Day 59, Squat Goal Reached!

It finally happened. This morning I squatted 225!

2015-05-22 07.08.07Ever since I started doing linear progression barbell training (StrongLifts, Starting Strength, Big 3, etc.) I’ve fantasized about putting 2 45 pound plates on both sides of the bar. For some reason 2 plates seems like graduating to the next level.

After about 6 warm up sets, I loaded up the bar and sat down and stared at it for 3 minutes. The first set was a little shaky, my form was a bit off. I think I was nervous. But by the 3rd rep I realized that I wasn’t going to fail. The 2nd set was strong. By the third set I had worked up the courage (I have a bit of social anxiety) to ask one of the two college seniors working out next to me to film my final set.

There was something about the fact that they were watching or that the video was rolling (or both) that gave me confidence. When I dropped down for the first rep the bar felt abnormally light, almost as if I had lightened the weight. In retrospect after watching the video I realize that I didn’t drop low enough. In fact just about all of my reps were above parallel. After finishing the set its clear  that my form is pretty much right on. I don’t lean forward too much, the bar path is pretty straight. The bar is in a good place (for low position) and I’m breathing correctly. So really the only thing I need to work on is getting lower. From the advice of one of the guys at the gym it seems that pointing my toes out further should help this.

Here’s the video, I added annotations for where the descent didn’t go low enough.

After squatting I attempted 200 on the bench. The problem here is that my arms were completely toasted from the deep tissue massage that my wife gave me 2 nights before. I managed 5 reps on the first set, 4 reps with very little help from the spotter on the second set and 3 reps on the last set. Given the soreness of my arms I’m confident I would have gotten 3 sets of 5 had they felt normal. But I will stick with 200 next time. Regardless this is another PR even though I failed to get 3 x 5.

After that I contemplated a deadlift, but changed my mind. I was done!

So starting today, I’m back to eating via the LeanGains approach. My new macros on training days are:

  • 175 protein
  • 200 carbs
  • 30 fat

Which should work out to 1770 calories. These macros were derived by my coach on the Fitocracy program and while I think they might be a little low I’m going to go with it for now and see what happens.

By around 2pm today the Memorial Day holiday weekend will kick in and I will be challenged to maintain my new rest day macros for the first time. If I can make it to Monday and stay on target I’ve decided to reward myself with a non tracking day on Memorial Day proper, but I will stay conscious of what I’m eating and not overdo it.

Day 58, Fitocracy, Anyman Fitness and a new 12 week program!

A few days ago I received an annoying piece of spam in my inbox (annoying spam… is that redundant?) from Fitocracy. They have my email address because I signed in to the app I downloaded and used for a few days for its macro tracking abilities.

The spam was advertising Anyman Fitness  and its “12 week no-cardio fat shredding plan” which (after I researched it a bit is basically the same plan I’m on: Linear Progression Barbell Training and LeanGains). After a few back and forth emails with the coach I decided to join. The cost is $60/month, which is really not an extra expense I’d like to incur, but having someone else in charge of my diet and evaluating my progress is a very liberating idea. Fitocracy has a 2 week guarantee, so if I’m not seeing any progress I can always get a refund. I’m also not committed to the full 3 months either. So it seemed low risk enough for me to push the button.

The major difference between what I’m doing now and what I will be doing on this program is the diet. While I have some experience in IF, this program takes carb cycling to a new level by limiting you to only eat fat and protein on rest days. This sounds really scary especially when you consider that rest days for me include 2 weekend days. Now that summer is starting, those 2 weekend days will be filled with carb distractions and temptations, not to mention my full week of vacation down at the Jersey shore!

But here’s the thing. When I start to think about things logically I realize that I’ve associated “having a good time” with eating carbs. And this is the emotional food association that I HAVE to break if I’m truly going to get lean. Clearly this plan of carb cycling works if you follow it. And if I do follow it, does that mean that I won’t have any fun this summer? Of course not! There will still be picnics and parties and pool days and theme parks and beach visits. And if I want to have a beer I’ll have one! And if I want to get ice cream with the kids I will!

This gloomy feeling I have that committing to this program will ruin my summer is mentally unhealthy (although its probably normal for most people), and stems all the way back to childhood where my connection between junk food and special occasions originated. It’s not going to be easy, but I think it’s doable with the right mindset and some encouragement. Most importantly if I start to see progress, I will stick to it.

With the holiday weekend coming up, I’m not exactly sure how/when I will start adhering to the new program. I’ve decided to take 2 rest days in a row so that I will feel rested and strong on Friday when I attempt squat 225 x 5 x 3. I think I will eat normally for these two days and then switch to my new macros on Friday. Saturday and Sunday will be my first attempt at no carb rest days. And for memorial day, I might just say screw it, give me a beer and a burger!

Finally, I think it might be time for me to inspire myself with some progress photos. When you look at yourself every day you don’t see the changes. But after comparing these two photos side by side, it’s clear that I AM making progress, albeit a bit slower than I’d like. The photo on the left was taken on February 2nd 2015. The photo on the right was taken 12 weeks later on May 13th 2015. It’s also important to note that I didn’t really start getting serious about the program until March 23.

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Also, I’m not stupid, I know that part of my “transformation” is low lights, shadows and the angle of the lens. But it’s still a noticeable change. On Friday (officially day 60) I will take a photo in the same position and same clothes as the before photo. Then we’ll see what’s what!

*UPDATE*

Even as I’m writing this post I’ve been invited to a memorial day picnic on Saturday. I guess this will be the first true opportunity to look at food and fun differently.

Day 25, Sometimes you just have to say, “Screw it!”

By 9:30 pm last night I had just about had enough of being alive and productive for the day. The work day was over, the kids were in bed, the kitchen was clean and my son’s lunch was packed. With all this done, I was still faced with figuring out what to eat for the next day. And frankly, after 24 days of doing it I said, “Screw It! I will improvise tomorrow”.

This is both a good and bad thing for me. Clearly it’s good for me to take a break and be confident in the fact that I haven’t sabotaged my diet. But it’s also bad because the minute I decide to change something about my plan I look for an excuse.

In this case I find myself in the following situation. I have one more workout this week. When Monday comes I will have reached 4 weeks since I started. Starting Monday afternoon, I’m taking 24 hours off from normal life to relax in Atlantic City with my wife. I will not think about calories, macros or worksets. When Wednesday comes I will return to the gym to start the next 4 week block. The numbers for my first 4 weeks aren’t official yet, but it’s safe to say that I didn’t lose as much weight as I had hoped. However, I am stronger and my measurements are moving in the right direction.

Despite this, I’ve decided to implement some changes for the next 4 weeks.

Workout plan will change over to StrongLifts 3×5. This isn’t a major change. The only difference between this and what I’m currently doing is that I alternate barbell rows with deadlifts. Considering that I should probably hit 235 tomorrow, deadlifting every day will probably be too much as the weight goes up. Plus, StrongLifts has one of the best workout tracking apps for the iPhone that I’ve ever seen, and it’s free. The only problem is that the app doesn’t do much good unless you’re following the program exactly.

Diet will change to IIFYM + IF. Again, this isn’t a major change but enough to hopefully make things easier and in turn make results happen with less effort. I will still being doing intermittent fasting with morning fasted training. I love this schedule so I’m sticking with it. However, I will not continue with the calorie/carb cycling. It seems like an extra layer of complexity that isn’t helping as much as it’s hurting. Being able to eat extra carbs on workout days is great, but having to stick to low carb days on the weekends is difficult. So the numbers will change as follows:

  • calories 2084
  • carbs 275
  • protein 124
  • fat 54

The biggest change here is the drop to 124 grams of protein a day. I certainly like the idea of getting more carbs and having less stress of hitting my protein numbers by the end of the day. But I needed to justify the decrease based on evidence. From what I’ve read, overweight people should based their protein needs on lean body mass instead of body weight. Which for me is 157 * 0.8. There have also been many studies that prove that 0.8 grams per pound of body weight is more than enough for even the most intense bodybuilding competitors.

So now, armed with all this new information and these new marching orders I just can’t wait until Wednesday to start. I switched my macros over to this new plan immediately. But here’s the rub. It’s not because I’m super motivated. It’s because the new diet is easier than the current one so I want it to start right away! If I had decided to switch to a more restrictive diet I would certainly wait until next week.

2015-04-16 12.58.33All of this culminated in my “screw it” reaction this morning which ultimately lead me to my favorite falafel restaurant for lunch.

I don’t know what to do with all of this information other than just dump it out of my head and into this blog. Perhaps that’s enough for now…

Day 4, The Slow Grind

2015-03-26 06.09.47Not every day is going to be filled with inspiration and motivation. Like today for instance. I’m only 4 days into the routine and I’m already bored. Not bored of the program per se, but just bored because I want to be doing more. Results come slowly at my age and sometimes they’re barely noticeable. This morning the scale read 208.6 which is 1.5 pounds up from yesterday morning. And I know all the responses to this:

  • Weight fluctuates based on water retention
  • Muscle weighs more than fat
  • It’s your measurements and how your clothes fit that count more than the scale
  • It’s not healthy to lose more than 2 pounds per week
  • You shouldn’t be weighing yourself more than once per week anyway
  • etc. etc. etc.

Obviously I know all of this already and it doesn’t deter me. But there are few better motivators than a scale going down consistently.

The other problem is the conflict between knowing I need to post to the blog at least once per day but having nothing interesting to post about. This problem almost always works itself out as I post. Take this post for example. I didn’t think I had anything to write about and yet here we are at over 200 words already!

When you decide to start a weight loss program the first week is a whirlwind, especially if it’s your first time learning how things work. But eventually reality sets in and you need to figure out how to work the plan over the long haul. This is obviously why some plans fail. They’re so calorie restrictive or so complicated and regimented that they simply cannot be sustained for more than a short period of time. This is why a lot of people quit doing programs like P90x which require you to workout out an hour a day for 6 days a week and prepare 5-6 meals a day. It seems to me that only very committed people can follow through to the end with this.

This is the reason why I like the LeanGains approach. The time investment is much less and it seems like once you get used to not eating anything until lunch, it’s pretty easy to adapt your life to it. You don’t need to prepare 5-6 meals every day and the workout commitment is only about 45 minutes 3 times a week. The downside of this is that you need to be patient when it comes to seeing results especially if you’re over 40 (like me!).

I suppose that’s enough for now. More on this later…

Day 2, The Eating Factory is Closed!

Day 2 is in the bag and I’m very excited that tomorrow is a high cal, hi carb day.

One of the problems with cutting on LeanGains is that on rest days when the hunger starts to creep in you can’t look forward to breakfast! But anyway, my diet is fully planned for tomorrow and I will be hitting the gym in the morning. Here are the day 2’s final numbers:

  • Cal: 1790
  • Pro: 157
  • Carb: 118
  • Fat: 81

Day 1, LeanGains – Carb day

The diet is going extremely well today. I like the idea of alternating macros; carbing up today and then loading up on fats tomorrow. It helps add a little variety to my diet. The only real problem is the weekend when I have too many opportunities to overdo it on carbs. Of course I could always move one of my training days to a weekend day, but my gym is near the office and I can’t get to it easily from home. I guess I’ll just have to deal with it.

So, the numbers so far for today as of 4:30 pm

  • cal: 1450
  • pro: 88
  • carb: 217
  • fat: 21

Calories and macros that remain for the day:

  • cal: 835
  • pro:62
  • carb: 83
  • fat: 29

So, it looks like I’m going to need to get a bit creative to hit these before 8 pm, especially the fats. I see some peanut butter in my future!