Tuesday, October 15, 2013


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.