Sunday, August 03, 2014
So, when we lived in Florida, I worked out with a trainer for over 3 years straight. Many of you remember I affectionately referred to him as "Stasi Guy", a sadistic brute of either East German or Russian origin, he grew up learning advanced torture techniques somewhere behind the Iron Curtain. He had no soul and put me through endless tortures under the guise of helping me "get in shape". I hated him, yet I kept going back, 3x/week for 3 years.
When we moved to Virginia last year and I developed my own personal training program based on my 3 years with Stasi Guy. Even on my own, I kept hearing his thick Slavic accent in my brain, egging me on whenever I felt like quitting, "Vat izz dees? (What is this?). U must doo tree more reps before vee moof on! (You must do three more reps before we move on!)"
Well about 2 months ago, I hired a new trainer, thinking I'd found someone with whom I could perfect my kettlebell technique. Somehow, he (let's call him "granola-eater"....I haven't been able to find any better way to describe him) pulled off a successful bait and switch on me, because in 3 months we haven't once touched a kettlebell, but have instead been doing all sorts of mobility and range of motion drills. (see blog bit.ly/1s16SJW )
Yesterday, I read the Current Status of one of my Sparkbuds, NancyAnne55, where she said something about how her trainer had made her do some crawling type moves, which I thought was pretty cool, because just the other day, a guy in one of the on-line kettlebell forums I hang out in mentioned the benefits of doing crawls as well. (see video bit.ly/1s1uGNU )
How much more karma do I need!
So when I showed up for today's session, I told granola-eater that I'm going to start my next round of Strength Training to get ready for another Powerlifting meet at the end of October (see blog bit.ly/1nD2u5j ).....and oh by the way does he know anything about how to do crawls.
He almost chokes on the mouthful of trail mix in his mouth. As he washes it down with a sip of some frothing mocha latte cappuccino crap from Starbucks, his eyes light up and he launches into a tirade of, "Oh my God Yes! Do you mean Bear Crawls, Panther Crawls, or Spiderman Crawls? Watch!" and dives down to floor to give me a demo of 3 different and painful ways in which you can contort your body on the ground
I look down at my shoes, shake my head and mumble, "I don't know, dude, I just heard they were good for you."
Now he becomes super-animated, on some trail mix/caffeine high and says, "OK, here's what we're going to do, to get you ready for your Powerlifting meet, we'll do some deadlifts, some Spiderman Crawls, and some ball slams!" (I didn't like the sound of that last one, but decided to get my mind out of the gutter)
"What's a confortable deadlift for you, a number where you'd feel good doing about 6-8 reps?"
Now he was in my territory.....this is where the Lion pounces on the Gazelle!
I shrugged my shoulders back a little, "Well, I did 395 lbs at the end of June (see video bit.ly/1qIEifg ). I'd be OK doing 255-275 lbs" I said as I man-stared right into his 20-something baby blues.
"Hmmm, OK, tell you what, let's just shoot for 225 to make it easier to load the bar"
The Lion was about to enjoy the feast!
At one end of the gym, he sets up a bar with 225 lbs for deadlifts and at the other end he places a 20 lb slam ball.
The Lion is wondering what kind of crazy evasive move the prey just pulled.
"OK, so here's what we're going to do, I want you to do 8 deadlifts, then Spiderman crawl to the slam ball, give me 8 ball slams, then run back for some more deadlifts"
"Yeah, OK.....what's a Spiderman crawl again?"
He gives me a demo....here's a picture and a video I found on Youtube ( bit.ly/1qTftCk )
The Lion's wondering whether or not this gazelle is worth it....maybe I should turn around and go after that one I saw limping at the end of the herd
Anyways, I chalk up my hands and crank out 8 perfect deadlifts with 225 lbs.....piece of cake. Then I contort myself into a pretzel on the ground and start Spiderman crawling over 20 yards to get to the Dynamax Slam Ball. By the time I stand up after the crawls, I am out of breath. I pick up the 20 lb slam ball, thankful to be doing some more strength moves.
But after slamming that thing down as hard as I can just 5 times, I am beat. I finish up 3 more then saunter back to the deadlift bar.
Granola-eater is still nursing his frothing mocha latte cappuccino crap, peers over his rimless glasses and says, "OK, take a minute to catch your breath, then let's do this again."
I am seriously starting to hate this guy.....fond memories of Stasi guy begin to form in my mind, like an abused child remembering only the good times in an abusive household.
I gird myself up for another round, finish off the 8 ball slams, and make it back huffing and puffing.
Hands on my knees, my head hanging low, I look up at granola-eater and plead with him, "Please don't make me hate deadlifts.....they're my favorite exercise....I don't want to associate them with these traumatic memories"
He chuckles into his frothing mocha latte cappuccino crap, almost horking some through his nose, "You're fine, just take a minute and keep going"
We did 8 rounds of that insanity.....it felt tike the universe just slowed down and focused all the pain it held into those tiny few minutes from when I picked up the bar for that first deadlift to throwing down the last slam ball.
Finally, we were done.....the whole session took less than 30 minutes.
As we unloaded the bar, I looked over at Granola-eater. "Dude, unless you're going to give me some massage therapy for the remaining 30 minutes of our time today, we're done!"
"Ok, that sounds fine. You did really good. I can see that was a challenge....oh by the way, you need to renew your lessons before next week"
As I walked down to the desk to charge up another 5 sessions with this madman, I told myself it wouldn't be too late to just make a beeline for the door, find another gym to workout at on Sundays and never look back.
But no, I renewed for another 5 sessions, telling myself, this was all good for me, this was all good for me, this was all......
So, maybe the problem all those 3 years I cursed Stasi Guy out under my breath, wasn't really about Stasi Guy....maybe it was me....maybe I just secretly hate anyone who trains me....maybe it's not them....it's ME!
Have a great night Spark friends!
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Admit it Spark friends, when we were kids, more always meant better.....hell even today how many of us secretly believe that more is better than less....
.....come on raise your hand and admit it!
Many of us are here because more food was always better than less food, more dessert was better than less dessert, more lazing around was better than less lazing around, etc, etc, etc.
Maybe the only thing that contradicted this thought was......
Less exercise was always better than more exercise.....hell, no exercise was just damn fine (at least it was by me, your story may be different.....but was it really?)
Well many years ago, at the tender age of 47, I decided to reverse my body's decline. I stopped smoking and started running. At first I could barely do a 1/4 mile at the track. I huffed and I puffed and slowly began to extend the distance.
Being a lifelong Type A kind of guy, it wasn't long before I got the running bug and decided that if a 3-mile run was good, then 5 miles was better.....but really, I should shoot for 10 miles. But if I was going to do that, why not a half-marathon? Half-marathon? Why the hell not just go for the Full Monty and train for a full marathon.
More is always better than Less
A few years ago I started lifting weights and shifted from Running to Strength Training. I started barely able to squat, press or deadlift 50-100 lbs, then slowly got the hang of it (with the help of a sadistic trainer who had some ties with various former Soviet Block interrogation agencies!). All of that was good, but late last year I decided to take it up a notch and began competing in some Amateur Powerlifting Competitions. The Gold Standard there is to be able to lift over 1000 lbs between squat, bench press, and deadlift.....and I finally achieved that last month (see blog bit.ly/1nD2u5j ).
More is always better than Less
But a strange thing happened as I trained for my last powerlifting competition......I trained less
I trained for shorter amounts of time and with less weight......but I trained more frequently
Instead of spending 90 minutes in the gym, doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions with various leg exercises, then the next day spending 90 minutes in the gym, doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions with various back exercises, and the next day, spending.......you get the picture
Instead, 3-4 days a week for about 45 minutes, each day I focused doing the exercises that worked the most muscles, but I did only 2 sets of 5 repetitions, and I did them with between 60-80% of my max limits. At the end of each rep, I asked myself, "OK, can you do that again tomorrow?" If the answer was yes, I continued. If the answer was no, I stopped.
Doing it this way, I ended up working out my whole body more frequently during the week, but to keep myself from burning out, I actually dialed the volume down a few notches.
Less heavy, but more frequent workouts......Hmmmm. Could Less be better than More?
Well the results speak for themselves.....In June I lifted 50 more lbs than my previous competition in February and finally crossed the 1000 lb barrier.
So what's my takeaway from all of this? Well I'm an avid reader and researcher, and have been finding plenty of good discussions and experienced people that advocate working out in a sustainable manner, getting away from no pain, no gain, and constant soreness to working out in a manner where you always have some gas left in the tank at the end of a workout, enough so that you can do the exact same workout the next day and the next. Workout just a little less hard, but workout more frequently
Bodybuilders and Olympic Lifters keep pushing the limits because they live in a totally different realm of training and experience.....I am not one of them. I just want to keep getting better and better, and to stay injury free while doing so.
So I'm trying something new....micro-workouts.
Before I get into that, let me say that I fully intend to keep working out in the gym. I've recently fallen in love with Kettlebells (see blog bit.ly/1kJ7CT7 ) and so will continue training with them. I'm also going to start back up with the Strength Training in August (I took a 1 month break after June's Powerlifting Competition).
What I'm going to do (I actually started doing this Monday) is to incorporate some micro-workouts into my day.
Here's the deal. I don't know about you all, but I have a job that keeps me seated most of the day. During my morning & afternoon commute, I walk about 15-20 minutes each way. I get up and stretch my legs some during the day, but aside from gym time, I'm pretty sedentary most of the day.
So Monday, I brought my kettlebell and ab wheel to work
For the last 3 days, every hour on the hour (almost), I close the door to my office (yeah, I'm lucky to have an office....this might be tough to do in a cubicle farm) and do 20 one-handed kettlebell swings (10 left and 10 right) and 10 ab roll-outs
These go real fast, less than a minute. They're somewhat intense (explosive is more like it). At the end, my heart rate is up some and I'm breathing a little heavy, but nothing major.
So far so good. I feel good and balanced. My thinking is that 90 minutes of activity in a day, followed by 22.5 hours of sedentary living isn't a good balance. Maybe a little more constant activity spread out through the day is a better way to use our bodies.
Let me know what you think Spark buds, can less can be better than more?
Have a great night!
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Here's my 395 lb deadift...my last lift of the day at the 25 Jun Powerlifting Competition where I totalled 1005 lbs.
Not bad for a 54 year old adult onset weightlifter!!
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
How do you communicate the sweet taste of victory in a blog?
Well, there's always a good meme out there;
Maybe a kitschy ad sporting a storm trooper;
Or you could just show a glass of beer;
Then again, you could write about it, describing the adventure, the drama, the struggle of man vs.......
OK, let me just get on with it
Today I lifted a combined 1005 lbs between squats, bench press, and deadlifts....a personal record, beating my previous score of 955 lbs set last February!!
Hmmm, where to begin....
Well I got there early to cheer on the women. They started an hour before the guys. There weren't too many familiar faces, most of the women I have competed with these past few times had stopped lifting for the summer, shredding down for bikini season. Knowing that, the sponsors of this event opened it up to many folks from the greater DC area. Some were first timers, others were experienced (One beast of a gal finished with a total score of 855! But the high drama was from a first-timer who eked out 525 total....she was focused, dedicated, and gave it her all!)
At first there were only 3 of us guys, then, right before starting time, 4 young Marines showed up.....strapping young lads in their 20s, they looked straight off of a superhero movie set....now we had a show!!
I had planned all my lifts, starting off with a weight that was challenging but that I knew I could get. For squats I started at 315. It was a piece of cake, so for my second squat I put 345 lbs on the bar. It was a good lift, not pretty, but I straightened back up.
I struck up a conversation with the lead Marine (He was warming up with the 315 I did for my first lift!) He was made of rock-solid granite, but as is usual with serious lifters, real easy to talk to and ask for advice and pointers. I noticed he and his buddies were wrapping their knees before squatting.
"So what's up with the wraps?"
"Oh these are real good for stability, they keep your knees tight. I can add 40-50 lbs to my squat with knee wraps"
"Really!?!? So, can you guys wrap me up for my next lift?"
"Sure, but we should only do it a minute or 2 before you lift, these things really block off your blood flow"
With that, I told them to add 10 more lbs to the bar for a 355 lb total.....and nailed it!! The judges said it was the best of my 3 squats today and that I could have done another 20 lbs easy!
Overall this was amazing, because I had been most concerned with my squats. I'd been working hard on them, but struggling with the depth....well smooth sailing from now on, so on to bench press!
Same deal, I started with a weight that was hard but that I knew I could get.....255 lbs. So I added 20 and went for 275 on my 2nd attempt....
....2d attempt failed! I got the bar 4-5 inches off my chest, then no mas. So by the rules of the competition, I had to do the same weight for my 3d attempt.
I chalked up, psyched up, got under that bar, and pushed.....and pushed.....and pushed, but I couldn't straighten my arms out! Arrghh
So overall I was at 610 lbs total (355 squat, 255 bench). Deadlifts were next, and I felt most confident with them, but I had to shake off the disappointing bench press episode.
Again, I started with a tough but achievable weight, which for me was 345 lbs. It was almost easy, so for my 2nd attempt, I added 20 again, for a 365 deadlift.
Almost easy, but not bad at all.
Now I had to do some math in public.
So far I had a total of 975 lbs (355 squat, 255 bench, 365 deads), 20 lbs better than my previous 955 in February (see blog bit.ly/1hpsk5A ). I was thinking I could safely add 10 lbs to the bar, then thought, "Nahhh, push the limits and add 20 lbs".....that would give me a new PR of 995 lbs....
....but seriously 995 lbs?!?!?!
Could I really get that close to 1000 and not go for it? I'd have to deadlift 395 lbs.....man, that's a lot of weight.....that's 40 more lbs than I have ever lifted before....but.....but...
"But WHAT!" I told myself!! I had already set a PR, the worse that could happen was that I lift the bar a few inches off the ground and drop it. Last February I was real concerned about my deadlifts, but these past few months I have been really focused on my form and proper lifting technique.
HELL YEAH I WAS GOING FOR IT!!!
I high-fived each of the Marines, had them each give me a big Hoo-Rah!, went over to the bar.....and pulled that bad boy straight off the ground letting out a victory cry as the bar passed over my knees!!!
10005 lbs of victory!!!!
Man, was I a happy camper!!
So here it is, 8 months after I set my goal to lift a combined 1000 lbs, I made my goal (see blog bit.ly/1iwR029 ). I wasn't expecting it.....I really figured it would take me till October to reach it.
I had already decided to ease off the lifting through the rest of June and July, focusing on kettlebell work. I've got some goals for the kettlebells. I'm taking my 35 lber on vacation with us this summer (we're going to Boston then over to Niagara Falls for about 2 weeks) After that life's a wide open book....I'm sure I'll figure out what to do next while blogging with all my Spark buds!
For the rest of tonight....all I want to do is eat, watch TV, and go to bed!
Have a great night Spark friends!!
Sunday, June 08, 2014
Many of my long-time Spark buds will know about my love-hate relationship with Stasi Guy, the sadistic trainer I worked out with for over 3 years when we lived in Florida (see one of my many previous blogs on the him at; bit.ly/1ka5u1V )
Stasi guy knew his stuff. He pushed me hard, helped me make incredible improvements, and to this day, I credit him with giving me the strength and confidence to lift heavy weights correctly and for teaching me the tools I needed to help design my own strength training program that helped me lift 955 lbs in my last Powerlifting meet (see blog bit.ly/1hpsk5A )
We parted ways last summer when I moved the family up to DC. I still lift heavy weights 3x/week and have now incorporated Kettlebells into my daily routine ( bit.ly/1kJ7CT7 ). Lifting heavy weights help me get stronger (what a great SparkPeople name, huh!) and kettlebells are a great overall conditioning tool. But something has been missing.
Flexibility.....stability.....range of motion.
Now I've never been a flexible fellow. Even though I know should stretch more, I hate doing it.
Well a few weeks ago, adversity met opportunity.
On Sundays, I go to a gym a few miles down the road from our house. It's pretty decent and they've got good equipment; 2 squat racks, 3 Concept2 Rowers, and a HUGE Kettlebell collection....all the way up to 100 lbs!
They've also got a bunch of trainers hanging out near the aerobic equipment.
For the last 8 months, I've watched them train their clients. Most of them have their people do all sorts of weirdo exercises and I'd just sigh under my breath as I remembered how hardcore Stasi Guy approached my training....he was pretty much like Burgess Meredith training Rocky Balboa
So a few weeks ago I approached one of the trainers who seemed to look like he knew what he was doing and asked him if he knew anything about kettlebells. He said yes, watched my technique on some Turkish Get-ups and Swings, then gave me a few pointers for free. I asked him about his rates and said I was interested in cleaning up my form with the Kettlebells and we agreed on an introductory couple of lessons.
I got a little busy and wasn't able to start with him right away, and in the meantime had taken an 8-hour Kettlebell clinic with some serious Russian style dudes and have felt real good about my kettlebell training since then, but I figured I'd train with this new guy for a few weeks anyway.
Well, before we start training, he gives me a head to toe fitness assessment. He took a 3-point body fat measure with calipers (18%, thank-you very much!), strength assessment (I crushed it!), aerobic capacity (Top 10% percentile), and.....flexibility.....
....I bottomed out! I'm probably in the top 10 percent of least flexible people in the world.
So then he launches into his spiel about the importance of flexibility and stability and how it's the core of any good fitness plan, blah-blah-blah.....I had to struggle to keep from rolling my eyes and felt exactly like my teenagers must have when I lectured them for the umpteenth-time about the importance of punctuality, cleanliness, not drinking and driving etc, etc. etc.
Once the droning stopped, I realized that he was telling me we had to start off with range of motion and functional movement training before we could start on anything else.
Wait a minute, who's hiring who here?!?! I thought I was in charge! I want to clean and snatch kettlbells, not sit on my ass all day bending and twisting into all sorts of uncomfortable positions. At least that's what I was thinking....in reality, I just nodded and said, "OK sure, let's do it!"
Somehow my deep unconscious has always helped me make good decisions even when my inner monologue wants to do nothing more than yell and scream when I don't get my way.
So on our first session, trainer guy (I don't have a nickname for him yet....granola-eater comes to mind, as does hipster-doofus, but that's just because....well just because he's both of those things), introduces me to Mr Lacrosse Ball and Mr Foam Roller
The goal for Mr Lacrosse Ball is to hit trigger points....those tight little knots of muscle wedged deep into your shoulders, back, hamstrings, quads, calves, etc. You roll the ball on to one of those tight knots....then push and pulse against it while trying to relax and breathe. The goal for Mr Foam Roller is for Myofascial release...separating those groups of muscles that are bundled together with that muscular sausage casing known as fascia. Same deal, except you start at the top of a joint and slowly roll down to the next joint (imagine starting at the top of your thigh and rolling down to the knee)
Well it seems like every point of my body that touches either of these evil little devices is chock full of painfully tight muscle. I'm balancing on my arms and legs, calibrating the pressure I put on that lacrosse ball, knowing that the slightest little slip and it'll slam into a tight spot and I'll start crying like a baby.
After an hour of this, I'm sweating like a race horse. Granola-eater then gives me some homework, telling me to do this every other day until our next session. I'm already hating him....he's making Stasi Guy come off like the Pope.
But today we finished up our third session. I went out to Dick's Sporting Goods and bought myself a few Lacrosse Balls and have been using them religiously every night, alternating between upper and lower body every other day.
I do this before going to bed for 30-45 minutes and have got to tell you....I have been sleeping the sleep of the dead every single night! I really had no idea how chronically tight and sore I was till I started doing this. After 3 weeks, I am just now starting to see how my range of motion is improving and how less sore I feel during the day. I've got a long way to go, but I'm pretty well sold so far.
Somehow, I've always hated stretching, mostly because I suck at it. The trigger point & foam rolling thing is more like a massage than stretching. Yeah, it can be painful, but I've found that I can adjust the pain by adjusting the pressure. And unlike going for a massage, I can hit the EXACT spore spot with Mr Lacrosse Ball, and let me tell you, that is how I now spell relief!
More to follow in the coming weeks. Ive got 5 more sessions paid up for with granola-eater, so we'll see how far this goes.
Have a great night Spark friends!
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