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February's Great Fitness Experiment: Sandbags! [Plus Creatine Experiment results]

Posted Jan 31 2011 2:23pm
This pic amuses me because I found it on a site under the heading of "preschool crafts". It's titled "Build a sand castle with tin cans." Uh-huh, sure. You're going to write your kid's college admissions essay too aren't you?

"Why are you buying play sand in the middle of a blizzard?" The cashier at home depot looked at me suspiciously as if a mom with 4 kids in tow (and by "in tow" I mean "running in circles around the cart throwing paint cards at each other while the 4-year-old tantrumed next to the candy he couldn't have") would have ulterior motives. "You building them an indoor playground or something?" Ah, she thinks I've lost my mind!

"An indoor sandbox? Certainly not." I may be addled but I'm not insane. "Actually the sand is for a workout." She looked confused so I explained, "I have these canvas bags, see, and I fill them with sand to make them heavier. So I can lift them." I made a weak bicep curling motion.

"Why don't you just use dumbbells?"

Good question. Perfect question in fact. Back when we first Experimented with kettlebells we also got that question a lot. "Why are you swinging those things in here? Just use the weights like a normal non-freakish person already!" But we quickly learned that kettlebells are not just balls with handles. They're canon balls with handles. And it's that very swinging action that makes all the difference between a traditional free-weight workout and a kettlebell workout.

I grabbed my screaming toddler, scooping him up in my arms. Of course he did what he does best: he made a scene flailing and trying to toss himself out of my arms onto the hard concrete floor. Over the screaming I yelled, "The key is the sandbags are an unstable weight! So you have to work harder to lift and stabilize them, just like this..." I looked down at my suddenly still child. "What are you doing?" I hissed. He lay perfectly limp in my arms. The cashier peered over the counter curiously. I jiggled him. "Come on!" His eyes remained closed without a hint of flutter, his little mouth slack and drooling. Had he tantrumed himself into a seizure? I set him down on the bag of sand and we all stared at him. Never have I seen a 4-year-old so absolutely still.

"Should I call someone?" The cashier ventured. At which point he exploded.

"Stop wooking at me! Can't you see I'm invisible?" Mystery solved.

Which brings me to the main reason I am so excited to try sandbags for February's Great Fitness Experiment: sure they're an unstable weight that activates all kinds of smaller muscles and your core and makes weight lifting exponentially more difficult and therefore more rewarding. But the best part is the sandbag is an unstable weight that doesn't humiliate me in public. Yet.

Plus I'm a total fitness nerd and love to geek out over the latest fitness tools (word on the street has it that the krankcycle is coming to our Y!!) so when Josh Henkin contacted me about his Ultimate Sandbag Core Fitness System I tried to restrain my enthusiasm so I wouldn't scare him away. Okay, no I didn't. I squeeed. (Like peeing but with happy sound effects.) I'm professional like that. He sent me the whole package:

You fill up the two black pouches with sand and then place them inside the duffle bag with handles, allowing you to customize the weight. (Note to Y staff: if you see me lugging a heavy black duffle bag around, it is not a bomb.) It also comes with a strap, instructional videos and - my fave part - a poster of sandbag moves that even came with a little piece of masking tape stuck on the upper corner. It's like Josh tore his own poster down off his wall to send to me. Which only makes me treasure it more!

So this month the Gym Buddies and I will still be finishing the Fitblogger Competition for Charity with Lindsey of Lean Bodies but we'll be adding in some special sandbag moves and workouts. If you want to get an idea of what a sandbag workout looks like, here's one from Josh that incorporates the sandbag, the TRX and kettlebells (it's like I died and went to fit heaven!). We're going to try to use the sandbag in every way imaginable, including some workouts from - Freddy and Zuzana are big sandbag fans.

Last Month's Results - Competition and Creatine
For those of you on Team GFE, you already know that we've swept every week and challenge so far (woot woot!) but we still have two more to go and every workout counts towards our final score! No slacking now - keep up the awesome work! For us, the most entertaining aspect of January's Fitblogger Challenge Experiment was the competition aspect. Usually we only have each other to compete with - Gym Buddy Allison and I are notorious for trying to one-up the other - but this month we had new people (strangers even!) to compete with. We were giddy like high schoolers on prom night. That is until Reader Taylor beat my mile time. (I'll catch up with you Taylor, just you wait!)

But the real experimental aspect of January was that both Gym Buddy Megan and I decided to try out creatine. Like I explained before, the monohydrate made me bloat like a pregnant woman (and made about as cranky as one too) so we used GNC's Pro Performance AMP Amplified Creatine 189 , a form of creatine ethyl esterase. (Seriously GNC could you have picked a longer name? I think you missed a letter of the alphabet.) The results were unimpressive.

The good news: For those of you worried we were going to bulk out like men, that definitely didn't happen. In fact my high hip measurement went down a 1/2 inch and my low hip went down 1/4 inch.

The bad news: I took measurements of all my muscles and got zero hypertrophy. And before you get all righteously indignant with me, we do lift very heavy at least 3 times a week and yes we are both lean enough where a small change would have been noticeable. We weren't necessarily going for big guns but rather to lean out a little more and that didn't happen either. While I wasn't able to get my body fat percentage tested - the trainer wasn't available this morning - judging from the tape measure, my clothing and the way I look, I don't see a difference so I'm guessing there's not any change there either. Nor did Megan.

The weird news: We took the pills as prescribed, 2 a day on weight lifting days, and we both noticed that we got dizzy and light-headed about an hour after taking them. We both also think that perhaps we did recover from our weight workouts a little faster and had less soreness. Maybe.

My verdict? The bottle's going back to GNC. Yay for their generous return policy!

Anyone want in on the sandbag experiment this month? We'll be posting some more videos of the Gym Buddies and I (badly) doing the moves so you can try it out too. Even if you don't have a super high-tech bag like mine you can get started with a homemade one, a large bag of rice or flour or, if you can catch one, a small child.

Anyone else try the creatine? Have you ever been publicly humiliated by a child?

Written with love by Charlotte Hilton Andersen for The Great Fitness Experiment (c) 2011. If you enjoyed this, please check out my new book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything for more of my crazy antics and uncomfortable over-shares!
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