Day 80, Taking a break from the break!

9 days have passed since I posted my previous update. In that time I’ve done very little to maintain whatever fitness and weight loss I’ve achieved so far. There were a few days when I stuck to my macros and other days when, at the very least, I got enough protein. But otherwise everything has stopped and I’m ready for it to start again.

The biggest problem over the past few days has been the pain in my neck and shoulders. At this point it’s almost gone away so I’m a little apprehensive to start up at the gym on Monday because I don’t want to aggravate anything. I keep promising myself that I will do more yoga but it hasn’t happened yet. It seems that I only do yoga and stretch when something hurts instead of to prevent something from hurting.

This weekend will be chock full of more parties and bad food and I probably won’t say no to most of it. But hopefully by Sunday the novelty of junk food will have worn off and the guilt will set in and I’ll be set to go full force again on Monday morning.  Until then I have 2 goals.

  • Eat my macros tomorrow and Sunday
  • Do yoga tonight, tomorrow and Sunday

That’s it. Should be easy right…?

Day 71 – 8 Week Results

The time has come for me to take a break from lifting. My body is in desperate need of some extensive healing and stretching. The timing couldn’t be more perfect though. Friday I’m on vacation, Monday I’m working from home and next Friday my gym will be closed for graduation. Trying to shove a lifting session in the middle of all of that is probably not worth the effort. So I will spend the next 11 days stretching, resting and doing a bit of cardio.

So now is the time to check the numbers and evaluate my progress.

Starting numbers as of April 1st. Three sets of five for all lifts (3 x 5)

  • Squat: 135
  • Bench: 160
  • Dead: 195
  • Press: 70

Latest numbers as of June 3rd.

  • Squat: 225 (+90) 67% increase
  • Bench: 205 (+45) 28% increase
  • Dead: 265 (+70) 36% increase
  • Press: 115 (+45)  64% increase

Looking at these numbers I have to say that I’m pretty impressed. I remember a time ten or twelve years ago when I was *about* this strong, but I wasn’t doing squats or deadlifts. So it might be valid to say that I’ve never been stronger! That’s amazing to me and something I wasn’t even expecting!

Obviously these types of gains cannot progress forever and I’m sure that I will eventually switch to a 3 day split. But for now I plan to continue the StrongLifts progression and finally add in the desperately needed barbell rows every other workout.

The common advice is to deload by 10% on all lifts after a week off, so this is where I will be starting on June 15th:

  • Squat: 200
  • Bench: 185
  • Rows: 155*
  • Dead: 240
  • Press: 95

Regarding rows, on my first day back to the gym I will increase the weight every set until  5 reps becomes difficult and that will be my work set weight for the next session.

Whew! That’s a lot of number crunching. And I haven’t even mentioned my diet yet!

It goes without saying that I’m hoping to stay on target with my macros during the week off from the gym. My new numbers (200/150/50) seem to be working well for me (so far at least). The next few days will be fraught with temptations – 3 birthday parties and a trip to Atlantic City – so I need to stay focused and plan around these calorie bombs!

I’m not sure how often I will post to this blog. 2 or 3 times at least just to keep myself accountable. Here’s to the next 8 weeks!!

Day 69 (tee hee!), Squat Practice

2015-06-01 11.52.51After a couple days of ice and heat on my hip, I went back to the gym this morning to work on my squat form. It’s really is humbling when I drop 90 pounds off my previous PR and realize that there are still plenty of things to tweak about my form.

I ended up doing about 5 sets of 5 at 135, going very slow, trying to get below parallel and keeping the rest of my form precise. I spent a lot of time warming up my shoulders and experimenting with bar placement. In a nutshell, I’ve been placing the bar a bit too low and keeping my hands too wide. Once I corrected that, things felt better.

The final tip I got from a fellow gym-goer was to be cognizant of any bend or curve in my back on the way up. Prior to today I’ve always been concentrating on using my hips to raise up out of the low position and probably neglected any attention on keeping my back straight and chest up. But I think I’ve got it now. I swear, the squat is hardest exercise to do with proper form, but it’s really rewarding when you get it right!

After squats I put up 115 on the overhead press for 2 sets of 5 and then only got 3 on the final set. This is fine since my goal is 115 and I will have one more workout next week before the break.

2015-06-01 12.23.14

Finally I loaded the deadlift bar with 265 (after warming up of course) and got a nice set of 5. I constantly go back and forth between doing one or multiple sets of deads. I think trying to do 3 sets of 5 last week may have been too much.

Diet wise, I’ve changed up my macros (yes, again!). I’m still not a fan of the carb cycling even though I’ve had a few good days doing it. As I’ve stated before on this blog, I think it adds another level of complication to menu preparation.

So I’ve simplified my numbers:

200c
150p
50f

Based on all of the literature I’ve read and all of the advice I’ve received I now declare these to be my magic numbers! And while I’m not sure that these numbers will affect my fat loss in either direction compared to what I’ve done up until now, they seem to be three numbers I can live and work with. The overall calories for these macros is 1850 which by most calculations is about a 500 calorie deficit per day if I’m working out 3 days a week. Even better, these numbers are easy to track and remember.

From here the plan is to go to the gym Wednesday and Thursday (I’m off Friday) and then take next week off entirely from lifting weights. I must say that I’m looking forward to the break!

Day 66 Part 2, Good News and Bad News

Bad news first, always bad news first.

In short, something popped in my left hip as I attempted to squat 215. It was the last warm up set and I was going for depth for just one rep. It wasn’t debilitating, just not a normal feeling. I rested for 3 minutes, stretched and put 225 on the bar. With 30 seconds left in my rest I looked at the bar and said, “Are you crazy? If 215 pops your hip out, what do you think 225 is going to do?!” So I pulled off a plate and tried to squat 135…

No go dude. Time to quit.

Part of the problem is that everything is sore. My traps, delts, lats, lower back and knees. Clearly this is fucking with my form. Ok, I get the message. Time to take a break.

And now the good news. I always remember that one of the benchmarks of strength is to be able to bench your own weight. Well, today that happened!

  • 200 x 5
  • 200 x 6
  • 205 x 4

Ok, technically I didn’t bench my weight because I currently weigh 207, but who cares!

So lets see where we are. On May 15th I set the following goals:

  • Weight: 203 (-7)
  • Squat: 235 (+20)
  • Bench: 200 (+10)
  • Press: 115 (+10)
  • Dead: 275 (+20)

In retrospect it appears that these were a little too optimistic. Here’s what reality will likely look like by June 3rd (the last day of lifting before my break).

  • Weight: 205
  • Squat: 225
  • Bench: 205
  • Press: 115
  • Dead: 270

But anything can happen between now and then so I really need to spend the next 2 days focusing on diet, rest and stretching.

Day 66, Why Carb Cycling Sucks

It’s vent time everyone one! I fucking hate carb cycling. There, it’s out.

Part of the reason why I hate it is because it’s effective. I have a hard time getting through the day without at least 100g of carbs and yet as I survive more and more of these low carb days, I feel the weight falling off and my clothes fitting looser.

But to what end? Is it better to be fat and happy or skinny and miserable?

Obviously the answer is somewhere in the middle, but even after 66 days, I don’t think I’ve found that middle yet. I’m tired of spending so much energy planning meals and logging macros. I already have a job, dammit! And there are so many things that are more deserving of my time and attention.

To be successful with carb cycling two things need to happen:

1. I need to plan more. Full blown menus for every meal except dinner for all carb cycling days. Plan it, buy it, prepare it and go.

2. Sometimes I need food that makes me happy. Sometimes I need to look forward to my meal instead of just being a robot all the time. I need sweet, savory, salty and crunchy.

So here are 3 things we’re going to do:

  • Fruit. Yes its carbs and sugar, but it comes with fiber and paired with a high protein meal it makes me feel better. 2 servings/day.
  • Rice with my breakfast. In fact, I’m happy to commit to the same exact breakfast 4 days/week. 1/2 cup of rice, 2 eggs, 3 turkey sausages or 4 strips of turkey bacon.
  • Quest bars. No, they’re not as tasty as Combat Crunch, but they’re cheaper and they have 17 grams of fiber.

That’s it and that’s all! Vent over, let’s move on.

Didn’t wake up early enough for the gym so I’m heading over right before lunchtime. Frankly I’m a little scared of doing squats @ 230. We shall see…

Day 64, Back to the Gym

Yesterday’s macros were not as difficult to stick to as I thought. I logged everything as precisely as I could, including trace macros. The only thing I excluded was the green veggies from the 2 salads I ate. Here is the final tally:

  • Protein: 183
  • Carbs: 60
  • Fat: 80

The largest amount of carbs (22g) came from the 1/2 cup of brown rice that I added to my eggs and turkey sausage for my first meal. The interesting thing was that at no time during the day was I ravenously hungry. In fact I needed to force myself to eat my afternoon snack.

This morning I returned to the gym after 4 days off and did

  • Deadlift: 265 x 5 x 2, 265 x 4
  • Overhead Press: 110 x 5 x 3
  • Cable Rows: 100 x 10, 120 x 8, 140 x 8

2015-05-27 07.01.19The deadlift and press are new PRs, but I failed to get the last rep on the last set of deads so I will do 265 again next time. I haven’t done cable rows in a long time and didn’t know where to start. 140 seems to be a good weight to stick with for next time.

And now the rest of the day will be cake. My workout is done and I have 200 grams of carbs waiting for me to consume!

Day 63, Holiday Diet Regrets.

From a dieting standpoint I’d like to try and put this weekend behind me and just move on.

peanut-butter-marshmallow-krispie-brownieSaturday was my first attempt at a no carb (read: “low carb”) day. This first attempt coincided with the first of 3 days of picnics and get-togethers where the carbs flow fast and free! For the most part, I did very well on Saturday. I allowed myself a beer but ate raw veggies instead of chips and my dogs and burgers had no buns. Then dessert came. My wife decided to make what I have now dubbed “Devil Brownies”, which are cocoa rice crispy treats on top of a fudge brownie held together with marshmallow fluff. I call them “Devil Brownies” because once you eat one the devil rises up from hell and laughs at your feeble attempts to control yourself and not eat any more. I had 3. But despite my best efforts prior to this dessert debacle, it was 9pm and I was still short about 80 grams of protein for the day.

Devil 1, Diet 0

Sunday, I awoke to find the devil had slept over and got me started on eating more of his brownies as early as 10 in the morning. By 2pm the remaining brownies were locked in Tupperware inside a bag tied very tightly on the highest shelf of the kitchen. I had eaten somewhere around 6 more. With my diet considered ruined for the day I surrendered to a dinner of pizza, fries and mojitos.

Devil 2, Diet 0

Monday, memorial day proper and a picnic at my mom’s pool. I decided to put my best foot forward and eat according to my training day macros (175p/200c/30f). Let me tell ya, that big 200 number next to the carbs really gives you some breathing room at a picnic. After a sensible breakfast and a bag of protein chips to squash the mid day snacking urge, I kept myself busy with the kids and the pool and only snacked a little before dinner. By the end of the day I was just under on calories and carbs (even considering the 2 mojitos… damn they’re delicious when it’s hot out!) but once again, very lacking in protein.

Devil 2, Diet 0 (I consider Monday to be a push. The devil didn’t win, but neither did I…)

So now here I am on a Tuesday morning, armed with renewed motivation and a shit-ton of high protein foods. All my meals are planned out and I should be able to stay under 50 grams of carbs today. But it’s a lot of freaking work! I feel the need to plan better.

2015-05-25 11.50.09But I try to never end a blog post on the negative. And yesterday I can honestly say that I felt a little better about having my shirt off. The various pictures of me by the pool didn’t invoke my normal “Yuch!” reaction, which surprised me a little bit. Seeing these photos makes me regret that I didn’t try harder for the past 6 weeks. But there is progress and a good foundation of strength to build on. Now the real challenge is not to lose focus despite all of temptations that come with the summertime mindset…