LGN 25: The Finisher

Did I do one of these already? If I did, I didn’t do it justice. A while back I said that I’d do a more literary interpretation of one of my Underground Athlete workouts.  I wonder how many people have filtered out my blog or my posts because of all these fitness blogs (aside from my usual rambling).  Well, they’ll be here when you want ’em.  For those of you who are into it, let’s go.

Aw crap. My iPad Nano died.  New gadget time!

Yesterday evening I knew it was going to be an interesting workout. I’ve eaten a lot of broccoli over the past two and a half days or so. With grated cheese.  Uh oh.

Click here to see all of my LGN (I want to Look Good Naked) posts.

I’m always paranoid and hyper-aware of what I’m eating before exercise. I mentioned a while back how I used to mountain bike like crazy and would make sure to do it on an empty stomach because I was afraid of cramps and nausea. Lo and behold I used to get leg cramps on almost every ride. But what can you expect when doing long, intense exercise on no fuel.

So now I know I have to have some kind of fuel in me. And I know that I have to eat very safe foods (and not much of it or in smaller portions) on the day of a workout.

Well, yesterday I made a mistake. That’s the bad news. But I did get some vegetables in there. That’s the good news. On the way to Underground Athlete an alien monster made of bright green broccoli gas tried to burst its way out of my abdomen. And eventually found a path of less resistance. That was more bad news.

“This isn’t good,” I thought as I rolled down the windows.


I got there and was feeling alright. Once you get moving, the body switches gears and puts all that digestion stuff on hold.

We did some warm ups on the floor followed by the skips, shuffles, short sprints and hand walk. We usually activate the glutes by doing the sidewalk with bands around the ankles. If you’ve never tried that, I recommend. It’s one of those, “Wow, what the heck! There are muscles there. And weak muscles. Weak muscles screaming for mercy.”

The whole point is to wake up and activate all of those little, neglected muscle groups that suffer our near sedentary habits. You know, sitting most of the day and not stretching or moving to counteract it all.

That gets the blood flowing, the heart rate up, and leaves me a little winded for a minute.

The order is RSAI. I think that’s right. Roll out, Stretch, Activate and … uh … something that begins with the letter “I”. Integrate?


The sets tend to be divided in different groups. In my program I’ll have A’s, B’s and C’s. A1 A2, B1 B2, C1 C2, for example.

The A’s are full body and pretty intense. Med ball slams/tosses or kettle bell burpee cleans. Or maybe snatches. Something like that. Often in related pairs, the different sets complement each other. A push for a group of muscles followed by a pull. Or upper body followed by lower body.

The subsequent sets get to other or more specific parts of the body but still with that “holistic” approach. Movements that include your core/abs and smaller muscles that you’ll feel twitching. Like banded pushups. Or mini-band pushups.

  • Mini-band around the wrists.
  • Start in a pushup position with the wrists together in the center,
  • move the left hand over to the left,
  • do a pushup,
  • move left hand back to center,
  • move the right hand to the right,
  • do a pushup,
  • move right hand back to center

That’s one rep.

One day we were doing a full body workout and Justin had me do an exercise. It wore me out. I asked him what it’s called. He said, “Eh. It’s a pushup. There are all kinds of names for things but it’s pretty much a pushup.”

I’d like to place an asterisk after that.

  • Pushup position with your feet on a big exercise ball
  • Move your feet in, butt up, into a pike position
  • Back down to pushup position
  • Push backward
  • Come back forward
  • Do a pushup

That’s one rep of a pushup*.

Justin targets your weaknesses and your goals. He’s working the hell out of my shoulders this cycle. That reminds me. There’s some exercises, stretches and rolling out that I don’t do as often as I should. Gotta get on that.

I noticed that loaded squats and lunges really get my heart rate up, especially when my upper body is tired.

And apparently, jumping. So you can imagine that by the end of all of my sets I’m pretty worked out. Feeling tired in a good way. Sweating like crazy, breathing heavy.

Good workout, right? And then comes…


If you Google “finisher” you’ll see that some people call them Afterburners, which makes them sound like something a Transformer would do.  It’s basically a high intensity set of exercises meant to crank up your metabolism as you push yourself to your limits.  I guess it depends on your goals and your ability, how intense the Finisher will be or how much you can push yourself.  Love them or hate them, depending on whether you are or are not an insane masochist, they get results.

Note: It’s very difficult, if not impossible to be mentally tough when you’re physically fatigued.  I don’t mean tired from the workout.  I mean from lack of sleep, for example.  All you professional interrogators out there know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes you do them for the best time.  Well, so far I’ve just been trying to survive them.  In the next few weeks my goal is to improve my performance.  (It’s mountain biking time — as is evidenced by shaven legs — and that will help my aerobic fitness a LOT, especially now that my legs are fiercely strong enough to challenge my cardiovascular system.)  So I’ve been telling Justin that I’m going to start surprising him on the Finishers.

Here’s one we did the other night, give or take.

  1. 10 Stairs
  2. Whack the giant tire 20 times (right hand side and left hand side) with a big sledgehammer
  3. Tire flips (flipping a 400 lb. tire down and back), 20 yds.
  4. Rear leg elevated leg squats (20 per leg) with a jump
  5. Bear crawls (for a total of 50 yds.)

The stairs slowed me down, as stairs will do.

My sledgehammer form wasn’t great and it was kind of fun except sledgehammers are kind of heavy and due to some kind of Asgardian magic (they’re descended from Mjolnir, I think), their gravitational field grows stronger each time you swing them.

Tire Flips
The first few tire flips were easy.  Once you get tired (pun intended), you start to forget your form, though.  You start bending down awkwardly, rounding your back, and trying to lift it — don’t do that — instead of pushing it with your legs (bolstered by your torso against the tire).

I was still doing okay.  Then the rear foot elevated split squats (RFESS).  Those frakkers.  The loaded lunges had already turned my quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes into mush.  The stairs added a little sizzle to the flame.

The RFESS can be tough and Justin added a jump to each one on the upstroke.

That’s when I started to peter out.  Right leg burning.  Stop.  Rest.  Breathe.

Meanwhile, Justin and Alan are encouraging me.  At least I made them work for it.  🙂

There was lots of stopping, resting and breathing.

Now, there are times during a workout, especially at Finishers, where I start to smell brimstone.  The gym fills with smoke and flame and two Hellboy horns appear on Justin’s head.  His stopwatch turns into a pitchfork.  Tormented visages of the souls of obese people appear in the walls, reaching for me, poking me in the love handles.

At this point, I may have thoughts like, “Why do I pay someone to make me do this??  I feel Finished, already.”

Bear Crawls

I made it through the RFESS.  For some reason I wasn’t expecting the Bear Crawls.  They were a modification of another thing that wasn’t quite working out.

When he said 5 bear crawls, my morale bottomed out.  That means down the room and back 5 times for a total of 50 yards.  I had that feeling of doom.  “But my will won’t.”

I collapsed multiple times.

Meanwhile, Justin is saying, “Don’t rest.  Come on.  Knees off the floor.  Don’t let your knees touch the floor.  Come on, Gary!”

I was struggling big time.  Trying to breathe through my mouth, my nose, my eyes, my ears.  Sweat pouring off my face.  I was barely making it, a few feet at a time.  It was really only on the power of the motivation, too.  If I had been the only one in the room, I would have given up right after or right during the RFESS.

I’m not a competitive person.  Justin knows that.  He asked me that when I first signed up.  But he has his ways to pull your best out of you. Sometimes he’ll do part of the Finisher with me.  Like a pacer.  That works sometimes.  When I can breathe.  Usually, I’m either fighting complete lack of oxygen or failing muscles.  Or both.  One or the other, you can push a little bit.  To an extent.  But both?  Uh uh.

But he knows my Achilles heel.  He takes one of my fellow trainees hostage.

“Alan, get in plank position.”

Plank position is deceptive.  It looks so easy.  It feels easy for the first 10 seconds.  And then … it kicks in.

“Alan, hold that plank position until Gary finishes.  Come on, Gary.  You can’t let him down.  Let’s go!”


Poor Alan.  He was a good guy.  He will be missed.

No, you know I can’t go out like that.  The fourth time I plodded slowly across the room in the bear crawl position, knees dropping, arms and legs quivering, acutely aware of passing time.  Alan didn’t make a sound of protest or effort.  He just said, “You got it, Gary.”

Then the fifth time I managed to get back with a burst of reserves that I didn’t know I had.  No idea where it comes from, that last bit.  I want to learn how to tap that earlier.  I don’t know how to get there.  I just find myself there.  But I did the last ten yards with a little hustle.

And then I collapsed on the giant tire, trying to control my breath so it didn’t turn into useless gasping or wheezing.  Then I flopped on to the floor trying to get the acid burning sensation out of my muscles.

Then magically, Justin turns back into the winged, glowing, haloed personal trainer that he was when I walked in.

Strange but true, after a few minutes I’m up and walking around and hear myself saying:

“Thanks, Justin.  See you next time.”

A little out of date but it's the lowest so far.

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