Thursday, December 21, 2006

Physical Training Status

In all my Charger-related excitement, I haven't posted much about my physical training. In summary, these are the programs I've tried in recent months:

4 x 7

A program designed by Scott Sonnon that incorporates the Three Wings of CST (Intu-Flow, Prasara Yoga, and Clubbell Training), for improving general athleticism (strength, explosiveness, etc.).


An all-bodyweight strength and conditioning program addressing the Six Degrees Of Freedom, based on Prasara Yoga. From the Wiki page:

Six degrees of freedom (6DoF) refers to motion in three dimensional space, namely the ability to move forward/backward, up/down, left/right (translation in three perpendicular axes) combined with rotation about three perpendicular axes (yaw, pitch, roll).


My current program - I practice Clubbell lifting that is focused on the Bullwhip Combination Routine and a personalized Viniyoga routine on alternating days.

A little bit about each:

4 x 7

The "4" is the four days of a cycle in this program. The "7" is the total number of 4-day cycles, thus bringing the length of the program to 28 days. Day One is Moderate Intensity, Day Two is High Intensity, Day Three is No Intensity (active recovery with joint mobility emphasis), and Day Four is Low Intensity (active recovery using Prasara Yoga, to prep the body for more work). The Day One and Day Two sessions utilize Clubbells, a pullup bar, and a box (or similar implement) for strength/explosiveness training and conditioning. When I tried 4x7, I enjoyed the exercises but I decided my lower back was not ready for the plyometric jumps and the Four Corner Squats (sophisticated variations of the one-legged squat). Also upon retrospect, I was working with a heavier Clubbell than I should have been using for the 2-handed Clubbell exercises of this program.


The FlowFit program consists of 7 exercise families to address the aforementioned Six Degrees of Freedom. Each exercise family has four variations, one for each level of difficulty. In addition, there are Flows, each of which consists of a members of each of the seven exercise families linked together into one continuous movement. There are four Flows, one per difficulty level. This program was designed to be as accessible to as wide a range of people as possible. The Level 1 Flow and exercises, for example, utilize a sturdy stool as a prop for those who are really, really out of shape or recovering from serious injury. As with several other CST programs, the ultimate goal of FlowFit is to achieve "flow-state", otherwise referred to as "being in the zone", which is what elite sportsmen and women such as Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, and Tom Brady experience at the very top of their games.

My personal experience with FlowFit was that it was at first a welcome relief for my back from the plyometric jumps, Four Corner Squats, and heavy two-handed Clubbell work of 4x7. But then I noticed left shoulder soreness and left knee soreness - both joints were previously injured - start to reappear and gradually be aggravated.


Viniyoga, according to the American Viniyoga Institute website, is

an approach to Yoga that adapts the various means and methods of practice to the unique condition, needs and interests of the individual - giving each practitioner the tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation.
This approach evolved out of the teachings transmitted by T. Krishnamacharya and T.K.V. Desikachar of Madras, India.

My previous experience with Yoga, the 12-week course in Iyengar-style yoga, had a positive effect on my low back recovery. However, I was intrigued by the personalized approach to Yoga study and practice promised by Viniyoga, so I found a local instructor and began taking lessons. I am now four weeks into my personalized version of the 10-session low back recovery program developed by Gary Kraftsow at the AVI. My teacher in particular customized the program to address my previous shoulder issue, as well as monitor my low back and adjust the program accordingly. Unlike Iyengar style which seems to place more emphasis on getting into a posture and holding it there, my Viniyoga program places more emphasis on gentle movement into and out of postures, in sync with the breath. So far, the positive effects on my low back recovery have been noticeable and more dramatic than when I took the Iyengar class.

The Bullwhip is a combination routine for single Clubbell, which consists of the component exercises known as the Parry Cast, Arm Cast, and Front Pendulum. I feel this is also having a positive effect on my back recovery.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

AJ Smith, General Manager of the San Diego Chargers

AJ Smith is the chief architect of the resurgent San Diego Chargers. When he was named the new General Manager in spring of 2003, the Chargers had not had a winning season since 1996. They were a perennial laughingstock of the NFL. Check out this great article on how Smith took over, and how he rebuilt the team into the winner that it is today.

Smith clearly believes the key to building a winning team is a solid draft. The 2004 NFL draft was AJ's first truly great draft. It netted the following standout players:

QB Philip Rivers - Now the trigger man of the NFL's highest scoring offense

DE Igor Olshansky - Solid run-stopper and contributor to the NFL's top pass rush

PK Nate Kaeding - Solid kicker who has several touchbacks this year

Offensive linemen Nick Hardwick and Shane Olivea - Key players on the Chargers' best offensive line in years

OLB Shaun Phillips - One of the AFC's top pass rushers, who is also solid in pass coverage and tackling

RB Michael Turner - Capable backup to the great Ladianian Tomlinson,who has made some big plays. Also an excellent kick returner.

The 2005 NFL draft netted the following standout players:

OLB Shawne Merriman - One of the NFL's most disruptive defenders who has just reclaimed the lead in sacks, despite missing 4 games on suspension

DE/DT Luis Castillo - In a 3-4 defense, his job is to take on blockers to free up the likes of Phillips and Merriman to make plays. But he is also explosive enough to make plays on his own

WR Vincent Jackson - A monstrous (6' 5", 241 lb) WR with speed and hands. Though currently a backup, Jackson showed big play capability this year, as well as excellent run-blocking

RB/KR Darren Sproles - A dangerous kick returner who unfortunately is missing this season due to injury

The 2006 NFL draft netted these standouts:

CB Antonio Cromartie - Despite being a rookie, he has been mostly solid as a nickel corner. He has also had some big returns as a kick returner. Cromartie has the greatest physical upside (size, reach, speed) of all Charger CBs.

OT Marcus McNeill - Took over the offensive left tackle position and has exceeded all expectations, excelling in both pass protection and run-blocking. Has the best size-speed combination of all Charger offensive linemen. All top scoring offenses have an elite-class left tackle and the Chargers are no exception.

QB Charlie Whitehurst - A controversial pick to some, but with the departure of Drew Brees and the ascendancy of Philip Rivers, its nice to have another talented young QB to develop in case anything happens to Rivers.

Key free agents brought in by Smith, via trade or straight signing:
WR Keenan McCardell - An accomplished veteran who is not only a key player in the offense but also a teacher to the younger wide receivers.

OT Roman Oben - A solid starter at left tackle in 2004 and 2005, until he was sidelined by injury. Now a solid backup to McNeill.

S Marlon McCree - A veteran playmaking safety who is now doing for the Chargers secondary what McCardell did for the WRs, provide leadership and share secrets of the trade, as well as make plays on the field as the starting free safety.
ILB Randall Godfrey - Solid run stopper
TE Brandon Manumaleuna - Gets plenty of playing time as the Chargers love to use 2-TE sets. He was acquired for his blocking and has excelled in that capacity. However, he has also provided an unexpected bonus as a receiver with his soft hands. His monstrous 288-lb girth makes him a load as both a blocker and receiver. He's a key component of the power run blocking package that makes Tomlinson unstoppable in goal line situations.
QB Billy Volek - Veteran backup to Rivers, who excelled as a Tennesee Titan in relief of injured QB Steve McNair

S Bhawoh Jue - One-time starter at FS who is a solid backup to McCree

CB/S Steve Gregory - Undrafted free agent excelling as a special teams tackler.
OLB Marques Harris - Helped fill in ably for Merriman during his suspension
nfl - Helped fill in for the injured Castillo and is a solid contributor to the DL rotation

You can see from the sheer number of contributing players listed that were acquired in just the past 3 years how AJ Smith transformed the San Diego Chargers from a bad team into a team that just won the AFC West and is expected by many to go to the Superbowl.

In conclusion, here's a photo sequence of AJ Smith enjoying Tomlinson's record-breaking 29th touchdown of the 2006 season, against the rival Broncos. I love this sequence because it shows AJ Smith the passionate football fan, not AJ Smith the hard-nosed businessman:

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Blind, Physically-Challenged Musician in Louisville Marching Band

Please check out this truly inspirational story about this incredibly talented young musician and his devoted dad. And yes, watch the video too.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sight-Reading Tips for Guitarists

Sight-reading on the guitar is a challenge, and it never hurts to try different approaches to see what works for you. Here's an article:

Sight Reading by Steve Carter