summer is here (plan apotheosis)

The life of an academic has some real perks, the most obvious of which is the summer break from full time teaching duties. For me, Summer 2011 began yesterday. I guess I celebrated with heavy cleans and some sandbag sprints.

Now, on this first rest day of summer, I’m cooking up some plans to revitalize my training, while recovering my sanity after this brutal semester.

First I’ve got a six week dietary “cleanse” planned, which is basically a graduated restoration of my usual good dietary practices with some additional strictures thrown in at the end. I might share some details of this in the future, or, I might not. It depends on how well it goes. I definitely need the cleanse, as my plan to watch my weight gain and loss more closely, now about three or four weeks old, has yielded zero results so far (see the next post I write).

Last week, I basically took a week’s rest. So, this rest day also marks the start of a new training period. This one will probably last seven full weeks. During the eighth week from today I’ll be headed out to Oregon for our annual beach vacation.

So, during the next seven weeks, I expect to gradually ramp up the intensity and volume, in preparation for that vacation: it starts with about a week off and is followed by five intense weeks of near daily surfing and 3 x week weightlifting.

Over the next seven weeks I’ll be simultaneously trying to cut body fat, hang on to my lean mass, make new PRs in the Oly Lifts, and build aerobic capacity and endurance. In other words: I’m seeking god-like transformation. Call it “plan apotheosis.”

the interstices

I was so sore from Friday’s sandbagging workout! What an awesome WOD. I really liked it. I feel good now. Over the next three weeks I’m going to miss WODs like that, and the variable semi-randomness of Shanna’s programming.

It’s time for a rest from training. We hear and talk all the time about periodizing our training plans, but there’s no agreement among athletes and training junkies about how long a training period should be, or on how much seasonal or post- and pre-event rest should be included in a plan. And I only know that it’s time to rest because, well, here I am.

I am lying on the floor of my parent’s condo in Portland. My dad is nearby cursing at his computer. There is going to be close quarters with family for several weeks. My son is turning one tomorrow; he’s sleeping in the bathroom tonight. My daughter is sharing our bedroom on an inflatable cot.

It’s the end of a long long day of travel. We left at 2:00 am on Sunday morning, driving from Asheville to Charlotte. Kids, stroller, backpacks, suitcases, car seats, handbags, carry ons, all made it to Portland by 11:00 am Pacific.

(I did this particular travel day in a fasted state — it was a full 19 hours between my last feeding at 8:00 pm EST on Saturday and 12:00 pm PST on Sunday. I highly recommend fasting travel, by the way. It works for me.)

I feel especially lucky — I am lucky, I know — to work in an industry in which my life is automatically periodized. At my college, the calendar year is divided into three major parts: Spring Semester (about 17 weeks), Summer (about 14 weeks), and Fall Semester (17 weeks), and it also includes four annual vacation periods: Fall Break (4 day weekend), Thanksgiving Break (5 day weekend), Christmas Break (3 full weeks), and Spring Break (1 full week).

Such periodicization provides both an opportunity and a challenge for designing and sticking with a year-long training plan.

You can’t practice something if you’re not there doing it.

Transitions and liminal periods are difficult enough to reconcile with continuous discipline and practice in some particular mode of training. Even more so if they include travel.

Training gets interrupted by holidays and foreseeable seasonal surges of activity and travel. Especially in my family. My solution is to not worry about it. It would be stupid and besides would annoy my friends whose work doesn’t include such opportunities for extended rest and recuperation. (To avoid a lynch mob, I say remember: I have basically exchanged job prestige and monetary reward for all this vacation time.)

Worry never helped anyone. Instead of fretting, I embrace these times of being with family as an enforced and ultimately welcome change of routine. Possibly, such a change will assist in positive adaptation to my overall training program. It’s not like I’m going to sit around and do nothing. It’ll just be a bit different. I’ll be in the gym tomorrow with my dad, for example, lifting weights. And we’ll take it from there.

These are times to strengthen my training by taking more rest days, emphasizing different training modalities, and doing more play.

Instead of fretting about missing the gym, I think of the transitions between semesters as periods of deliberate neglect. I neglect those aspects of my training that are best done in the company of my fellow CrossFitters, or which can only be done with a space for Olympic lifting and gymnatics, etc. When I come back to training those kinds of lifts and met-cons, I will be the stronger for having changed my routine for a while.

check in: plan HTFU and body measures

I took Friday off from the WOD, and skipped my 5k sprint work and the WOD on Saturday. I’m damn glad I did. By Thursday morning this past week I was so wrecked from lack of sleep and general central nervous system overload (caused by excessive working out but also by stress from family and work) that I couldn’t help but acknowledge that I really needed more rest. So I took it.

Now, here at the end of the weekend, on Sunday night, after three days without working out, I feel ready to get back to training hard starting tomorrow morning. It’s amazing what a couple of days off can do to fire me up these days.

So, “Plan HTFU” is still in full effect. Taking extra rest days as needed DOES NOT CANCEL the plan. For this upcoming week the training schedule is as follows:

Mon: CFA Strength & WOD + Additional Push-Ups and Pull-Ups; Tue: 5k walk/sprint workout & deadlifts or other strength set at CFA; Wed: CFA Strength & WOD + Additional Push & Pull; Thu: 1 mile run, Back Squat, and Manual Therapy; Fri: CFA Strength & WOD; Sat: Haywood Heroes 5k in Canton, NC.

Just looking at the plan I know I’m going to be wrecked by Saturday AM, but I’ll take an additional rest day or two (e.g. Tue and Fri) the following week.

This Week’s Body Measurements
Weight Observed

Suprailliac Skinfold

Body Fat %

Fat Mass

Lean Mass
182.5

4-6 mm

11.5%

21 lbs

161.5

Depending on your point of view on these things, I managed to maintain weight, or gain weight, this week, weighing in three pounds heavier than last, but at the same BF % as measured by this skinfold technique, which is new to me. At some point I’ll discuss and possibly post pictures illustrating it on myself. Actually the skinfold measure for this week was less than last week (more like 5 mm) but my instrument has marks only at 2, 4 and 6 mm, so, unless I clearly get down to 4mm I will just round it up to 6.

I view this mild weight gain from last week as weight maintenance because I have the long view, and 182.5 is about even with the long term average I am working on. (See my weight chart for details.) I had to eat myself almost sick to get this result, and I had one ridiculously out of control episode of cheating during the week, on Friday night.

What happened on the cheat was this. From Thursday to Friday, I did my usual 14 hour fast, and then started the day with a big breakfast. But then, probably because I skipped the workout on Friday morning, I simply forgot to eat my lunch. That’s kind of an unusual thing for me. I was busy and had meetings straight through the day, but even so, normally I’m so hungry that I would never miss the mid-day meal. But Friday I did. Then, after work, at about 5:30 pm I met up with Yael and the kids at a family friendly Italian place near our home, Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, on Merrimon. I was ravenous; it had been 8 hours since my last meal. I chose the location, because they have unusually paleo-friendly grill menu items (e.g. grilled chicken breasts w/ spinach and broccoli for sides). Initially, I had no intention to cheat (other than my usual self-indulgence of some booze on a weekend night). But… I had two martinis and ordered the steak with goronzola (so what? a dairy cheat, no big deal right? after all, it was Friday and I was drinking, so why not allow some cheese?). So when we got home I was buzzed and mentally out of the paleo groove and definitely not in my best judgment.

On the stove-top, still sitting on the sheets, there were some crappy home baked Chocolate chip cookies made from industrial processed pre-made cookie dough (a neighborhood kid sold it to my wife as a fundraiser). My wife and daughter had made them during the day. For some reason they were calling out to me. I wanted more calories, and badly. And my normal feeding window was closing fast (it was 7:00 pm, and I intended to be done ingesting calories from food by 7:30 pm). So, anyway, I broke down. I quickly ate several cookies… I am not sure why. But that opened the floodgates. I started raiding the kitchen for sugar and excess calories. I found some Nutella spread and put that between two halves of one cookie; that tasted a lot better than the crappy cookies did on their own. Then I raided some remains of a dark chocolate my wife had left uneaten for weeks; then consumed another fundraising item, a milk chocolate with almonds bar. I topped it all off with a protein shake made with strawberries, honey, whey and coconut milk (in case I didn’t have enough calories?).

Of course, I felt like shit the next day. Partly, this was a sense of guilt… this was a second big cheating episode in as many weekends! But, as my weigh in today showed, I’m none the worse for wear in terms of overall body composition goals. I guess that’s because I continue to follow my 12-14 hour daily fast (in fact, from Saturday to Sunday I did 16 hours, 6:00 pm to 10:00 am) and to emphasize food quality, staying gluten, sugar, and dairy free (except for whey protein) all the time … except when I cheat!

Squat Cleans / Burpee Box Jumps

The Asheville Citizen Times Half Marathon is coming up… this Saturday! Accordingly, I have a bit of a different plan for this week, the fifth week of my training cycle. The plan is: full WOD on Monday, strength only (two lifts) on Tuesday, rest on Wednesday, rehab strength on Thursday, Friday rest, Saturday: RUN.

A plan is a plan, but then there’s the reality. And the reality was I got less than 5 quality hours of sleep coming into this morning. So, tired and mentally not fully with it, I arrived at the 6:00 am workout, determined to push on, but feeling like all was not entirely well with my (training) world.

When I got there, I took stock of the workout. Rx’d: full squat cleans (5 heavy reps), followed by a simple, but brutal, WOD: 50 burpee box jumps. Difficult stuff.

The WOD, in brief:

Strength: Squat Cleans

On the record books, I have a 1 rep PR of 150. So I figured, 5 reps at 135 ought to be doable.

Result: 5 x 45 / 5 x 75 / 5 x 105 / 3 x 115 / 1 x 125 / 3 x 135 (pathetic fail on 4).

I felt like there was no reason why I hadn’t done sets of 5 on the 115 and the 125, especially since I didn’t get the 135. I played this strength cycle wrong; and the issue was mental alacrity, not power. I chalk that up to fatigue.

WOD: 50 Burpee Box Jumps

I never question Shanna’s programming, and I won’t today! This was a perfect workout, essentially combining two of my least favorite body weight movements.

I repped this one out, slow as a tortoise, but happy at least for one thing. A year ago, my old broken leg hurt lie hell every time I took a step, and by October I had entirely given up running and jumping, before being knocked out of all dynamic work for weeks starting in February. So when I came in nearly last in the group, at 24″ box / 6:57 / bare feet!, I was happy to be doing it. But bummed to feel so beat down.

My Training Cycle

General exhaustion has me questioning my plan to keep a 7 week training cycle, consisting of 6 weeks on, 1 week off. I have worked very hard for the past four weeks (Aug. 15th to Sep. 11th), hit tons of PRs, made progress in various areas, but now, I’m way tired, and for the past week, my performance has suffered, along with my focus and even my sleep. It all points to cortisol overload and a danger of overtraining.

What could be more frustrating than being exhausted but not being able to sleep? That’s been me of late. And yet, I have only myself to blame. I can’t seem to give up caffeine! Can you? It’s the one anti-sleep factor in my life that I could control, if I chose to. Or is it an addiction? A disease? I don’t know.

Anyway, I’ll try to fix my sleep. But I’m also thinking it’s time to re-think my training cycles.

This week, the start of my fifth week, feels like it ought to be a rest week. (I will rest more this week, but only because the HALF MARATHON is on Saturday!) My level of fatigue has got me thinking that I ought to work on an 8 week cycle with something like 3 weeks on, 1 week of strength only, 3 weeks on, 1 week of full rest. Or something like that.

New Cycle

I am really sore. My traps in particular. Sore in that good way, of course, that lets you know you worked hard, but still, really sore. Today, Sunday, is a rest day, a weigh-in and measurement day, and also the first day of my new seven week training cycle (as described in a recent post).

I had a good week. New PR in Push Press (on my first day back at CFA). Good eating habits and quality. Not too much alcohol on Friday and Saturday. Got lots done in the home front. The only thing lacking is good sleep; but my sleep hygiene has been decent and as soon as my jet-lag and stress lets up a little bit more, sleep should return to normal.

Reviewing the “rules” I laid out for myself for this new cycle, I think I am doing well.

  1. every day create list of seven to-do items for next day
  2. every day, go to bed a full eight hours before waking
  3. M-F, no non work- or family-related activities from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
  4. no purposeless TV or videos
  5. at least one half day a week, taking time to play with Lena, J.Z., Yael, and friends
  6. seven days a week, eating right and training well
  1. Train regularly (3-5x week) at CFA, with occasional endurance runs and bikes
  2. Follow a 7 week training cycle, with six weeks “on” and one week “off;” the first week of the first cycle will begin on Aug. 15th
  3. Do 30 days of “fascist-strict” Paleo, beginning Sunday, Aug. 22nd
  4. Before and after eat on a 90% Paleo, 95% clean, Zone-inspired plan, with a “never on a school night” alcohol plan
  5. Fast one full 26 hour period 1x per calendar month (4:00 pm to 6:00 pm); first fast will be Aug. 18-19th
  6. No eating between 8:00 pm to 8:00 am
  7. [rule rescinded until further notice]
  8. Record weight and body composition data weekly
  9. Drop daily food journal, but record training and dietary reflections in this blog; unless weight increases while body composition deteriorates, or other problems arise.

I did my best to keep all seven of my stress reduction rules. I did stay up one hour later than I should have on two occasions, and my sleep quality was not what it should be on any of these nights. As far as sleep quality goes: I have jet lag and am not used to this Carolina heat, so, these things will be mitigated with time.

As far as my training rules go, I’m happy to say that I’ve abided by them so far, although I have rescinded rule #7 (consuming BCAAs before fasted training) as unnecessary to me at this time. I am especially proud of myself for following rule #6 without a slip-up, and for abiding by rule #4… until this morning, when I allowed myself one homemade multigrain banana pancake with butter and pure maple syrup. I think I’ll be ok. So far, I continue to survive without my daily food journal (rule #9). Rule #1 is a given; rule #2 goes into effect starting today. For the next six weeks I will be “on” at the gym, until Oct. 2nd. In this time I will do my 30 days paleo, i.e. rule #3, from Aug. 22nd to Sep. 21st. I will also fast twice (rule #5): once in August… this week actually… and once in September, date TBA. Look for posts about those fasts. So, that leaves only rule #8: record body composition metrics. I’ll do that both on my weight chart here on the blog, and provide weekly separate posts as well; look for that post later today (I will measure data in the late afternoon).

Dear readers, my hope is that these posts documenting my own efforts at self discipline might inspire you to identify and keep your own plans and goals, even if you have to laugh at how apparently self-absorbed I am, or at my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. We all work with what we have. I don’t do all this in public, in a blog, in a quest for meaningless fame or notoriety, or from a perverse desire to expose myself; rather, I find that making these lists and plans and struggles public helps me take them seriously and keep at it. Thanks for helping… because… if you’re reading this, you just helped me stay on track.

rest day

There’s no real rest for a father (not to mention, a mother) of infants and young children; designate any given tomorrow as a rest day and Murphy’s law will dictate that your seven month old will keep both parents up all night and then get up to play at 4:45 am. Well, anyway, that’s what happened to me today.

This summer presented some health challenges to me, the most recent being a bacterial infection (briefly discussed in a previous post). Having been sidelined too much by illness during what was supposed to be a surfing-oriented endless summer, as soon as the meds clearned me up two weeks ago, I sprang back into action.

I ramped up the intensity of my activities, and my commitment to getting out and getting some. This basically translated into a long uninterrupted period of surfing, lifting, running, etc. In fact, from Saturday July 24th to Tuesday Aug. 3rd (11 days), I did something each day; mostly this was surfing, in sessions that were extended and physically demanding. I also set a couple of new personal records in lifting. I have complained of feeling deconditioned, or less than optimally fit, but the numbers suggest that the results of all this play (or training, or play-disguised-as-training) are mixed and ambiguous.

What definitely became clear, by the end of yesterday’s double-up (surfing and lifting), was that I needed a rest day… full stop. That’s today.

I’m resting, and it feels right. It feels good. I think I am narrowly avoiding overtraining here.

On The Horizon

Health on the horizon. Melancholy. Happiness. Work, family, friends, training. The big things in life are on my mind. It’s all part of the cycle, the process, the spiral.

Retrospect: Five Weeks on the School Plan

I examine my training and nutrition over the past five weeks in the light of my “never on a school night” plan, which I established on August 23rd. The results are mixed, but I seem to be healthy and on track for good things as I move forward with the plan.