The Return of Training Board

Not very long ago my dad told me I was starting to look like James Gandolfini, because of the beard. But I knew it was because of my waistline. Now Gandolfini is dead. I don’t want to end up like him.

I stopped blogging here about two years ago. Things went fine for me without the blog in 2013. And in part of 2014.

But the last seven months or so have been kind of bad for my fitness and training, with regress in strength and conditioning capacity, and some physical pain and disability, and loss of mobility.

Does this have anything to do with not continuing this blog? I think it might.

I have come to the conclusion, for my own sake, and for the sake of my family, that it is time to return to keeping this blog.

But why?

I’ve always been ambivalent about blogging my fitness efforts. What is its purpose? Who is the audience? Why make your training log (“gym notebook”) a public, open page? Who cares about the fitness efforts of a middle-aged religion professor?

The answer that has worked for me, has justified this web-journal, is for me to tell myself: sitting down and making my journey open and public helps keep me accountable. So the audience is, ultimately: me. I am my own first and most sympathetic, and most critical, audience.

If you, dear reader, are not me, and yet you enjoy this blog, then, God bless you. You’re welcome to come along for the ride.

The blog used to be called “Training Board” and is now simply titled “Baldwin’s Gym Notebook.” It is written for the public, but I am not seeking fame, fortune, accolades, or anything other than a small corner of the great public forum of the internet, in which I can be permitted to share my own struggles in an open and honest way.

If what I go through means something to you, let me know. If not, don’t let me know. If what I do here bothers you, but you love me and support me (as a real life friend or family member) then actually, I want to know about that too. In that case, do let me know.

So, what’s going on with my training right now?

After a long interval (late September 2014 to the present in early March 2015) I have allowed my training to slide. It started with weird chest pains related to what I thought at first was cardiac disease! Turned out to be mechanical issues with my sternum and left clavicle. I am still struggling with daily chest pain, but the doctors tell me that it’s not deadly.

Then in November, my right forearm started to scream at me every day with debilitating “tennis elbow” (lateral epicondylitis). This causes pain in picking up even small and lightweight objects with my right hand. This too, is still a problem today.

These injuries were only part of what led me away from my training plan. In Fall of 2014 I was also on Sabbatical, and so I often skipped workouts on the premise that I was permitting myself to “rest” from serious training for a while. But this became a habit rather than a dispensation. So the (bad or unhelpful) habit is still with me today.

Upon going back to work in Jan 2015, I continued to permit my training to sit on the back burner. I told myself I was allowing myself to reacclimate to the pressures of work. But I haven’t reacclimated. If anything, things have deteriorated. Work gets harder and harder and as I let my physical fitness slide, I have less and less energy for completing all the tasks that are a part of my life.

So my training hasn’t recovered in this environment; it’s gotten less and less attention and energy from me. This spring, weeks started going by. My body started hurting me in a thousand little ways. My mobility and confidence decreased. And my weight, my weight and waistline increased.

That brings me to this very day. I have determined that I want to take my health, fitness, and body composition back into hand. It is time. Returning to this old blog, and renewing my use of it, that is a part of the plan.

I have abandoned all old goals. They no longer fit who I have become and who I want to be.

I have new, more personal, and definitely more vague and non-specific goals. Yet they fit me well. I am a forty-six year old male human being. A husband and a father first, a son, a brother, a member of a community. A homeowner. A citizen. A professor and a scholar. A busy busy man.

The new goals are as follows:

(a) maintain health, vigor and strength,

(b) train for movement and work capacity,

(c) maximize my physical and genetic potential for longevity, so that

(d) I can be a more reliable person of greater and greater integrity.

Along the way, my guide, at least initially, is Dan John. And even if even he, the ever humane Dan John, would not endorse my goals as goals, they are my goals. And I am going to keep the goals the goal.

Yo, coaches. I don’t need to be told that these vague goals are not real fitness goals. Buzz off. These are health goals, and they fit with the psychological situation I have found myself in these days.

My goal is not to squat 300 or 500 or anything like that anymore. In fact, I can’t fathom, at the moment, why anyone other than me would ever try to advise me as to what my goals should be. Or should insist upon how I should pursue my goals. I have rejected all dogma and doctrine. I’m done with monster military style training and other elite fitness nonsense. Chill. There are basic things that work.

To be sure, in my fitness journey from 2008 to the present I have learned a great deal from such “elite” and specialized styles, but I am not trying to do any of them at the moment.

Along the way I learned tons from CrossFit (2009-2010). I learned a great deal from USAW and Olympic Weightlifting, even becoming a Level I USAW coach (2011-2012). I learned so much from powerlifting and Jim Wendler, following a modification of his 5/3/1 program for at least two full years (2013-2014).

But now it’s 2015. I’ve been reading John, his books Intervention and Weight Loss Happens Monday. Both of which I will discuss in later posts. The program I will be following in days and weeks to come is inspired by the spirit and heart of Dan John, even if I know, deep down, that I am no Dan John.

As of today, I announce the following intentions.

1) Return to blogging about my health and fitness activities and ideas.

2) Keep a private food journal, workout log, and health record.

3) Plan meals and workouts on a week to week basis, and stick to the plan.

So, those are the goals, and those are my intentions.

Let the continuing evolution unfold. Thanks for staying tuned.

Cycle 3 first week, March 4-8

Workout 2013.03.04 Monday

5/3/1 — 3.I.A (Press)

Weigh-In: 210

WARM-UP (6:20 am)
500 meter row (1:47)

PRESS (6:30)
7 x 45 lbs (<40%)
5 x 65 (~50%)
5 x 83 (65%)
5 x 96 (75%)
10 x 108 (85%) (not a PR)

PM of 144.

ASSISTANCE (6:45 am)
Boring But Big Press 5 x 10 x 77.5 (60+%)
Chin-Ups 4 x 3 & 1 x 2 x purple band assist

Sprint 10 x 100 meters
Push-Ups 10 x 5
2 min intervals

Workout 2013.03.06 Wednesday

5/3/1 — 3.I.B (Deadlift)

Weigh-In: 208.5.

“How you feel is a lie.”

shoulder mobility,
Jump Rope 3 x 50
KB Swings, 24 kg, 3 x 8
Lower body mobility.

5 x 125 (~40%)
5 x 170 (~52.5%)
5 x 205 (65%)
5 x 240 (~75%+)
17 x 270 (85%)

(PM of 422 )

Boring But Big Deadlift 5 x 10 x 185 (~57.5%)

Workout 2013.03.08 Friday

5/3/1 — 1.I.C (Bench)

Weigh-In: 204.5.

“Life is for the living.”

Shoulder Mobility
Jump Rope 3 x 60
Russian Box Step Ups 3 x 10 x 20″ box
Lower Body Mobility

5 x 75 (40%)
5 x 105 (~55%)
5 x 125 (~65%)
5 x 140 (~75%)
7 x 155 (85%) (not a PR)

(PM of 191)

Boring But Big Bench 5 x 10 x 112.5 (62.5%)
Chin-Ups 5 x 3 x purple band assist

End of 5/3/1 Cycle 2: February 25th to March 1st

Workout 2013.02.25 Monday

5/3/1 2.IV.B (Deadlift) (Deload)

Weigh-In: 212.5

“If you want to lose weight, eat less! Not less protein, fool! Less fat and carbs.”

Shoulder Mobility
Jump Rope 3 x 50
KB Swing, 24 KG, 3 x 8
Lower leg mobility

5 x 135
5 x 170
5 x 200

10 min moderate pace (2492 meters)

Chin-Up 10 x 1 x purple band assist
Push-Up 10 x 4
DB Row 10 x 4 x Each Arm x 25 lb DB w/ FatGripz

Workout 2013.02.27 Wednesday

5/3/1 — 2.IV.C (Bench) DELOAD

Weigh-In: 209.5

Shoulder Mobility
Jump Rope 3 x 50
Russian Box Step Ups 3 x 8
Lower Body Mobility

10 x 45
5 x 85 (45%+)
5 x 105 (55%+)
5 x 120 (65%+)

Chin-Ups 5 x 2 x purple band assist
TGUs 5 x 6 (alternating arms) x 35 lb KB
(3 min intervals)

8 rounds: 40 meter suicides (10, 20, 30, 40) @ 90 second intervals

Workout 2013.03.01 Friday

5/3/1 — 2.IV.D (Squat) (Deload)

Weigh-In: 206.5


(Coming off another fast.)

Shoulder mobility
KB Clean and Press 3 x 6 x each arm x 35 lb KB
Jump Rope 3 x 60

Squat Deload
10 x 45
5 x 105
5 x 130
5 x 155

Push-Ups 5 x 8
DB Row 5 x 7 x each arm x 30 lb DB w/ FatGripz
(3 min interval)

“Just being here means everything today.”

February 18th to 22nd

Workout 2013.02.18 Monday

5/3/1 — 2.III.C (Bench)

Weigh-In: 211.0

shoulder mobility
500 meter row (1:53)
lower body mobility / squat mobility

5 x 80 (45%)
5 x 105 (60%)
5 x 135 (75%)
3 x 150 (85%)
3 x 170 (95%)

Boring But Big Bench — 5 x 10 x 110 (62.5%)
Bent Over Row — 5 x 12 x 85

in timed supersets (10 rounds @ 90 sec)

Jump Rope 4 x 150 single unders
Goblet squats 4 x 8 x 25 lb KB
Sit ups 4 x 8

4 rounds @ 3:00 (usually about 45 sec rest)

Workout 2013.02.20 Wednesday

5/3/1 2.III.D (Squat)

shoulder mobility
push-ups 3 x 8
turkish get ups w/ 24 kg KB 3 x 2 (alt arms)
lower body mobility

5 x 45
5 x 105 (45%),
5 x 140 (60%),
5 x 175 (~75%)
3 x 200 (~85%)
8 x 225 (~95%) (PR)

PM of 285!

Boring But Big
Squat 5 x 10 x 132.5
chin-ups purple band 5 x 1

“I ain’t doin’ shit!”

Workout 2013.02.22 Friday

5/3/1 — 2.IV.A (Press) DELOAD

Weigh-In: 207.5

“If you want to lose weight, eat less!”

(5 rounds)
Bird Dogs 5 x 20
Plank 5 x 25 seconds
Russian Box Step Ups 5 x 8
resting: at will

5 x 55 (45%)
5 x 67 (55%)
5 x 80 (65%)

(6 rounds @ 2 min)
Push-Ups 6 x 5
Chin-Ups 6 x 1 x purple band assist
DB Curls 6 x 5 x each arm x 20 lb FatGripz

(5 rounds @ 3 min intervals)
KB Swing 5 x 15 x 35 lb KB
Jump Rope Single Unders 5 x 150

February 11th to 15th

Workout 2013.02.11 Monday

5/3/1 — 2.II.D (SQUAT)

Weigh-In: 215.5

shoulder mobility
Jump Rope 3 x 60
Push Ups 3 x 8
lower body mobility

5 x 45
5 x 95 (40%),
5 x 130 (55%),
3 x 165 (~70%)
3 x 190 (~80%)
10 x 210 (PR) (~90%)

(PM 275)

Boring But Big
Squat 5 x 10 x 130 (~55%)
pull-ups 5 x 5 x green band assist
TGUs 5 x 2 x each arm x 24kg KBs

(15 x 90sec rounds)

Workout 2013.02.13 Wednesday

5/3/1 — 2.III.A (Press)

Weigh-In: 215.5 (unchanged)

“Gotta get serious about nutrition!”

500 meter row (2:08)

5 x 50 (~40%)
5 x 75 (~60%)
5 x 92 (75%)
3 x 104 (85%)
6 x 116 (95%)

ASSISTANCE (Boring But Big)

PRESS: 5 x 10 x 75 (~60%)
Push-Ups: 5 x 6
Bird-Dogs: 5 x 20 x alternating

15 rounds, @ 60 sec intervals

Workout 2013.02.15 Friday

5/3/1 — 2.III.B (Deadlift)

Weigh-In: 210.0.

I’ve been sick and basically fasting for 53 hours!!! Down 5.5 lbs since last weigh in. Not even sure I should work out, but, I’m a creature of habit if nothing else.

Warm Up:
shoulder mobility,
Jump Rope 3 x 50
KB Swings, 24 kg, 3 x 8
Lower body mobility.

5 x 155 (50%)
5 x 200 (65%)
5 x 230 (75%)
3 x 260 (85%)
5 x 290 (90%)

Not a best effort but … See above.

Boring But Big Deadlift: 5 x 10 x 182.5 (59.8%)
Plank 5 x 30 sec

February 4th to 8th

Workout 2013.02.04 Monday

5/3/1 — 2.II.A (Press)

Weigh in 216.0 lbs

500 meter row (1:52)

2 x 5 x 45 (~40%)
5 x 70 (~56%)
3 x 86 (70%)
3 x 98 (80%)
11 x 110 (90%)

ASSISTANCE (Boring But Big)

PRESS: 5 x 10 x 72.5 (~57.5%)
CHIN-UPS: 5 x 5 x Green Band

Airdyne 15 minutes easy pace.

Workout 2013.02.06 Wednesday

5/3/1 2.II.B (Deadlift)

Weigh-In: 214.0

Warm Up:
shoulder mobility,
4 x 8 push-ups,
4 x 6 x each arm one armed 35lb KB clean and press.
Lower body mobility.

5 x 120 (40%)
5 x 170 (55%)
3 x 215 (70%)
3 x 245 (80%)
12 x 275 (90%)

(‘PM’ of 385)

Boring But Big Deadlift: 5 x 10 x 180 (58+%)

Workout 2013.02.08 Friday

5/3/1 — 2.II.C (Bench)

Weigh-In: 212.5

Shoulder Mobility
500 meter row (2:07)
followed immediately by
3 x Plank & 3 x Bird Dog (6 total sets, 30 sec on 10 sec off)
Squat Mobility

Bench Press
5 x 70 (40%)
5 x 100 (55%)
3 x 125 (~70%)
3 x 140 (80%)
5 x 160 (90%)


Bench 5 x 10 x 107.5 (60+%)
Bent Over Row 5 x 12 x 85
Timed Supersets, 10 total sets @ 90 sec intervals

SUICIDE FARMER’S CARRIES 11 rounds, x 45 lb DBs w/ FatGripz, various combinations of 5, 10, 15, 20 meters. Total distance 440 meters.
11 rounds @ 60 sec intervals

week second same as the first

Second Week of my new eight week cycle … it went ok.

Training: Training this week was entirely according to plan. I added weight, I did my reps; got that work in. Every set was completed except for the last two sets of chin-ups on Friday. Which I regret. But I was spent and out of time and they aren’t central to my goals. Speaking of goals: my deadlifts on Friday weren’t as crisp as I want them to be. My extension is still suffering, which is visible in the video. I gotta work on it. But video of my Monday deadlifts looked good. My squats were feeling weak this week. But the volume I’m doing is outrageous. So. I’m going to stick with my plan but beginning with the next cycle I have to try something new. No PRs in sight anywhere. But the plan is the plan and I’m sticking with it.

Body Recomposition: With my parents in town, and my little girl’s birthday this weekend, my diet has been sub-optimal. But not entirely so. Not all indicators were off. Average weight was about 2 lbs above my target weight and about 1/2 pound above week 1, at 197. Average umbilical circumference was very slightly up (bloating, I’d guess) to just over 36.5″. But my average skinfold measure was actually down, to 9mm. Something is working. Probably the increased conditioning. Overall I’m feeling optimistic and like the progress is tangible but I’d still like to get down to my target weight and maintain it.

Rippetoe on Training vs. Exercise

Face it, Mark Rippetoe knows what he is talking about, and also has a way with words. Great article on T-Nation from back in July (July 7th, 2011). Thanks to T-Bone for the tip.

“Exercise and training are two different things. Exercise is physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you’re through.

“Training is physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to produce that goal. If a program of physical activity isn’t designed to get you stronger or faster or better conditioned by producing a specific stress to which a specific desirable adaptation can occur, you don’t get to call it training. It’s just exercise.”

Concerning the anatomy of the Radius and Ulna

Skeletal anatomy of the arm (pictured: right arm, with supinated hand).

Skeletal anatomy of the right hand.

Schematic (overly simplified) drawing of skeletal anatomy of the forearms.

So, because of breaking my left radius two weeks ago, I’ve been trying to educate myself about the treatment, healing, and rehabilitation of this particular injury. To my taste, no better source of information exists than the online Orthopedics textbook at Duke University, Wheeless’ Online. What I read there about the forearm and its osteoanatomy got me thinking about how the radius and the ulna function in various weightlifting, bodybuilding and powerlifting activities.

The radius is the bone that runs from the base of the palm beneath the thumb to the outside (lateral side) of the elbow. The ulna is the bone that runs from the base of the palm beneath the pinky to the inside of the elbow.

In neutral (hand shaking) position, the joints connecting the radius and ulna to the hand (on the distal ends) and the elbow (on the proximal ends) are turned 90 degrees (roughly) to one another causing the radius and ulna to form a triangle with the elbow, with the point at the hand (distal) end.

When the hands are supinated (palms towards the face) the radius and ulna are more or less parallel.

When the hands are pronated (palms away from the face) while the arm is bent, the radius and the ulna are crossed (nearer to the distal end).

When the hands are pronated and the arm is extended, the humerus rotates, and the radius and ulna make a triangle with the point at the elbow and the base at the hand.

The two lines never actually touch; the two pairs of joints at either end of the radius and ulna — either the medial and lateral epicondyles on the proximal head of the humerus or the scaphoid/radius luna/ulna joints of the carpal bones of the wrist — rotate independently and keep the bones apart.

All positions of the radius and ulna provide a truss-like structure to transfer power from the elbow to the wrist. The supinated grip, with its parallel bones forming a sort of rectangular plane, provides the most direct, lever-like use of the contracting force of the bicep. The neutral and pronated grips all form a type of tetrahedron, as the joints at either end of the two bones rotate around each other. These tetrahedral shapes are very strong trusses that can support enormous weights when locked out properly to the wrists and humerus.

I haven’t taken these thoughts much further, but they could influence various decisions about how to train athletes; for example, considering which exercises stimulate which joints, and the manner of stimulation, you could design substitutions for lifters suffering from various injuries or conditions (e.g. medial epicondylitis, aka ‘golfer’s elbow'; or lateral epicondylitis, aka ‘tennis elbow'; or a sprain or injury to either carpal joint).

Heartbeat (Back to the Gym)

One week ago, I had surgery. Dr. Frisch, of Mission Trauma (Blue Ridge Bone and Joint), removed the titanium nail and two distal screws from my right tibia. Today, I returned to the gym. The body is amazing!

Training Cycle: Week 1/6 (Work Week)
Surgery Recovery Week 2/10
No Alcohol Month 2/5
Diet: Flexible-Paleo-Zone

First WOD of this Week

“Obviously,” I’m not really back to normal. I have limited range of motion, pain in movement, swelling, and of course, some really cool staples in my skin.

Other than some light walking around, I’m not really using my legs for a while. The discharge instructions said: “load bearing as tolerated.” (The doctor probably doesn’t realize that I have a high tolerance for discomfort; I did live with that stinking hardware in my leg for six and half years, after all.)

Still, for now, I’m not pushing it. I’m keeping my effort below 80% in the “met-cons” for a few weeks (metabolic conditioning workouts, i.e. short, high intensity sessions). And in the lifting, I will only slowly progress back into weighted work that involves my lower body or explosive full body movements. Ditto for various calisthenic workouts.

My plan is to do just 3 workouts per week for the next 4 weeks. (I’m keeping a close eye on my diet, and so far, there’s no sign of problems from doing less activity.) After 4 weeks, I’ll return to a 3-5 workouts a week schedule. After 8 weeks, I will begin to pursue a “couch to 5k” retraining into running. After 10 weeks I will add sprinting and jumping back into my routine… in other words, my recovery will be “over” for good or ill.


I did what I could, mostly some calisthenics. Stretching was a bit more sketchy but I did most of it ok.

I was psyched that I could do pushups no problem (I was doing them on the same day as the surgery, actually, last week) and was even more excited that I could do squats down onto a weight stack, without excessive discomfort.

Strength: Shoulder Press

The rest of the affiliate members were working on Push-Jerk today, so I did Shoulder Press. It’s less explosive, and doesn’t involve the legs except to hold the body (and the weight) in the air. I did a 5-rep sequence. I wasn’t sure I should, but I went ahead and went for a max effort session. I was using a rack… no power cleans yet for me!

Result: 5 x 75 / 5 x 75 / 5 x 95 / 5 x 105 (PR tie) / 4 x 110 fail on 5 / 5 x 95

Volume: 2,665.

Analysis: I came close to breaking my 5 rep max effort PR, which I also tied last time I tried, on Jan 10th. I think, if I hadn’t had surgery last week, I might have got that 5 x 110 today. I beat that session’s volume today by about 90 lbs. So that’s good!

WOD: “Heartbeat” (Modified)

I did:
5 rounds of:
30 seconds max reps pull-ups (band assisted, red band, to prevent coming off the bar onto my leg, and to help me keep moving for the entire time)
30 seconds max reps kettlebell swings (26# kettlebell, much lighter than I needed to use, to prevent any mishaps on my leg).
1 min rest between rounds.

Result: Total reps: 127. That is: 12 + 10 | 12 + 11 | 12 + 11 | 8 + 14 | 7 + 11 | 8 + 11. I actually can’t remember if these are my rep totals, but they are close to what I achieved.

I really don’t care what my totals were today. I don’t aim to repeat this WOD, though you never know, some day I might. Basically, today was about being back in the “swing.”