Better the devil you know………

Sometimes you gotta trust your gut. Today was one of those days. i had been contemplating changing up my workout a little and extending it from 8 to 10 weeks. my rationale was that I was happy with my progress, and i wanted to keep it going. The real reason I think, is because I am a little nervous about what comes next. and in that vulnerable moment, I stumbled across someone’s youtube channel, and their advice was if it’s working then stick with it.

In the end I trusted myself. I am sticking to my plan. as much as I like what I am doing now, as much as some things in my next progression make me a little nervous, I am sticking with my plan. I know in my heart, that if I do I will continue to progress towards my goal. I was willing to gamble that on the unknown ( deviating from the plan), which means I didn’t trust myself. on the pseudo -advice of some internet post that said if it’s working , stick with it. but that’s not my plan. Don’t I trust myself and my plan yet? On the words of someone I don’ know who doesnt know me, and wasn’t even speaking to me, I was willing to change my plans. to deviate from my goal.

but,  I am learnign to trust myself…..

better the devil you know…….

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Weekly rambling 2/28/16

The week in a nutshell? Work hit my life like a meteor this week, and left a giant smoking crater. However, I did manage to make it to the gym for all three planned workouts. I did not make the extra cardio sessions I was hoping to get. Maybe next week. Nutrition has to be your anchor on weeks like this. Otherwise……it’s kill, kill, kill, or cookies.

Last week, I talked about how having to attend a party screwed up my nutrition for  a day, and had after affects into the next day. I also looked at my mistakes and made a plan for this week. And this week I am happy to report, I was for the most part successful. And here is what I did:

  • No extra cardio session that day. Last week I snuck in an additional 45 minutes of cardio on top of weight training the day of the party, hoping to “get ahead”. Bad idea as it only made me hungrier all day.This week, weight training only. Hunger was not much of an issue.
  • Last week, I ate my first meal way to early. Yesterday, I ate later, and I ate more. As a result I was still satisfied from the quality food I had eaten, and only snacked a little.
  • I drank much more water this time, and no booze. I settled for beer while I was doing some pre-dinner snacking and it made me feel fuller.

Overall, I had a huge chunk of lasagna, still had cake and a little (pathetically small if you ask me) bit of ice cream. Snacked before dinner, crackers and cheese (god I love cheese), pita bread and hummus. I was reasonable in what I ate this time, and I think not being hungry when I got there helped. I still managed to make my 500 calorie deficit for the day. I don’t feel all bloated the day after either. So I consider it a win over all.

Next I need a plan for the St. Patrick’s day parade, but there may be no helping that one.

The last idea I have been kicking around is counting exercise calories. I think I meed to change my mindset when it comes to this and I am not sure where to go with it yet. I can count them in and still maintain my deficit. In fact that would allow me to eat ore on days I work out, or at least cardio days. I never count them for weight training days.

The down side is that I am trying to get past the “I earned it” justification that many sources try and tell us is acceptable. Hey , you killed it on the treadmill, why not eat the cookie? You worked hard all week. You deserve a treat. Psychologically, I am just reinforcing bad behavior and using my own hard work to justify it. It’s a zen problem is it not? I eat too many cookies, so I must suffer. But reward myself a cookie for my suffering?

First and foremost, you can very easily out-eat your ability to work off excess calories. In fact that Gatorade the gym sells you at a discount in many cases, just made 25% of your cardio time worthless. Do you really need the electrolytes that bad? Dog trainers will tell you, never train solely with food. Otherwise, when you stop giving treats the dog stops showing the correct behavior. So why then am I going to allow myself to credit my hard work towards reinforcing an unhealthy behavior? The whole concept in itself is unhealthy.

So I think the final answer here will have to be no. No more counting exercise calories. The only way I am going to adapt to healthy eating and living is by not justifying hard work with something unhealthy. At least until my body can easily handle it, and healthy eating becomes firmly engraved in my daily routine. The I will be better equipped to deal.

Until then, I keep on moving forward….

Motivation versus direction

Motivation versus direction

We are over halfway through what those of us who go to the gym regularly see on an annual basis. January first, those crowds of “resolutioners” who show up, intent on making this the year they get in shape. The gym gets crowded with “noobs” running around with all this motivational energy.

And we know, historically, that 75% or more will be gone in the next 30 -90 days. Either they achieved their goal that fast (least likely scenario) because they set the bar too low, or they give up from lack of any real progress.

Herein lies the great conflict within us. We have all this energy built up, motivational energy to change. We work up a vague impression of a goal, and off to the gym we go. It’s hard at first, but we expect that and our motivational energy carries us over the first series of hurdles. The, it happens…….we question our motivation. Usually due to lack of progress. It reveals a universal truth.

Energy with no direction will just dissipate.

Think of it like this. Your motivational energy is like a bullet. If I take a live cartridge out of a gun and chuck it in a fire, the casing will explode and push the bullet out. The only problem is that the bullet doesn’t go very far, and it can easily be stopped by something as flimsy as cloth. Much like your motivation, then energy of the bullet dissipates before it can be effective and is stopped by minor obstacles.

In order to be effective, a bullet needs two more things,  a gun barrel to channel the energy and it needs a target to hit. It’s a useless lump of metal up to that point.

First, your bullet needs a target. I mean a specific target. Otherwise, how can you measure progress and success? If you don’t know where you are going, why are you going anywhere? You need a goal. More than that, you need a SPECIFIC goal. Something you can measure. Something that you can build a plan to work towards. The more time you spend narrowing your vision and goals, the more achievable your goals become. They should be measurable, specific and reasonably achievable, and they should have a time frame. This is the target you focus on. You can have a goal to get in shape, but what does that mean? And by when? How? You want to get stronger, great. Stronger at what?

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Second, and just as important is a target. Your motivational bullet needs direction, it needs a program, it needs a plan. That is the gun barrel that focuses your energy. In fact, if you have a plan, it can help make up for those days that you are lacking in motivation. As long as you can get yourself into the proper environment, all you have to do is follow your existing plan, and that is energy well spent. You aren’t wandering around the gym, half-heartedly expending energy doing things that will not progress you towards any goal. That’s not productive. Stay home, eat cookies instead. At least that’s enjoyable. Your plan should fit your goal’s time frame and include the necessary elements for success. If you are losing weight,  your measurement and daily macro/calorie schedule is part of your plan. If it’s strength then it can be as simple as an 8-week program you downloaded from a website that meets your goal.

And for god’s sake, write it down somewhere. Organize it. Look it over. Post it somewhere conspicuous so it’s in your face, making you fire that motivational bullet every day.

Bad Resolution: I am fat , I am going to lose weight. (This idea was born to fail)

Good resolution: I am 15 pounds over what I would like to weigh. I am setting a goal of losing 15 pounds in 12 weeks. I will weigh in daily, set a goal for caloric intake that ensures I stay at a deficit that is recommended to meet my goal. I will track what I eat and track my progress.

Which do you think is more likely to succeed?

A goal without a plan is just a dream. And more often than not, dreams DON’T come true.

 

 

Hypertrophy, the pain, the fun, the results?

Hypertrophy, the pain, the fun, the results?

I am currently starting week six of an eight week strength training phase. Some would call it a hypertrophy program, others might disagree. But screw them. Because you can’t even find two people to agree on exactly what that is. If you do, rest assured there are two others with the exact opposite stance.

Hypertrophy means ”

  1. the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells”.
  2. Or for me it means “sore every day”.

Well, not that sore, but most days my body knows I just did something to it. I ripped off some pieces from a few different sources, swapped some exercises out for things more inline with my goals, and bang. I dropped it onto a spreadsheet and there it is. It was originally six weeks, but I extended it to eight in week two.

 

I decided to start with strength, because for me it takes longer to improve than conditioning. Increased lean muscle mass is also a by-product of strength. While I really wasn’t looking to get that much bigger, adding some calorie burning muscle mass, sure can’t hurt in the long run. As long as I don’t let it turn to pudding through neglect when all the fun is over.

Basically, I am using heavy weight and week over week progressive overload in specific rep ranges to increase strength and muscle mass. I am not consuming excess calories, and twice my body weight in grams of protein. I am not “bulking” to use the meathead term. I am actually doing this while maintaining a caloric deficit. Some would say it won’t work. How can I gain mass/strength while at a deficit? It sort of bucks the conventional bulk-then cut philosophy.

Short and simple answer: adjust your macros, and don’t over-train. My current macros are carbs:25%, fat: 35%, protein: 40%. I had to play around with it the first few weeks , starting at 30/30/40, until I found what works best. I also don’t spend a ton of time in the gym. I do three strength training sessions a week.  Day 1 Legs and shoulders, day 2 chest and biceps, day 3 back and triceps. I have at least a day in between of no lifting. I may do an extra cardio session, but nothing too intense, just enough to get the blood flowing and help with recovery.

I do basic exercises, between two and three for each body part. Three sets for each. I take two minutes or less of rest between sets (swapping weights counts towards that time). I generally do a warm-up for each body part, a set or two at about 50% max, low volume. This way I am not too burned out when I start. And I use a reverse pyramid, which means my heaviest set is first, 4-6 reps. The I drop weight by 10% and move to 6-8 reps, then drop again and go 8-10 reps. If I can hit six reps, or push a seventh on the first set, I will  increase the weight for the next week. On the second and third sets, I push hard, but not like on the first set. This way, no matter what, my first set is my most productive when I am freshest. Weekly increase in weight doesn’t always happen. Most of the time yes, but I have had some sticky spots to push through.

Week over week, I have seen some pretty good gains, especially on some lifts that have historically been a weakness for me, like barbell bicep curls. This program has me stripped down to the basics. I get through the workout in about an hour. It’s very focused, and very productive. I also make it a point to track everything. I am that guy you see making entries in a small notebook between lifts, then when I get home I transfer those results to my tracking spreadsheet. Before I start my first set, I always look back at the previous workout to see what I should be expecting. Was it easy? Did I barely squeak it out and now I am 5% heavier?

So digest all that and please feel free to give me feedback. Good or bad. When I finish the last week, I will post my starting and ending numbers for my three key lifts: bench press, squat and dead lift. I chose those as my key indicators.

Hey , if you don’t measure, you didn’t gain (or lose depending).

 

Answer to my dillema

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As promised, as much for myself as for anyone else who may be reading this, here is how I made out after the party yesterday. I can’t call it a victory, yet I can’t call it a failure either.

I was good until I got to my in-laws, but by then I was hungry and I knew I would be I trouble. I had two cocktails (turns out I do like a whiskey sour) prior to dinner, then switched to water, so I thought I did pretty good there.  I had already plugged in what the cake was going to cost me into MyFitnesspal. So I knew how much room I had for snacks and dinner.

It really was the snacks that did me dirty. Some party mix, there was several different kind of dips and accompanying bread bowls, some cheese and crackers, and this lovely pepper jelly over cream cheese and crackers. Not a lot of protein there eh? Nope. All processed carbs, fats and loads of sodium. And boy did I partake. This is the single biggest contributor to calories last night, and me feeling the way I did this morning.

At dinner I held myself to two slices of pizza and 4 wings. Not too bad there. It was mostly because of the damage I did with the salty snacks. I don’t usually sit around eating that stuff. Couple that with the booze and boom, bring on the bloat.

Now comes the cake. I am not a fan of yellow cake, with white butter cream frosting. It wasn’t bad. I made sure my slice was the appropriate size based on what I had already tracked. But I added a scoop of chocolate ice cream. I never have ice cream with cake. Every time I pass. For whatever reason I thought it sounded good, and it was.

When I got home, I filled in the gaps in MyFitnessPal. Turns out I almost broke exactly even. Actually, I was a hundred fifty calories over. Not bad considering right? Wrong. That is considering I added my calories burned from my extra cardio session, which I never do. So not only did I consume my normal caloric deficit, I ate all the cardio I did that day as well and still managed to go over. Sort of. And my macros for the day were an absolute mess. All fat and carbs, very little protein. Sodium was just about off the chat.

See, I still have an unaccounted hour of weight training in there somewhere. But I never cut that. In fact I am no longer going to add any workout calories onto my total. I think all that does is screw my mind into thinking I need to do this workout so I can have those fries and that is not where I mentally want to be.

So it really wasn’t a loss, it was an accidental tie with a bias towards a partial victory. The good news is I managed to get back on my normal fasting routine last night and follow it through into to say. Couple that with a lot of water to help flush my system, ad I feel almost normal again. I did notice this morning that I cold feel how bloated my midsection was when I sat up to roll out of bed. Does that mean I have gotten used to not being bloated from bad food? Probably.

What could I have done differently? First, I could have changed my eating schedule so that I had an actual meal closer to when I got to my In-laws. This would have prevented the binge snacking, or at least tempered it. Second, I need to find a drink that I like, that is a little lower in sugar. I looked up the nutritional information for my mixed drinks and “holy crap”. I need to do that part better. Third, track as I go. If I had done that, I might have had some warning that I was approaching the red line and pumped the breaks a little. Or at least moved farther away from the bowl of party mix.

So live and learn. I have a week to figure it out, because even though we just celebrated my brother-in-laws birthday, my father-in-law’s birthday is next weekend. I refuse to fight the same battle with the same tactics next week. So expect I expect different results.

 

 

 

Dilemma

I have had a pretty good week from a fitness, and from a progress standpoint. I completed my scheduled strength training sessions and even managed to sneak in an additional cardio session.  I managed to stay pretty balanced on my macros, and met my calorie deficit every day except one. My waist measurement has dropped a bit(yes!)), and I will most likley make my estimated weight loss for the week.

I can’t really ask for a much better week than that. Well, I could, but why tempt the gods with my impatience and greediness?

At the end of this week, lies the obstacle. Tonight,  I have a birthday celebration to attend.  There will be pizza and wings, drinks (they have a full blown bar in their basement), apppetizers (call that salty, sugary, carb-bombs that are ohh so tempting, and cake, glorious cake). The cake is actually in my fridge right now. That nice deep golden fluffy yellow cake, covered with a thick layer of sugary frosting goodness.

The dilemma….do I just not worry about it and trust to my hard work to carry me through? Do I attempt to mitigate the damage by trying to make at least a few good choices? Or do I be that food-snobby guy, munching celery and drinking ice water while my wife and in-laws kick back and enjoy myselves?

Here is where I am at right now. I did my normal fast from the previous evening until noon today, and worked out while fasted. Lunch was clean, tuna, diced red bell peppers, shredded lettuce with light mayo. I did weight training (back, triceps, abs) and threw in a cardio session for good measure at the gym today.

Now, I know what I WANT my ideal solution to this dilemma to be. The third option is out. no one likes a buzz-kill, and I am a firm believer in moderation not denial. Denial leads to failure every time.

So what would you do given the same circumtances? Throw caution to the wind? try and be at least reasonably good? Or stay focused and on point no matter what?

I will do battle with the demon of temptation temptation tonight, and I will post how I made out tomorrow.

Weighting behind a Powerlifter

The title was meant to be a pun, so before you correct me consider that.

Yesterday afternoon, I was quietly working out on my own, minding my own business. I was doing benchpress and then incline benchpress sets,  and in my gym they are located next to the squat racks.

On the bench next to me was,a gym bag and miscellaneous lifting accessories belonging to the guy at the adjacent squat rack. I have seen this guy in here before, I believe him to be at least an amateur level power lifter. And lo and behold there he was with almost 600 on the bar,  getting ready to squat.

At first I was a litte aggravated. This guy is taking up not just a rack, but also a bench,  and he has sucked up most of the 45’s in the immediate vicinity.  Not to mention, after his set of 1, he would rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes between lifts. Wtf dude? My gym only has so much rack space and you have been there for at least an hour.

Then, in a rare moment if tolerance,  I stopped to consider how what he was doing was so dramatically different from what I was doing.  If I was going to single rep back squat a Smart Car, I might need some rest time in between efforts too. I recognize how difficult it is to do what he was doing. And that in the end gave me pause….

I guess the message here is I need to try and be a little more considerate. Everyone here doesn’t have the same goal. They are not on my timetable. And their program may require some things not conducive to what I intend to do.

I don’t have to like it. Certainly, there are powerlifting-centered gyms the dude could be at. And certainly, maybe my gym could set aside an area for this type of activity. But he is here, now. In the same area as me.

I need to learn to live with it. It won’t be easy but I can try. That courtesy stops at the locker room entrance though….

Never thought I would ever see a grown man in his tighty-whities standing barefoot at the urinal, brushing his teeth while taking a leak….that I will always judge. Some things cannot be unseen.

Just sayin….

But powerlifting dude, you get a pass in my mind. Keep on pushing that weight. I will patiently wait my turn.