Fencing Tournament Physical and Nutritional Preparation

I signed up last week to compete in a fencing tournament on May 1st. Since then I’ve been contemplating how to approach the tournament. I haven’t done any fencing competitions for 2+ years. I’ve gained a lot of sophistication and knowledge in regards to physical training and nutrition in those last 2 years, so I figured I would try to use that knowledge to help improve my game at the tournament. I’m going to need all the help I can get.

Physical Training:

A week isn’t really enough time to have much of an effect on my physical conditioning. It is, however, a great amount of time to heal up. I’ve been going pretty hard the last few weeks and have some sore spots: my wrist hurts, my right index finger hurts, my foot has some hot-spots on it, my ankle is sore, and my back is sore. Nothing too extreme, but all things which could affect my ability to perform at the tournament. I fenced for a few hours today, but that was probably the last real strenuous activity I’ll do before the tournament.

I plan on doing some mobilization and stretching Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this week in replacement of my usual lifting schedule and going to fencing class on Thursday to run some drills and fence a few bouts, but not to fatigue myself too heavily. I’ll also be keeping up with my usual frequent icing of my back throughout the week. The day before the tournament I’ll probably run some blade-work drills at home and just get in the mood for fencing.

Hopefully if I can lock all that down, I’ll be in pretty top shape physically for the tournament on Sunday.


The nutrition side of this is a bit more of an experiment for me. Last time I fenced a tournament, I had a completely different dietary approach (high-carb, low-fat then vs. paleo now). Thinking about the demands of fencing, I think I have a pretty good idea of what I need to eat. Either way, I’m going to try it and modify next time as needed.

A fencing tournament consists of a round-robin style pool (usually 6-8 fencers depending on the number of fencers present). I will get to fence each of these competitors to 5 points or time runs out after 3 minutes. Between each bout I’ll have a few minutes to recover. After this, the fencers are ranked and placed into a direct elimination ladder. These matches are to 15 points and have longer time limits, with a break in the middle (I can’t remember the exact times for this are, somewhere in the 3-5 minute range followed by a 1 minute break, followed by another period of fencing). These periods of fencing require elevated aerobic activity over the entire period of the bout, which short bursts of high intensity, phosphagen and glycolytic pathway work.

Because I typically eat a fairly low-carb, high-fat diet, I’m confident that I can sustain the aerobic portion of my fencing bouts and energy levels throughout the day by converting dietary and body fat into energy. I’ve been playing around the last few weeks with eating more carbs to see what happens, but in order to be certain that I can utilize fat sources effectively on Sunday, I’m going to go back to low-carb eating for the remainder of my time before the tournament. I’ll still be eating some carbs, just not pushing them like I had been the past few weeks. Breakfast on tournament day will be bacon and eggs (like usual), and I’ll bring some pemmican if I need some additional fat during the day (pemmican, in case you don’t know is basically beef-fat and jerky melded together).

The wild card then is the need for bursts of power. I’m going to need glucose to fuel those actions. I should have a reasonable amount of muscular and liver glycogen stores built up via the carbs I’ve eaten plus gluconeogenesis, but they’ll get depleted as things progress. Consuming glucose seems to be the way to go (as opposed to fructose — sucrose appears to be about the same as glucose) to restore muscular glycogen stores (see this study). Glucose also replenishes glycogen much quicker in the first hour following exercise which means I will be consuming it throughout the day between bouts, probably a banana and some berries as they have decent glucose to fructose ratios. I’ll have to go easy on the banana though so I don’t spike my blood-sugar. I’m pretty sugar sensitive since I don’t eat much normally.

Water will also be incredibly important. Wearing 3 layers of clothing and a mask tends to make one sweat a lot. To counteract the fluid and mineral loss, I’ll be prepping this week by taking a calcium/magnesium supplement and putting extra salt on my food. I’ll also probably bring along some coconut water to get some electrolytes as the day goes on. Electrolytes are critical to keep muscles and nerves functioning properly, so the last thing I need is to become deficient and lose precision or accuracy.

This is certainly all just guesses, but it should give me a good baseline to start off of and improve as I attend more tournaments.

Locational Filtering

If you wanted to find fish, where would you go? Certainly not the desert.

Despite trying to avoid this for as long as possible, I’m going to devote a post (partially) to some of my thoughts on romantic relationships. Luckily this concept applies to more than just meeting women though. It just happened to occur to me while thinking about picking up women in a grocery store.

To set the scene: I recently went grocery shopping at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, and as I often do, I was checking out women in the store (in a non-creepy way I assure you). I noticed that there’s a different sort of crowd between the two stores. Trader Joe’s seemed to have older women and more hippy types, whereas Whole Foods had more athletic and younger-looking women. Anyways the point is not what my stereotypes are for both of the stores, but rather that there can be a marked difference in who you meet depending on where you choose to be.

This concept works in dating, business, sports, and many other situations. Just imagine, if you want to meet people involved in the tech industry, go to Silicon Valley. If you want to find outdoorsy people, got to Montana. You’ll have a much more difficult time meeting outdoors types in Silicon Valley or venture capitalists in Montana. Not to say that they don’t exist, but it’s a simply numbers game. The more saturation there is of whatever you’re looking for, the better your chances are of finding it.

Being a programmer, this is an especially pertinent point. I work in a 95% male field (I made that number up — just fyi). If I’m going to try to meet women, it certainly shouldn’t be through work or programming related activities. This runs counter to much that we’ve been taught about finding love or employment. It seems to me that what we’re often told growing up is to just relax and work hard and let things work themselves out. If you just do activities you enjoy, you’ll meet the woman of your dreams because she’ll be interested in the same things that you are. While this is sound logic in that if you meet a woman doing things you love to do, she’ll love doing them too. Yet I still find fault with the general principle from a purely statistical standpoint. (Also the fact that I’m invoking statistics to discuss dating probably means I’m doomed to fail).

The real lesson here though is to consider your environment in life. I think often people forget to give proper credence to physical location. Is it conducive to meeting the goals you’ve set forth for yourself? Is it helping or hindering you? If it’s hindering you, fix it. I mean this in a more general sense than my simple example above. I’m certainly not going to change professions given the low odds that I meet a woman at work, but I did choose to move out of Montana because of the lack of professional opportunities there.

Make your own luck.

Update and review: 100 Pushups Program

I posted a while ago (in February I think) about starting the 100 pushups program to try to get to 100 pushups in a row. I was a bit skeptical at the time of the 100 pushups program but figured it was as good a place as any to start. I quickly became impossible though. I tend to find that this is the case with most programs that claim to be able to do X number of something in X weeks. I’m pretty sure they just do the math to see how many you’d have to increase per week if you want to get your goal by week X. Anyways, I found the the number required in a given workout soon outstripped my ability. I simply cut the workouts down to what I could reasonably do. This usually meant 3-4 sets out of the prescribed 6 or so. I kept on that for a while, improving in 2 weeks from 42 max to 48 max pushups. I was pretty happy with that. Slow and steady. Unfortunately, I injured my wrist shortly thereafter (possibly related). I tweaked it trying out a Jiu Jitsu class, but given the way it’s been behaving since then, I suspect it was borderline before the Jiu Jitsu. After hurting it, it was painful trying to support weight in a pushup positions so I took a few weeks off.

Since then, my wrist hasn’t really improved, but I figured out that I can do pushups pain-free if I do them while gripping dumbbells or on my knuckles. So after  a few weeks off I got back to doing the pushups. My latest plan has been to try to do 30-35 pushups 3-4 times during the day and every few days to max out (or near-max). Doing so I’ve managed to get my max up to 53 as of today. I think if I rest a bit I could probably add a few to that number, but I’m going to keep pushing before I rest.

So some results here:

Max pushups:

2/12/11: 42

3/1/11: 48

4/20/11: 53