week 1: new twelve week cycle begins today

Today marks the start of two parallel but different 12 week cycles in my program. They are (a) a training cycle, and (b) a cycle of attempting to change the composition of my body.

The 12 week cycle runs from today, January 8th, 2012, through March 31st, 2012.

This post is a brief report on the current status quo of my training and body composition with respect to my various goals.

Training Goals and Plan

Current goals are simple: 300 lb back squat and 400 lb deadlift. I also do other stuff — I work on other lifts and skills — but my focus is on these simple, attainable goals.

Right now I have a 270 x 1 squat (which I got this past Friday). I haven’t tested my 1 RM deadlift for a long time (I have a 2 x 330 PR right now, set in April 2011). This past Wednesday I did 305 x 5.

Body Recomposition Goals and Plan

I don’t like being flabby, and I started to get flabby in late 2011. So, I’m going to be dedicated to clean foods, careful nutrition for workout recovery, IF-style limiting of the eating window, periodic longer fasting, etc. I spelled it out a couple of days ago.

Today, I weighed 206 lbs (down from 211.5 on Jan 1st, 2012), and measured 38″ around the midsection (a lot of my body fat accumulates in the umbilical area… in my love handles and lower abs).

I’ll be interested to see where my efforts to clean up my nutritional act take me. What I think I want is to weigh about 195 and be a lot leaner than I am now. So I want to continue to add lean mass while stripping off this fat.

I lost like 5.5 lbs this week, all of it sort of “water weight,” i.e. extra bloat from all the holiday crap I stuffed myself with. From here on out I need to go SLOW. My goals are met if I lose less than a pound a week from here on out, so, I’m definitely not trying to starve myself here.

A Brief History

I’ve been blogging about my own struggles with training and diet (and occasionally writing more public-spirited posts too) for about three years. And now it’s worth it to say that I am beginning to develop more of a “historical” perspective on my training.

Three years ago I was just beginning to be engaged in a serious process of body recomposition. Using CrossFit, the Zone, and Paleo, I successfully took off a lot of weight and simultaneously got stronger and fitter than I’d ever been.

This blog played a big part in that process. One tool I’ve used in the past, with mixed success, is to invent these “training cycles” and “plans” for myself. I’ve published the rules here and tried to hold myself accountable to them.

Reading back over this blog sometimes embarrasses me. I’ve been stupid, even though I’m smart, and naive, and bombastic, and foolish, and of course, narcissistic. But, to me the blog has value. It helps me stay on track to write it. So I write it.

If you read this blog regularly, you’re probably a friend of mine. Thank you. You must really like me if you’ll put up with all this garbage. Or, maybe you like making fun of me. Whatever, that’s what friends are for.

If you have stumbled across the blog and read a post or two… thanks for your interest and curiosity! I hope what I write helps you in some way.

I actually don’t have much time today to go over my own history (mostly of “failure”) of using these invented training cycles in my training. There’s this blog, so you can check it out yourself if you want.

One thing that’s clear is that, on a year to year basis, I’ve used the training cycle idea, and I’ve found them helpful, but they usually don’t work out the way I expect them to. Something ALWAYS happens to interrupt them. OR, I change my mind and get off course.

A big problem I’ve had in the past was a lack of focus. I would set myself far too many goals, without a real plan for how to accomplish a program for attaining them. The problem wasn’t so much my ambition as it was my lack of experience. I didn’t understand that actually it would have been impossible to craft a program that would let me succeed in those goals.

This past fall, while I was rehabbing my broken arm, I got my act together a bit more. I’ve got Andrew Greenberg to thank for helping me get more focused… also this great article at T-Nation. Andrew convinced me to stop planning out everything in so much detail, stop trying to do so many things, and just pursue simple, measurable goals. And the T-Nation article cemented his point.

I really was out to lunch in the past. I mean, look, about a year ago, starting a new training cycle after a hiatus over New Year’s 2010-2011, I wrote about a new plan, new determination, a new cycle, and at the end of the post I listed like 7 goals I thought were attainable in 6 months. None were attained! (See here and laugh!) I wasn’t thinking clearly, and besides setting myself up for injury, overtraining, and frustration, I was making a fool of myself by pretending I could see the future!

Just a few months went by after I wrote that post and suddenly I had a totally different plan for my life, totally unforeseen back in January 2011.

The new plan took me from the world of CrossFit and put me into the world of strength training and Olympic weightlifting… and the details are visible right here on the blog.

And of course, by mid-summer 2011 I had a broken arm and once again, plans made earlier were out the window, revised, according to the only plan that matters, which is: what’s your plan for responding to what’s happening in your life RIGHT NOW.

Nutshell Takeaway

So, in a nutshell, here’s what’s up. I’m starting a new cycle, 12 weeks long, but my history with such things tells me not to take it TOO seriously. It’s a kind of artificial way, a ritual, marking out “sacred space” relative to my training life. In reality, my training is just a day to day pursuit of getting stronger, staying fit, and having fun.

At the end of the period I’ll look at where I’ve come on my goals and assess where I want to go.

Along the way, on the first day of each new week, I’ll put up a report on where I am with respect to the goals. After the completion of the 12 weeks, on April 1, the start of lucky week 13 (an interstices, I imagine, before I begin another period), I’ll put up a more comprehensive reflection and hopefully, I won’t seem like The April Fool!

food journal 054

Monday my food intake was a bit screwy. Early in the day (i.e. about 5:30 am) I started off with coffee and half and half. After my workout, before going to work, I had three eggs scrambled in coconut oil, plus a slice of cantaloupe. I also had a shake of milk, plain whey protein (90% isolate), and about 1/2 banana, with 2 tsp. of coconut butter in there. More coffee w/ half and half. For lunch I ate a big “salad” at the Main Street Diner in Mars Hill: turkey, ham, roast beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, sweet hot peppers, and “blue cheese dressing” (unfortunately, made with soybean oil). For dinner I had a glass of milk and leftover “buffalo garden” sauce. And a couple of teaspoons of coconut butter. Probably not a lot of total calories. I’ll be hungry tomorrow. Done eating by about 7:00 pm. But then, at 10:45 pm, just before bed, I could not resist a tablespoon of coconut butter. Addictive stuff. I hope the extra 90 calories was worth it!

Weigh in: 193 lbs (Monday morning).

food journal 053

Sunday I was only about 90% on my dietary plan. Breakfast was about eight am and consisted of three eggs skillet poached in oil (bacon drippings), two medium sized gluten free pancakes w/ butter and maple syrup, two strips of bacon and a small sausage patty. (The refined starches and maple syrup are off plan). Lunch was with an old friend, Sanjiv, who was coming through town; we did it up at Luella’s BBQ. I ate the three hush puppies on my plate (another cheat with refined starches, and with fry oil)… the sauces were so good! 10 oz meat (3 ribs and beef brisket), collard greens, green salad with cheese and blue cheese dressing, unsweet tea. Before dinner I probably had a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter… can’t remember for certain. For dinner it was about 6 oz of flounder with butter and a large pile of collard greens cooked with bacon and side meat, about 1/4 cup of brown and white rice. Several handfuls of almonds after dinner. Done eating by about 7:30.

food journal 050-052

Concerning my diet on Aug. 11th, 12th, and 13th, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I could and should refer to this three day stretch as “Days of Gluten,” since, as it happens, I ate a gluten-filled meal for dinner each of the days.

On each of these days I ate very low carb from breakfast until dinner or after dinner. But then, went a bit haywire with dinner. But Thursday and Friday nights I did not snack after dinner, or did not eat significant quantities of anything. And all three days I ate low calorie enough during the day, or skipped lunch, with the result that I experienced real, stomach growling, gut churning hunger at some point on each day.

On all three days I had eggs and breakfast meats for breakfast, with either a little bit of fruit, or no carbs. I had very small lunches, low calories, also low carb. But Thursday dinner was a big fat 1/2 pound cheeseburger with some fries from Cook Out. Friday was pizza and beer at Asheville Pizza and Brewery downtown. Saturday I had spaghetti with a lovely buffalo meat garden veggie sauce. And later Saturday night I ate dessert.

Weigh in on Saturday: 192.0 lbs.

food journal 049

A perfect shit storm has hit me lately: health, family, household, etc. I have a broken arm, along with insomnia and jet lag (awful combination), my dog died on Tuesday, and then so did my fridge (the repair was expensive). Add to that an unpleasant, sad anniversary on Wednesday that I’d rather not discuss in my public gym notebook… my life feels shadowed by a melancholy gloom and doom.

I ate well all day on Wednesday, but then went a little haywire after dark. This is a very old eating pattern for me. Not my ideal.

Day started at 5:20 am with only about 3 hours of sleep. Coffee w/ half half. About 8:00 am, I had a breakfast of three eggs scrambled in butter, plus a banana. And 12 oz. milk. More coffee w/ half half. At lunchtime, say 1 pm, I had spinach, a cup of leftover brown rice, and two cans (8 oz) of sardines packed in olive oil. I ate the oil too… nice dressing. Dinner was shrimp in butter, and broccoli. Plus another 12 oz glass of whole milk.

Later I drank whiskey, ate .75 QT of vanilla ice cream (refrozen after the fridge got fixed, and barely edible), some jelly beans I found in the cupboard, about 4 oz of cheddar cheese, and 2 oz, of almonds.

I justify my behavior to myself with all kinds of excuses. I have no pain meds and can’t fall asleep at a reasonable hour even on only 3 hours of sleep… so whiskey seems right. Plus it’s a memorial libation for Marshall, and Jude. Etc. I have watched my mom make excuses like this. She’s still excusing herself at 70 years old. Maybe I can get a better grip.

food journal 035-048

14 days ago I posted a food journal entry. 13 days ago I broke my left arm skimboarding. I haven’t posted much. I have some pictures and video of me skimboarding this summer, and x-rays, and post op photos. I’ll publish them all here in good time. I plan a post about pipoboarding. I wish the photos and vids were of higher quality and didn’t show off my gangly sports style, but whatever.

I’ve continued to eat the way I have. Light or no lunch. Protein heavy breakfast with minimal fruit or other carbs. Veggies, a little starch, and meat for dinner. Night time cheating with (small amounts of) alcohol and (rather larger amounts of) sweets and sugar. I’ve been nearly 100% gluten free over the past two weeks. I’ve added glasses of milk and whey protein also, since breaking the arm.

No working out at all. Strictly mobility and stretching.

Weigh in on Tuesday, Aug. 9th, 3:30 pm: 190.5 lbs.

food journal 034

food tuesday july 26th 2011

coffee w/ half and half

weigh-in: 197.0 lbs

about 9:00 am
bites of leftover sausage and egg from kids breakfast

about 11:15 am
2 egg omelete fried in butter w/ fat slice of monterrey jack cheese
1 large grapefruit

about 1:30 pm
medium sized bowl of ground beef with tomato, spinach, and basil

selzter water

iced coffee w/ half half

a few raspberries, blueberries, and slices of banana, a sip of Yael’s beer, and maybe one bite of the kids’ dinner (see below for description)

surfing session (before and after: lemon ginger green tea… awesome pre and post cold water surfing)

… then

10:00 pm (post surfing)
white rice, pinto beans, large serving of chicken enchillada casserole (4 corn tortillas, chicken, musrooms, green chili sauce, monterrey jack, mexican farmer’s crumble, and cheddar cheeses, el pato sauce)

glass of tequilla with ice

piece of candy from Bruce’s: “dark chocolate peanut butter bar”

bowl of vanilla ice cream with boysenberry syrup (yes it has HFCS but I love it)

seltzer water

food journal 033

Food Journal for Monday, July 25th

Weigh-in 198 lbs

Coffee w/ half
A little heartburn and stomach sour this am
2 eggs fried in bacon grease
1 large banana
Coffee w/ half

Seltzer water
Coffee w/ half

Late Lunch:
One pulled pork taco: corn tortilla toasted in bacon grease, kale, pulled pork (a few ounces), Valentina sauce.
A small number of leftover French fries

Walk on the beach

4:30-6:30 pm: shot of vodka, club soda and lemon x 2

For dinner: white rice with home made ground beef and tomato sauce with fresh basil and spinach

Nighttime binge while reading:
Whiskey and club soda
Vanilla and Mint Chocolate chip ice cream with home made “hot fudge” <– quantity: large; this was serious binge behavior!

food journal 27-32

This entry covers Tuesday July 19th to Sunday, July 24th. Most of this week constituted a real vacation for me. After the visit from Danny, Anya, and family, during which we were (I was) only pretty bad, we had Ben, Deb, and family in town… and I was really bad. Vacation style eating, more of the same from my previous entry.

Usually, the day started slow. There were a few, but not a lot of big breakfasts and lunches… nor was there a lot of daytime snacking. Usually my days’ eating was focused on big dinners followed by dessert, and then nighttime binging. Several of them gave me nighttime belly aches that continued into the morning. One of them (I believe it was Friday, July 23rd, day 30 of the food journal) constituted a total gluten binge, involving wheat products at meals, snacks, and a shit-ton of pizza for dinner, followed by cookies and graham crackers into the night. I continued to eat things I normally wouldn’t through the weekend.

By Sunday July 24th (day 32), I woke up with a second day in a row of serious heartburn. The scale (which “must be” broken) claimed that I was around 199.4 lbs. Holy crap! And I felt terrible and bloated. I felt like I was at the bottom of a hole… emotionally… training wise… and physiologically. I almost didn’t eat any breakfast (coffee and a single scrambled egg). Yet I knew the day would not be friendly to good eating. I was going to have early lunch at a cafeteria in the “retirement village” where my grandmother lives, in Astoria, OR. Having checked out the menu on a previous visit, I knew what to expect. My expectations were not disappointed. “Fried” chicken, powdered mashed potatoes (a product I actually like), boiled carrots, olive drab steamed broccoli. At least I skipped the gravy and “rice pudding.” I ate a massive plate… too much. After returning to Arch Cape, I drank seltzer water and worked out. I started to feel better. (But there are other emotional issues there!) It was a beautiful afternoon. I decided to have a post workout beer… which may have been the healthiest food choice I made all day! I also ate leftover pulled pork (from dinner on Wednesday, I think). At that point, we realized that we didn’t really have proper groceries to make a healthy dinner. We decided, against normal policy at our place, to take our small children “out” to dinner. We ended up at a fish and chip house. I decided not to spend $22 on healthy grilled fish and steamed veggies. For half the price, I had deep fried battered cod and french fries. And heck, I even dipped it in cheap tartar sauce and “homemade” cocktail sauce (manifestly tomato ketchup with horseradish). I did not overeat. And I waited for the bloating, the discomfort, the heartburn, to return. It did not. I stayed away from the kitchen, then, until I was reading in the evening, well after kid bedtime. I finished off the day with a little bit of Rye, a bit of apple, a bit of dried papaya, dried mango, and a few chocolate chips. Compared with the previous week, this was incredibly moderate. I stopped all food intake around 10:30 pm.

For the next few days I know, or rather I feel, that I am going to be back on track. I will probably take a complete break from alcohol and sugars and will certainly return to a gluten free eating pattern. I may even go back to light intermittent fasting. Merely because eating that way makes me feel better, emotionally and physically. But I also know, from documenting my (ch)eating over the past 32 days in this journal, not to expect that things will sort themselves out on my own.

During this period I had some seriously, seriously embarrassing food days. Days that reminded me that my problem with food is really this two-edged issue of psychological compulsiveness and addiction. If I pour my energy into “healthy” eating, I can eat like a champion. But I rightly feel (and get reminded by more sane friends like Brian and Andrew) that this mode is ridiculous and leads to unhealthy “eating disorder” type behaviors. On the other hand, it seems as though I am incapable of eating like a “normal” person. In the absence of self-imposed fascistic controls on my diet, I become the cookie monster.

I don’t have the answer to this issue at the moment. I’d like to be a “food normal” … but really, I’m actually not. So I’ll be thinking about how to address this issue… compulsive behavior around food and diet… in the near future.

food journal 21-26

This pathetic entry covers almost an entire week in which I didn’t compose new entries. Wednesday, July 13th (21), Thursday, July 14th (22), Friday, July 15th (23), Saturday, July 16th (24), Sunday, July 17th (25), and Monday, July 18th (26).

Days start out pretty well, usually. My morning meals have not been stellar, but they are ok. It’s always first coffee with half and half or milk. Then we usually have breakfast. It’s eggs, sometimes with cheese, and whatever breakfast meat we happen to have on hand, such as bacon or sausage or even smoked salmon. For carbs it’s fruit, or oatmeal, corn tortillas, or even none. On at least one of these days (today, day 26) my breakfast has been ridiculous. It was leftover pork ribs and a large slice of pizza. I kid you not. I give myself: B- grade on breakfasts.

Daytime snacks and lunch: I mostly haven’t been doing ‘snacks’ or ‘lunch’. With some exceptions, like, sitting on the beach after surfing yesterday I had peanuts and corn chips. Or occasionally I will have a tablespoon of almond butter, some fruit, a handful of peanuts, that kind of thing. Lunch is often skipped, or is leftover meats, with a little bit of fruit. I find that lunch tends to interfere with mid-day activity on the beach or in lifting, surfing, etc. Sometimes this means that “lunch” looks like a daytime snack. Grade on lunch and snacks: C+.

Dinner has been the main meal of the day, and usually the healthiest, with the exception of day 25, where we had Pizza. I can’t recall at present (end of day 26) what I ate last Wednesday. That’s not surprising. There has been fish stew and spinach (day 26), pizza, salad and crab (day 25), salmon, carrots, and green beans (day 24), bbq pork ribs, mashed potatoes, and broccoli (day 23); other meals, of which I am less certain of the timing, include ground beef with tomatotes, broccoli, kale, and zucchini (probably day 21). With the exception of Pizza dinner and cheating I have been probably 95% gluten free. Grade on dinner: B+.

Alcohol: “never on a school night” has not been in effect. But then, it’s not a “school night.” Beer, wine, liquor. All has been fair game. During the day, not so much (I have grown very fond of having a beer after surfing, though). Up to kid bed time, I am very restrained and discreet. After dinner, the later I stay up, the more I drink, it seems. Especially when the house is filled with old friends as it was over the weekend of the 15th-17th (days 23-24-25). Grade: F.

Post-dinner binge eating: yes. My sweet tooth is in total effect. Chocolate and butter (i.e. fudge sauce), random candies left lying around by the kids, ice cream, cheddar cheese, almond butter, even Pizza (on nights 25 and 26). Grade: D+

Weigh-in: 192.0. What this tells me is that, pretty obviously, whatever I am doing is not hurting the “bottom” line.