Squats, Deadlifts…and a 5k?

I ventured to the University of Delaware last weekend to visit my brothers in the Xi Mu chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.  Since leaving UD I’ve upheld my promise of attending the initiation of each probationary class, and was excited to see my friends and family.  In addition to the fraternity events planned for the weekend, I was also prepared or some physically and mentally hard training.

On the way to Newark I stopped in Glenolden, Pennsylvania to visit Iron Sport Gym.  I had the chance to lift there in the fall, and fully plan on making any trip in the Philly area include a detour to this facility.  Since you’re likely to ask ‘Why?’, check this out:


How awesome does this place look?!  They have plenty of the gear that’s on my wish-list of equipment, and I went in knowing I wanted to use some of the items that I won’t be seeing at home any time soon.  My training followed the template which I’ve been using for my ‘heavy’ lower body days for the past 3 weeks, and which made choosing specific lifts much easier.

After a solid 15-20 minutes of foam rolling, mobility and activation drills, a series or kettlebell swings and prying, I moved on to my lifting.  I used a safety squat bar for my squat variation, and sumo deadlifted with chains for my deadlift variation.  After that I moved on to giant cambered bar reverse lunges, then paired glute ham raises with a leg raise variation.  While I haven’t used any of these specific bars or variations before, it provided a needed variation to my training at home.  Here are two videos of my top-end sets:



I have mixed feelings about each variation.  The safety squat bar squats were deceptively difficult, and kicked my ass.  That bar is evil.  As for the chained deadlifts, that has got to be the most fun I’ve had lifting in a really long time.  They weren’t very heavy, but it was great fun.  I don’t have clips of the last three exercises, but did manage a screenshot of the lunges before my phone flipped over.  Let me just say that 185 on the GC Bar felt a lot heavier than 225 on the Olympic bar.

I’ve been rather religious about ending each of my training sessions with a 7-15 minute finisher that makes me gasp for air, but opted out of it on Friday night.  Why?  Well, I had registered for a 5k on Saturday morning.

Wait. What? A 5k?

Yes, you read that correctly.  One of my brothers in Delaware was planning on running in the Best Buddies Delaware Friendship Walk/Run in Wilmington, and asked me to join him.  I As much as I dislike traditional endurance training, it can’t be that bad once in a blue moon, can it?  Plus, it was with good people, for a good cause.  After sending some e-mails over the alumni and active list-servs, we had a total of 9 gentlemen participate in the event:

After completing the Delaware Best Buddies Friendship 5k in Wilmington’s Rockford Park with James, Colin, Andrew, Yours Truly, Jason, Tim, Alex, Liam, and Cameron.

I experienced several thoughts during the event, and I’ll list them in chronological order for you:

  • 0:00 – 0:30 “Gosh these people are slow!  Wait, this isn’t a sprint?  Oh, okay.”
  • 0:31 – 1:00 “It sure is a beautiful day out.  This can’t be that bad!”
  • 1:00 – 1:45 “How much longer is this course?  When do I get to sprint?”
  • 1:46 – 12:00 “Man, how many yellow cones do I need to run past? How do people find this enjoyable?”
  • 12:01 – 12:30 “Wait, this isn’t a loop?  We have to go back the same way?!  WHAT THE HELL?!”
  • 12:31 – 22:00 “Running on cement sucks.  Why would somebody voluntarily do this to themselves?  Did Andrew just pass me?  Screw him.  ‘Good work bro!’
  • 22:01 – 25:30  “Do I still have calves?  ::Checks feet:: Okay, we’re good.  Where’s the finish line?  I want to sprint already.”
  • 25:31 – 25:43 – “THAT’S THE FINISH LINE?! Where was my warning?!  To infinity and beyond!”
  • 25:44 – 29:00  “Seriously, that sucked.  Why do people like running?
  • 29:01 – 32:00   “Does anybody want to run hill sprints?  (Cameron wants to!)  Okay, let’s go run sprints!”
  • 32:00 – 37:00 “Finally, some real training.”
  • 37:01+ “Who wants to go to Moe’s for Cinco de Moe’s?”

As you can see, I settled for Chipotle.  More importantly than that though, the 5k reinforced some ideas that I have about running.  I ‘m convinced that enjoying steady state running is a defense mechanism.  Seriously, it’s a learned behavior, and we trick ourselves into enjoying it.  Why?  Go find me a small child that enjoys running at a steady pace in a straight line for an extended period of time.  You can’t.  These children don’t exist.  Real children run in odd patterns, at a variety of speeds, using an assortment of locomotor patterns.  They skip, they hop, they gallop, they jump.  They don’t run.

Perhaps you can argue that enjoying running is something that comes with time, just as we develop a palette for coffee or wine.  A valiant counter, yes, but there is a considerable scope to consider.   Would you compare instant coffee to fine fair-trade organic coffee recommended by a Seattle native?  Surely not.  When paring wine with liver and fava beans,  would you choose Franzia or a nice Chianti?  Running may require the same palette development, but I hope it draws you to trail runs through the mountains instead of treadmills and asphalt.  At least you’ll need to watch your footing and can enjoy nature a bit.

With that being said, I still stand behind an idea I’ve stated before, that you shouldn’t need to train for a 5k.  The concept of an aerobic base is bunk; it’s unnecessary for most our activities.  If you’re looking for a competitive 5k time, surely incorporate some dedicated training, but the high volume endurance training approach is beaten out by dedicated strength training and carefully planned conditioning.

Unless a large number of friends is planning an upcoming race, or I’m convinced to run the reservoir in Central Park, I’ll keep my running limited sprints in training, and pick up games of whatever sport you wish.  I’d rather play 4 hours of Ultimate or football than ponder my 5k pace.  I’d also rather squat, and that’s what I’m about to go do.  Happy Squaturday!

3 Replies to “Squats, Deadlifts…and a 5k?”

  1. I would recommend that you read ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall. You might change your mind, as they conclusively prove that basically running extremely long distances is the sole exercise the human body has evolved for.
    I run a 5k every day, and I never trained for it, I just started doing it. It got me out of pointless weightlifting and keeps me small rather than making me big, bulky and slow.
    A great coach once told me if you can’t drop whatever you’re doing at any time, anywhere, on demand, and run a minimum of 3 miles, then you’re not in any kind of shape, it doesn’t matter if you’re deadlifting 10k lbs, if you can’t run, in real life, ie. survival…you’ll die. So I learned to run.

    1. Robert, McDougall’s book is awesome, and I loe how it’s brought barefoot running to the forefront, and has made the evolutionary approach much more popular. For people who do participate in long distance running, it’s a great idea for them to review running technique on a regular basis, and if possible, wear the footwear that is most conducive to them using a fore/mid foot strike technique.

      I wouldn’t recommend just starting doing anything without determining a way of appropriately scaling it, be it barefoot running, shod running, oror weight training. I partially agree with this “great coach” that you should be able to “drop whatever you’re doing at any time, anywhere, on demand, and run a minimum of 3 miles”, but I don’t believe it has anything to do with fitness. There are many world-class athletes that would struggle either mentally or physically to complete a 5k, but that doesn’t mean they’re not in shape. It likely means that they participate in an activity where running a 5k has little or no impact on their performance. For most people, that’s the case.

      Note, I said that you should not have to train for a 5k. That’s just as elitist as saying that you’re not in shape if you can’t run one. The general idea that I’m attempting to convey is that training emphasis should focus on movement quality and strength that offers broad improvements in fitness, rather than aerobic activities that only benefit aerobic activities. When it comes to overall health and performance, outside of competitive athletes, most people want to feel better and look better. For almost everyone, this means dedicated strength training and higher intensity conditioning work. When we consider athletes that use an abundance of aerobic work, and those that include strength training and interval training, those who are deemed aesthetically desirable, are typically the ones who lift and sprint. This overused picture helps demonstrate that:

      Marathoner vs Sprinter

      Unless we come up with obscure goals for distance running or endurance, there isn’t a quality argument for only running. It’s a necessary skill, but most people benefit far more from getting stronger and working hard during shorter periods of time. As for survival, that’s a moot point. I’m not sure how often we’re running away from an animal that’s going to eat us these days. If you want to take a Darwinian approach, it’s probably more appropriate that we can climb trees, hurdle rocks and fences, and fight off bigger and smaller animals. I’m not sure how applicable that argument is.

  2. I don’t agree, partially. I believe humans were designed for all-day low intensity, low heart rate exercise, such as walking, gardening, or biking. If you’re jogging at a low heart rate it can be just as beneficial as walking, even for an extended period. There is the issue of the repetitive stress from the foot impact, which I think is because of the hard, man-made surfaces and the underdeveloped muscles in our feet (from wearing shoes since we’ve been born), not the running itself. I’ve heard of a few studies that suggest moving around all day at an easy pace is the most important type of exercise (sorry, I don’t have the references). I don’t think you can be healthy if you exercise intensely for 60/min a week then sit down all day at a desk job though. IMO you can be healthy if you’re walking around all day or doing low intensity exercise like low heart rate jogging/hiking on soft surface trails. What are your thoughts on this? I believe running/jogging can be beneficial, but a lot of people are running the wrong way: at too high a heart rate for too long and on hard surfaces. Also, the photo in your reply is unfair because the distance runner is over 50+ yrs old and bald versus someone in their 20s/30s. I could easily find a photo of a 50+ year old sprinter and a 20 yr old distance runner and turn the tables. Maybe a more objective comparison?

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