Surf Safari 2012

New Four Week Training Cycle begins today, July 1st, and extends until July 28th. Twelve MWF workout are planned, but the main point of the cycle is to surf as many times as possible.

Training plan is simple. Focus on doing triples. Deal with the equipment limitations of being at the beach, which are as follows: I have a jumprope, some rings, an 8 foot pull-up bar, 300 lbs of rusty Chinese iron, and that’s about it. I’ll do RDLs on Monday, Squats on Wednesdays, and Hang Power Cleans on Fridays, plus burpees, presses, ring dips, and chin ups every day. Like my last cycle. I will condition as I feel capable. But surfing could happen on training days or rest days and it will likely leave me WIPED. So no pressure. Not looking to set any PRs this month.

From a body recomposition perspective the point is to not lose ground, and to be more serious and focused than I was, for example, during the last week, this last “play week,” in which I may or may not have gained a pound or two, but during which I definitely didn’t treat myself well.

To that end I have devised three super simple rules that will help me maintain a weight in the 199-201 range, which is where I was at the end of my last cycle.

Rule 1: don’t eat after 8 pm or before 9 am. Duh. Just don’t do it. 7 days a week. Stop with the post dinner, late night snacking.

Rule 2: don’t watch TV or movies. Read instead. Don’t think this has anything to do with body recomposition? Well, my worst behavior around food and skipping sleep is all centered around watching TV late at night. So skip it.

Rule 3: sleep, motherf***er, you got to surf tomorrow.

the idea of a shorter training cycle

Trial and error. That’s been my training plan and my coach. Really. Because although I have relationships with coaches, and I do a little bit of coaching myself, I just don’t pay anyone else to be my coach or to program for me.

To some ways of thinking, that leaves just me, as coach of myself. But that’s not accurate. Actually, my coach is like a force of nature. I am always trying things out, and often failing to get where I think I’ve planned to go. Because while I always have plans, they rarely work out. I keep making trials, and then wandering off the path in error. Or, I get pushed from the path by random happenstance and accident. I’ve learned to expect this pattern, and even to benefit from it. My coach is thus “trial and error.” He’s relentless. He always says, “do it again.” And he often says, “there is no try, there’s what you did, you’re doing now, and what you’re going to do. That’s all.” So I plan, and I attempt to do X, and do X plus or minus Y, and end up where I end up. It’s important to pay attention to that.

My thinking has changed lately. I’ve rethought the way I go about planning for myself. Over the past three years that I’ve actively pursued “training,” I’ve deliberated with myself about how to periodize my training and how to deal with the inevitable cycles and ups and downs that come when life and training intersect.

I’ve used “training cycles” as defined periods of 8-12 weeks of focused purpose in pursuit of defined goals. But what I’ve found is that a 2-3 month period is just too long. It doesn’t allow for the dynamic nature of life, for the changes that life often brings, without warning. Injuries, illnesses, unplanned events, lapses in discipline, etc.

Experiencing this again and again has taught me something important. It has taught me that I need shorter periods in which to try and remain focused. And so, what I’m thinking now is: I want to try out a year of shorter periods, periods of 3-5 weeks in length.

These shorter training cycles of 3-5 weeks will, I hope, allow me to accommodate life’s shifting forces better in my training. I can choose, ad hoc, to put different cycles back to back, or to repeat the same training cycles, or to add single weeks of rest, conditioning, testing, or rehab between cycles, as needed.

The first of these new, shorter training cycles begins today, Sunday, May 27th, 2012, and continues through Saturday, June 23rd, 2012. It is four weeks long. It will very likely be followed by a week of light conditioning (June 24th to June 30th), and then by a totally different four week cycle while I am in Oregon later this summer (July 1st to July 28th). Another week of light conditioning (July 29th to Aug 4th) will be followed by a third four week cycle (Aug 5th to Sep 1st).

I will discuss, in this blog, each of these periods as they arrive.

a rest week

I’ve not read back through my blog, looking for evidence of the last time I took a true “rest week,” i.e. did not work out or exercise or train in any capacity. I am not sure. Anyway, this one has come along at the right time. I am between training cycles right now. A new, 4 week challenge cycle begins a week from today. I’ll not be posting further this week in this training blog. At least, not about training. No guarantees about anything else. You never know!

I’m going to try and make this week off about R&R so certain elements of my plan are already in effect.

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!

sunday walk

Sunday afternoon at the end of my rope, grading wise, I put my backpack on and left out of Dobra tea, to take about a 45 minute walk through downtown Asheville, consciously breathing through my nose in the stinging cold air, taking the light into my eyes, and seeing what I could see. When I got back home I was tired, and my sinuses ached a bit. But it was good. I was scoping out new routes for next Saturday’s country-urban ramble. There are a lot of forgotten corners and alleys in Asheville. Walls that should be scaled or leapt over. Fences that should be hopped. Steep slopes that should be sprinted. Lines that should be traced.

unplanned rest

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.

revisiting training goals and plan

I seem to be getting smarter as I get stronger. Coincidence?

See my revised training goals and plan here.

This week of illness has forced me to rest, and therefore to reset my squat linear progression. Definitely not planned. My count of weeks will reset to I as of tomorrow. I am planning to restart my squat linear progression as follows: MON: 3 x 5 x 185 ; FRI x 215; MON x 230; FRI x 240 (PR); thereafter, +5 per week (i.e. 2.5 lbs per session) until the Linear Progression peters out.

missing days

It would be week XII. But I missed workout A. Looks like I’ll miss workout B tomorrow AM too. It means I fall behind on my projected squat linear progression, and being a super novice, I don’t even know how to deal with that programming issue.

My doctor ruled out pneumonia. Which is good. And basically said it’s viral and there’s nothing to be done except rest, fluids, chicken soup. Rest is actually my challenge. Being sick enough to force a rest period sucks pretty bad. Advice appreciated.

a little farm work on saturday

Week IX, Workout D

Stopped by ASC at about 11:15 with the kids. Nobody but T-Bone there. Nothing going on. I decided to goof around. Then turned it into a workout. Details as follows:

Warm-Up: 5 minutes on the Airdyne Bike

Goofing Around: 10 lbs FatGrips DBs, farmer’s carries while skipping, and walking, in lines and circles, a few minutes.

Workout: Farmer’s Carries, while running. 10lbs DBs w/ FatGripz handles. 10 x 100 meter @ 90s interval. Farmer’s Carry, while walking: 1 x 400 meters.

Before you call me a pussy for only carrying 1/10th of my body weight on my farmer’s carries, remember, I am still less than 12 weeks out from my broken left forearm. This is really a rehabilitative workout.

It was easy, effective, and fun. My forearms and grip are getting stronger every week.

quick home workout on Monday

Week VIII, Workout B

Not so much of a workout as an active rest day. I took the whole day on Sunday devoting it to the squat, so I needed Monday morning for some academic work. Instead of simply blowing off the day, though, in the early early morning I did some warm-up mobility work and a couple of simple things at home that keep me in track with a couple of my goals.

Mobility: foam rolling spine, hamstrings, glutes; shoulder rotations, spiders, salutations. Wrist and forearm flexibility and mobility, various stretch poses, and movement, including various curls with a dowel and pronation/supination reps.

Push-Ups with Wooden Broom Handle in 3-point contact (back of head, thoracic, and sacral): 5 sets: 2, 1, 1, 1, 1.

Plank Holds two arms extended w/ 3 point contact: 3 sets: 60 sec, 60 sec, 60sec.

(Next time: Push-Ups 2, 2, 1, 1, 1 and Next week: Plank Holds 90 sec, 60 sec, 60 sec).