Monday, June 30, 2008

Lower at 5 Seasons

Today I did deadlifts with a band for form, front squats, high step ups, and get up sit ups.  My schedule was limited due to a late arrival at the gym, so I dropped the 45 degree back extensions. I also stretched and used the foam roller for 15 minutes. The foam roller made my upper back feel great.

I am still working on my nutrition with the new job. Eating out twice a day while in Chicago did not help.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

General Activity

Friday I spent the day walking around Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier, and downtown Chicago. In the evening I went swimming. Today I spent the day walking around the Nature Museum and the Field Museum. My weekend vacation was a lot of fun, but I did not have time to lift weights.

I will resume a normal lifting schedule Monday.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lower at 5 Seasons

Today I did Romanian deadlifts, front squats, 45 degree back extensions, high step ups, and sit ups on the ab board. After lifting I spent 15 minutes stretching and doing mobility work. I found the yoga room, complete with foam rollers and stretching straps.

I have tomorrow off and will be lifting at home. Thus my first week on the new job is complete. Overall I'd say it has gone very well. My goal was to become billable by the end of the week. I broached that territory today. Next week my goal is to not only complete a significant percentage of billable work, but to also generate billable hours for others. We'll see how that goes.

The impact on my training has been interesting. I need to get up at 5:30 (an hour early) to have enough time at the gym. When the time saved with early traffic, breakfast on the go, and a fast shower is accounted for, I actually get my workout for free. My intensity is a little low, but the risk of missing sessions is minimal.

On the other hand, my food has become challenging. The pattern I fell into is:

5:45 - Yogurt
7:45 - Peanut Butter Sandwich
8:00 - Protein Shake
10:00 - Small snack (Bar / Crackers)
12:00 - Delivered Lunch from somewhere
3:00 - Grapes
5:00 - Protein shake
7:00 - Cereal, Baby Carrots

Vegetables have fallen out of the picture. I ate out every day. Between sleep deprivation and new stressors, I had zero desire to eat the lame lunch I packed. Realistically, running a caloric deficit probably would have been a bad idea this week anyway. Fortunately, it has been easy to fit the protein shakes in. I find myself valuing them, which is a great sign for long term compliance.

Next week I am going to focus on the following nutritional goals:

1. Replace my small morning snack with carrots
2. Replace my dinner of cereal with whole grain pasta and some frozen vegetables

My schedule outside of work will be lighter moving forward as well. We adopted out 3 of the 4 foster cats over the course of two evenings this week, had to meet with a contractor one morning, and my wife had to work until midnight last night. Topping it all off, I came home on Sunday exhausted from the grip contest.

Writing it all out, improving my nutrition next week should be easy...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Upper at 5 Seasons

This morning I did the seated low row, overhead barbell press, incline dumbbell press, pulldowns, ab board, and some stretching. The weights and intensity were moderate. We didn't leave for the gym until 6am, but I had plenty of time to get my workout in. That means my waking time can bump to 5:30. Awesome!

The new job is going great, but I am real tired. Tomorrow I get to sleep in and am looking forward to it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lower at 5 Seasons

This morning was my first real training session at the new gym. I did Romanian deadlifts, goblet squats, 45 degree hypers, split squats, assisted single leg squats, crunches, and get up sit ups. Weights were relatively light, done with moderate intensity at most. Afterwards I stretched.

My primary goal for this week is settling into a routine. I suspect I will be able to leave for work 30 minutes later than I'd originally planned. That means extra sleep, whoo! The new gym has the best locker room I have ever used. Everything is streamlined in a way that makes cleaning up after my workout very efficient. The walk to my office looks to be around 5 minutes. My training will go very well.

After a day at the new job, I am extremely happy with what I have seen. The working environment meshes nicely with my personality. The only challenge I anticipate for my training program is lunch. Today we went out to celebrate my arrival. Wednesday and Thursday there will be catered lunches. It sounds like that may be a regular thing. If so, I'll need to adjust my nutritional template to accommodate.

I am having a lot of fun and very happy with where my life is at right now.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

MGC6 - Cycle Review

I start my cutting cycle tomorrow, so I need to review the results of my MGC6 cycle today.

With regards to my goals:

1. Job Search - I start tomorrow. This was my top priority and it went very well.

2. Grip Contest - I missed my pinch goal, but met the others. Ok for my second priority.

3. Weight Loss - I gained 2lbs. Doing otherwise was going to interfere with my other goals.

With regards to lessons learned:

1. I have passed the point where I will improve strength while running a caloric deficit. I think trying to do so severely impacted my work capacity and resulted in the burn out during week 6 of the cycle.

2. Unilateral leg training is a vital component of a balanced strength program.

3. If I want to pinch 3 times per week, I need to alternate between wide and narrow widths

With regards to my next cycle:

1. My primary goal is to make a stellar impression at the new job

2. I will get down to 15% body fat, then evaluate a push to 10%. This is my primary training goal

3. I am going to drop weight using the nutritional template designed during this cycle

4. My only focus in the gym will be showing up 4 days a week to do my upper / lower split

5. Grip work will occur once or twice a week, at home, in the evenings

6. I need to do heavy ab work

I have high expectations for this program and expect the focused goals to serve me well.

Michigan Grip Champs 6

This weekend I took the train to Michigan for a grip contest at Larkin's gym. My training for the last 8 weeks was targeted at this event. I earned the most points and took an uncontested last place. The events broke down like this:

1. Table No Set Grippers
Attempt 1: HG150
Attempt 2: HG200
Attempt 3: Missed the HG250
Attempt 4: Pass

I got exactly what I expected based on prior contests, matching my previous best.

2. Euro Pinch at 48mm - Rising Bar
Attempt 1: Missed 110lbs
Attempt 2: 110
Attempt 3: 115
Attempt 4: Missed 120lbs

The primary goal of my training cycle was a PR of 123lbs on the pinch. I got 120lbs a few inches off the ground, but I could not finish the lift. My pinch strength is at a peak, I strained until I was dizzy, but in the end I was not strong enough.

3. Overhead Hammer Lever
Attempt 1: 8lbs
Attempt 2: 9.25lbs PR
Attempt 3: Missed 10.5lbs
Attempt 4: Pass

I expected to miss 8lbs. Instead I hit a 1.25lb PR with 9.25lbs. This must be a result of the pinch training, as I did very little direct wrist work.

4. 2" V-bar - Rising Bar
Attempt 1: 140lbs
Attempt 2: 150lbs
Attempt 3: Missed 160lbs
Attempt 4: Pass

I hit my goal, but failed to exceed it. The 10lb jump from 150lbs was a mistake given the rising bar format. My best in training was 153lbs, so 155 might have gone. This was my first time contesting the lift, making 150 my contest PR.

5. Medley - 4 Minutes
High Platform: 30lb blob, Axe head pinch
Medium Platform: None
Low Platform: 100lb 2" dumbbell
Other: Touched handles on the easy spring

Most of the weights on this were out of my league. Getting any air under a 100lb 2" dumbbell is a PR for me. I'd never done the ax head lift or touched the handles on any of Don's springs, so those were both PRs.

I set PRs on some lifts, tied my bests on others, and am 35lbs lighter than last year. Progress has been good. I enjoyed myself immensely and will attend again next year. I was humbled and motivated by everyone involved. There is a long road to travel before I am truly competitive, but I will stay the course.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Everything Works

Today I did a very light workout, just enough to break a sweat. I have no pain on any of the exercises in Saturday's contest. That is good news. There is still a bit of lingering soreness deep in my thumbs, but it does not seem to impact my strength. I am a little tight in the hips, probably from doing nothing but sitting since Friday's yoga session.

I have the contest on Saturday. Sunday I will cook and pack for the gym. Monday I start my new job and new training cycle. I am well rested, prepared, and expect things to go very well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Picked my Gym

Last night my wife and I joined the uppity gym. We got in with no contract term and a $79 joiners fee. After my company subsidy, it will cost us $90 a month as a couple. Given the location and hours, it should work well. It's also supposed to be a social club, but I don't see us participating in that aspect. Maybe we'll use the outdoor pool in the evenings sometimes.

The great part is, since I'll only be spending $40 a month to train, I can justify putting it on the back burner to some extent. This will let me focus totally on a strong start at the new job. My program will be simple and breaks down like this:

1. Lift on an lower / upper split, at 6am on Mon / Tues and Thurs / Fri.
2. Optional grip work or strength endurance work at home on Wed / Sat
3. Follow a moderate cutting diet, based on my nutritional template
4. Make a point to be asleep by 9pm, the alarm will be set for 5am

Based on prior experience, this is a program I can recover from. My grip and kettlebell work won't improve in the short term, but I am ok with that. I can build strength once I finish the cut.

My nutritional template needs to adjust based upon this schedule change. Since I will not be eating breakfast at home, whole wheat cereal on training days is out of the question. Instead, I'll have a yogurt before leaving for the gym. After I get done training, I'll eat a peanut butter sandwich and a protein shake.

The Nitrean protein arrived last night. It seems decent, with a similar flavor and ease of mixing as the EAS protein I've been using. It also digests well. I'll probably buy it again.

The only thing left to do for my new job is laundry. I might actually lift weights today.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I went to yoga with my Mom at LA Fitness this morning. The class was toned down a bit, due to a large number of new members. They let me in free, so I have no complaints. It was still very much worth my time. Yoga with my Mom is one of the things I will miss most about being unemployed. This time I even managed to talk her into Starbucks. A maple pecan scone tastes even better after yoga.

It looks like the 6am lifting sessions will definitely happen. My wife has agreed to deal with me getting up early, provided I go to bed at a reasonable hour. If the sports gym does not work out, there is a good chance she will also join the cushy one and come with in the mornings. I am still playing phone tag with the trainer from the sports gym, but intend to have this tied up early next week.

This evening I invested in fitted shirts and dress pants at Khols. For some reason the only style of Dockers that fit me were $10 extra per pair. At least they had clothes cut for a person with normal proportions. Today's shopping brings me to two weeks worth of well fitting dress clothes. After this summer's cut, maybe I'll get them tailored.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Another Gym

Today I did more biking and lifted at the 5 seasons club next to my new work - I can literally see the office from the windows of the gym. The good news is they are $80 a month, half of which my company will cover. They open at 5am, have a pool, two power racks, dumbbells up to 100lbs, and no stated policy on chalk.

On the down side, there is a 15 month contract. There is also the target market of the club. It is very upscale, with tennis courts, outdoor pool, sauna, lounge, restaurant, bar, spa, etc. This creates a lot of distractions I'd rather not contend with when trying to lift. You can smell food from the restaurant in the cardio area, for instance. Children were everywhere. Hardly anyone looked like they were trying.

Realistically, at 6am, most of the problems should be non-issues. The contract is my only major barrier. I'm going to call back the trainer at the awesome gym tomorrow morning. I'd still prefer to swing that place, but no way I'm paying $500 a month for the gym. If I can get them to waive the supervision rule like Stephan suggested, I'd be willing to pay their group rate of $175 a month. The gym is much closer suited to my preferences.

These are good problems. I am excited to get back to work. I'll do yoga at LA Fitness tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Are You a Triathlete?

Are you a triathlete? - That is the question I got at GNC. 18 months lifting low reps 3+ times a week, and now I look like an endurance athlete. Great.

At least the 20 miles I biked while shopping fits my genetics.

I went to several of the local gyms looking for a solution to staying active when I start my new job. There is a stripped down Worlds 2 blocks from the office. $65 bucks a month, no contract, dumbbells up to 150lbs, but only one power rack. The deal breaker - they don't open until 7am on Fridays. My new job starts at 8am.

The perfect gym is next door. Olympic platforms, sleds, glute ham benches, power racks, reverse hyper, kettlebells, etc. The catch - all that great equipment and you are not allowed to lift alone. Training sessions can get as cheap as $45 per hour, but that adds up! The coaches are accomplished lifters with experience teaching athletes.

I am going to speak with the guy who works mornings. Long term it makes no financial sense to train there every workout. On the other hand, a month of coached sessions followed by program tweaks every other week could be just what I need. It really comes down to the quality of coaching they can offer. My new job will pay $40 a month towards the gym, so ongoing sessions twice a month may be viable. It certainly would not hurt to learn from and be accountable to an expert coach.

In other news - I give up on buying dress clothes at Old Navy. A medium shirt billows around my waist and bursts at the seams on my back. Sure, if I was wearing a 2x, I could understand a 45-50" waist. But on a medium shirt with a 15.5" neck? Come on! No one is shaped like that.

Monday, June 9, 2008

MGC6 - 19 of 23

The broken air conditioning hit today's session pretty hard. I've averaged 6 hours of sleep each night since Wednesday. Last night, I barely slept at all. It is unfortunate to have my recovery blasted like this just as my training intensity was peaking. After 5 days without training, my back and hands are better, but definitely not at 100%. With no energy and the fatigue still present, I opted to stretch out, warm up, and stop.

I am kind of at a loss for the best way to finish the cycle. I don't see myself getting any stronger at this point. Ideally I'd rest up and compete on Sunday, ending the cycle. Unfortunately, the contest is in two weeks, not one. At a minimum I'll hit each of the scheduled sessions with stretching and a warm up. I am going to take it easy on the heavy weights, since it is probably better to rest too much than not enough.

The air conditioning did get repaired today. Assuming the actual problem has been fixed, my sleep should return to normal this evening. Hopefully that coupled with careful attention to recovery will result in a few PRs next Saturday.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Another Bike Ride

I intentionally skipped yesterday's training session. My knuckles have been aching the past few days and my back was tight. I actually went into the gym and warmed up, then decided it was best to stop. I've put my finger extension bands next to the computer and am now using them several times per day. My hope is that plus the extra rest will have my training pain free on Monday.

Today I went for a 13 mile bike ride to the mall with my Dad. The pace both ways was moderate. We did get caught in a thunderstorm on the way home, which left me fairly wet. It was a fun time though. My air conditioner is broken, so I am also happy for the cooling effect of the rain. I need to call someone out to fix it this week. I hate parting with the money for an optional luxury.

I need to back off on eating out this next week. Since accepting the job offer on Thursday, I've been out to eat every single day. I just really like to do it. I did order some Nitrean protein powder from at large nutrition on Saturday. I hope it mixes as well as the EAS whey I was getting from Peapod. The price is much better. My nutritional template for the impending cut has continued to evolve:

Standard Daily Meals - Around 2050 calories / 120g protein per day
1. 06am - Breakfast - Whole Grain Cereal w/ Milk and Protein in water (620/43)
2. 10am - Snack - Baby Carrots and Fruit or Yogurt (200 / 0 or 6)
3. 12am - Lunch - Whole Grain Pasta w/ Broccoli and Cheese (625/30)
4. 6pm  - Dinner - 1/2 Can Beans w/ Bread and Frozen veg (500/23)
5. 8pm - Snack - Protein in water (120 /23)

I've discovered I can drink and stomach whey protein blended with water in a shaker cup. That brings my protein closer to the suggested gram per lb of bodyweight. I also learned a full can of beans with dinner is too much food. I think eating something sweet at the 10am snack will help with lunch time compliance. I am not sure if it is realistic to replace the 10am fruit with my 6am protein shake, but I am considering it as a way to drop calories. My first job, however, is to stop eating out for entertainment.

Friday, June 6, 2008

It's not the heat...

Today I went for a 12 mile round trip bike ride to the mall. The pace heading out was moderate, the pace heading home was aggressive. Riding in the hot, humid weather should hasten my acclimation to summer lifting.

I accepted the job offer yesterday and should have a start date in the next week. This is a major professional transition, and I intend to make the most of it. Other than my actual workouts and log, all other training related activity will be sidelined. The results should prove interesting.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

MGC6 - 17 of 23

Great day leading up to this one. I got plenty of sleep, ate well, spent the day on interesting work, and capped it off with a job offer just before my training session! I was motivated to say the least:

Romanian Deadlifts - 5 x 20k, 60k, 90k, 90k, 90k, 90k
Overhead Press - 5 x 45lbs, 65lbs, 85lbs, 85lbs, 85lbs, 85lbs
Split Squat - 5/5 x 12k, 16k, 20k, 20k, 20k
Renegade Rows - 5/5 x 16k, 20k, 20k, 20k
Pinch Barbell - 5 x Empty, 50lbs, 70lbs; 3 x 95lbs, 95lbs, 95lbs

1. I decided to drop conventional deadlifts down to once a week.

2. My shoulders felt tired, so I kept the weight low on overhead press.

3. I hit new territory with the split squats, very cool.

4. Renegade rows were a matter of holding at current strength levels.

5. Pinch barbell fried my hands. I decided to skip levering as a result.

Overall a fine session. I am slowly acclimating to the heat. Time to evaluate my career options...

Monday, June 2, 2008

MGC6 - 16 of 23

Conditions leading up to today's session were less than ideal. I stayed up until midnight working on my resume, then at 5am one of the cats woke me up howling. I manged to fit a nap in around 3pm, but that put me into the gym feeling groggy. At least I got something done:

Warm Up - One Arm Swings - 12/12 x 12k; Kettlebell Snatches - 8/8 x 16k;
Front Squats - 5 x 45lbs, 65, 95, 115; 3 x 115, 115, 115
Grippers - Triples with BBSA, few second hold each rep
Overhead Press - 5 x 45lbs, 65, 85; 3 x 95, 95, 95
Power Cleans - 5 x 20k, 40k; 3 x 50k; 2 x 60k; 10 x 1 x 65k (reps on the minute); 1 x 60k, 60k;
Block Deadlifts - 3/3 x 27.5, 30, 30; Negatives - 3/3 x 32.5, 32.5

Not much work, but sufficient given my energy levels and the heat.