Review: Keylog Rolling

Humans like to compete. From an early age, we figure out a way to make anything into a competition.

As kids, we compete to see who can run the fastest or throw the farthest or swing the highest.

As adults, we make competitions out of chugging beers, eating hot dogs and you name it.

Well back in the day, lumberjacks would float logs down the river from the forests to the sawmills.

The men would run back and forth across the logs to guide them and make sure they didn’t jam.

The logs would sometimes spin under their feet and they realized they could make a competition out of it.

Over 100 years later, the sport is still popular and celebrated every year at the World Championship.

For me, it is the highlight of the lumberjack show at the Minnesota State Fair every summer.

A local Minnesota-based company called Key Logrolling invented a 65-pound synthetic log that you fill with water at your destination.

It’s easy to transport and you can put trainers on it to help control the speed of how fast it spins in the water. It is great to use as a teaching tool and is making the sports much more accessible to the general public.

This past weekend, my friend Sara and I took a 2-hour logrolling class with Key Logrolling on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.

Among the large summer crowd of kids and adults swimming, paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking, we caught everyone’s attention as we learned how to get up on the log and tried not to fall off immediately.

Thanks to the patient coaching of our instructor Tyler, we were each allowed plenty of time to take turns stepping onto the log and trying to stay up. We practiced over and over for a solid 30-40 minutes.

When we took a break, we realized how exhausting it was as a sport, especially for the novice.

The physical exertion comes from keeping somewhat in a squat position with arms raised to help maintain balance and then constantly moving your feet as quick as possible.

If you stop moving, you fall in. If you take too big of a step, you fall in. And if you look at your feet, you fall in.

There’s a lot to think about and this all contributes to the sport also being mentally exhausting.

In the second-half of the lesson, Sara and I enthusiastically competed against each other on the log.

There are two types of logrolling contests:

  1. Bucking matches, which is when two roller are facing opposite directions; and
  2. Running matches, which is when two rollers are facing the same direction, or looking over opposite directions when rolling.

Both require you to keep your eyes focused on the feet of your competitors. You have to constantly watch what they are doing so you can respond appropriately, either with a front step or a back step. The matches for us were very short to say the least.

One of the real challenges for us as amateurs was just getting set on the log before the match even begins.

We had to both step up and balance and start moving our feet before Tyler would give us the go ahead. Inevitably, one of us would fall off and so it would be a false start and no points awarded.

Otherwise, when we did get our act together, we played to best of 5. Sara won the majority as she displayed even in those two short hours an instant knack and love for the sport.

If you want to be clever, you can try and splash water into your opponent’s eyes with your foot to temporarily blind and distract them.

Another option is to bob the log where you rock the log back and forth in the water in an attempt to put your opponents end of the log under the water, which it makes it difficult for them to move their feet.

I like to be clever and tried to splash Sara and ended up slipping and landing with the log between my legs. Luckily, I didn’t hit hard enough to do any lasting damage and felt like just desserts from playing dirty, even if the rules allow it.

Overall, our lesson in logrolling was awesome and it is a sport I am eager to try again. It requires great dexterity, balance and focus.

Most importantly, it’s a less in humility but also in the importance of having grit because it demands that if you want to get better you have to keep getting back up on that log over no matter how many times you fall.

Review: Wilkwear

The CrossFit community is large and wide and over the last few years has introduced me to some amazing athletes and coaches.

This includes Joseph Wilkinson from CrossFit Jersey City who contacted me about trying out his padded collarbone compression shirt that he manufactures through his fledgling company Wilkwear.

The shirt is designed to help with training by protecting the body in certain places from the common bruising caused by either a barbell or some other piece of equipment.

It is a compression shirt and, as imagined, is tight. I liked the fact that it was, outside of the padding, thin and sleeveless, and could be comfortably worn under a regular t-shirt if desired.

Here are some of the noted tech specs courtesy of the Wilkwear website:

  • 85% Nylon & 15% Spandex creates the compression fit
  • Anti-microbial fabric wicks moisture away from your body, keeping you cool and fresh before, during and after a workout
  • The compression shirt fits tight to your body to keep the padding in place, so you can focus on the workout rather then readjusting the padding
  • The 8 individual pads allow for maximum collarbone protection while maintaining mobility

For front squats, thrusters, any type of clean or any type of press, where the bar is in the front rack position, the padding absorbed the impact, as you can see in the picture below:

The shirt was comfortable to workout in and definitely let my collarbone unscathed. Currently it retails for $49.95.

It’s hard to judge if that is a good price as it is the only shirt that I am aware of like this out on the market.

If you are focused on lifting, especially the Olympic lifts, than I can see this being of a great value.

I’m looking forward to using the shirt more often in my training and I’ll be keeping an eye out to see what’s next in the Wilkwear product line.

Review: [solidcore]

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure(?) of doing a workout at [solidcore] in St. Louis Park. The gym opened at The Shops at West End this past October and my friend Whitney who coaches there has been encouraging me to give a try ever since.

She even invited me to bring a group of friends along for a private class.

It’s a new fitness class concept that was founded in last 2013 in Washington D.C. and that is quickly growing a cult following.

First Lady Michelle Obama has even been spotted as a repeat client.

We all met up on a brisk Sunday afternoon late last month with no clue what a [solidcore] class entailed or realizing how sore we were going to be the next few days after.

Let me try my best to describe this 50-minute, full body workout.

The class is focused around the MegaFormer, which is like a Plates machine that utilizes springs and a sliding platform.

It is a bit nerve wracking to first step up on it, but you adapt quickly. Throughout the workout, you use slow and controlled full-body movements to work your muscle fibers.

For example, we did slow lunges where one foot was on the stable platform while the other was on the sliding platform.

Rather than doing high quantity of movements, it is all about high quality.

Planks, lunges, and the other targeted exercises we went through for legs, arms, oblique and abs were all designed to force the muscles to stay contracted throughout the entire range of motion.

And this is where it gets really intense and really sweaty. As you hold the various positions, your heart rate is up and you can feel your body shaking from the tension that has been created.

The class itself is a wonderful contrast of these slow tempo movements and long holds with the high energy music that is blasting and the voice of the coach providing direction and encouragement throughout.

Though maybe biased in my opinion, Whitney was great in pushing us all, helping us make adjustments as needed and getting us through this very intense workout.

Everyone had a great time. It is a unique fitness class that I am sure would pay off huge results for those who consistently attend.

No two classes are alike, though the MegaFormer is always the center of the activity. The movements can all be scaled by adding dumbbells or increasing the tension on the machines.

It left my friends and I sore as it clearly worked muscles that we weren’t targeting in our normal gym routines. It’s definitely not for everyone.

However, for those who are looking for results and enjoy a small group class setting with great coaches and great music it’s worth trying out.

Reviews: Uppercut Gym

Since the start of the new year, I have been attending the Saturday morning circuit class at Uppercut Gym in Northeast Minneapolis.

As the name suggests, it is a boxing gym and is located in a great huge old warehouse space on Quincy Street, near the intersection of Central and Broadway.

The gym looks like a scene out of Rocky with steel beams and concrete block and two rings set-up, plus a diverse cast of characters training and hanging out.

Saturday paints an especially fun picture as more seasoned athletes do partner drills in one corner of the gym as the kids class gathers in the middle of the space do jumping jacks and over in the ring a trainer and amateur boxer work on defense against the ropes.

It’s an urban gym that is welcoming to all levels and all ages.

The classes are typically an hour in length and are mostly in the evenings during the week and in the mornings on Saturdays.

To give you a feel of the experience at Uppercut, here’s a rundown of my last class:

  • Warm-up (2-4 minutes) of Jump rope
  • 4 rounds of jump rope: 30 seconds fast + 30 seconds slow
  • 5 reps – 10 reps – 15 reps: burpees + mountain climbers + jumping jacks
  • 2 rounds: push-ups (feet on floor, hands on ring) + dips + push-ups (feet on ring, hands on floor)
  • 2 rounds: partner medicine ball toss (30 secs) + partner medicine ball standing twist (30 secs) + medicine ball squat and throw (45 seconds) + stepping lunges (45 secs) + shadow boxing w/ 2 lbs hand weights (2.5 mins)
  • Heavy bag (2.5 minutes combo work + 30 secs fast hands)
  • Jab + Jab + Cross + Hook + Cross
  • Cross + Front Uppercut + Cross + Cross
  • Jab + Hook + Cross + Front Uppercut + Cross
  • Tabata heavy bag (20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)
  • jabs + crosses
  • hooks
  • uppercuts
  • hooks
  • uppercuts
  • jabs + crosses
  • Core exercises (5 minutes): crunches + bicycle crunches + leg ups + plank hold

As you can see, it is a very full hour and absolutely exhausting. You will sweat profusely, your arms will ache, your hands will smell from the wraps and gloves, and you will definitely feel like you got an awesome workout.

And throughout, the instructor will provide some one-on-one guidance to help improve your form and stance.

Plus, it’s pretty therapeutic after a long week at work to punch the crap out of the bag.

After you have trained for awhile, you can move onto more advanced classes that include more partner work and shorter drills.

There are also opportunities for personal training and to get into the ring if you are ready to spar.

Uppercut also has some free weights and machines and you can sign up for a membership that allows for general use of the gym and all the equipment.

If interested, I would encourage you to attend one of their free intro sessions, which are typically held on Wednesday nights.

The class will show you the basics – fighting stance, jab, cross, hook , and defense moves – and is typically taught by the owner, Lisa Bauch. And if you are looking for me on Saturday mornings, I’ll be near the heavy bags.

Review: Alchemy 365

This past Saturday was the grand opening of Alchemy 365 in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis.

This new gym promotes itself as “group fitness transformed” thanks to its unique mash-up of yoga and CrossFit. I decided to go check it out for myself and see what it was all about.

First, the space is very cool. I am a total nerd about gym layout and design and this place takes advantage of the historical warehouse building with its tall ceilings and brick exterior and adds a ton of style when you walk through the doors.

This is not your gritty muscle-head box with a leaky facuet and scenic views of a railroad yard. Rather, it feels more like a welcoming spa with a reception desk and small sitting area, plus a hip unisex bathroom area with individual toilets and showers. It’s in a hot trendy neighborhood and Alchemy definitely plays the part.

The two training spaces are pretty simple with equipment on either end of the room, pull-up bars extending across and concrete floors with the gym’s logo painted on top.

A chalkboard with the workout posted and a clock in the corner tells you pretty quickly that you are going to be moving.

The place was absolutely packed to the brim with lots of fit attractive young professionals when I attended the 10am class. I was told that the typical class is 8-12 people and I’m guessing that there isn’t usually a live DJ at every workout.

We were instructed that no shoes or socks were needed and to find a place under one of the pull-up bars. Shoulder-to-shoulder, there were probably about 60-70 all buzzing and ready to go.

The instructor Andrea grabbed her headset and told us that we would start with 10-15 minutes of yoga, transition right into a 20-minute workout (called an A20) and then finish with more yoga at the end.

Here was the A20 workout we all completed:

  • 1-minute Max Effort Burpees
  • 1- minute Plank Hold
  • 7-minutes: 7 air squats + 7 hanging knee crunches
  • 2-minutes: 10 situps + 20 mountain climbers
  • 7-minutes: 7 air squats + 7 hanging knee crunches
  • 1- minute Plank Hold
  • 1-minute Max Effort Burpees

It was a non-stop sweaty twenty minutes of work. Andrea was calm but motivating as she walked around the room letting us know how much time was left for each component of the A20 and helping people with their form or offering modifications.

As the clock ran down, there were no rests built-in, no water breaks. You had to just keep moving.

With little rest, we went straight from the A20 into a “cool down” of at least another 10 minutes of yoga.

We quickly transitioned from one pose to the next. Some familiarity with yoga was definitely needed, though I suspect with less people more instruction would be provided.

For the last minute, we had shavasana and it was wonderful.

Overall, I really enjoyed the constant movement and the fact that it was a solid satisfying workout.

They have a lot of strength equipment on hand that we didn’t use given the size of the class so it would be interesting to see how it is all incorporated.

The blaring music from the DJ was borderline headache inducing, but I understand it was unique to the grand opening celebration.

So was the total lack of personal space during the workout, which led to a foot in my face during the burpees.

But I’ve been invited to come back and give it another try on a normal day and I will definitely take them up on the offer.

And there should be lots of opportunities to do so as they are planning to open two more locations before year’s end.