Oh I got a good and early start on Wednesday. I’m feeling good again. Good, for the first time in weeks, and getting back towards 100%. I’d call it 85%+. The danger for me always is, when I feel good I forget to take the best possible care of myself. Going forward, I need to avoid that trap.
It was a long day, and not the best day in terms of food, drink, and general healthiness, but it began with a good workout and a solid effort.
Wednesday, Nov. 30th, 2011
1250 meter row, easy pace
Hips, Hams, Quads, Calves, Shoulders, Forearms, Wrists; roll Thoracic Spine.
Primary Goal: Squats. 2 x 5 x 45 / 3 x 10 x 145
Primary Goal: Deadlifts. Standard bar: 5 x 95 / 3 x 155 / 1 x 205 / 5 x 220. Fat bar: 3 x 5 x 150.
Secondary Goal: Shoulder Press. 3 x 5 x 50 lbs.
Reverse Curls: 5 x 3 x 15 lbs DBs w/ FatGripz.
Push-Ups: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5
Prowler: 6 x 40 meter w/ 50 lbs @ 90 second total intervals.
This is my 7th week of illness, and my 18th week of post-broken-radius recovery. As for the sickness, I really am getting better. But I’m not out of the woods yet. Still on antibiotics, and filled with mucosity, coughing, sore spots in the throat, etc. I’m working on this! As for the broken arm, I really am ready to start training the dynamic lifts again, using a barbell. My original plan was to return to normal training this week! starting on Dec. 1st, which, since that’s a Thursday, means starting Wed. Nov. 30th. I’ve been so excited for this week; I’ve waited for it for four and a half months. Disappointed that now, having arrived, I’m too sick to go all out? yes; but I’ll soon be better. By the first workout of next week, Mon., Dec. 5th, I’ll be ready to really consider this a new beginning. I’m excited to do what I can to meet my goals in 2012.
So, this week, I am taking it easy, just trying to make sure I don’t screw up my recovery from this evil sinusitis or whatever it is I have. So, nothing much today. Here’s what I did:
Easy Does It
Warm Up: 10 minutes on the Airdyne cycle, easy pace.
Power Clean: 3 x 3 x 25 kg (55 lbs). My first Power Cleans since July. They were light as a feather and ugly as sin.
Wrist Curls: 3 x 10 x 10 lbs
Wednesday I’ll squat with some weight on the bar (like 145), deadlift as normal (normal bar LP, and fat bar work sets), press with a barbell for the first time since July (starting my LP light anyway), and do some other fun stuff.
As of today, I’ve been suffering with a variety of evil cold and flu like symptoms for a hellish six weeks. Twice already, the symptoms have been so bad that I’ve visited my doctor; first back on Halloween and again this week.
Both doctor visits resulted in an antibiotic prescription, even though there was no clear evidence of bacterial infection. Normally, I would resist taking antibiotics in such situations (it had been at least 17 years since I had done so in response to sinus/throat/lung type symptoms). This case felt different. More difficult to deal with. So I have taken the antibiotics. They haven’t made any difference so far.
Part of my frustration, and what has driven me to the doctor’s office, is that during both of these weeks I’ve been too sick to train. Training has been hampered by weakness, lightheadedness, and painful episodes of coughing and hacking balls of phlegm. And for the past six weeks, after every even moderately intense workout, my recovery has been difficult, to say the least: DOMs is dramatically increased, and accompanied by fever-like symptoms. And the general sinus and throat symptoms have dramatically worsened after a number of these sessions.
Well, to my GP, whom I saw on Tuesday, I likely have an emergent case of “chronic sinusitis,” by which is meant: I have severe inflammation of the sinus passages, the result of an infection or other factors, which, if left untreated, will likely continue for weeks or months longer. On this theory, the inflammation of the sinuses is the root cause of the nasty mucousity of my entire upper respiratory tract. Technically, it’s not chronic unless it has persisted for 12 weeks or more. But such symptoms transcend the usual viral or bacterial infection when then hit about 6 weeks. So from 6-12 weeks, you have a grey area. Not technically chronic, but on its way.
His diagnosis for me did not come as a surprise, even if I am not entirely convinced by it (the symptomology of chronic sinusitis fits my complaints, but not entirely). That is because I have been diagnosed as having chronic sinusitis in the past. About 17 years ago, in fact, when I was about 26 years old.
Previous History with the Chronic
Back in 1995, I was 26 years old and living as a graduate student in Chicago, I had a similarly persistent and ridiculous case of upper respiratory distress that led me to the doctor. It wasn’t the first time I’d had extended periods of stuffy/runny nose, post-nasal drip, difficulty breathing, sore throat, productive cough, etc. In fact, you could say I had learned to count on at least one extended cold during most seasons.
I grew up with such problems. As a child, I had a striking tendency to get strep throat and tonsilitis. I never knew why. My parents would culture my throat (my dad is a physician), confirm the diagnosis, get me a scrip for arithromyacin and that was that. I didn’t think much of it. But as a teenager and a young adult I had outgrown my tendency to get strep; instead, I would just get these bad colds and short-term sore throats.
But this time was different, so I saw my doctor. Dr. Roach. He was a cool guy, an athletic runner and holistic thinker about medicine and health. Anyway, he diagnosed me with Chronic Sinusitis, suggesting that something about my sinus architecture might predispose me to frequent infections.
After a botched attempt to clear the current infections with a sulfa antibiotic (I turned out to be allergic), we succeeded in curing my symptoms. He prescribed exercise, weight loss, and breathing exercises. Which seemed to work.
The Architecture of My Sinuses
Dr. Roach’s suggestion, that something was wrong with the architecture of my sinuses, resonated. My dad has terrible problems with loud snoring, sleep apnea, and family lore blames this on a “deviated septum.” Like my dad, I have trouble breathing through my nose, and I am a “mouth breather” at night; it was always assumed that I had a deviated septum too.
Well, it turned out that I do. I had found this out out in 1990, at New York’s St. Luke’s/Presbyterian hospital, during a stay in the hospital for Spinal Meningitis. (Another, even longer story). Short version is: I had to have an MRI or scan or something because of my spinal infection. Afterwards, an ENT specialist showed up in my room, explained he had routinely examined my scan, and did I know that I have screwed up sinues? Not only had he seen that I have a deviated septum, explaining the near non-functioning of my left nostril, but he also found evidence of one or more nasal polyps back in there. Call me, he said, if you want these removed. I got out of the hospital, and never did call.
But here I was, six years later, suffering from a chronic infection, and being told that nasal architecture was to blame. So, what I did was, I got a referral to an ENT surgeon, and had a scan and a consult. What he told me was yes, I had polyps and a deviated septum, and that surgery was a possible route of treatment for me. He would recommend it, he said. But when I listened to his report on the outcomes, and on his explanation of possible complications, I decided, wisely I think, to skip surgery on my nose.
It turns out that only about 40% of patients (at that time) were reporting relief of symptoms of chronic sinusitis, snoring, sleep apnea, etc., after such surgeries. In other words, the majority of patients underwent the procedure and experienced no benefit. Some even had a worsening of symptoms or other new and unexpected symptoms.
And the complications? They are rare… but they are as obvious as the nose on your face. Deep in the sinuses, back up between the eyes and near the brain, the risks included possible damage to the optic or olifactory nerves. No thanks.
How I Dealt
At my doctor’s suggestion, I started working out more. Mainly running. And a little bit of ineffective, broscience driven, skinny boy weightlifting. Also, I took up a bit of Yoga, and learned some breathing techniques. I lost a little weight. Got fitter. Later, I lost quite a bit of weight and even got a bit shredded. Eventually, I gained all that weight back, and then some (before I hit my CrossFit phase… from that point, the rest of the journey is recorded in this blog); but even so I retained my running and Yoga.
And you know what? During that whole time I was better. A lot better. My sinuses cleared up and didn’t bother me again in a serious way for about 15 years. My theory was that regular outdoor exercise, aerobic exercise, and the high impact activity of running, 3-5 days per week, literally shook out the sinuses and helped me keep them clear. Besides whatever stimulation was offered to my immune system. I never ran the kind of mileage that was a serious challenge to recovery, so I think I mainly benefited from the endocrine stimulation. And the techniques of breathing that I learned in Yoga, especially once I’d moved to Asheville, they offered me ways of working on my sinuses in a practical way. I learned that meditative patience, focus, and other tricks could actually cause my sinuses to relax, and let go, and allow air through.
So What Happened?
Weight gain. Over the past year I have gained at least 15 pounds.
No more endurance/aerobic exercise. I have also stopped running, and have done very little in the way of metabolic conditioning.
Recovery from a broken arm. Both of these situations have been exacerbated by my period of recovery from the broken arm (now in week 17).
No more Yoga or meditation. Aside from a brief flirtation with meditation in September of this year, I’ve done no conscious sitting or breathing, and haven’t taken a Yoga class or done a home practice in months.
No more Paleo Diet. Yes, I am SAD to report that, over the past 8 months, I have pretty much allowed a huge window for foods in the Standard American Diet. It’s not as though I am eating sandwiches, soda pop, and sugar cereal or anything. But I have allowed plenty of ice cream, dairy, pizza, hamburgers, french fries, desserts, candy, alcohol, and other American goodies back into my life during this period of weight gain. Besides the obvious impact on my waistline, the dietary change has meant the addition of many many pro-inflammatory foods in my diet. Chronic sinusitis is an inflammatory condition.
Bottom line is: I have done this to myself. I have sown the wind, and reaped the whirlwind.
I think that the solution to my current situation is obvious.
1) Return to Paleo or Paleo-ish principles in my eating. Avoid inflammatory foods. Cut back on dairy, grains, sugar, and alcohol in particular. Watch my O6/O3 ratio, supplementing if necessary. Bring back the veggies and lose some of the starchy carbs, especially the processed ones (like, e.g. Bob’s Red Mill Brand Gluten Free Pancakes… how I love thee!).
2) Take eating for recovery more seriously. Do more nutrient partitioning: more fruit and starches in the post exercise window, and less in the afternoon and evening.
3) Don’t confuse binge eating with eating for recovery. This is a particular problem of mine. It is one thing to make sure you eat enough protein and get some good carbs in the days following a serious lifting session. It is another thing entirely to “feel hungry” and so drink three milkshakes.
4) Lose some fat. Besides the fact that I will look better with less body fat, my personal experience and epidemiology supports the notion that I will be and feel healthier (and breath better, and snore less) with less body fat. I am not talking about losing weight. I am talking about losing body fat. In my case, this can be tracked roughly with an umbilical measurement. I don’t care what my body weight is. But I do need to stop accumulating excess fat.
5) Walk more. Even run some. Get outside. I need to take time to do some longer, slower, outdoor sessions, in all seasons.
6) Do Yoga and/or meditate. Some time spent in focused practice of Yoga is necessary for my spiritual and physical health. I knew this before. Why did I forget it? It’s time to bring myself back to reality and embrace the practice.
Bring yourself back to reality and embrace the practice.
Monday morning. Sunday evening I cancelled my training, got T to cover 6:00 am open gym. I cancelled my work, all my classes. I am sick. Sore throat, sinuses, continued semi-productive cough in the chest. My mouth is dry and pasty and painful. This sucks ass.
I first started feeling sick on Friday, the 21st of October. Five weeks and three days ago. By the 28th of October I was complaining of bronchitis and laryngitis symptoms. On the 31st I saw my doctor; starting on the 2nd of November I did a 5 day course of antibiotics (Z-Pack) that ended on the 6th of November. At first, I felt much better. The cough symptoms went away, but not entirely; the larygitis went away, but I had post-nasal irritation and drip. By the 16th I was feeling a bit run down; by the 18th I was feeling rather sick again; and over the 19th and 20th a sore throat came raging in and my sleep has deteriorated terribly.
I will show up to the gym on Wednesday and Saturday, and possibly even Friday this week but not to train; just to coach. I will ride the airdyne or row the ergometer for 5 minutes, then do mobility work, then ride the airdyne or row on the ergometer for 10 minutes at an EASY pace. That will be all. A rest week is needed. The following week I will return to my training in earnest.
Wasn’t going to work out on Saturday. Because I was feeling like death. Pretty sick, really. No sleep the night before, at all. Abused in body mind and spirit.
But there I was at open gym. Alone. All alone. And although it had been a freezing morning, by about 10:00 am it was warming up, and a beautiful fall day outside. So I picked up a jumprope. It felt ok. So then I did:
100 meter Waiter’s Walk w/ 25 lb DBs, FatGripz
250 jump rope single unders
Awesome workout. But a big mistake. By Saturday night I was spent. I need to rest and get over my damn illness. It’s been more than a month with the gunk.
Squat: 2 x 5 x 45 / 5 x 145 / 3 x 195 / 2 x 225 / 1 x 240 / 3 x 5 x 242.5. Not as bad as Monday’s work. More control on eccentric portion of lift. A couple of reps did not reach full depth (others, of course, were too deep). A few reps were “good morninged” out of the hole; several were ridiculously slow through the middle. And my yelling on the third set is just laughable (see video).
Wrist/Forearm: pronated and supinated wrist curls, 10 lbs DBs x 5 x 8
Upper Body Aux: 20 lbs DBs w/ FatGrips. Reverse Flyes & Triceps Extensions; Hammer Curls x 3 x 8.
Deadlifts (w/ fat grip bar): 5 x 70 / 5 x 110 / 3 x 140 / 2 x 160 / 1 x 180 / 3 x 200, F on 4 / 8 x 2 x 160 lbs. This was a setback for me, since I had so far been able to complete my 1 x 5 with the fat bar using a 20 lbs per week jump. I will reset the fat bar deadlift LP and go with a 5 lb per week increase, and use a 3 x 5 protocol until it actually gets heavy. Starting over next week with 165 lbs. But I will also do what I ended up doing today, which was to add a set of 5 with a regular bar after I was done with the fat bar. For now I’ll continue on the +20 lbs per week LP.
Thus, after the Fat Bar work was done I did:
Deadlift: 1 x 5 x 200 lbs (regular bar, overhand hook grip).
Wrist/Forearm: pronated and supinated wrist curls, 10 lbs DBs x 5 x 8
Upper Body Aux: 20 lbs DBs w/ FatGrips. High Pulls, Bench & Reverse Curls x 3 x 8.
Push-Ups: 5, 5, 4, 4, 4
Chin-Ups (green band, fat bar): 4, 4, 4, 3, 3
Starting at about 5:55 am, I had five clients show up to join me: Erin, Matt S, Mike, Melody, and Lauren. That was a thrill. It got a little hectic because I had not handled that many athletes at once before. But I did it, no problem. One issue that it raises is that I need to get my work done earlier; if I have that many clients on a regular basis, it means I will really need to get there before 5:00 am to get my work done first! I’ll shoot to leave the house at 4:40 am. That ought to do it. Really need to observe my bedtime.
Monday, about 5:10 am, I rolled into Asheville Strength and Conditioning. Great session. New squat PR. And I even have it on video! See below.
If you have USEFUL comments on my form, please share them. Do be aware, though, that I already know that I basically suck … that I need to control the eccentric portion of the lift… and keep my chest up, and my weight in the mid foot… hell yes I am aware of those things already.
2 x 5 x 45 / 5 x 135 / 3 x 195 / 2 x 225 / 1 x 235 / 1 x 240, F on 2 / 3 x 5 x 240 (PR).
The initial, aborted set contained an epic failed rep, in which I did a power slide out from under the bar. I was shaken by that, but got back under the bar anyway. The second rep of the second work set was probably the funniest and worst rep I’ve ever done, or ever seen done. I really shouldn’t share this stuff publicly but I’m hoping I might learn something useful from a friend who wants to share insights. See video, below.
Wrist/Forearm Rehab: pronated and supinated wrist curls, 10 lbs DBs x 5 x 8
Upper Body Aux: 20 lbs DBs w/ FatGrips x Bent Over Row, Press & Curls, 3 x 8.
Push-ups: 5, 4, 4, 4, 4
Pull-Up: 4, 4, 3, 3, 3
Noticing not at all pleasant nagging shoulder pain in right shoulder (on the front).
Additional lacrosse ball and foam roller work and stretching on forearms shoulders and thoracic spine, upper back.
Went to ASC early this morning, about 5:10 am, and got my squat on! After a brief hiatus, and a little reset, now the weight is starting to creep back up.
Sleep is a problem lately, because the kids are sick. Heck, I am sick. As of today it’s been three weeks of coughing, hacking, weakness. I’m through with it! But apparently, it’s not through with me. JZ was up at 3:00 am, and I had to contend with only about 4.5 hours total sleep today. No fun.
1000 meter row, easy pace
Hip, Ham, Quad, Calf, Ankle, Shoulder, Forearm, Wrist
Squat: 2 x 5 x 45 / 5 x 135 / 3 x 185 / 2 x 205 / 3 x 5 x 215
Wrist/Forearm: pronated and supinated wrist curls, 10 lbs DBs x 5 x 5
Upper Body Aux: 20 lbs DBs w/ FatGripz. Reverse Flyes, Lying Triceps Extensions & Hammer Curls x 3 x 5.
Push-Ups: 4, 4, 4, 4, 4
Chin-Ups (fat bar, green band): 4, 3, 3, 3, 3
Jumping Jacks x 15
Goblet Squats x 5 x 15 lbs
After rounds 2, 4, 6, and 8, do: 100 meter Farmer’s Carry w/ 20 lbs DBs FatGripz.
In recent months, it’s always the same. Wednesdays are my deadlifting days. And now, having just yesterday settled some issues with help from Andrew G — who convinced me that I really have only two goals: first squat 300 and second deadlift 400 — it seems that Wednesday deadlift days are a fundamental part of my pursuit of my second most important goal.
I am on a journey here. I love the deadlift and have missed doing truly heavy deadlifts during this period while I let my broken arm recover. It’s been 15 weeks today; three more weeks and I’ll be good to pull with all my might. But I’m not yet at the point where I’m doing serious deadlift work.
Instead, I’ve been gradually stressing the bones in my forearm — lifting heavier and heavier weights over the past 4 weeks — and working on my grip. As a part of forearm and wrist rehab, I’ve been doing a lot of auxiliary grip work, including light deadlifts with the fat bar. All the wrist and forearm work I’ve been doing needs to be understood as a part of the larger goal of getting that 400 lb deadlift. (I envision myself doing it with solid form and gas left in the tank for more.) Grip and forearm strength has always been a weakness of mine, whether with respect to deadlifts or pull-ups. And I suspect that I might not have busted my forearm … if only I were built more like Popeye. Hence, FatGripz, Fat Bar work, and chins and pull-ups on the fat bar.
Anyway, enough philosophizing. Here’s what I did today.
After the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th rounds I took some active rest doing
100 meter DB Waiter’s Walk (w/ 20 lbs DBs, Fat Gripz)
Super light KB was easy to handle. My jump rope skills are getting much smoother; I had very few stalls while doing 1000 single unders. The Waiter’s Walk was like an active recovery phase, but it was a great stressor on the shoulder girdle and spinal erectors. I’ll be feeling that later.