Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Improving

This week's strongman training went much better than last week's. Apparently removing booze from my life and sleeping like the dead (and eating a lot) actually does improve recovery and athletic capacity. Who'd have thunk? The medley that almost killed me last week? Well, we did it again, and this time we added a 450 lb. backward sled drag (75 ft.) to the end of it. I'm not going to lie; I was scared. I couldn't even finish the farmer carry without assistance last time, and my body literally felt like it was going to stop functioning, and now I have to do that plus more (incredibly heavy) work? Gulp.

But I impressed myself, in that I did the whole thing unbroken without assistance, and in much less time than before, even with the added work. I figured out an easier way of carrying kegs that allowed me to take longer steps, which saved my legs a bit, the weather was better (last week was really dry), and my body is just getting better, stronger, and more capable. If last week's effort was a 10 on the difficulty/pain scale, this time it was like a 6 or 7. I was winded, for sure, but no more so than a normal Crossfit workout. I'm very happy with this, I was afraid I was always going to feel like dying, and I wasn't sure I could handle that, mentally.

This week we also did an overhead medley: one rep each of keg press (pretty light, maybe like 60 lbs.), log clean + press (185 lbs.), axle clean + press (210 lbs.), and circus dumbbell press (~110 lbs. I think). I ended up doing it twice through, just to get in some conditioning, but I smoked this, mostly due to my experience with Olympic lifting and knowing how to actually jerk a weight (which involves dropping under the weight after you've applied upward force) instead of just push-pressing it (which has no re-bend of the knees). The other two dudes who are around my level are both stronger than me on pulls from the ground, and just overall, but I beat both of them at this due to my technique (neither of them were able to complete 2 run-throughs, as they kept failing their lockouts).

They kicked my ass on the Atlas stone, though. I've never even lapped a stone larger than about 175, and here I was being told to lap and load a 240 pounder. At first I couldn't even budget the thing from the ground, but then I got tackied up (tacky is a pine resin that's incredibly sticky, which improves grip on stones) and was able to lap it a few times, and actually load it over the yoke once. The other guys loaded it for multiple reps, which made me feel like a chump, but it's just something I have to practice and get used to. I was left with 6 gnarly bruises for my efforts (forearms, biceps, and inner thighs), but they say my body will adapt and stop bruising as I do the movement more.

I don't have any strongman training this week, as the other guys will be at Strongman nationals in Texas competing. Since I do have access to some strongman equipment at my home gym I plan on coming up with a couple of medley-type workouts for myself this Saturday, and I'm thinking I can probably talk some other dudes to give it a shot too, so that should be fun. Maybe some keg walks and tire flips, plus a prowler push or drag. We'll see; it's fun to play around with this stuff, as it's pretty endless with regards to possibilities.

So, yeah, getting stronger, still feeling good, still not drinking, still not worried too much about diet. I told myself I'd focus on not drinking for at least a month before making any other changes to my routine, and I'm halfway there as of today. Next month I should be pretty used to not drinking, so I'll then make some changes to my diet so I can improve my body composition again. It'll be pretty cool if I can actually lean out a bit over the holidays this year, instead of my normal 20 lb. gain.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Holy crap

I did my first Strongman workout today. Like I mentioned earlier, the dudes (and one lady) I'm training with are legit, training for nationals in 2 weeks. There were 6 of us in total, with me being the smallest guy (at 225 lol).

We started out with axle-bar jerks (ground to shoulder, then shoulder to overhead). The axle bar is much fatter than a regular barbel, more like a length of 2" pipe than a barbell, really. Also, the ends don't spin like an Olympic barbell, so it's harder to get from ground to shoulder. I worked up to about 190 for a triple (one clean, three jerks), which was fine. My overhead strength is my best aspect, and I could've gone heavier no problem.

Then I played around with another axle bar, but this one actually had truck tires on it, so it started from higher off the ground (which makes it a bit easier) but was also heavier and more unwieldy due to it's size. I learned how to get it up using a Continental (wearing a belt, you lift the bar up onto your belly, the pop your knees fast and move the bar to your shoulder), and did a single overhead with 220, which I was pretty happy about. I could've gotten more, but I knew there was a lot more stuff to be done, so I left it at that.

Next up was farmer carries. I warmed up with about 135 in each hand for 50 yards (25 and back), then moved up to about 205 in each hand for 25 yards, which was tough but doable. Then came the hardest thing of the day: a medley of kegs and farmer's carry. A yoke was set up really low, so we could throw the kegs over it. Then 3 kegs were set up 25 feet apart, the one furthest from the yoke being the lightest, closest the heaviest. You start at the far end, carry the lightest keg 75 feet, throw it over the yoke, grab the middle one, go 50 feet, throw it over, then the heaviest, 25 feet and over. Then grab the farmer's implement (still loaded with 205 on each side) and walk for 75 feet. This was one of the most heinous things I've ever done, physically. The kegs were heavy as hell, with the heaviest weighing in over 300 pounds, IIRC. The first one was fine, second one I started slowing down, and the third one I ended up dropping a couple of times because I literally could not fire my quad muscles any more. I finally got it over, then moved on to the farmer's implement. I was so smoked and sucking so much wind at this point that I couldn't even pick the damn thing up, but a couple dudes helped me and screamed at me the whole way. I dropped it a couple times because my grip failed, and tore a small chunk of skin off (not bad, though), but I did finish. It took me 3 1/2 minutes, even though the real time limit in competition would be 90 seconds. Oh, also, the humidity is in the single digits today, with gusty winds up to 50 mph, so the air was so dry I literally couldn't swallow afterward until I got some water, and then I couldn't stop breathing hard for about 20 minutes. Started coughing up phlegm all over the place too lol, just because I was camping last weekend and was around a lot of smoke and dust.

This *wrecked* me. I can think of maybe one or two Crossfit workouts I've done that might compare, but it's definitely up there in terms of hard shit I've done. I know where I can make some changes, though. My keg technique was crap, and my conditioning is really bad right now. Once I get it back up things like this will be not quite so gnarly. I also know now where I need to focus my training: grip, legs, and wind. And I need to get me a keg full of sand to practice on.

After that I kinda just hung out for a while as the other people did their version of this medley (of course with heavier weights and way faster) and recovered a bit, at least to the point where I could walk and talk again. The last thing we did was deadlift a car for reps. No joke; they have a welded steel rig that you park the back wheels of a car onto, and it has handles on the ends, and you lift it for reps. You can adjust the handles to make it easier or harder (basically lengthen or shorten the lever arm), but I couldn't even do one rep on the easiest (the guy who was closest to my ability there did it for an easy 10).

The girl who was training with us (who was strong as hell) couldn't do the car either (even though it was her car) so they removed it and placed a tire instead, which I think weighed 500+. She repped that for 10 with a 230+ lb. dude sitting on the tire, then it was my turn. Of course, I couldn't do the same weight as a girl and maintain my dignity, so they had another dude who had to weight at least 325 sit on it along with the other dude for me. I hit 5 reps before failing, then the lighter dude got up and I repped it with just the big dude for another 5 reps. After that I was doneskies.

All in all it was an eye opening experience. I've never really done stuff that heavy before, and it really highlighted my weaknesses. Right now I'm sore and tight, but no damage was done, but I'll probably walk like a cripple tomorrow. I committed to come back next week, so now I have a reason to train hard and smart in the gym this week: so I don't look like such a weakling next week. I need to continue working on my grip strength, but I also need to learn how to use my legs again, because I kept defaulting to using my lower back for a lot of stuff, and that's just no good, both in terms of exerting force and for orthopedic health.

I can tell my metabolism was cranked to the max, because afterward I was ravenous, and I destroyed an El Pollo Loco ultimate double chicken bowl, which is a lot of food, and then 3 hours later downed a half pound of salmon, a bunch of rice with butter, and some buttered almonds, and I could still go for some dessert. Feels good to gorge on healthy protein after a hard sesh.

That's it for now, I'll keep you posted as my training continues.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Off to the races

Sorry for the late post, work's been pretty busy this week. I've started training again as of the first of the month. I haven't been lifting consistently for the last 2 months, so right now I'm slowly working my way back up in terms of volume and intensity so I can hopefully avoid being completely wrecked sore. Right now my basic training template is just compound lifts, mostly 3 sets of 5, increasing weights each session. For example, Tuesday was 3x5 back squat at 225, 3x5 shoulder press at 125, supersetted with 3x8 barbell row at 125 and 3x12 DB curls at 35, deadlift 1x5 at 265 (double-overhand grip to improve grip strength). Finished up with some atlas stone work (lapping and shouldering the 140 lb. stone) just to get in some practice with the strongman implements. Today's training will be similar (front squats, power cleans, bench press, hopefully some yoke or tire work). These are baby weights, but I have to re-train my nervous system and supporting tissues before I can push myself as hard as I would like, unless I want an injury.

Saturday will be my first real strongman training session, so I'm looking forward to that quite a bit. I'm trying to do enough work this week so I won't be weak like kitten, but not so much that I'm really sore for Saturday, since I understand that it's about 4 hours long. I'm sure I'll be smashed afterward, but I'm really excited regardless.

In terms of eating I'm not really too focused on that right now. I've done some research into human habits and willpower, and the evidence suggests that it's much more likely to create a new habit or break an old one if you focus on a single thing at a time. That's been my experience in the past as well. So right now I'm focused on not drinking, and the training just kind of helps with that. I love training, that's not something that is hard for me to do, as long as I feel good physically, but drinking makes me feel like crap physically, so it's gotta go. I've been having some digestive pain lately, and alcohol really seems to aggravate it, so that's the main impetus behind giving it up. My sleep has improved tremendously as well, which is necessary to recover from hard workouts.

My eating goals right now are simple: get enough protein and fiber each day, mainly from whole foods. Avoid inflammatory foods, and take fish oil every day. As I get further into my training and start setting some more concrete goals I will dial that in a bit more, but like I said above, one thing at a time. Right now my body can't handle a whole lot, so the idea is to get my work capacity back up to a level that can support vigorous training, and right now that means lots of quality food to help me recover. I'm not trying to gain weight, and in fact I won't be surprised if I lean out regardless, but I'm not trying to actively restrict my intake right now.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A New Direction

Holy crap it's been a while since I last posted. It's been a crazy few months. I bought my first condo, so that whole process kind of took up all my focus, and as a result I let my training fall by the wayside. Tsk tsk. But the place is all fixed up, and I've been living there for a couple weeks, so all the hard stuff is done, and now I have the brain RAM to re-focus on my training goals.

I'm still weighing in around 225, but I'm definitely a bit softer than before. Even with my sporadic training I was still making some gains in the gym. I hit a front squat PR a few weeks ago (325) which I haven't done in a while. I also hit a 180# power snatch, up from 175. But that's neither here nor there. What I want to talk about today is my new training goals.

I've decided to train for and compete in Strongman.

I found a gym in my area owned and run by a pro strongman, and they have a team and everything. My regular gym (Crossfit 714) actually does have quite a few Strongman implements (atlas stones, tires, axle bar, yoke, chains, sleds) but not even close to all of them. Plus, to be honest, I don't know how to program them into workouts, or even really how to do the movements correctly. So I plan to train with the strongman crew once a week, learn the implements and the technique, get some good coaching, and learn how to program for the sport, and the rest of the week I'll train for strength, power, and grip at my gym.

Why Strongman? Why not? :-) I've already competed in Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting, and I enjoyed both, but I ultimately ended up getting bored with doing the same basic movements over and over. I don't have a high tolerance for boredom or repetitiveness. And while I love Crossfit, the randomness of the training isn't conducive to my specific goals and weaknesses at this point in my training career. Plus I just don't like pushing my system to 100% intensity every single day. It just hurts, and I have a hard time recovering.

Strongman seems to fit somewhere in the space between; There's enough variety of event types and implements that the training shouldn't get stale, but there's enough structure that I can program directly to my weaknesses. There's also the camaraderie factor. Strongman competitors tend to train together and push each other, which (as I've learned from Crossfit) is a huge motivator. It's also brand new to me, whereas I'm fairly well-versed in the other stuff, I know very little about strongman or how to train for it. And then there's the fact that my body is definitely more well suited to high-power, short-duration exercise.

The current plan is to train 4 days a week, with one day being specifically training the strongman stuff. I plan on cutting out alcohol completely for the rest of the year in order to allow my body the recovery it's going to need if I want to train hard. That's pretty much it; dial in the training, let it dictate the food requirements. I'm not going to specify any body weight goals right now, just going to focus on getting my training consistent. One step at a time. Training starts Oct. 1st.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Still on track

Number of workouts this month: 6/22

I'm still making good progress on my goals this month. Today I missed my first workout so far, because I was just dead tired. I went to bed early got 8.5 hours of sleep, and was just dragging, so I went back to sleep for 2 more hours instead of hitting the gym. Oh well, it wasn't for being lazy, I was just listening to my body and my body was telling me it needed more rest. I felt fine when I got up after the additional sleep. I did a gnarly Olympic lifting workout on Saturday, so I think I just needed a little bit more to recover effectively. From now on I'll make sure to take a nap and eat a little extra food after my longer, more intense workouts on Saturdays. I should be able to still stay on track for the 22 workouts this month, but I don't have any more leeway with that now.

Saturday I clean and jerked up to 245, then 8 singles at 205 (on the minute). Did some Romanian deadlifts (3x5@175 from a 5" deficit) and some clean pulls (3x3@225). Then I hit the front squats hard. The goal was to hit a heavy single, then work on volume at 80%, but since I haven't front squatted heavy in a while I wanted to see what my true max was. So I worked up, slowly, to 305, which I nailed, but 315 was too much and I had to dump it. Seeing as my best-ever front squat was 310, back in December 2011 (after an 8-week Wendler cycle), I was pretty happy with where I'm at. After the max I did some reps at 275 and called it a day.

I'm focusing on the front squat this month (and for at least a month after) because they feel so much better than the back squat for my body. My hip and back don't hurt after a heavy front squat session like they tend to with the back squat, and I feel safer going heavy since they're easier to bail on. I figure as long as I continue working my posterior chain with heavy RDLs and kettlebell swings I should be able to actually make some good progress without hurting myself (and who knows, it might actually translate over to my back squat).

I weighed myself late last week, just for shiggles, and was down to 223 which is pretty good, especially since I started loading creatine (10g/day) consistently this month, which usually adds a few pounds. My diet's been decent over the weekend; I had one cheat meal, and a decent amount of beers, but I tried to keep the calories in check and did a pretty good job. As long as I don't set myself back on the weekends, and make progress during the week, I'll be fine for a while. I know as my body fat gets lower I'll have to get a bit more strict, so I'm doing so gradually so that by that time I'll already have the good habits in place.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Feels good man

Number of workouts completed so far this month: 4 (out of 22 planned)

Still on track with workouts and food. Not gonna lie, I was pretty sore this morning when I got out of bed, but I knew that once I got to the gym and got warmed up everything would be fine. I'm getting used to working out at 7AM, it doesn't really feel early any more (although I'm sure in the winter months that will change). Today was a standard Crossfit workout (4 rounds for time of 400m run + 50 squats), and it sucked! My legs are smoked from the other workouts I've done this week, all of which have included some form of weighted squatting (full cleans on Saturday, front squats on Monday, and Overhead Squats and Snatches yesterday). I could feel the lack of glycogen in my muscles half-way through, but I pushed through. Then I slammed a protein shake and ate a Snickers bar (regular size, not the big old double bar). Yeah, on purpose. Not only are they delicious, but they provide some much needed fast carbs. And now I'm back to my regular low-GI, low-carb foods. I am of the opinion that smart, reasonable, targeted cheats can actually help when done correctly, and they give you a little mental freedom from strict dieting.

Tomorrow is a rest day, thank God. I plan to spend some time working mobility and foam rolling, so I can come back Friday feeling fresh. Probably take a long walk as well, just to keep thing moving and get the blood flowing.

From a subjective perspective (yay word play) I'm looking leaner. My stomach has flattened out, most likely due to the lack of gluten and processed carbs. I wake up and my eyes aren't puffy, and while I'm stiff first thing in the morning, I am able to loosen up and move well in the workouts, without any nagging pains, which tells me that my inflammation is improving. All-in-all, I know I'm moving in the right direction, and it feels good, man.



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Goals await

June 1st weigh-in: 225
Number of workouts completed so far this month: 3 (out of 22 planned)

So far, so good. I haven't missed any scheduled workouts so far, and I prepped a crap-ton of food over the weekend. I've been eating a ton of meat and veggies, trying not to snack much, and including carbs sparingly (usually post-workout sweet potato/apple hash). I'm not tracking my calories because it's too much work when you're eating whole foods, so I'm just making sure to eat until I'm satisfied, then stop. Surprisingly easy when you're eating a lot of greens and good quality protein, at least it has been so far. The hardest part is making sure I have everything prepped each night for the next day so I can just grab my food and go.

My training is going great so far. I'm really excited to see my improvements in my Olympic lifting this month with all the additional emphasis I'm placing on it. If it goes well and I make good gains I think I'll keep going with this template until I hit a wall, no reason to mess up something that works and is enjoyable. I've been training with an experienced Olympic weightlifter in the mornings on my Oly days, which is nice because he has a good eye for the lifts, and we can kind of coach each other as we go along. For example, this morning I was doing power cleans + push jerks, and he noticed I was dipping forward in the beginning of the jerk. I made a correction, and the lift instantly felt easier and more solid (and less painful in my wrists). Really cool stuff, looking forward to improving my technique a lot.

Much of the past year has been spent dealing with nagging injuries, including some kind of abdominal wall sprain and issues with my lower back and right hip. But for the first time in a long time I'm finally feeling close to 100% (as close as I'll probably ever be), and it's a really good feeling. Now is the time to make gains by training hard and smart. Goals await!