cycle I evaluation

I am currently on a 19 week training program, consisting of four cycles of four weeks each, with interstitial “play weeks” between cycles. I have just finished the first cycle (from Aug. 6th to Aug. 31st) and, before I embark on a “play week” I thought I’d post a short analysis of my progress this past cycle.

The following table lists the true working “max” I achieved over the course of the three workouts of each week of my first cycle. Since the whole goal here is just to increase my max or personal best in these three lifts, all that is necessary, for each week, is to look at the bottom line, or rather, the top-of-the-line results.

  Week I Week II Week III Week IV
Squat Max (Lbs) 240 250 250 255
Press Max (Lbs) 130 (PR) 135 (PR) 130 135
Power Clean Max (KG) 79 (PR) 82 (PR) 83 (PR) 81

As the table shows, I did manage to achieve at least one new max or PR every week (my new squat maxes are not true PRs but they are HBBS PRs). I think I made good progress in spite of too many bad workouts, especially in the past week and a half.

In terms of quantifying how much I improved my capacity in the lifts, in just four weeks I added +10 lbs to my previous HBBS max (245, achieved over the summer), +10 lbs to my previous press PR (125, achieved a LOOOONG time ago), and +5 kg to my Power Clean PR (78, achieved over the summer). I want even more! but I’ll take this. Pretty happy.

I look forward to the next cycle, which starts Sep. 10th, officially, although I bet Zach B. will have me working hard next week during my “play” week too.

something new…

My Summer Surf Safari 2012 is over. It was four fun training weeks and one play week. All went just about according to plan (I did miss 1/12 of the workouts, though); close enough! as far as training results and body recomposition goes. I am satisfied.

And now I begin a new semester at work, and a new season in the gym, healthy, whole, motivated, and excited for something new.

What’s new is the following.

(a) Zach Bijese is taking over my strength programming. I will continue to program auxiliary lifting and conditioning for myself but I have committed to following Zach for a season. Zach has promised to help me reach my goal of a 300+ lb squat, so, I am looking forward to giving him the chance.

(b) Periodization scheme is as follows. I am still going to be using four week “cycles,” with one week “play” weeks between cycles. These are my “mesocycles.” My macrocycles are clusters of mesocycles. The large-cycle I am working on right now is 19 weeks (4 x 4 weeks, plus 3 “play” weeks) and will continue from today, Sunday Aug 5th, until Saturday Dec. 15th, 2012; the entire 19 weeks is given over to Zach’s strength programming, so, the “play” in play weeks is limited just to what I decide to add or take away from Zach’s plan. I have asked him to respect my need for occasional breaks from hardcore training… but… he’s the coach and… “Bulgaria!” as we are fond of randomly shouting at Asheville Strength and Conditioning.

(c) New Body Recomposition goals are as follows. I am done trying to lose weight for now, in fact, probably for the next 16 months. I am willing to gain weight and go up to 210 lbs by my 45th birthday, in January 2014. I plan to gain between 0.5 and 1 lb of mass per month, while holding waist and caliper measures steady, or while improving these measures. Each “cycle” has a target average daily weigh-in, so I will sometimes need to eat more, sometimes less, to make those numbers. For the first mesocycle of the current macrocycle my target average weigh in is 201, which is (+/- 2 lbs) already where I am, so, all I have to do is eat to recover and to maintain or lean out. Longer term, my goal is to maintain an average of 202 in cycle II (Sep. 9th to Oct 6th), 203 in cycle III (Oct 14th to Nov. 10th) and 204 by the fourth of the mesocycles (Nov. 17th to Dec. 15th). It doesn’t matter what happens in the play weeks, because the target average of the following cycle is what it is, and so, if I have to “lose” weight or bloat going into a month, that’s just what I’ll do. Then in 2013, over a 12 month period, I will probably increase the target weight by a scant 0.5 lbs per month. I may scrap this whole plan if my waist starts to bloat up or my skin-caliper measures “go south.”

That is all!

new four week cycle: summer solstice 2012

My new training cycle will be four weeks long, running from May 27th to June 23rd.

The cycle includes the following training and body recomposition goals.

Body Recomposition Goals

At the end of my previous training cycle I got off track with diet, and had a surgical procedure, and ended up flat on my back for a week, eating GORP, and bloating up like a madman. At my peak I had gained 10 lbs from a low that was only three weeks prior! So, the new training cycle is all about tightening up the diet and returning to my goal weight. I started the first day of the cycle at 202 lbs, and will probably end up with an average weight for the week of 199-198 lbs. But my goal is: I will end the four week cycle with an average weight of 195 during that final week. My average waist size and skinfold measure will also decrease, because I will lose fat, not muscle.

The process for doing this reflects my larger motives for training and recomposing my body. Health and longevity are diffuse, but real, long term life goals. So the process incorporates drinking less alcohol (only one day per week!), eating Michael Pollan style (“eat real food, not too much, mostly vegetables”) while still getting my protein, sleeping responsibly, and doing IF. I’ll provide details in my weekly summaries (published Saturday nights).

Training Goals

The training template for this four week cycle is super simple. I am going to focus on doing work with heavy singles on Squat (High Bar, unfortunately), Deadlift, and Power Clean. My medium term goal for the period is to take whatever I can lift in the first week and add 15-20% to that total by the end of the cycle. So, for instance, if I can squat 1 x 230 on Monday of week 1, I’m looking to squat 275 (an all time PR) by week 4. That’s my medium term goals. I’ll discuss these medium term goals in more depth on Saturday of week 1, when I’ve seen what I can do this week.

Also, following Dan John’s advice, I paraphrase, “if it’s important to your development, do it every day,” I will be doing burpees, chin-ups, dips, and presses at every workout. I will also be doing some conditioning at every workout. Those are what Nick Horton would call small goals.

My only relevant long term training goals remain roughly the same as they have since the fall: squat 315 and deadlift 405. I’ve added a few pounds to both goals because, what the hell is the sense of coming so close to three wheels (at 300) or to four wheels (at 400) but not to go all the way? I revised the goals upwards and I believe I can reach them … some day. Those are my long term goals, and I think Nick Horton would approve of them as such, because they still scare me a bit. These long term goals aren’t relevant to a four week training cycle except that my programming has been selected because it may help me progress towards the goal.

The weeks look like this:

MONDAY: warm-up, heavy squat singles, b/p/pu/d, conditioning, and auxiliary optional

WEDNESDAY: warm-up, heavy deadlift singles, b/p/pu/d, conditioning, and auxiliary optional

FRIDAY: warm-up, heavy power clean singles, b/p/pu/d, conditioning, and auxiliary optional


And nothing. That’s the plan! Four weeks. It’s going to fly by.

When I’m done, starting on June 24th, I will take a week between cycles. The next cycle will involve surfing and heavy triples. I know that much. But not much more. So, more on that on July 1st!

week three recap

Week three of eight went well.

Training: except for a missed conditioning workout on Wednesday and another week of only 2 short sets of chin-ups, all was according to plan. I showed up, put more weight on the bar, worked on extension, did a huge volume of squats and a large volume of deadlifts, and what else need I say? I am getting stronger and I trust my plan.

Body Recomposition: I was in control and reasonable in my eating. The measures all looked better or continued to look good. Average weight for the week was down by over a pound from the past couple of weeks, and cameclose to my goal of 195, falling to 195.6. Average umbilical measure was also down, to 36.3″. Skinfold measure remained low at 9mm. I’m satisfied. Again, I trust my plan.

eight week training cycle for spring

Sunday, April 1st begins a new, eight week training cycle for me. I choose an 8 week cycle of monitoring and reporting this time around because I live and operate on an academic schedule, and I’m more likely to get through the next 8 weeks uninterrupted than I am to get through a 10 or 12 week period without having to disrupt training because of vacation or something. The next cycle after this one will have to take into account the fact that, wherever I am, I’m going to want to be surfing. But I get ahead of myself.

Training Goals: my training goals remain the same. 300 lbs (1.5 x B.W.) squat and 400 lbs (2.0 x B.W.) deadlift. But my training emphasis shifts slightly during this eight week cycle, from striving for pure strength gains to prioritizing form improvement in both deadlift and squat, and recovery for my painful right shoulder. I also add a goal of preparing myself for summer surfing (next cycle), which requires a higher level of conditioning than I’ve been maintaining. My deadlifts have been hampered by a form problem: lumbar rounding during lifts. So I have drastically reset the lift to a lighter weight, to work on extension, and have increased volume dramatically, and plan to include RDLs and supermans as a regular part of working out as well. I will continue to use the SSB for squatting, hoping my right shoulder continues to benefit from the break from LBBS and also that I can use the unique form issues involved in the lift to supplement my quest for control of “extension” in the lower back. I have rewritten my program to put more emphasis on the deadlift and to make room for conditioning. That will become evident as I march through the program over the next few weeks.

Body Recomposition: I still have body recomposition goals, so this is a recomposition cycle. So far, in week I of the new cycle my average weight is a few pounds above my goal weight of 195. So in terms of quantitative measures, my goal for the 8 week period is to reach and then maintain an AVERAGE daily weigh-in of 195 lbs. I have to bring down the average weigh-in somewhat, between 1.86 and 2.75 lbs, to reach that goal. The method is the same I’ve been using: 12-14 hours of IF daily, periodic, ad hoc longer fasting, and generally “clean” eating (= more or less paleo, + limited dairy, alcohol, cleaner grains, and occasional “cheats.”) I made good progress in the last two weeks of my most recent training cycle by cutting out all alcohol for two weeks. So I feel strongly that alcohol needs to be limited to weekends only in this new cycle. I will, however, make exceptions for drinking out with colleagues if invited, on a Mon or Wed evening only. If at any point during the cycle my average weight drops below 195, I will add in a planned weekly cheat evening, most likely Saturdays. Before that time, I will avoid deliberate cheating and try to stay out of the kitchen after dinner. Once I hit and maintain 195, my goal is to continue to see improvement in my waist measure and skinfold measure. If the most recent average measure was 36.4″, I’d like to see that at 35.4″ at the end of week 8. And if my recent average skinfold measure was 10 mm, I’d like to see it at 8mm by the end of the period.

This training cycle runs from April 1st, 2012, to May 26th, 2012. The next cycle after that will be “Summer 2012.” I will write up a weekly report on my progress towards the goals I have laid out here.

Week seven recap

My twelve week training and body recomposition cycle continues with further evidence of progress.

Training: I set two meaningful PRs this week: 5 x 260 back squat and 5 x 330 deadlift. Both felt good and both brought me closer to my goals, in spite of shoulder pain that has brought my pressing to a dead halt and my continuing hiatus in power cleaning.

Body Recomposition: Saturday of week six to Saturday of week seven, I appeared to gain a half a pound, but the average daily weight for week seven was actually down 0.8 lbs from week six. Thus: last Saturday, 199.5, this Saturday, 200 lbs, but the week six average, 201.6 was above the week seven average, 200.8. I am a bit worried that my umbilical measure was flat to up (37.46 average vs. 37.55 average) and my average skinfold measure was flat at 12 mm. Overall progress during the past seven weeks is strong: down 6-9 lbs in weight, 1″ in waist, and evidence of a positive direction in skinfold measure.

I had several “cheat” nights over the past week and was a bit inconsistent in keeping “clean” fasting windows. I plan to be a little more deliberate this week.

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!

post injury: new program and new plan

Ok. I was plugging along in my own, slow, dimwitted way, making progress, hitting PRs, getting stronger slowly but surely. I’ve been all too aware of my problems, limitations, weaknesses, persistent injuries, aches, and pains, and my imbalances, but none of it stopped me. A broken arm has stopped me.

It’s been almost three weeks since my last workout. I broke my arm on Wednesday, July 27th and have been focused only on healing, and very light mobility work, since that day.

This upcoming week is the third week of my recovery; the third of about 18-20 weeks before I can really count on a healed arm. Dec. 1st is 18 weeks from the surgery, and only at that time I can resume weight training without concern about messing up my healing arm. Prior to then, to the extent that I use my arm at all, it has to be done with great care not to mess it up or over stress the break site.

For the purposes of maintaining a “training” mindset, I have developed a plan, of sorts, for diet and exercise. I’ve created a semi-public google document that anyone can look at if they want to and I can edit and tweak as I think about the program I want to do.

The basic plan is as follows. This is the first day of Week I. Every seventh week is a week off. Diet is a serious, whole foods, early neolithic type diet. 1x cheat days per week. I’ll be training super early 3x per week at the gym, mostly conditioning work. Plus a pretty mellow running progression, starting with really short runs 2x per week, and increasing to 3x per week, gradually increasing distance, over the course of a 12+ week progression. My friend Mike Peterson is going to be working out following some of the same training parameters as me, and so we can support each other.

I’m excited to begin anew, or more accurately, I’m trying to get myself pumped up and focused even though I can’t do what I want to do. To anyone who has any kind of interest in this process, thank you for your support. Anyone else, you know what you can do.

Supporters and friends, if you have good training ideas for me, with my one good arm, I’d like to see them. Leave me a comment, send me a message or drop a post via facebook, email or text me with your ideas. Thanks in advance.

It’s war

I haven’t been sharing too much about my nutritional struggles on this blog.

Let me cut out the BS and just say: I’ve been bad. It’s been six months, and over the past six months, I’ve mainly been bad.

Now. It’s getting scary to me.

This morning the scale says 198.5 lbs.

The pants say: too tight.

The tape measure says: your belly is bigger but not much else has changed.

On my waist I have seen the return of some old friends; my love-handles and belly fat! They say: we’re jiggly!



I declare war. I hereby declare war.

This is beyond “beyond 30 days of 100% paleo” and beyond “I need a reboot.”

I have systematically destroyed every last dietary rule that I adopted for myself starting back in January, 2009.

I made real life changes. But I’ve not kept them. I’ve experimented with relaxing my rules. It doesn’t work for me. I want to be IN SHAPE!!!

It is therefore time to destroy something else: that part of myself that has undermined its own success.

It is true that I am stronger now than I was in early 2009.

But I am also more injured, more beat down, and manifestly less fit in certain areas (for instance, in 2009, when I last weighed this much I could easily go out and run 5 miles; I certainly could not do that today).

Who is to blame?

No one.

I certainly do not blame CrossFit or CrossFit Asheville. Could there somehow have been more support through CrossFit? Possibly. But my problem hasn’t been CrossFit.

I do not blame Glenn Pendlay, Tamara Cohen, or anyone affiliated with USAW. Just because weightlifters don’t eat “Flexible-Paleo-Zone” and make fun of people who want “abz” doesn’t mean that I have to eat 1/2 gallon of icecream at 12:30 am before going to bed. Seriously.

I do not blame Robb Wolf, Kurt Harris, or Martin Berkhan. Even if Kurt Harris convinced me it was ok to eat heavy cream which led me to ice cream, butter, and cheese, or if Robb Wolf sings the praises of corn if you’re going to cheat with starchy carbs, or if Martin Berhan’s pictures of himself at 8% body fat eating an entire Cheesecake create the illusion in my mind that I can eat an entire key lime pie on Father’s Day because it’s Father’s day (even though I’m up to about 16% body fat). Even if! I don’t blame any of these guys.

I don’t even blame the guy at 70’s big. Justin. Who planted a wicked seed in my mind that if I don’t weigh 200+ lbs I’m not a real adult male. Believe you me! I have spent many long years weighing more than 200 lbs and being over 200 lbs, for me, DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH BEING A REAL MAN. What has being over 200 lbs ever done for me? Nothing. Unless you count: making me embarrassed to take off my T-Shirt at the beach, killing off my sex life, or making me slow, uncoordinated, and weak.

Honestly, I don’t believe you have to weigh a lot to lift a lot. I’m lifting more now than ever. I’m going to keep doing that. But I’m hereby divorcing myself from the lie that says the pursuit of strength justifies the neglect of balance and restraint in eating.

Hell, this really isn’t about weightlifting. It isn’t about MetCons. It isn’t about training methods.

It is about eating too much, drinking too much, watching too much TV, and not getting enough sleep.

It is about choosing corn and corn flour over vegetables, allowing myself to eat gluten-laden foods, eating ice cream and chocolate, craving sweets.

It is about too many meals a day, devoting too many hours a day to food, it’s about snacking from dinner to bedtime, and not fasting long enough each day.

It is about giving in to feelings of fatigue and laziness, and letting it be easier not to eat right, etc.

What am I? Who am I supposed to be, in this universe of physical culture? I’m not that strong. I’m not that fast. I’m not that well trained.

What I am is smart. I know food and nutrition. I know diet and recovery. In theory, I know discipline.

I like being strong. But I like better “feeling in shape.” It’s a total package.

I’ve been off track but I am going on the warpath against myself. I will reclaim the high ground.

Plan War Path

Today, June 22nd, 2011. For the next four months, until about this time in October, I am officially on the warpath.

I am going to intercept and interrogate every morsel of food that I feed myself. I will not overeat. I will choose healthy food items. I will feed to refuel and rebuild and care for the machine. I will not break discipline. I will adopt the training mindset of the nutritional warrior. Each day, I will re-affirm a list of basic rules. I will wrest control of my diet and training from my self-defeating inner child. I will reestablish my own command of myself. So help me God.

squat analysis

In keeping with the reality that my blog is actually just my gym notebook, consider this post a scratch-page.

For the past few minutes I’ve been looking back at the last couple of weeks of squat training, and trying to think my way into the coming weeks. I’ll soon be doing this same kind of analysis for other lifts that are in my rotation too, but one can take this kind of boring application of “math” only so much at a time.

Recent squat workouts include the following:
6/9/11: 3 x 5 x 160, HBBS; vol: 2,400.
6/6/11: 5, 3, 3, 3, 3, best set 3 x205, LBBS; vol: 3,480.
6/1/11: 3 x 5 x 160, HBBS; vol: 2,400.
5/27/11: 5, 5, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1; best set 1 x 235 (PR); LBBS; vol: 3,995.

This doesn’t quite rise to the level of a pattern — which bothers me. Yet, I think I’ve been and will be able to do at least 1x week HBBS 3×5 and 1x (or even 2x) week heavier squat workouts for the near future. This week I felt a bit aimless in setting up and squatting; the workout of 6/6/11 was kind of a disaster, if you ask me. So I want to be a little more systematic here.

For High Bar squats, I do like doing my 3 x 5 “calisthenic” squat sessions (combined with deadlifts set at 125% of squat weight) on low volume o-lifting days. These 3 x 5 workouts (currently 1x per week) are right about at 70% of my 1 RM, and will be increasing slowly in weeks to come. Doing this 1x per week and linearly increasing the weights continues to make sense for me for the time being. I feel like it constitute a sort of ongoing deload day, helping to keep my speed up and to maintain my capacity for a higher-rep set (5 reps?).

For Low Bar squats, it’s absolutely mandatory to keep doing something heavier 1-2x per week. I think I will move forward with some more medium volume dynamic effort sessions with 1-3 reps at between 80 and 95% of my max (lets say, from 185 to about 220) just trying to stay fast. I’ll plan to do these as follows over the next four weeks: week 1: 8 x 3 x 185, 8 x 3 x 195; week 2: 12 x 2 x 205; week 3: 15 x 1 x 215, 10 x 1 x 220; week 5: 6 x 4 x 135, rest; week 5: re-test 1 RM.