run (on pavement!) into the transition area, which is just a field with a bunch of bike racks on it. I took my time in the first transition since I wanted to carefully remove my wetsuit, clean my feet, have a snack, drink some water, pee, etc. I also wanted to check that all my things were okay (they were). Since getting a good night’s sleep was a priority for me, I had left all my stuff there the night before. (Many participants forgo some sleep to bring their gear to the transition the morning of the race).

The bike ride was longer and more challenging than I had anticipated. Between the July heat and the steep hills, the ride dragged on for what seemed like an eternity. Since I was in one of the later start waves, the pack had thinned out quite a bit and there weren’t many other cyclists around. There were times when I didn’t see anyone else on the road at all. As I was alone for much of the ride, it didn’t feel like much of a “race” at all – I took it slow on most of the hills and eventually I made it to the end.

The Run
Once the bike ride was over, there was a huge sense of relief. So many things are out of your control during the swim and the bike (someone crashing into you, a flat tire, etc), but once I was onto the run, I knew it was all up to me. Nothing could take it away at that point.

I took the first couple of miles slow and easy and eventually started to find my legs in mile three. I kept it at a steady pace, splashing cups of water on my face every time I passed the aid tables (I managed to get some water down my throat as well.) The last mile of the run I kicked it up a notch, triumphantly crossing the finish line with a net time of 3:36:13.

After the race, I picked up my bike from the transition area and rode five more miles back to my apartment, rewarding myself with one of my favorite indulgences: pizza!

I didn’t look at a clock once during the race, which I think helped me pace myself and enjoy the journey without getting caught up in any of the ego stuff. I just listened to my body and tried to stay at a moderate level of exertion for most of the race. The only time I turned up the juice was near the end of the run.

In retrospect, I know I could have done the whole thing faster if I pushed a bit harder, but I have no regrets about my performance. With all the things that could potentially go wrong during a triathlon, I am just glad I made it across the finish line in one piece.



Results:

Swim: 28:22

T1: 13:01

Bike: 1:49:46

T2: 3:34

Run: 1:01:31

Total: 3:36:13

Watch the video below to see a photo montage of pictures from the event.
(Photos by Colleen Leung.)

Training For The NYC Triathlon

Like most fitness enthusiasts, I’m always in search of a physical challenge. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone has allowed me to experience a lot of personal growth. Besides, if you only do things that you’re good at, you probably won’t get to do that many different things.

Though I’m known primarily for practicing bodyweight strength training, I’ve also been a recreational runner for several years, having completed multiple races such as the Brooklyn Half Marathon and the NYC Marathon. In fact, I’ve often said that running is the most basic form of bodyweight training in existence. It’s an essential life skill that any fit person should be capable of doing. The same can be said for swimming and cycling. With that in mind, I’ll be participating in my first triathlon this summer. The NYC Triathlon is less than two weeks away and I am ready to rock!

Try to Tri
Triathlon training can be very demanding both time-wise as well as logistically. Arranging to train in three different modalities that all require unique parameters and equipment is overwhelming on it’s own, to say nothing of actually doing the workouts.

Add to that my continued dedication to my strength training during all this and we’re talking about a huge time commitment. Good thing I love working out!

Sink or Swim
Like most triathlon first-timers, the swim was the part I needed to work on most, so I’ve practiced swimming at least three times a week since I got accepted into the race last fall. Nine months ago I could barely swim 100 meters in a pool without a break; in less than two weeks I’m going to attempt to swim almost a mile in the Hudson River.

The rest of the race consists of a 25 mile bike ride, followed by a 6.2 mile run. While neither of those things is too daunting on their own, doing them back-to-back right after the swim is going to be a serious challenge. Though I’ve been running and cycling on and off for years, I’ve recently increased my milage in preparation for this race. My cardiovascular endurance feels solid and my legs are ready to go.

Strength and Conditioning
Of course I’ve also been doing strength work 3-5 times a week. But by treating those workouts strictly as skill practice (low reps, lots of breaks and only working on one or two things at a time), I’ve managed to maintain most of my strength and even improve at a few things like lever holds and hand balancing.

I’ve become a much better swimmer since beginning my triathlon training, and my running and cycling have felt as natural and fluid as ever. If you define physical fitness as being fit to do various physical things, then I am the fittest I’ve ever been. I’m not looking to set any speed records on this race – just finishing will be enough satisfaction. I’ve dedicated my career to calisthenics and bodyweight strength training, the triathlon is something I’m doing just for fun.

Watch the video below to see some highlights from my triathlon training:

If you’re interested in to getting a pair of running sandals like the ones I’m wearing in the video, check out Invisible Shoes.

Raising The Bar Book Release Party

I recently celebrated the official release of my new book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics. The festivities took place at Nimble Fitness in New York City.

After putting so much work into this project, it was great to get to celebrate the occasion with my family, friends, co-workers, clients and fans.

Throughout the night, lots of people came out to show support and purchase signed copies of the book. And of course with a pull-up bar on the premises, some of us just couldn’t resist getting in a few reps.

Watch the video below for more and check out the rest of the photos on Facebook:

Raising The Bar on Paperback!

I’m excited to announce that my new book Raising The Bar is now available on paperback!

The book release party is still scheduled for June 1, but due to popular demand, Dragon Door has decided to make the book available sooner. They are also offering a discount to anyone who orders the book before the end of the month!

Raising The Bar goes over everything you ever wanted to know about pull-ups, dips, muscle-ups and dozens of other exercises.

Click the link for more info on Raising The Bar.

If that’s not enough for you, I’ve also got a brand new workout video featuring my brother Danny and me in a calisthenics battle.

Check it out and leave your comments below!

Al Kavadlo April 2012 Update

These last several weeks have been a whirlwind!

Between all the work that went into finishing Raising The Bar, plus keeping up with my personal training clients, I needed a vacation, so I took off to Sayulita, Mexico for a few days last week.

It was great to relax and blow off some steam, but you guys know me – I can’t help myself from getting a few reps in wherever I go!


***If you want to see more photos from my trip, check out my facebook page.***

Since returning, I’ve been busy with a few other projects. I penned a guest blog for Mark’s Daily Apple, and there’s also this interview I recently did with Mike Fitch from Global Bodyweight Training. Plus a few more things I can’t tell you about just yet…

In other exciting news, I am pleased to announce that Raising The Bar will officially be released on paperback on Friday, June 1st, 2012.

Nimble Fitness will be hosting a party to celebrate the occasion that night. All are welcome to attend!

Though the official launch will not take place until June 1, the book may actually be available a bit sooner than that. Check in with DragonDoor.com for more information as the release approaches.

Also, be sure to check out my new highlight reel video if you haven’t seen it yet:

Raising the Bar Cover

There it is, guys: the cover of my forthcoming book, Raising the Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics (click the image to enlarge it).

The release date of the book is still to be determined, but I expect it will be available in the next several weeks. I’m currently working with the guys at Dragon Door to finish up the interior design of the book. I can’t wait for you guys to see this thing! I will let you know when an exact release date is set.

In other news, my first book, We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness is now available in Kindle format from Fitedia. You can use the drop down menu on their product page to select a variety of e-book formats.

If you want a paper copy of We’re Working Out!, I recommend you order one soon. I only have about 100 copies left in my inventory and once those sell out, the only way to get the book will be as an electronic download.

February 2012 Update

I’m excited to announce that I have finished the manuscript for my forthcoming book, Raising the Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.

I am also excited to announce that Dragon Door (publisher of the Convict Conditioning books) is my new publisher!

Raising the Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics will tell you everything you need to know about how to train pull-ups, muscle-ups and dips, as well as dozens of other bar exercises, many of which have not been discussed here on my blog. The book will also contain over 200 brand new full color photos as well as a section on hand-balancing.

I’m now in the process of finishing the photos for the book with photographer Colleen Leung. Once that’s done we can begin the layout and design phase. If all goes as planned, the book should be available this spring. I will keep you guys posted as soon as I know more.

In the meantime, make sure you get a copy of my first book, We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness, if you haven’t already.

Last but not least, here’s a new video with some new moves you’ve never seen from me before:

Looking Back/Looking Ahead

Between the release of Convict Conditioning 2 and my recent articles on T-Nation, traffic on this site has been at an all-time high. In fact, this whole year has been pretty amazing!

Thanks for stopping by, watching my videos and leaving so many great comments. Interacting with you guys is one of my favorite things about blogging.

Though I still feel the same about New Year’s resolutions, here’s what you can expect from me in 2012:

1. A New Book!

I’m working on a new book, entitled Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Bar Calisthenics, which will be released in 2012. I will have more info about the new book soon.

2. More Articles!

While I don’t expect to be posting articles as often as I did during the first 2+ years of this blog, I will still post new articles here from time to time. Though I’ve probably got enough content to keep you occupied for a while. (I’ve even added an archive section to the sidebar so you can find old posts easily.) You can also expect to see more articles from me on Sherdog and T-Nation.

3. New Videos!

I plan to continue updating you guys with a new video at least once a month, hopefully more often. If that’s not enough for you, check out my youtube channel – I’ve got over 150 videos on there already. Also make sure to like the facebook page and follow me on twitter if you want more updates and exclusive extras.

Something Old/Something New

Speaking of videos, here is a classic clip from the early days of my blog:

And here’s a brand new one about one legged squats:

Check out these other posts about pistol squats and shrimp squats for more.

And as always, feel free to leave your comments for me below!

We're Working Out! E-book


At the suggestion of many of my fans and followers, I have finally decided to release my first book, We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness as an e-book.

The e-book is currently available as a PDF download, with plans to have it on other formats (including a Kindle version) in early 2012.

Though the e-book can be purchased in any country, it has been “e-published” by a British company called Fitedia, so the price is listed in pounds. When you order, the cost will be converted into your currency.


Click here to download your copy now!



Here’s what people are saying about the book:

“Al Kavadlo’s We’re Working Out! A Zen Approach to Everyday Fitness is a phenomenal catalog of techniques, ideas and tactics for achieving peak physical ability. Possibly the best book on fitness ever – if you enjoyed my book, go buy his. You won’t regret it.”

Paul Wade, Author of Convict Conditioning

“The first time I met Al he challenged me to a one-arm chin-up! His enthusiasm for fitness is infectious no matter if you are just dabbling in exercise for the first time or are an Ironman World Champion.”

Karen Smyers, USA Triathlon Hall of Famer and Ironman World Champion

“Al’s approach combines effective exercises with a motivating philosophy that
helped me to pursue my fitness goals. Training with him reminded me how
rewarding working out can be.”

Emma Robinson, Two-time Olympic medalist in rowing

“Al’s approach to fitness is a breath of fresh air and a voice of reason.
This book is a necessary step in the documentation of physical culture.”

Randy Humola, Personal training legend


Click here to download the e-book now!