Monday, October 15, 2012

Workouts Begin in the Kitchen: the Tea Ceremony

When does our training practice start each day? I workout in the mornings. I get up early just to get in my workout before work. Usually i've thought of that practice as starting when my physical practice starts: with the first rep of the first set. 

But of late, i think my physical practice actually starts before i get to the mat: it starts with making tea. 

Ritual One: Japanese Green Tea - Genmaicha.

gyroku genmaicha. yum. reusable.
Among it's many benefits, green tea is a fat mobilizer. It is the darling of the fasted cardio crowd for this reason. It is also, intriguingly for something that includes caffeine, a soother. Personally, i dig the taste - i dig the taste of one version in particular: the builder's tea of japanese green teas, genmaicha aka "popcorn tea" - the green tea has bits of popped brown rice in it that gives the tea a nutty flavour. Many genmaichas also include some green matcha powder - whole tea leaves that have been crushed. This is the stuff used in tea ceremonies, and makes it clear that green tea is green. The good thing about good leaves: can get 5-6 uses from one infuser of leaves. That's good value.

Over the course of the morning drink prep, i will make 2-3 liters of the stuff. Here's why:
Traveling US matcha by DO; UK fave matcha, Teapigs
the first litre is for me, right away. I make the tea in a 1L pyrex glass measuring jug with a milk frothing thermometer clipped inside. I'll pour in water off the boil, and let it sit till it hits 79 degrees (actually it's by Anchor - it's taller than the Pyrex and i like that [usa | uk]). Then in goes an infuser with the genmaicha (i like the Large Finum tea baskets [usa | uk]). I'll pour out a bit into another cup, add some teapigs (UK) or DO (US) organic matcha powder, froth up, and pour that back into the litre jug, whisk that , and then part goes into a mug for me right now, and the rest goes into a thermos.

I'll repeat this process of making the tea again, but this time after it's all made, and sometimes without  adding the matcha, i'll ice this tea as it will be the base of my workout drink. 

Morning Tea Kit: themos, tea, matcha,
glass jug, thermometer, china tea cup and
(not shown, durn) whisk
And yup, the kettle is on for the third Litre of the morning. Why? as i'm prepping my workout drink in Ritual three, i'm also chugging back my green tea from the thermos. I actually have TWO drinks for my workout: a protein concoction, described below, and a thermos of green tea. It seems i've gotten into the habit of alternately sipping green tea and protein drink for the long workouts. For these single movement focused training sessions, that seems to be just fine. It reminds me perhaps to stay relaxed while focused between sets. It feels somehow a little decadent or luxurious as well. 

Ken Froese, who's been coaching me, and has been doing a lot of systema training of late keeps telling me strength is easy; relaxation is hard. Going for the sip of tea reminds me that i'm relaxing and recovering in this moment as i plan for the next set. I have found that i have not hit fatigue yet as far as i know in the 3.5 months i've been working on this cycle. Maybe the sipping makes the sessions a bit longer - maybe it lets them be longer so i get more done without the fatigue. Anwyay, i enjoy it.

Ritual Two:  Once the Kettle's On: Essential Amino Acids 

Once the kettle is on, i'll grab a shaker cup and some EAA's, stir em up, and chug 'em back. Starting these (along with a greens sup) over a year ago now have had a profound and tested effect on my mood, sleep quality and body comp strategies. I take these on waking up because they are zero cal. and start to replenish the amino acid pool  in my body before i start to hit it with a stick in my workout. Depending on how i feel about the coming workout, i may also take a caffeine pill right about now. I have been experimenting with these, and, when taken irregularly, i find they can make a difference to my morning heavy day performance. 

Ritual Three:  Prep of The Beverage  (Protein, etc)

For the workouts themselves, i have 1L camelbak eddy bottle - i like this bottle as it, too, via the bite valve, inspires sipping rather than chugging. 

With the iced tea, i'll add about a scoop of either rice protein or pepto pro as the foundation. Then it's creatine for all the goodness of creatine, beta alanine, citruline malate to help with my cell to cell communication - that nitric oxide performance can be readily tested so that with or without citruline malate can be checked. I get test kits from bioletics. It works for me. It's also possible to improve NO by upping beets and greens like spinach. That's also testable. 

Additionally, i'll add about 15g of some kind of sugar/carb stuff. I like cytomax, but am also happy with the much cheaper TrueNutrition mix of malto/dextro with electrolytes and enzymes. I do this much carb-ing because there's enough research to suggest that carbs seem to help both protein and creatine uptake. Based on some work Mike T Nelson's been exploring i'm also going to up those carbs every week or so, just to see if i notice a difference in performance / recovery, keeping everything else constant. 

I will also add some BCAA's to this mix which may well be gilding the lily as likely the pepto pro in particular gets to my body with the same speed as the bcaa's but i'm a belt and suspenders kinda person. 

Filled to the brim of the bottle, i'll have an eigth about ten minutes before the workout starts, sip throughout, and then usually there's about a quarter to a third left that i polish off after the workout. 

Finisher Semi-RItual: Post Workout

Possibly really gilding the lily, i'll have another scoop of EAA's, a vitamin C and some l-glutamine if i'm not going to be eating for awhile. e.g., it's 9AM and i don't want anything else till lunch time. Otherwise, of late, i'll have a breakfast shake - and that's described over here.

Tea Ceremony Coda: Why Bother?

For the most part, i workout in the morning, first thing.
There is something warmly satisfying about getting up to do a workout - to practice a skill - and yet, not jumping out of bed and racing racing racing to go do it. Not to rush. To get up early enough that i can set up the space for the training session of the day, and prep for it, staying relaxed but focused. Relaxed. But focused. 

My own tea (plus additional beverage ) ceremony seems to help me manage that Relax but Focused space. 

These wee pre-practice rituals are not things i developed deliberately to serve this relax/focus end; they've evolved over the past four months - rather quickly - but i've only lately started enjoying them more deliberately, if that's a way to frame it. Rather than being "i need time to make this drink for my workout" - or "i'm doing these EAA's now for prep for 20mins from now" - i'm starting to get that focusing on what i'm doing, enjoying that - has its own rewards, too. 

breathing, thinking, doing,
in the tea zone

Ritual High? You know that runners talk about runners high. Usually it's associated with running for awhile and then getting an endorphin rush. My understanding from more recent work is that just formulating a happy thought before running brings on a high. I'm finding that delighting in this moment's pause before the Big Lift happens. i *really* *enjoy* my green tea - it happens to be *really* *nice* genmaicha (as with anything there are all kinds of qualities). I also *really* *like* putting together a drink combo that no company happens to produce, and working to get the supplement and flavour profiles a little better each day (yes, i think i said "flavour profiles" - too much "top chef"). It's joyful. 

And besides the chemicals i ingest from the polyphenols of the green tea and the aminos and and and that being in a more joyful if not happy place before i start my workout, i'm in a better mental place to face a challenging 85-98% 1RM workout. A lot of this game is mental, isn't it? And well that sip sip of tea during the workout is a pretty good reminder of focus/relax. 

My new plan? Rather than seeing it as a means to an end (the workout) get more into this ritual and see what happens to the workout ahead

Old Skool? I bet the Ritual is something that experienced lifters know all about, and again, i'm just late to the party. Better late than never. WHo knows - this Relax/focus Strength thing may just help me get the Press. 


Addendum: the b2d youtube progress channel

As part of keeping it real, i've started the b2d youtube channel. Dan John talks about success being wrought by Just Showing Up. Maybe these progress moments of the Keep Showing Up Practice may be useful fodder for others pursuing a strength goal. For example: this first ugly but real getting of at 24kg pistol:

Personally, some youtube records that have inspired me? There's a convict conditioning series that shows one person's progress from the start of practice to success with full range of motion.  Wow. 

And thank you to that person for that record. 


Related Links

begin2dig related
YouTube Channel: where we mean "in progress" all the time
Facebook Page: daily b2d chit chat
twitter: @begin2dig

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