Sunday, 9 April 2017

Squat stands (and bench stands).

As is my usual writing style, this is post is a bit long and wordy, but there is a point to it. I built these my way because it suits what I want to do with them but there are easier ways to go about setting this up so it’s (hopefully) worth reading to get some ideas that might suit you better. Also the end product looks a little scrappy, part off that is to do with saving money and part is to do with having these stands work for multiple purposes. You might not need so much functionality, and so your stands can look a lot better than mine.

I wanted to build myself some squat stands so after much Pinterest searching, and contemplating, I had to list of things I wanted from these stands. I wanted them to be movable, I wanted squat and bench height, for myself and my wife, and I want them to fit my fat bar (50mm). That’s a lot of functionality, and a lot going on in a small space.

First step was measuring and planning. The sizes that follow are for myself and my wife, and will likely be different for you, but I’ll list them anyway so you will have a ball park figure in mind. The bar height for me is 1460mm (Squat) and 1110mm (Bench). The bar height for my wife is 1360 (Squat) and 1010 (Bench). The front stops are 40mm higher on each, and the central back stop is 100mm higher than my squat bar height (I.E. 1560mm).

Front rack/Squat height with the fat bar
This is a lot of material and a lot of functionality. It would be much simpler (and cheaper) for just one person or for just squatting, or without wanting it to fit a fat bar. But I think if something is worth doing its worth over doing. Another option, if it is available to you, would be to get just two uprights from a squat stand or power cage, and concrete these into a bucket each, job done.

I bought dressed (smooth), H3 treated (above ground) framing timber. This is 92mm wide by 45mm thick. I cut each of these to the bar height sizes. I then cut the front stops for each bar height from 92x18mm window framing timber. The centre stops were then set up with off cuts. Having these sections not run full length save me some money, but makes the whole thing look a little scrappy.

That is the bulk of the material needed, but the 45mm thickness would not fit my fat bar. I cut some 8mm plywood packers to fit between the framing timber and the front stops, so that there would be space to fit the fat bar. I used plywood I had spare, so again there don’t run all the way, saving some money but making it look scrappy.

This is the two squat heights set up
Everything was screwed together, nailed together, and stood up in a bucket each. I filled each bucket with one bag of quick set cement which I mixed in a third, old bucket. Once set these were heavy enough to stay in place without wobbling too much, but light enough to move (A short distance).

These stands can do everything I want them to which is great. By no means am I saying this is the best design, it’s certainly not the simplest, but I hope it gives to some ideas of features and how you might go about them for your own stands.

Also for comparison these cost me about $130 to build and the cheapest commercially available option for me was a bit more than twice this price.

Should have warmed up first

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Mobility Stick

I’ve been using this piece of PVC pipe for a little over a year now for my shoulder mobility work as set out in the Gymnastic bodies’ handstand course; however I made one minor change recently which has made quite a bit of difference.

I’ll start back at the beginning, to show just why Mobility stick is my preferred option now. This may seem really basic, but trust me; I was able to stuff it up a few times.

The Gymnastic Bodies handstand course utilises lightly weighted mobility with a PVC pipe or wooden dowel for much of the first half of the course. I think the suggested weight is 2-5 pounds with Coach’s stronger athletes using 10-20kg. Now in my stubborn mind, 5kg seemed like a great place to start, and the bar I use on my pull up frame is about 5-6kg so I decided to use this.

So for the next 12-18 months I floundered around, making no progress on the mobility movements because the bar was so damn heavy I couldn’t complete the movements with anywhere close to correct form.

This steel pipe is way too heavy

Then I was listening to a podcast with Coach Sommer (I’m not even sure which one) where he spoke about starting with only 1kg in some cases. That when it hit me, the pipe was way too heavy for me. So I switched the steel pipe out for PVC with a 2.5kg weight. Suddenly I was able to do the movements. Not great, not even well, but at least the resembled what I should be doing.

I had been grinding along for about a year with the PVC pipe when I got the idea to add some marker points to get a gauge of how close I was to shoulder width (Or one hand with outside). So I got out some tape, marked out the center, shoulder width, then 1, 2 and 3 hand widths for shoulder width. This lead to the next big gains in shoulder mobility. Now I was able to better gauge where I was, where I was going, and where I was last session. This has helped me to push just a little harder each session, while not over doing it by setting my hands too close too soon.

So the take away from this twofold. Don’t use too heavy of a pipe, start very light (bonus point, make it load-able). And secondly, see up some markers you can work to. This last point kind of goes without saying, but if you’re not working on your shoulder mobility, you should be. Look up Gymnastic bodies, weighted dislocates (take their advice, not mine), and start working on it. Go slow, it could take years, but it’s worth doing. Don’t be lazy, work on it.

It may seem like 500 words is way too many to say wrap some PVC pipe with electrical tape, but I made mistakes so that you don’t have to.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Hike up to the Pinnacles Hut – Coromandel Forest park

The Pinnacles hut is the Department of Conservation’s largest hut located in the Coromandel Forest Park. The Pinnacles (a large high rock outcrop) is located a short walk from the hut, so it’s a popular day or overnight walk. There are two main tracks up to the hut, one long and one short. I’ve walked the shorter option before, up the Web track and down the Billy goat track and I really wanted to walk the longer track (Via Moss Creek). There is also a long one way track to the north which would be interesting to check out.

The Web track and Billy Goat track are both very well maintained tracks for the high number of tourists which make the hike up to the Hut. Having walked both, my preference is for the Billy Goat track, it’s slightly longer, with better and more varied views. For this hike I wanted to go via the Moss Creek campsite. This track is much longer (8 hours), less maintained (very muddy) and DoC tries to steer people away for walking this route. 

An example of the Webb track

I understand why DoC tries to talk people out of it, the hut warden was telling me he often has people arriving  at the hut at 8,9, 10 even 11pm at night having miss judged the track and their own fitness. And he was talking about the 3 hour track. I was confident in my ability and fitness to tackle this track, and I knew the friends coming with me would be capable as well. Since I wasn’t sure how hard the track would be, I was prepared for something tough. While the track was somewhat tough, it really didn’t bother me at all, the Bell track up Mt Pirongia was far harder.

The first hour of the walk for the road end was pretty easy; the first little section is part of the main Webb track before it split off towards Moss Creek. The track was definitely less maintained, and had a couple of windfalls to get around, but nothing major. After the first hour it started going up, and up, and up. Often a hands and feet climb that went on for nearly two hours gaining approximately 580m of elevation. This section was most of the elevation we would gain, so it got the hardest part out of the way first.

Great views on the way up

The mud started just before the turn off to the Moss Creek campsite. We stopped for lunch at the campsite, approximately 10 minutes off the main track. The view was not bad, but that’s about all the camp site had (a picnic table would have been a great addition). On the way back to the main track we spotted a 3 bed hut just off the track less than 5 minutes from the camp site. It was a cool little hut and not on any maps I’ve seen.

The Moss creek camp site
Walking through a swamp

The next section as a whole lot of mud, a bit of a pain, but nothing compared to Mt Pirongia so it really wasn’t a problem. There was about 2 hours of this before we got to some higher rocky sections with some decent views. After this section it seemed like we had past the worst of it (we had) and that the track was nowhere near as hard as suggested, tough yes but more than manageable.

Table monutain
Easier going track

We took a break the junction with the Rangihau track (we have been going for just under 6 hours at this point) before moving into the last stretch. This section had some nice views of the range from a different angle to what I had previously seen. There was a little up and down, a little tough but the hut was getting close which helped. We made it to the hut in just under 8 hours so the track times were spot on.

This view of the Pinnacles means we're nearly at the hut

I dumped my big pack in the hut before heading up to the Pinnacles to take in the view and get some photos. The walk is listed as 50 minutes each way, but I made it in 50 minutes return. The Pinnacles are well worth the climb and would make for a great day trip with lunch at the hut.

On the way up to the pinnacles
Also at the top of the Pinnacles

The hut sleeps 70 people, and it’s a reasonable short, easy walk via the web track so there were a lot of families with kids at the hut, so maybe take a tent and camp if you want some quiet, although this time the hut wasn’t so bad.

The next day was an easy walk down via the Webb track taking only 2 hours 20 minutes.

I quite like this Forest Park for hiking (Crosbies hut on the other side of the valley is great too) so would definitely hike up again, maybe via the Rangihau track, but next time it might be good to camp for a slightly different experience.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Hiking Mt. Pirongia (Hihikiwi track)

This track is part of the Te Araroa trail which covers the length of New Zealand, the trail goes over the summit of Mt Pirongia via the Tahanui track to the north and the Hihikiwi track to the south. Previously I have walked most of the other main tracks up to the summit, but not the Hihikiwi track so I wanted to check this track out sometime this summer.

The DoC website listed this hike as 4-6 hours, so I thought it would be a reasonably easy hike, nothing too strenuous. I was even more at ease when I saw the sign post for 3 and a half hours to the hut at the start of the track, little did I know what we were in for.

An easy start to the track

The track started off quite easy nice track; gentle climbing and then we hit the mud. Long, wide sections of up to knee deep mud. The elevation gain remained fairly stead, but easy but the really difficulty was the mud. As much as we could we kept to the outside, and just off track to get around the mud but eventually you give up and reside to the fact that you are now wading through mud. There were sections of board walk, but they were few and far between. I probably took 3 hours to reach the lookout, and at least half of that would have been in the mud. 
Thats a lot of mud
Knee deep.

On the way up we saw a goat control hunter and had a chat to him, the previous day the team had killed 65 goats and would kill about 1000 in the season. Goats are an introduced pest which destroy the habitat of native birds, and prevent the re growth of a lot of regenerating native bush so however you feel about the killing of animals something has to be done about the goats.

We also meet a solo woman walking the Te Araroa trail North to South, she seemed like she was having a hard time with the mud, and we didn’t know at the time she had just passed the worst of it, and we were heading into it.

After the lookout was very easy going, the whole way to the hut was board walked. I plan had been to head from the hut over to the Cone to take some photos. I though the Cone was 30 minutes away, but I realised that it was an hour. Knowing that I would be an hour there and an hour back in more mud, I decided to give it a miss. It had only taken us 3:45 to get up to the hut, but the mud had sapped my energy for any more hiking that day.

The cone from the Lookout

Not far to go now
Had a relaxing afternoon chatting to people as that came up, the hut ended up quite full and it was great talking to different people, which direction they had taken, plans for the rest of the summer etc. The hut is great, nice big kitchen and dining area to cook and hang out in. The one down side was there weren’t any of the usual National Geographic’s or Time magazines one normal finds to read in huts like this so it was a bit of a long afternoon since the hike was so short. There is also a really well set up area for tents, and a cooking area for campers so I like to set up there with some friends some time.

The walk back the next day was much easier. We knew what we were getting ourselves in for with the mud, and had better strategies for getting around it, and finding better foot placements in shallower sections of mud. It only took 3:30 to get back down the Mountain. 

Chain to climb up, on the way back

I like Mt Pirongia, it has a great hut set up and amazing views but all the mud makes it difficult, no doubt I’ll hike up again, but maybe not via the Hihikiwi track. As one person put it, Pirongia is ‘a vertical swamp’.