Saturday, June 28, 2008

Half Way Through

I'm half way through my experiment. I've learned the word for it. It's called periodization. It's where you commit to a routine for a period of weeks or months, employing progressive resistance, then you switch to a different one. For example from heavy weight and low reps, then lower weight, higher reps, and shorter rest periods.

I have been lifting heavy and long (two-plus hours of lifting) with two days of recovery between.

BODY COMPOSITION

Body Weight: 357 >> 352 (-5 lb)
Body Fat: 115 >> 114 (-1 lb )
Lean Body Mass: 242 >> 237 (-4 lb)

The body composition numbers are interesting. My body fat and lean body mass are both going down. I haven't changed my nutrition very much (look, it's never perfect) but my sleep was lousy this week. I had a hard time staying asleep and consequently didn't get up on time. The other thing I noticed about this routine was that only going to the gym three times turned my mood pretty dark. The anti-depressant effect of exercise is something I can't afford to play with. I think that getting the right rest, and being smarter about what and when I eat will make a difference.

My goals for the year are weight 270 and Body Fat 12.5%. That's going to put my lean body mass right about where it is now. I don't know how to manage that change. Obviously excess muscle mass isn't going to be a problem for a while.But I need to manage fat loss without losing lean. I think Cardio is going to be the answer. I want to run, but for now, I need to suck it up and do the boring work on the recumbant bike and the elliptical. It will be a while before I can ride my bike enough to make much difference to my heart. (though my quads are feeling it.)

PERFORMANCE

Bench Press: 155 >> 165 (+ 6%)
Dead Lift: 145 >> 175 (+ 21%)
Squats: 105 >> 175 (+ 67%)
Pushups: 8 >> 10 (+ 25%)

These numbers each tell different stories. The bench press is an exercise I have been pushing on for a while, so I was working close to my max when the week started. The deadlift and squats are fairly new to me and my focus has been on learning proper form without hurting myself. Know I am testing myself more to find my max. I'm close, but not there quite yet. Pushups I just started. I was embarrassed to try because I knew I would suck at them. I just finally decided to start. (no sense waiting until I can bench my own body weight - besides, right now the bigger problem is core strength. My back gives out before my arms.)

SUBJECTIVE IMPRESSIONS

I've already touched on one - I don't like the two days rest. the gym has become an important part of managing my depression. Even if it's just a short trim on the stair climber, I need to be there more often than this.

I am getting stronger in every muscle group. I feel harder and am seeing more muscle.

I miss cardio, emotionally and physically. The big power lifts, squats and deadlifts really test your cardio-pulmonary system. When I finish a set, I am breathless, sometimes dizzy, and yesterday I was slightly queasy for a minute. I recovered soon enough, but eventually cardio is going to be critical to improving those lifts.

The thing I feel good about is that I'm sticking with the plan. I will keep at this for another week before making adjustments. It feels good to stick with my commitment.

And finally my usual whine -- I really miss running.

All in good time.

Peace,
b

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Update - the First 3 Day Split

Three fronts, three days. Here's how it's going after the first cycle.

CYCLING
The biking is a good way to commute, but it will be a while before I can make it into much of a workout. For one thing, my ride lasts about 13 minutes. And while I may not have forgotten how to ride a bike, I need to relearn some things about riding well. And there's the mater of getting my big bum used to that little seat again. Bottom line? I like riding the bike to work, but I won't be able to count it as a cardio workout.

LIFTING
I did my exercises in reverse order from Saturday. all the weight was a little heavier. I forgot my mid workout snack, and I missed it about an hour in. The change in order put bench press and pullovers last. I struggled, but I completed my plan. I worked out long and hard. I was tired at the end, but did not run out of gas before I was finished.

WEIGHT
I was a pound heavier at the end of today's workout. I'm not too worked up over that, but I take it seriously. I am going to have to go back to the gym for cardio days. Mrs. P and I went out to dinner a couple times this weekend, so I'm sure I ate more than I ought to have. On the other hand, dining out with my bride is a rare treat that I don't regret. I just have to make up for it now.

Peace,
Pennsy

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Knocking Off the Rust


“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving” - Albert Einstein


Took the bike on the streets this evening to see which of us was rustier. It was kind of a draw.

My balance is a little shaky, but riding a bike is like... well... you know. I'll be fine.

I got most of the iron oxide off the bike without resorting to the disturbingly titled condiment pictured, but the bike has some other issues. (So does it actually come from there? is it made from lint? and what is it's relationship to toe jam? and which goes better with chunky Jiff? I've checked Smucker's and Welch's, but no info on this mystery goo or it's origins.)

Right, the bike. The front wheel is a little out of true. I should be able to fix this. It isn't nearly bad enough to need replacing.

The crank has a wiggle in it that makes me think it is a bit bent as well. Again, I can fiddle with the front dérailleur handle enough to compensate.

The brake shoes need to be replaced. The previous owner did mix and matching with the shoes and I want to feel more confident than I do about them. I'll get replacements after payday. All the new cables will have stretched out by then and need adjusting anyway.

I hate the kickstand. It always seems to be in the way and does very little to hold the bike up. I'd really like to ditch it, but I'll leave it on for a week to see if I use it for anything other than cussing at.

I also think that the headset is a little loose. My old ten-speed used to stand true when you held the seat or leaned it against a wall, but this machine, which has straight Mountain-bike style handlebars spins really freely. It may need an overhaul, but I'll do some more research before messing with this. I have no enthusiasm for chasing ball-bearings all over the driveway.

That's pretty much it. I got a very silly looking flag for the back, and received one "Hey Big Sexy" taunt from a carload of beered up boys leaving the ballpark. I'm OK with that. I want motorists to see me. I'm enough of a misanthrope not to care what they think about my personal style. Besides, in a year when I've built my body into 300 pounds of rippling man-meat, I'll just pull hecklers out through the windows of their cars and feed their guts to the neighborhood pit bulls. (Molly's tastes are too refined for such rough types.)

I haven't quite sorted out how I'm going to carry work clothes in the morning. I'll start out with a backpack, but the next financial windfall that comes our way is going for some panniers.

It now takes $50 to fill my little Honda with gas, which I only do twice in a normal month. If I bike to work and back, I'll be saving a lot of money.

That along with all the other altruistic reasons to burn body fat instead of fossile fuel
makes a pretty strong case. Now if I can just convince the boss to install a shower in my office.

Peace,
Pennsy.

An Experiment in Intensity


"LIFE! GIVE THE FAT MAN LIFE!!!!" I have devised an experiment.

You get stronger by making the work harder. "Progressive Resistance" is one of the core doctrines of weight training. There are two ways to do this: lift heavier or lift more intensely. I've just started a two-week experiment in intensity.

One of the problems I have encountered recently is fatigue at the end of my workouts. I get through the first few sets under a full head of steam, but eventually start wearing down and am unable to complete my planned routine. I wind up doing lighter weight or fewer reps than I had planned. This slows my progress and leaves me exhausted, not energized like the guru's promised I would be when I started this fat man's journey. So I have a hypothesis...
One major cause of my fatigue is insufficient recovery time between workouts.
I ran a little test this week. My workout on Tuesday was more of a wash out. I couldn't lift nearly as long or as hard as I wanted to. My muscles just wouldn't respond. So I rested. I read. I napped. I cleaned up the old bike, changed all the cables, and tuned up the brakes and dérailleurs. I took short walks. I read some blogs. Yesterday I wrote a program.
Lift heavy, move quickly, rest completely.

DISCLAIMER
THE FAT MAN IS NOT AN EXPERT. THAT'S WHY HE GOT FAT IN THE FIRST PLACE! What follows is a description of an experiment. Don't take it as a prescription.

OVERVIEW
I'll be doing very heavy compound movements (ones that involve multiple muscle groups), chosen to work my whole body, then taking two days off from lifting. Because
this involves so many different exercises, I'm doing fewer sets and reps, starting with a very light warmup of twenty reps, then twelve reps of heavy weight and eight reps as heavy as I can possibly complete with good form. I'm minimizing rest between sets and moving as quickly as I can from apparatus to apparatus. Here's my program.

WARMUP & STRETCH
Light Resistance Bands, Crunches, Medicine Ball Woodchoppers, Pushups (this classic is going to take a lot of work for me. I'm still a pretty heavy load to heave. )

Once my heart rate is up and I have a good sweat going, I do a complete stretch from ankles to neck.

CHEST
Bench Press, 20/12/8
Dumbell Pullovers 20/12/8

UPPER BACK
Lat Pulldowns, Close, Reverse Grip 20/10
Lat Pulldowns, Medium, 20/10
Lat Pulldowns, Wide, 20/10
The pulldowns are a training regimen until I am strong enough to do chin ups. Arnold S says to do 50. Riiiiight.
Deadlift 20/12/8

SHOULDERS
Arnold Press 20/12/8
Lateral Dumbell Raise 20/12/8

ARMS
Preacher Curls, Reverse Grip, 20/12/8
Triceps Rope Pulldown, 20/12/8

BREAK
Yesterday I was pretty wrung out at this point. I had drunk a half gallon of water and was feeling like having something to eat. I'll probably throw something in my bag to nosh on and take a little walk outside to let the lactic acid clear out a little. Then back in for the really big muscle groups.

LEGS AND LOWER BACK
Squats, 20/12/8
Leg Curls, 20/12/8
Good Mornings, 20/12/8

STRETCH, SAUNA, SHOWER

That's the plan: repeat every three days. (It took me three hours yesterday to get through the whole thing.) Walk or bike on the off days. Stick to this for two weeks, and see what the results look like. Change weights on the heavy sets, but not the number of sets or reps. The first set will always be very light to warm up the specific muscle group and to set my form. In the next few days I'll write about each group of exercises and update my progress.

This is one of those deals where I use my blog to hold myself accountable. I'll report in every day on how the experiment is going with subjective observations and as much data as I can stand.

Let evil experiment begin! Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!



Peace,
Pennsy

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Change is Good

I am getting tired.

Last night I intended to take a rest/cross-training night at the gym - an hour of cardio and resistance bands, then home.

I tried a short jog, but the Achilles tendons still hurt me too much to run. I did about 10 minutes on the bike, then tried to find a spot on the walll where I could use the bands. Class room full, back room full - no dice. There wasn't anywhere to clip the band to the wall without standing on top of someone.

I decided to improvise, so I tried to re-create my original workout on the machines. Of course my strength is much greater than it was in January, but there was something else going on too. I was burning out so fast. Lifting heavy weights for sure, but just fatigued after only a few sets. I'm looking at everything, water, sleep, meals, trying to figure out why I'm not getting fuel to the furnace. I need a change.

So last night after spending some time prostrate on the floor, I decided to make a change. I went out to the garage and pulled my bike out from under the pile where it was resting in peace. I took most of the major components apart - pulled the wheels, seat, handle bars. I'm going to clean it up, maybe change out the cables, find some bags to hang on the rack, and start wheeling. That has to help my cardio, and it shouldn't strain my achilles heels like run/walking does.

Plus, it's good for the world. I live really close to work, less than a mile and a half. There's no reason I should ever drive there - it's actually faster to bike at rush hour. Fresh air for the Bluegrass, fresh air and sunshine for me. It's a win/win!

I'm hoping the change will do me some good, too.

Peace,
b

Monday, June 16, 2008

Easing Up the Intensity

After a couple of long breaks for vacation and injury recovery, I'm starting to raise the bar a little. I need to get my cardio training back in motion. I've already had to skip two events that I had planned for the summer. During the "limping time" I have made good progress in the weight room though. I want to keep up the pressure there too. Moving forward -- carefully, but always forward -- that's my goal.

Good news from yesterday's weigh-in. A week of Mother P's cooking did not throw me too far off schedule. My weight is hovering around 360, and my lean muscle mass is up 0.7% so I'm still moving in the right direction. My big quarterly evaluation is in a couple weeks. The weight hasn't moved as much this time, but I expect my measurements will have changed quite a bit.

I got back on the treadmill for the first time in June. The legs felt fine, but I don't want to re-injure them. I just walked a warm up/cool down for about 5 minutes each. I'll work up from there.

The weights went ok, but my lower back is a little tender. I'm going to ask for some coaching on squats and deadlifts. I'm still not pulling a huge amount of weight but I don't want to do myself any harm. I cut a couple of lifts from my workout, and knocked the weight way down on others.

I may be trying to do too much or too many different exercises in a workout. I'm going to look at planning my routine a little farther in advance so I can cover all the muscle groups more efficiently.

Today is going to be a rest day. I have some work to do in the yard, so that can be my cross-training plan. I think it's important to do something practical every now and then to remind myself why I spend so much time in the gym.

Peace,
Pennsy

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Power Cage

What a great name for an apparatus. This one is built by Body-Solid. They call it a power rack, but I like "cage". The language is more muscular somehow.

The power cage is the world's greatest spotter. It doesn't help when you don't need it, and it never fails when you do. You can use it to hold up heavy weights or to keep them from crushing you if something goes wrong. You can pull a bench inside or use the top for a pullup bar. It's not just a great tool, it's a place to be.

For me, the power cage is a symbol of my most ambitious strength goals. It's where I do my heaviest lifting. If I ever build a home gym, a bench and a cage will be my first apparatus purchases.

The cage is also where I load the bar for deadlifts. It inspires me somehow. Yesterday, I started there, and after running out of gas after one set the day before, I lifted a new personal best. It was a great start to a great workout that focused on my chest and upper back.

One thing though -- proper form is crucial when you do this lift, and proper form requires you to keep the bar movement as vertical as possible, right up against your shins and thighs. I made the mistake of wearing shorts and no leg wraps and really barked up my shins on the knurled part of the bar. I'll remember to cover them next time.



One of the guys I really admire approached me during my workout yesterday. He complimented me on my progress, then asked what I was eating to lose weight. He's frustrated that he can't drop pounds. This is a guy who lifts close to his body weight on the bench. I've seen him on the stair climber for close to an hour at a time. He is tremendously fit and he's asking ME how I'm losing weight. I told him about smoothies, salads, fish, and an occasional cheese burger. I also said that when I get stuck, I make a change to my workout, never repeating the same routine twice. I didn't want to say too much because A) he doesn't really need my advice and B) I don't really know what I'm talking about anyway. It made me realize that even athletes can be distracted by an idealized body image.

On the other hand, there's a woman at the gym who has always struck me as a natural. She is lean and muscular and works out like a fiend. I have always admired her, not so much as a sexy woman - which she is - but as a role model for the kind of work ethic I want to bring to the gym. The other day, while talking with one of the handsome young men, she mentioned that she weighed over two-hundred pounds when she started at the gym! This woman is built like an olympian!

There's just no way to tell how your body is going to wind up. You can work your butt off, eat clean, and do everything else right, but ultimately your genes set the limits. One of these people looks like a gymnast, the other like a shot putter. Both inspire me and both work as hard as a person can work. They just have different programming. It's a little daunting to know that no matter how hard I go at it in the gym, my genetics and my age are only going to let me go so far. On the other hand, i really want to find out how far that is. Not so I can look like a body builder or a marathoner - but so I can look and feel like the best Pennsy possible.

Peace,
Pennsy

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Weak as a Kitten?

For the first time in a very long time, I finished a workout without pain.

Of course I finished about an hour early...

I've been on vacation this week. We visited Mom and the family up in Pennsyl', then drove back to 'Tucky on Tuesday. Yesterday work left me ragged so I came home and went to bed early, intending to try the 5:0o AM workout. Instead, I woke up around 1:30 with an annoying cough that cut my night's rest pretty much in half. No pre-dawn bench press for me.

Work was really good today, and I hit the gym ready to pound some iron. I blew through my warmup with the resistance bands, then did ball squats with heavier dumbells than I'd ever used before. It felt great to be working and sweating. After recovering from my squats, I squeezed out four sets of crunches then settled in to a nice long stretching session. I'm happy to report that the legs and ankles feel great, no pain, no popping, no limping. I felt a little tired, like I had over-done the bands a little, so I took an extra few minutes before starting in the power cage with deadlifts. I ripped out a set of deadlifts with good weight and good form, feeling strong and sound. When I put the barbell down and stood up after the last rep, My head was spinning. I often experience a little head rush after big leg lifts like deadlifts or clean and press, but this was more like that spinning "shall I faint or shall I puke?" kind of feeling. I sat down on the edge of the cage for a few minutes to try to collect myself, then started my second set.

Four reps. That's it. Rack 'em up and go home. I felt not just fatigued, but weak, like when you get the flu. I wandered back to the locker long enough to stuff my street clothes and towel into my bag and then went out to the car. I was fried. Feasting on Grammy's poppyseed cake, sleeping fitfully, and sixteen hours on the road had taken their toll on my conditioning.

Walking across the parking lot was when I noticed... Hey! My legs don't hurt! Nothing hurt. Shoulders? Check. Ankles? Check. Hips, Knees, Back? Check, check, and check. If I thought I could have done it without passing out, I might have gone back in for a spin on the elliptical. Instead I came home feeling weak as a kitten whose legs don't hurt.

When I get a good night's sleep, those dumbells better have their crash helmets on -- the Fat Man is coming back!

Peace,
Pennsy

Disturbing Kitty-cat images are from Epicycle.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

So the Good News is...

I managed to walk a mile and a half yesterday. There were two courses. One was 2.5 miles and one was 1 mile. So I split the difference by trying the long course, then bailing at 1.5 when the two converged near the start/finish line.

The bad news is that I could not have walked that last mile. There is something really wrong with my legs. The pain is very specific to one site, about halfway between the bottom of my gastrocnemius and the top of my heel. Bearing any weight hurts and when I lock my knees, I cannot raise up on my toes. Mrs P suggested I ask Brad to recommend a sports medicine doc. In the meantime, I'm going to be a Fat Man Lifting and Stretching for a while. The 10K in four weeks just ain't gonna happen on these legs.

I am resolved to not spend a lot of time fretting over this yet. I'll wait and hear what the doctor has to say.

Oh, I almost forgot, I've been experimenting with smoothies this week. I've found several tasty combinations and one that should warn you about -- be very careful how many prunes you put in a smoothie. 'Nuff said.

After the walk yesterday, I went to the health food store and picked up some sample packets of protein powder. I'm trying to eat less meat to cut down on saturated fats, but I need protein to build muscle mass. The big jugs can be quite an investment, so I'm starting with some single envelopes to see if there are any I hate. If I can't stand it, I won't use it. I got some with whey, some with soy, and one that's whey with hemp. After reading a ton of contradictory literature on which type is better, I am taking the position that they're all about the same for my purposes. I'll keep you posted if I develop huge biceps or breasts or something.

Peace,
Pennsy

Walkin' and Hootin'

video

With God's help, I walked.

With your help, it mattered.

Peace,
Pennsy
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