New Weightlifting Routine

A few weeks ago I got the green light from my physical therapist and sports medicine doctor to resume full physical activity. If you’ve been following my posts, you’re aware of my 5 month fight with insertional achilles tendonosis. Basically, I had (may still have) a very small ‘hole’ in my achilles tendon, right at the insertion point. This happened the first week in January and for close to a month I could barely walk without a lot of pain. After x-ray, failed physical therapy (most PT’s (and especially runners) think all achilles issues are the same and must be treated the same – with heavy duty stretching and eccentric heel raises….they’re correct to a point, but for insertional you must not go below parallel with the ‘dip’ part of the heel raises until it’s mostly healed!), and plain old rest, I finally found a great sports doctor and he referred me to an awesome physical therapist who got me going. I’m now happy to report that I am pain free and have been for a while now.

Regardless, from January through May I tried to be active as I could but the one thing I stopped doing was the Starting Strength routine that I was doing leading up to the injury. A couple of weeks ago I started back on a different program, and so far the results have been great and I am progressing well:

Warm-Up

  • 5 minute warm-up (usually either on an elliptical, or lately skipping altogether because the foam rolling and stretching warms me up)
  • Stretching – primarily hamstring/gastroc stretch and some others
  • Foam Rolling – I started doing this last week and, as painful as it is at first, it is *awesome* and has made my squats much better

Routine

  • Barbell Squats
    • Same old barbell squats but I don’t count sets – I basically keep track of my max (the amount of weight I can squat for 3 reps) and work up to it. I typically start with a bar + 20 pounds on it, do 5 reps, then jump to 50 pounds for 5, then 75, etc. My current max is 190 lbs. All in all, I probably do between 6 and 8 sets, each for either 3 reps (if it’s heavy) or the goal of 5 reps. I am certain I could lift quite a bit more for a 1RM but my flexibility is still an issue in my shoulders, and so ‘bailing out’ is something I am not comfortable doing and my gym is not exactly the type of place where I can practice that without raising eyebrows. But that’s something I’m going to work on next.
  • Dumbbell Chest Press
    • I had surgery in my hand when I was in my late teens – a metal pin was inserted into the back of my hand, at a hospital in Hong Kong by a Harvard trained surgeon (long story as to how I wound up in that position…). Because of that, barbell chest presses never quite felt right. The angle of the bar in relation to my wrist has always been an issue – one wrist felt weaker. So I switched to dumbbells for it and am *loving* them. I start out at 35lb bells and then move up 5 pounds each set. My current max is 50, but yesterday I’m doing 7 or 8 reps with those pretty easily so it’s time to jump up again. So glad I switched to dumbbells. I struggled with the bar and was always held back by my wrist.
  • Pullups
    • I would rather do chin-ups but there is only one true chin-up bar at my gym – the rest are pull-up bars attached to weight machines (so they’re not ‘bars’ but just grips to jump up and grab onto with each hand). I can do 3 or 4 unassisted pull-ups max (and then have to rest for quite a bit), but have been doing 3 sets of 5 assisted pull-ups.
  • Deadlift
    • Once per week I also have added the deadlift. But it’s only if the opportunity arises, because there usually isn’t a proper or socially acceptable space to do them at my gym’s weight room. When I do do them I start at about 100 lbs for 3 reps, then jump up to 160 or so, etc., to my max. Currently it’s 225 but I should be able to get back to my SS max, which was around 260, pretty quickly, particularly if I stop dicking around and treat this as a prime lift. I treat this as a ‘nice but not necessary’ lift right now, as by the time I get to it I’m pretty spent from all the squats that have had time to sore up my legs, but I know the deadlift is just as important and soon I hope to focus on it more.
  • Tricep pulldowns
    • I know what you’re likely thinking. I did too. This isn’t a compound movement and, as a dreaded ‘isolation’ exercise, it is inefficient. I think it probably is, but at the same time the LeanGains.com guy recommended it and it does seem to finish off the full body routine nicely.

I am going to keep with this routine for a couple of more weeks and then, if I continue to progress and am up to it, then I want to start mixing in and focusing on a single oly lift at the end for fun, with a focus on form – power cleans, push presses, snatch, etc.

Foam Rolling

I mentioned earlier that foam rolling is awesome. I urge you to try it if you have flexibility issues. Caution: it is painful. It can be really painful the first few times you do it. For me, my quadriceps are really tender. The first two times I tried it I used the standard black/gray high-density 36″ foam roller that is common. I could tolerate it fine everywhere but my quads and my lats. So I returned it after two tries and ordered what I thought was a slightly softer version (shown in the image below – note, I bought the green textured one), but I immediately regretted it:

The thing is, the first couple of times I foam rolled it was really hurting, but then my body got the ‘kinks worked out’ I guess everywhere but my quads. So for my quads, this new green roller is great. But everywhere else it is too soft. I’ll likely go back to buying one of the true high density ones, like this one:

A Little Rant…

So yesterday started a renewed emphasis on eating clean and getting back on track. The other day I wrote a post with a title saying I was fat again….well, that’s not really true. But I have gained about 3 or 4 pounds. I’d maintained aSome diet gurus talk about a 5lb swing being fine, but I know my body and the fact is, it’s gotten soft over the past month. Mostly due to my diet slipping – it just seems like the last few months have been a constant pressure to eat shit on a daily basis. I know my family and others mean no harm, but you’d think after almost 3 years of my eating this way, and the amazing success I’ve had, that they’d let me be. Last night I got a somewhat snide comment at a friends’ house, where she asked, “You still not eating carbs?” in a somewhat negative tone.

Part of the problem is that I’ve been eating fairly stringent Primal/Paleo for a long time now, but I have been for the past year doing it in a very unorthodox, and calculated way: instead of mixing in good carbs (white rice, sweet potato, etc.) for glycogen restoration (which is necessary if you work out hard), I have been ‘carb-loading’ once a week on a junk meal. So it sends mixed signals to my family, who see me annoyed when I refuse to eat pasta but then the next night I’m sitting there eating ice cream with them. When I say I was carb-loading in a ‘calculated’ way, I know damn well it’s not optimal. But my rationale was (and, if I continue to workout hard, is) that it’s okay. Problem is, with the bad achilles, I stopped working out hard for a while, aside from the weekly soccer match.

Back to my point…What bothers me most is this:

I could care less what anyone else eats, yet everyone seems to analyze what I eat.

I get it. They’re simply waiting for me to ‘fall off the wagon’ and balloon up again. Every dieter fails. I am the first to tell people that. It’s because they start one way and then think once the weight is off they can eat differently. But how many years do I have to succeed at this, to maintain the weight loss successfully, before people will simply let me be and stop busting my balls about how I eat? Would they do it if I said I was allergic to wheat/gluten/dairy/whatever?

As I typed the above sentence it struck me that I need to give serious thought to that idea. Maybe I’ll make up a fake “went to the doctor and he tested me and I’m gluten intolerant” story…

On a positive note…I weighed in at 192.2 today, which is as heavy as I’ve been in a long time. I maintained at 188/189 for about 6 or 7 months pretty effortlessly. But with the carb-loading and especially with the achilles injury stopping all activity for a while and most recently a focus on endurance sports (running, and soccer) and not on strength or cross-training, I’m feeling an increase in body fat for sure. So time to tighten things up, both with my eating and my exercise.

With this year’s Girls On The Run 5k finished (I ran it last year and this year with my daughter, who is required to run with an adult partner), I’m through with running for exercise. I knew before-hand that it wasn’t a good idea, for a whole lot of reasons, but actually *doing it* and feeling the effects of it over the last 2 months proved it to me: running did nothing for my VO2 MAX, nor my body fat/weight, and completely sapped away my muscle tone. In fact, the only good thing it did for me was enable me to run longer distances, which is about as useful a goal to me as the whole CrossFit whiteboard/”PR” thing: I could give two shits. So running is pointless. Am I surprised at that? Of course not: look at your distance runners – they all have bodies that look like shit.

So today I started the clean-up process by writing up a shopping list of clean foods and stocking up for the week. I’m going to do some walking tonight, then tomorrow a strength/cross-training routine, then soccer Thursday, and then a ‘play’ day Friday, and then decide on a fitness approach for the next quarter. In the meantime, my focus is on cleaning up my diet. I also am committed to blogging more, even if it is just a short, stream-of-consciousness rant like this one. So watch out : )

I’m Fat Again, But At Least the Achilles is Healed

I’ve been dreading writing this post. But after a 45 minute walk at my local track, where my usual “I’ve got life by the balls!” feeling was trumped by a pity party, it’s time I step up and admit it.

I’ve let junk food kick my ass. I went from feeling lean and muscular to sloppy fat, seemingly overnight.

Not sure if this post will come across as tongue-in-cheek but I assure you I’m not feeling very witty or funny. I’m downright sad and angry at myself.

A Slow, Downward Slide

To recap (for the hundredth time, but for those of you new to my story…) – I started eating a low-carb, loose Primal diet about 2.5 years ago. A year later, I’m down ~65lbs. In total, I’m down about 71lbs. From ~260lbs down to a steady 189lbs. It was great. I never felt better. My energy level went through the roof, and mostly remains that way to do this day in spite of recent mistakes. Of course, any of you who have read my prior posts know I’ve done everything in my power to screw it up. Like beating myself to a pulp doing that stupid ass CrossFit, or overdoing the stretching to the point of ripping a hole in my achilles tendon, in hopes that I could finally someday achieve a proper depth back squat, etc.

But in spite of my idiotic and obsessive compulsion towards achieving some serious level of fitness, things have been mostly good. Still a struggle to keep eating ‘clean’ while surrounded by continuous temptation and flat out scorn/disgust by those around me it seems. Allison over at PaleoNonPaleo said it perfectly in her latest post:

“I know your family thinks you’re crazy. I know you feel completely alone. I know you feel like it’s never, ever going to work.”

I never let that other people’s attitudes about this stuff bother me before. Well, it did. But I ignored it. For a while, I was right out front telling everyone and anyone about how to lose weight and feel great through Paleo/Primal, and particularly the low carb version of it. Over the past 6 months or so I’ve given up on that. People don’t want to hear it. And it’s always the obese guys who will want to debate with me about it, so I tend to keep quiet now when people ask me about diet. Some people just don’t want to hear it.

I also started questioning things about my approach to diet. Honestly, I’m really annoyed/sickened by the money grab that is Paleo these days. So many bloggers, podcasters, presenters, etc. coming out of the woodwork and Paleo is just so commercialized now. I guess that’s a good thing but I think it will ultimately lead to its demise as another ‘fad’. Someone will come up with a new name for the same way of eating and it will be over. It’s inevitable. But, back to my downfall: So thinking I had my body hacked and this thing called diet by the balls, late last year, sometime before Thanksgiving, I started ‘treating’ myself to a weekly splurge dessert. Often a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. And as I type this, I’m thinking the same thing. As I’ve done for a long time now, I would try some new foods and then see how it impacted my weight. And, surprisingly, the weekly splurge treat didn’t have any effect. Then the holidays come around and a series of corporate happy hours/parties full of beer, then family parties full of beer and what-not, then the holiday dinners and the pressure there, because God forbid I say “no thank you” to some in-law’s shitty food and not receive a look of scorn…

Too Much of This Crap

Too Much of This Crap…and it didn’t even taste good.

All the while, I started indulging more and more. My occasional treats turned into twice a week, then more. About a month ago I even started partaking in the occasional grains, cornbread at a local BBQ place to be exact, for the first time in a long time.  All the while, I would check the scale and I wasn’t gaining weight. And I didn’t feel or look like I was getting fatter. And my waist size was no bigger and in fact, over time, was still shrinking (I’m now down to a 34). So I think I’ve got life good: I’m able to eat whatever I want, so long as I mostly avoid the grains. Mind you, I was still eating clean for breakfast (eggs, sausage, bacon) and lunch (salad). But because of the achilles issues I stopped lifting weights. And the cardio training took it’s place…..

About 6 weeks ago I got the go-ahead from my physical therapist to start running, in order to build up my legs for an eventual 5k race that I needed to run with my daughter. That race was this past Sunday and we did well. All the while during the training leading up to this race, I fell back into the mistaken mindset of, “I’m burning all these calories with all this long-distance running, so I can eat more junk!” And for a while it seemed I could. And then a couple of weeks ago I woke up one morning and went to brush my teeth and looked in the mirror and it’s man-boob city. And a gut that seemingly popped up out of nowhere. I felt fat again for the first time in a long time. And then my newly purchased Summer wardrobe of shorts and shirts in a size that was just right before, were now a bit tight.

After the 5k

After the 5k

I finished the 5k and am glad I did it. But I now know that Mark Sisson and so many others were right when they talk of how useless cardio training is when it comes to fitness and/or weight loss/maintenance. It has robbed me of the muscle tone I had, seemingly overnight. The cardio thing is complete bullshit. Will I ever run another 5k? Yeah, absolutely. I will probably start running them pretty often as a ‘fun time’. But will you ever catch me jogging distance at the track or training FOR a 5k by jogging? Hell no. And the sad part is that I knew better…

Starting now, I have to go strict on a 30 day challenge. It will be difficult. But I don’t have a choice. I’ve got to nip this thing in the bud. I’m seriously thinking about a Whole30. And back to the weight training, but this time I’m going to take it slow and focus just as much on mobility. Oh, and in case you still think I’m not completely nuts, I got a doozy for you: I recently bought a 1 month unlimited pass to a local Hot Yoga studio. LOL. I plan on going there for the first time this week and will surely blog about it. : )

The Achilles Is Healed!

On to a happy update…the achilles is healed! The physical therapy, specifically Active Release Therapy (ART), was what did the trick. Doing eccentric calf raises helped too I’m sure, but not until I found a physical therapist that understood that those like myself with insertional achilles tendonosis need to *alleviate* the stretched tendon and not stretch it out worse. A combination of some rest followed by heel inserts, along with the ART is what worked for me. But I’m not completely out of the woods – my other achilles has been sore recently, from the distance running. So I have started doing the calf raises and will be doing some serious mobility work to ward off messing that tendon up too.

PaleoFX, Matt LaLonde, and Other Thoughts

Some random thoughts this morning -

PaleoFX

Man, I wish I had attended PaleoFX. Why would someone who doesn’t define his eating style as ‘Paleo’ want to go? Because, all things considered, the Paleo folks still have the best overall approach to nutrition and performance going.

If you’re not familiar with PaleoFX, you should be. It is basically the one conference that is actually useful to real people, with what look like some good sessions. Unfortunately though, like a lot of potentially great resources, you either have to attend in person, or pay quite a bit for videos after. For now, I’ll pass.

Just saw this post come up on my newsfeed. For those of us who didn’t/can’t attend PaleoFX, it’s a nice recap of one of the days, and the author has been tweeting good tidbits throughout the conference. Disclaimer: he has no idea who I am, but I met him a couple of times as he also happens to be one of the few really good CrossFit coaches I encountered during my 5 month CrossFit experiment (that ended not so well…). I wish I had gone to more than a couple of his sessions, as it was obvious to me that he was one of the couple with a deep understanding of olympic lifting and how to apply it correctly.

Can’t Miss Podcast Episode

I plan on writing about this soon but, in a nutshell – I’m no longer on the Paleo bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong: I won’t be buying any whole grain bread for myself anytime soon. I know I’d put on 15lbs immediately if I started eating that stuff again. But I’ve noticed over the past year that the ‘Paleo Movement’ has gotten out of hand. The statements some of these guys/gals are making is downright suspect. And, let’s face it, Paleo is now more a branding vehicle for the countless cookbooks and other stuff out there. I don’t know about you, but I’ve purchased 3 or 4 Paleo cookbooks and every single recipe I’ve tried out of them tasted mediocre at best. I guess it could be my cooking skills but I followed the recipes to the tee…

But seriously – is anyone else sick of the marketing, branding, and otherwise whoring of the concept of Paleo? I know I have been for quite some time. And I believe it will be the death of Paleo as a fad, just like so many other diets.

Back to what I really wanted to share:

This podcast from Matt LaLonde is priceless. I’ve read/listened to a lot of LaLonde’s work on this subject in the past and I’m starting to think he may be the one guy you can trust in this shell game we call nutritional/diet/fitness research. He’s the only one not selling something (that I’m aware of). And he has the balls to go right at the ‘experts’ who make some of the wild declarations, “based on research”. Highly recommend you listen to the latest Abel James’ Fat Burning Man podcast, where LaLonde takes on some of the bullshit. It was recorded in video format tube and is on YouTube, so I’m including it here for you:

Let’s face it: from the selling of a ‘Whole30′ program, to the barrage of books/cookbooks, etc., it’s just a little bit much and really makes things more confusing for people than it needs to be. Don’t misinterpret this as anti-Paleo. It’s not. It’s anti-bullshit. It’s anti-”forking” of the content just to make a few bucks.

It’s simply things that we all have to think about as we seek to define what works for our bodies.

What I’m Up To (and Insertional Achilles Tendinosis)

Been a while since I posted. I’ve got good news and bad news to report.

The Bad News

Back in the Fall I received a curious email from a post on Sportsvite. Sportsvite is a place where you can find sport teams to join, and teams can look for players. Most of the teams are former or current college athletes who are looking for athletes of similar skill level, be it soccer, basketball, baseball, etc. I signed up a year or two ago and forgot about it. Every few months I’d get an email from someone begging me to be on their hockey team or softball team, and when I’d respond with “I’m in my 40′s and have never played that sport competitively, but I’m in decent shape given my age and will hustle”, I’d always get the same response back, “No thanks. We’re looking for experienced athletes.” Amazing how their original tone of desperation changes so quickly.

Eventually I got an email asking me if I’d be interested in playing soccer. The first time I ignored it. A few months later I got a similar email from the same person. This time I responded stating that I’d never played but would love to. To my surprise, I was told to show up at a regional soccer training center and be ready to play. No experience necessary. I show up and the place is fabulous, and next thing I know I’m on a high-quality turf field with a bunch of 25 year olds. My team sucked and we never won. The other teams were filled with former college soccer players. Regardless, I loved it. So much so that when the season ended I made an inquiry with the center asking them if they have a league for older players. Sure enough, they have a “Men’s Over 35″ league. Perfect! So I sign up for the ‘house team’. We suck, but it’s a good group of guys. Problem is, I was only able to play twice before having to temporarily retire…(more on that in a moment).

In the Over 35 league I was one of the faster players. Skill-wise I was average, on my team (again, since this was the ‘house’ team we’re not talking all stars here – anyone who is good eventually gets scooped up by an established team). Anyone who knows me or has read my posts regarding Crossfit, knows I have too much ambition and competitiveness for my own good. So I decide one day that, in addition to the Starting Strength program I was doing, I would kick up the cardio big-time to help my soccer game. So, after doing that day’s Starting Strength routine (heavy barbell back squats, some presses, and power cleans), I jump on a treadmill and ramp up the incline. That day I forgot my normal ‘running shoes’ (a pair of minimalist but still pretty well padded sneakers). A couple of minutes into the jog I feel a slight pain building in the back of my right ankle/heel. Like an idiot I keep jogging. About 8 minutes in I know it’s getting worse and worse and is not normal, so I stop. That night it got worse. And for the next 2 weeks it didn’t get any better at all. I start looking around on the internet to figure out what it could be. Basically, my achilles was sore as hell. Especially in the morning but pretty much all day. The only time, during that 2 weeks, where it didn’t hurt was when I played a soccer match (bad idea), because I stretched the living shit out of my legs/ankles before playing. Looking on the internet the prognosis was sketchy. Basically, stretch and stretch and hope to hell it goes away. Eccentric stretches/strengthening, etc. I decide this is too important to screw around with and I go see a sports foot/ankle specialist. He x-rays it on the spot and then tells me I have insertional achilles tendinosis, and says it’ll probably be fine in a few weeks but if not call him and we’ll try physical therapy.

A week later and it’s no better. I am concerned and call and tell him let’s not wait – let’s get the ball rolling on the physical therapy. He agrees and so I started that a week ago today, going twice per week. Every day since then I’ve been doing a serious mobility routine, which I’ll share in a separate post. Honestly – after a week of it I’m thrilled in that my squat depth and mobility overall have improved immensely. But my achilles is still sore when I first wake up in the morning, or after sitting for a little while and then standing. It’s not pain – it’s a soreness, and it goes away after a few minutes.

So What’s the Good News?

The good news is that the physical therapist did quite a bit of diagnostics on me and told me what I have been told by numerous specialists/coaches already: I just may be the most inflexible dude on the planet, and it’s holding me back physically. I told him I’d been doing a lot of barbell squats, etc., and after struggling for close to a year now in trying to get my squat depth below parallel (or even parallel comfortably) he is now working with me to fix it. And a week later my squat depth is drastically improved. Last summer, when starting Crossfit, I did 50+ squats per day (usually more) for 60 days just to try to get it right. I saw some improvement at first but then nothing. A week of these wacky stretches he’s got me doing and I am not way better than ever and am optimistic.

During today’s PT session I made it clear to him that I’m getting very worried that this achilles problem is not going away or getting better. I *love* the stretches and am back to working out hard (no running, which is fine with me) so it’s no longer holding me back from anything aside from soccer. He assures me that it will go away but will take time – likely a few months. That sucks. I was originally told that this was a “couple of weeks” injury. He didn’t make me feel any better when he said I’m one of the lucky ones and that my injury isn’t anywhere near as severe as most who have it. I guess I should be happy about that.

That’s all for today. I have a few post ideas and will write more this week. Been a while.

Some miscellaneous stuff

Had some emails asking me about my weight. Honestly, I think they’re from angry vegans who hate this low carb/pro dietary fat approach and want to “expose it” as some kind of fraud. I’m happy to report that I’m holding steady at 189lbs. It fluctuates of course, but always within 5lbs. I took about 5 weeks off from any exercising due to the achilles problem and my weight didn’t budge, but I lost a lot of muscle tone. And I just felt like garbage. That’s the main reason I work out – to feel better. It certainly doesn’t do anything positive for me in terms of my diet and, in fact, makes my eating tricky. I have to make sure I have the fuel needed without overdoing it. And when you exercise hard you get hungrier – your body wants to compensate. I’m working to get that back now.

How is Starting Strength Going?

Let me say this: Starting Strength is great. And if I can get my mobility/squat depth right, I’ll be doing those lifts again. But I now have to spend roughly 40 minutes on just the physical therapy stretches/movements daily (I’m supposed to do them 3x per day!) that I’ve decided to take a break from SS for now. Twice a week, starting today, I’m going to do a full-body kettlebell routine. For once, I’m going to pick something for which my body type is seemingly perfect for – swinging kettlebells.

My PRs on SS are presently at:

Back Squat: 205lbs x 3 (I could go heavier but I have no spotter,and when you can’t get to parallel in your squat it’s downright not good to have that much weight on your back)

Deadlift: 255lbs. I am certain I could get to 300 quickly but, believe it or not, there just aren’t enough weights at my gym! At least not all in one place. But, no excuses, I need to man up and setup in the main weight room area. It’s full of machines and so people will get annoyed with me for taking up a big space by deadlifting, but oh well.

Power Clean: 135lbs – but my form was off. I’ve since reset my form (after watching more video tutorials about it) and have been going at around 100lbs with perfect form.

Like I said, I’m going to take a break from a strict SS program for a while.

How’s Your Cholesterol/Lipid Test Results Nowadays?

I’ve had some emails from readers who came to this site by way of one of its more popular posts – my lipid test results from a while back. Everyone wants to know: how are your lipid test results after doing low-carb long-term?

I haven’t had them tested since late last year, but they were similar from the original post except one thing: my HDL went up, which is fabulous. I’m now in the 70s. I meant to post the complete results at the time but forgot. Definitely will next time.

 

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