Sunday, 20 March 2016

Homemade lifting platform

This may be wordy but bear with me, I did all the back and forth in my own head and made some mistakes so you don’t have to.

Before I get started this platform is less than ideal, because it’s going in a less than ideal area. Ideally my platform would be indoors, twice as long and another sheet of plywood thick. However I don’t have to overhead space in my garage for a lifting platform so it has to be built outside. I’m also short on outdoor space so I have to be able to store away my platform. So clearly a 2.4m long platform is out, and a three layers thick platform is out (too heavy).  So this is what I’m left with.

Now for the why. I have been interested in Olympic lifting since very early in my fitness journey. I got even more interested when I started listening to the Paleo Solution podcast with Greg Everett. The more I learnt about training the more Olympic lifting came up for being the best explosive strength builder. Not that I finally saved up the money for a set of bumper plates and Olympic lifting bar I needed a platform so I don’t damage the gear I worked hard to buy.

As I outlined above most platforms are built with 5 overlapping sheets of ply wood but I wasn’t going to be able to move this. So I bought one sheet of 19mm and one sheet of 15mm, both treated. The 19mm is for the bottom and since the mats I could source are 15mm the top sheet is then 15mm ply. The rubber sheets were 1m x1m so they had to be cut and joined, I’ll talk about that more later.

Now I could have left the 19mm sheet at its full 2400mm but cutting it down to 2300 gave me a more useable off cut from my squares of rubber. Looking at the platform with a barbell on it I should have left the sheet 2400mm, but it’s not too big of a deal.

I had a lot of back and forth with myself over whether the centre sheet should be 1200 or smaller (1100). Wider gives me more room to wander and get my balance, but narrower allows more room for the plates. Then I found that Greg Everett builds his narrower than 1200 so I went with 1100 wide. I think I made the right choice.

With the 19mm sheet cut down I measured where the centre sheet would go and measured out where I would put some lifting straps. These were from a damaged strap we use a work; they are rated to 1000kg. I glued these down with no more nails (brand) and having measured them I put a few screws through the top also. These straps allow for easier moving of the platform. I would not use them as anchors for bands. As an aside I didn’t organise anything for anchoring bands, but I’ve got some ideas I might try, though I don’t think that I really need to get that fancy with my deadlifts.

Now I was left with 600mm either side for my rubber sheets. I cut each down to 600mm. If you can, cut on a slightly backwards angle so the top buts up nice and clean with the centre sheet of ply. I then used one of the 400mm off cuts cut down to fill the last 200mm.

As I said before I could have cut down the whole platform to 1m, but I decided it was safer to have a longer platform with joins in the rubber than simply a shorter platform. If you can source longer rubber matting then that’s even better.

This is the 200mm extension

I screwed everything down with 25mm screws (I got internal screws by mistake, spend the money and buy stainless steel). I chose not to glue anything but the straps just encase anything gets damaged it easy to replace. I’m also not sure if the heads on the screws I used is wide enough. I may need to add a washer to each screw.

This is where it will be stored

All finished the project took about half a day and less than $200 NZ, when most pre built platforms cost $1000. From a first quick use, the bar can bounce around a bit so I’ll have to guild it down as safely as I can which is good practice anyway.

I’ll update any changes I make and how the platform holds up.

One last note on the placement of the platform, I have modified the clothesline so that I can take down the closest line easily and move it out of the way while lifting.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Hiking in Vibram 5 fingers

You may have seen from my hiking posts that I do all my hiking in Vibram five fingers (some shorter hikes, 2 hours or so I’ll do in bare feet). I even wrote a whole post about what I wear on my feet, you can find that here. This post however, is specifically about hiking in Vibrams.

I had been wearing Vibram 5 fingers and into bare footing for years before I got into doing any longer hiking and multi days so it was natural for me to just start hiking in 5 fingers as opposed to shoes or big hiking boots. One of the questions/suggestions/fears from others came in the form of needing ankle protection/stability. The typical conversation went on about uneven ground, heavy load on my back and the increased risk of rolling an ankle. Since I had been in 5 fingers for years before hand as my daily shoes, runners (up to 10km) and for parkour I had built up my very own ankle stability, I didn’t need to get it form a pair of boots.

As an aside I have once rolled an ankle, if you can call it that. I was walking backwards, carrying one side of a 150kg window when I slipped on a raised garden bed rolling my ankle. It took 75kg of additional weight to roll my ankle and the next day there was only very minor stiffness. So I feel more than confident in my ankle stability.

So the first main point:

Before you start hiking in 5 fingers your feet need to be conditioned to it.

I wore mind daily and could run 10km easily in them without feeling any pain in my feet or calves the next day so my feet were more than ready for the test.

And the second main point:

Your feet will be sore the next day

After all of my big hikes my feet have been somewhat sore the next day, a kind of worked muscle soreness from training. The hikes that I have done have been pretty long often 20km on the first day, so 20km on uneven ground with a 16-20kg pack is a huge task even if you are used to 5 fingers daily. This isn’t a major problem so long as you’re not planning to go for 2-3 days of 20km per day on your first hike in 5 fingers.

This next point applies to obstacle course racing also

You will spend a lot of the time with wet/muddy shoes

There will be mud
There will inevitably be a stream, or puddle or big mud pit that you have to cross, often there is a way around but if you’re in the bush you will come to one you cannot easily get around. You have to give in to the fact that your feet will be wet and muddy. I don’t often make much effort to get around big mud puddles now, since I know my feet will eventually get wet.

On this point it’s often easier to just keep walking in there is a little something in your shoe that bugging you as long as it’s not too big. Vibrams are difficult to get on and off when wet so it’s easier to just keep going. But then again I never get blisters so I can get away with something rubbing on my foot for hours.

Now for something quite timely

The risk of injury is greater

If you follow my posts you will know that I broke a toe on my last hike, and re injured my big toe joint on the hike before that. You really have to remain in the moment while hiking to stay safe, and you need to stay on top of your pre-hab and rehab to look after your feet. I hope to make a post in the future on my foot care/training.

Now lastly a look at the KSO vs the KSO trek

 I did my first hikes in KSO’s since they were my every day shoes and are the thinnest fully covered 5 fingers. They were pretty good however they have zero grip in wet and as they were thinner I found walking over large rocks quite difficult. This didn’t bother me so much, I was just a little slower but I couldn’t keep up with friends wearing boots. So by changing to slightly thicker KSO treks, with some grip I’m faster over rocks, will more grip in the mud. These are now my go to hiking shoe.

Lastly a quick point on gait

I find that minimalist shoes force the wearer to land with the ball of the foot directly under the centre of gravity. Doing so, I found that when I did slip in some mud my whole body with slip directly forward and I would remain standing. When others in boots slipped they were in a heel first gait so as the heel slipped out with their centre of gravity further back they would land on their ass, with a 16-20kg pack pulling them down.

For all the points above and more I really enjoy hiking in 5 fingers but I do urge caution and patients to build up to it.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Easy hike and the danger of not being present

After searching for semi local hikes and huts to check out I found one around 3 hours drive from my house that I wanted to check out. Leitches hut south of Te Kuiti has 4 open tracks leading to it, ranging from 3-7 hours. The 7 hour track would have been great if I could have taken a shorter walk out, 7 hours in is perfect for me but I really didn’t want to retrace my steps another 7 hours in the morning. I decided to take an easy 3 hour walk in as it was the easiest to get to and didn’t require private land owners permission for passage through.  

The track was really well maintained and the first half of the track was wide enough for a quad bike. This was really a welcome change from the last hike it did in the Waikato (see here for the Mt Pirongia climb).

The only problem was that I wasn’t particularly present while hiking in, for whatever reason my mind was elsewhere and I tripped a couple of times in my vibrams. The first trip was about half an hour in was quite painful and remained difficult to walk on (more on this later).

Seven goats only 50 meters away
Upon finally reaching the hut I was quite satisfied to take a break and just chill out at the hut reading (Fight Club) and listening to the Joe Rogan Experience. While I read I heard a kid (young goat) and got to watch 7 goats feeding 50 meters away which was really cool to see, I’d love to come back with a rifle to get some wild meat.

The walk back was much more enjoyable, I was fast and present and found the walk quite relaxing, however my toe was swollen and giving my just a little bit of trouble.

Fast forward a day and I decided it was best to have the toe checked out. As it turns out I had broken my toe. Now I’ve got two weeks with my toe strapped up before I get it re checked. I’m hoping for the best as I’ve got a 4 day hike planned for 3 weeks time.

A little bruising for a little break
On another note I quite enjoyed doing a much easier hike, while I enjoy the challenge of a rough trail; just walking slowly over a wide trail is very relaxing. In future I might try to get a mix of easier tourist trails and harder back country trails.

The track over this hill is closed to the public