Day 24 – Success Leaves Clues, So Does Failure

Today is a scheduled off day from the weight room.  I do plan to complete my pre-bed ab circuit this evening.

I did get in a light cardio workout today.  I spent a portion of my morning break & lunch walking the back & main stairwells at work.  While it may only be 4 flights, there are a decent number of stairs.  The other thing to keep in mind is that I work in a somewhat tall building by local standards:

q8idnrbuilding

 

(IDNR Headquarters, Springfield, IL)

 

So, I got in some recovery from yesterday’s lower body workout.  And I burned off a little bit of fat in the process.  It was a cold, rainy/snowy day today so staying inside & walking the stairwells was an easy choice.  I’m not sure how many stairs I actually climbed or how many steps I took.  All I know is it felt good to get up and move for a half hour today.

When I first began working in the building in 2008, I could barely make it up 2 flights of stairs without getting winded & shin splints.  Now I am to traverse the 4 full flights much easier.

The nice thing about walking the stairwells is that there is very little traffic.  

Since the first of the year, there has been an uptick in the number of hallway break walkers during breaks & lunch hours. I say good for each and every one of them that are making an effort to get into better shape.  They’ve identified a pressing need to “get healthy” & are taking positive action towards achieving their goal.  How can you not applaud their efforts?

However, in a month or 2, the numbers walking the halls will dwindle a bit.  Many will quit walking the halls for whatever reason.  It’s a shame that they don’t just stick with it, add in some resistance training a few times a week & clean up their diet.  They would see results if only they would keep pressing on in an intelligent manner.

Some of the decreased hallway traffic will be attributed to better weather.  As spring approaches, many will begin walking the grounds at work:

IMG_20110921_122216

 

(There is another pond & a large number of concrete paths on the other side of the building.  The scenery makes for a great morning or afternoon walk.)

Among the new faces I see walking the halls, there are many familiar faces.  These are the same people I see walking the halls/trails every work day.  Their determination is commendable.  However, when I observe their actions & their subsequent results, I question their approach.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging anyone nor is this a condemnation.  I am a firm believer in taking any steps, however large or small towards better health.

But, these guys & gals look the same as they did nearly 5 years ago when I started working there.  After 5 years of consistent effort & little visible results, wouldn’t it be wise to seek out a different approach?

Success Leaves Clues

At one point, my approach to fitness wasn’t working.  I was huffing & puffing while walking those stairs & trails.  I was fat & weak.  I HAD to make a change.

So what did I do?  I sought out people who had been in my situation.  I read their materials.  I interacted with them on social media sites & got answers to fitness questions.  I took massive amounts of decisive, positive action.  I made some gains, had some set backs but I was on my way.

Then I hooked up with an online coach & got “cut”.  Unfortunately, I also got it in my head that the hard work was over & I could coast a bit.  I stopped doing the things I had done to get into shape.  I got a bit soft in the core & lost a little bit of muscle.

Success Leaves Clues, So Does Failure

I was successful in changing my body because I had followed a plan.  When I failed to follow my plan, I quickly lost my gains.

Now that I am nearly 4 weeks into this 90 day contest, I am doing the same things I did previously.  My prior success left me enough clues on how to get where I desired.  All I had to do was put the clues to use.

Day 23 – What a Difference a Week Makes!

Today, I completed Workout B, Phase 1 from Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks” program.

Last week, I was dealing with the flu & it had sapped most of my energy. When I attempted this workout, I was not very successful.  I ended up only doing about half the exercises & even then I didn’t really have much in the tank.  I probably would have been better off just skipping the workout entirely last week.

Thankfully I was able to complete the entire lifting portion of the workout today.  No cutting out exercises & skipping sets this session.  Not only was I able to complete the entire workout, I increased the weight load on Barbell Front Squats and Barbell Deadlifts.  Progress, progress, progress!

I have made one slight modification to the workout, however.  I did not perform the ab portion of the workout directly after the lifting portion.  I have a “special” ab workout that I do most nights prior to going to bed.  It is the same workout I used while working with Roman & it helped me develop decent abs.

For the most part, my ab workout consists primarily of Planks.  

I do various forms of planks & hold each one for varying amounts of time.  Some of the planks I currently perform are Push Up Position Plank, Side Plank, Plank with feet on bench & a few others.  I very rarely, if ever, do crunches, sit-ups or any other ab/core exercises that require me to lie flat on my back.  Why risk a back injury due to poor form?

While some people may think that planks aren’t worth the time, I would disagree.  As shown below, a standard plank is quite a muscle builder:

(Photo courtesy of harboursidefitness.com.au)

(Photo courtesy of harboursidefitness.com.au)

Shoulders, Chest, Core & Thighs are getting worked in this exercise!  While all planks work the core, each variation works other muscle groups as well.

If you’re looking for great abs, the Plank should be a part of your routine.  However, no amount of planks will make up for a crappy diet.  You can plank your way to strong core but if it is covered with fat, no one will ever see it.  Remember, abs are made in the kitchen & honed in the gym.

Today’s workout track listing:

  • Straight to Your Face – Hatebreed
  • Fear – Heaven & Hell
  • The Pot – Tool
  • Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See – Busta Rhymes
  • Long Time – Black Label Society
  • Greed – Godsmack
  • Flamenco Diablo – Yngwie J. Malmsteen
  • Where The Hood At – DMX
  • Fear – Disturbed

Day 22 – Antagonistic Supersets

Today, I completed Workout A, Phase 1 From Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks program.   As previously stated, this workout consists of Chest/Back supersets.  Specifically, we’re dealing with Antagonistic Supersets.  They are referred to as antagonistic because in this instance opposing muscle groups are being worked within the same superset.

Here’s Superset #1 from today which consisted of:

A1) Incline Barbell Bench Press:

images-5

 

(Photo courtesy of gofitandhealthy.com)

Followed by A2) Single Arm Dumbbell Rows:

dumbbell-rowjpg-fd0622c97acefb6e

 

(Photo courtesy of NOLA.com)

For Superset #1: I completed exercise A1, rested for 30 seconds, completed exercise A2 &  then rested for 30-60 seconds.  I then repeated that same pattern two more times for a total of 3 sets within Superset #1.

After completing Superset #1, I then moved on to Superset #2 & finally #3.  These Supersets both started with a chest press of some sort followed by a rowing exercise.

**I must disclose that my definition of a “superset” is a bit different than the traditional version.  Many weightlifters believe that a true superset consists of multiple exercises performed in succession with no rest between exercises.  My definition is similar except that I sometimes utilize a short rest period between exercises.  Slight difference but worth noting.**

I really enjoy this particular workout.  While the majority of the exercises target the chest & back, the arms & shoulders definitely get a good amount of work as well.  I also like the push/pull dynamic within each superset.

These antagonistic superset workouts have become one my favorites.

Today’s Workout Track listing:

  • Would? – Alice in Chains
  • Nutshell – Alice In Chains
  • Cat Scratch Fever – Pantera
  • Regular People (Conceit) – Pantera
  • Not Going Away – Ozzy Osbourne
  • Without Me – Eminem
  • Whale & Wasp – Alice in Chains
  • Down in a Hole – Alice in Chains

I love Alice in Chains so I had no problems with the shuffle mix the iPod laid down today!

Day 21 – 3 Weeks Already?!?!

Sunday morning.  When it comes to my fitness endeavors, Sunday morning is very critical.

As with each Sunday, the first thing I did upon waking up this morning was to weigh-in & take my body fat measurements.  I’m happy to report that I gained 3 pounds this week.

My lean body mass increased by about 1.5 pounds.  Unfortunately, I gained a little over a pound of fat this week but I’m ok with it.  I expect to gain some fat over the next few weeks.  I am ingesting more calories each week & a decent portion of those calories are comprised of healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, egg yolks, etc.).   Plus, I was sick for part of the past week and my eating schedule/intake was a bit off for a few days.

This is the second week in a row that I have gained at least 3 pounds.  At this rate, I am on pace to gain another 15-20 pounds over the next 6 weeks.  This is perfect.  My goal going into this 90 day program was to gain about 20-25 pounds in 8-9 weeks & then spend the last 3-4 weeks cutting any excess fat & getting shredded for my final pictures.

After my weigh-in, I used the next 30 minutes on a few fitness related activities.  I began with 15 minutes on the Gazelle:

IMG_20130127_110028

 

My protocol for today would be best described as a Variable Intensity Interval Training (VIIT) pace.  I worked at varying rates for 30-60 second bursts throughout the 15 minute period.  Today, my time on the gazelle was focused more on being an “active recovery” session and less on fat burning.  My legs were a bit sore when I woke up but after the 15 minute session they felt more alive.

I would say that I stayed within the 3-8 (out of 10) range as far as intensity goes.  1 is a slow paced walk, 3 is a moderate paced walk, 5 is a fast walk/light jog, 8 is a fast jog & a 10 is an all out sprint.  This gives you an idea of the patterns I describe below.

As far as my workout log goes, I basically followed this pattern:

  • First 5 minutes: Started at a 1 & slowly worked up to a 3 over the first 2 minutes.  Worked up to a 5 over the next minute.  For the final 2 minutes of this portion I alternated between a 3 and 5 for 30 seconds each.
  • Second 5 minutes: Started at a 5 & maintained this pace for the first minute, dropped to a 3 for 30 seconds, went up to a 5 for 30 seconds, went to a 7 for 30 seconds, back down to a 5 for 30 seconds, back up to a 7 for 30 seconds, down to a 5 for 30 seconds, down to a 3 for the final minute of this portion.
  • Final 5 minutes: Repeated the first 5 minutes listed above.

I covered approximately 1/2 mile in 15 minutes today.  Nothing major and totally acceptable.  I am in a muscle building phase so I need to stay in a caloric surplus for as long as possible.  During a “bulking” phase, I tend to utilize VIIT sessions a few times a week.  

I didn’t utilize them last week due to feeling ill a few days & I gained more fat as a consequence.  It hit me in my lower ab region which is no surprise.  (There & the love handles are my 2 trouble spots.)  But I’m not stressing about it.  I accept it for what it is, realize I will have to put in a little extra work to burn the fat & go forth.    

*Note to self: A little VIIT cardio on an “off” day won’t cost you that much muscle but it sure will help you minimize fat gain.*     

After putting the gazelle away & getting a small drink of water, the next 5 minutes were devoted to a series of planks with very little rest between exercises.  4:15 out of 5 minutes were devoted to my core being engaged, only 45 seconds of rest total.  I also tend to sneak this 5 minute circuit in most nights of the week.

The final 10 minutes this morning were devoted to yoga.  I started with a few Sun Saluations & then worked on loosening up my legs.  My hamstrings & inner thighs were very tight so I spent a fair amount of time stretching those areas.  I will most likely sneak in another 10-15 minute stretching session today just to stay loose.

The other activity that makes Sunday morning crucial to my fitness goals is planning the upcoming week in terms of workout logs & meal plans.

Workout Logs: Printed & in the weight room.  I used this morning to list the starting weights for each exercise, each day on these logs.  Transferred some notes from last week to these sheets as well.  Took me less than 10 minutes to do it but it will make a world of difference in being prepared & utilizing my time in the weight room this coming week.

Meal Plans: Updated in the spreadsheet. Will print them as needed on a day to basis or write them in a steno note pad.  Keep them visible during the day so I am able to stay on target.

Proper planning & then diligently adhering to my plan has me on pace to reach my fitness goals.  It isn’t always easy or fun but the end result is so worth it that I really don’t see any other option.

3 weeks down, 10 to go.

*Your persistence is the measure of faith you have in yourself*

Today’s track listing:

  • Listen Like Thieves – INXS
  • No Excuses – Alice In Chains
  • Spirit of Radio – Rush
  • I’m Broken – Pantera
  • Icky Thump – The White Stripes
  • Lord of this World – Corrosion of Conformity
  • Rock of Ages – Def Leppard
  • Desecration of Souls – Mercyful Fate

 

Day 20 – “The Will To Do It”

This morning, I completed Workout D, Phase 1 from Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks” program.  What a great way to start the day!

This workout is a bit different from the previous 3 workouts from Phase 1.

As noted previously, this workout begins with Dumbbell Goblet Squats & then transitions into a series of Bodyweight Exercises performed in rapid succession with as little rest as possible between exercises & circuits.

My goal for the day: Ramp up the intensity from last session.  This is the same goal that I had last week.

I achieved my goal in two ways:

I upped my DB Goblet Squat weight by 5 pounds this week.  Thankfully, I use the Bowflex 525 Adjustable Dumbbells.  They make the transition between exercises fairly quick & easy.  At some point I would like to purchase a set of the 1090’s so I can have heavier weight/more weight selections available.

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I was also able to shave another 25 seconds off my time in the bodyweight portion of the workout.  With bodyweight circuits, I’ve found the best way to increase the intensity is to shave off as much time from session to session as possible.  I do this by decreasing my rest periods, taking as little time as possible between exercises & working at a quicker pace.  I also work to maintain form with each exercise so I am not going at this in a haphazard manner.

Towards the end of the workout, my chest was burning & my legs were fried.  I could’ve stopped but instead I paused for about 5-10 seconds, got my bearings & pushed through the last few exercises.  The desire to achieve my goal helped propel me even when I felt like stopping because I thought I was going to hurl.

My goal for next week is to carry the same pace/intensity into the workout as well as adding a 4th circuit of bodyweight exercises.  Will I be successful?  I have a pretty good idea of the answer to that question!

Today’s workout track listing:

  • Superstition – Stevie Wonder
  • Regular People (Conceit) – Pantera
  • Want – Disturbed
  • Temptation’s Wing – Down
  • You’re Crazy – Guns N Roses

 

Day 19 – Strive For Perfection, Settle For Excellence

Today, I completed Workout C, Phase 1 from Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks” program.  This workout is an Upper Body Dominant workout. While the bulk of the exercises are Back & Shoulder focused, the Chest, Biceps & Triceps also get some action as well.

I was home from work this morning for a couple of reasons (dead vehicle battery/waiting on replacement & garage window installation) so I decided to go ahead & get in my workout.  I felt better this morning than I had in a few days.  I decided to put the time & energy to good use & off I went.

I had a good session today.  This despite not having a “perfect” workout.  A perfect workout for me is getting all desired reps & sets without having to reduce working weight. In some instances I might even be able to increase the weight load after set #1 & still hit my desired rep counts.  More often than not, I am able to come very close to hitting the bullseye, so to speak.

bullseye-Picture-courtesy-ljworld.com_

But not today.  Today was more like hitting 6-7, with an 8 every now & then.  I will admit that I fatigued quicker on most lifts.  I also missed my desired rep mark by 1-2 on a couple of lifts as well.  Yet, I still felt a good “burn” in the muscle being worked each set (especially my shoulders-ouch!).  I also worked with a heavier load on a most lifts so I expected to come up short at some point.  I definitely consider today’s lifting session to have been productive despite not hitting each desired rep, each set.  Strive for perfection, settle for excellence.

I now have a new benchmark for next week.  Will I be able to get that extra rep or 2 on those exercises that I was “short” on today?  Strive for perfection, settle for excellence.

**Daily progress, whether large or small is the key to winning the race.**

As for nutrition, I’ve regained my appetite & have started off the day with a large amount of clean calories.  My intention is to stick to my meal plan for the day.  Strive for perfection, settle for excellence.

Speaking of meal plans, this whole concept of “perfection vs. excellence” can be applied to diet.  I set out to be 100% compliant with my daily meal plans.  This doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes I am very hungry & I might have a few more cashews, or a bigger portion of rice, etc.

Other days I might eat a tad less than I “should” simply because eating any more would make me feel stuffed.  Quick point: Food is fuel.  Analogy: Once your gas tank is full, you don’t pull the hose out & start pumping more gas in the back seat, do you?  Why would I keep shoveling food in my face if my stomach is full?  It makes no sense.

However, I am able to honestly say that I comply with my meal plans at least 90% or better on a daily basis.  That 10% is what I call reality.  Most of the time, when I do deviate from my meal plan, it is still a food choice that is acceptable.  But every now & then I will share a candy bar or ice cream with my family (1 or 2 times a month if that).  The “bad” calories are worth the time with them so I enjoy the experience rather than fret over a poor food choice.

Don’t get me wrong, my desire is to look my best & to build an incredible body.  I would love nothing more than to place in top 3 of this 90 day contest & get some exposure online.  Maybe turn that exposure into a full-time gig in the fitness world?  Who knows?

But I honestly believe that the difference between 90% & 100% in the kitchen is barely noticeable in the mirror.  80% & 100%, now that’s a different story.  I don’t have any real science to back that up but I do have my experience with my previous transformation as a reference.  Most days I am near 100% compliant.  But there will be a few where that doesn’t happen.  93% has to do every now & then.  Once again, I strive for perfection, settle for excellence.

**Daily progress, whether large or small is the key to winning the race.**

Resized_Grand_Am_Daytona_Jan_2008_Crossing_the_finish_line

(Photo Courtesy EuroMotorWorks.com)

Today’s workout track listing:

  • Losfer Words – Iron Maiden
  • Eruption – Van Halen
  • Night Flight – Led Zeppelin
  • Vietnow – Rage Against the Machine
  • Sin – Stone Temple Pilots
  • Sleep Now in the Fire – Rage Against the Machine
  • Hair of the Dog – Nazareth
  • I Alone – Live
  • Bark at the Moon – Ozzy Osbourne
  • Set the World Afire – Megadeth

Day 18 – Not 100% Yet

Today I took the day off from the weight room in order to get my legs back under me after dealing with some flu symptoms the past couple of days.  Thankfully, I am feeling a bit better today.  But I’m not quite 100% & hitting the weights tonight wouldn’t be very productive.

I’m better off getting some additional rest as well as more fluids before training again.  My plan is to be able to get in a good lifting session on both Friday & Saturday.  This will put me back on schedule for Week 4 of my program starting Monday.

Rather than let this deter me from reaching my fitness goal(s), I am working around the obstacle in my path.  Sure, my weigh-in this Sunday may be a little less than optimal.  There’s a chance I won’t have gained as much muscle this week as I would have liked.  I didn’t have a great appetite so I ate less than normal a couple of days, I shortened a workout & have slept a lot.  It happens.

But it isn’t as if my hard work up to this point was in vain.  This is a minor setback but nothing that can’t be overcome.  The main thing is to be smart when training around an illness.

Day 17 – Something’s Better Than Nothing

Today, I completed a truncated version of Workout B, Phase 1 from Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks” program.

I have been battling a touch of the flu the last few days so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do much, if anything in the weight room.  I did my warm-up routine & knew that I wasn’t going to have enough in the tank to complete the entire workout.  I made the decision right then to focus mainly on the deadlift portion of the workout today.

Here’s a great explanation of how to properly do the Deadlift:

Deadlifts-1

 

(Photo Courtesy of TheArtofManliness.com)

Why did I focus on the toughest lift today & make it the priority?  The deadlift gives me more “bang for the buck” than almost any other exercise I know of.  It is a total body builder.  Heavy, compound exercises seem to be terrific muscle builders.  So, I made it a point to focus on the big lift & put all that I had into it.

I did what I was able to do & once I was spent, I was finished for the day.  It may have have only been 20 minutes but I made the most of it!

Today’s Workout Track Listing:

  • Sunshine – Alice in Chains
  • Take The Power Back -Rage Against the Machine
  • Black Star – Yngwie J Malmsteen
  • Losing All – Down
  • Show Me How to Live – Audioslave

 

 

Day 15 – Progressive Overload = Progress

I got in another great workout today! Today, I completed Workout A, Phase 1 From Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training “15 Pounds of Muscle in 8 Weeks program.   As previously stated, this workout consists of Chest/Back supersets.  We’re talking a chest press of some sort followed by a rowing exercise.

Today marked the third time I have completed this particular workout.  My aim for today was to increase my working weight loads from last workout whenever possible.  I was able to do so on a couple of exercises.  I had noted on my workout log from last week to increase the weight on these particular exercises so that’s what I did.  Most times the increase is either 2.5 or 5 pounds, depending on the lift.  Nothing major but it is something.

This concept is commonly referred to as Progressive Overload:

“This principal refers to continually increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system in order to continually make gains in muscle size, strength and endurance. In simplest terms – In order to get bigger and stronger you must continually lift more and more and make your muscles work harder than they are used to. If you don’t, your muscles will not become any stronger or bigger than they currently are.”  (Bodybuilding.com)

So while a small increase in weight might not seem like much at first, over time the net effect is a larger, stronger muscle.  Granted, at some point with any exercise a practical maximum weight will be encountered, if for nothing more than safety reasons!

On the exercises where I kept the weight load the same as last time: I did so to be able to hit my desired rep range & still be able to maintain proper form.  On these exercises I went for an extra rep or 2.  If I was able to do the extra reps, each set & with proper form, I  noted that I should increase the weight next time.  I would rather squeeze out an extra rep or two with a weight I can control than be sloppy for half my reps with a heavier weight.

For the Bodyweight Inverted Rows, I put my feet up on the bench to increase the intensity. I also lowered myself a bit more slowly & then I exploded up more so than last workout.  I also aimed to get at least 1 more rep each set than last time.  I was able to hit my mark today.

Today, as with each weight room session, I looked for signs of progress.  I observed them in a few different ways:

  • Upped my working weight by 5 pounds on a few lifts
  • Increased intensity & number of reps completed for Inverted Rows
  • Did a few more reps each set for “same weight” exercises, will increase weight for those exercises next workout

Progress, whether large or small is what I am after on a daily basis.

Today’s workout track listing:

  • The Rover – Led Zeppelin
  • No Excuses – Alice in Chains
  • Death’s Head – Slayer
  • Blackout – Scorpions
  • Whipping Post – Allman Brothers
  • Into the Cover – Mercyful Fate
  • Whale and Wasp – Alice in Chains
  • Animal – Pearl Jam
  • Junkhead – Alice in Chains
  • Call Me a Dog – Temple of The Dog