Friday, February 13, 2009

When You Just Can't Bring Your A-Game

Out of the past four weeks on the Maximum Strength workout, the first three weeks have been excellent. I trained hard, increased weights every week and had energy to spare. It felt great. And when you feel good working out, especially at the crack of dawn before your day starts, it gives a sense of accomplishment that will carry you throughout the day.

Scheduled on every fourth week is a monthly back-off week. A week where the volume is considerably reduced to help your body recover from the constant pounding of the previous three weeks. So after three weeks of hitting the weights hard I was very much looking forward to an easy week.

Well, it didn't turn out to be so easy.

Every day I came into the gym with a positive attitude but left the gym drained. I just couldn't add any more weight to any exercise and could barely keep the same weights as the week prior. I was spent

So of course I'm pulling my hair out throughout just trying to figure out what the hell is going wrong this week. I couldn't let this go on. Here are the only things I can surmise:
  1. In the third week, or Very Heavy week, and leading into the fourth week, I didn't eat nearly enough what my body was telling me to eat. It's hard to gain strength if you're body's hungry more times than not
  2. I definitely wasn't listening to my body in the gym. If it was telling me to not go heavier, I put a sock in its mouth, kicked it in the arse, and tried to go heavier. Obviously that was not the brightest idea
  3. And what I think was most detrimental, was that I let stress get the best of me. I got stressed because I didn't accomplish a mini-goal (a good workout) in the morning, so that  feeling of defeat would perpetuate throughout my work day. Then I would have a bad day at work because I didn't feel productive there either. And I kept going round and round in this vicious cycle of non-accomplishments that completely screwed with my head
So what's the solution here? 
  1. Forget about it. I just won't let this past week haunt my mushy brain, let it fester and grow some nasty apathetic demeanor
  2. Listen to my body. If it says eat more, I'll eat more. If it tells me to sleep more, I'll (time allowing) sleep more. If it tells me to go heavier, I'll go heavier. If it tells me to go lighter on an off-day, I'll go lighter. If it tells me to kill the tough guy doing 10lb barbell curls on one of only two squat racks, I'll most certainly do it! 
New workout on Monday, new attitude. Now off to not think about stress.

On a different note, here's a little motivation of a seriously strong dude:


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Snack Attack!

Everybody can agree that a tasty snack is one of the best ways to keep you going while the day is beating down on you. Unless you do meth, in which case, you're all set for the next three days. Come back to this page when your body recognizes hunger again.

The Non-Too Eggstravagant Sandwich
Dr. Johnny Bowden just published his monthly Question of Nutrition column over at T-Nation with some great nutrition tips and insights. One thing that caught my eye was the Post-Workout Egg Salad Sandwich on page 3 because it sounded like a great snack for mid-mornings on workout days (I workout at the crack o'dawn, 5 a.m.). So I decided to try it out, with mixed results.

On the plus side, the sandwich was very filling and of course, it had eggs. Being a self-proclaimed egghead, I'll eat almost anything with eggs on, in, around, or in the vicinity of almost any other food. 

On the negative side, well, there were many. One thing was that the eggs didn't really stay in between the slices, but rather all over the friggin' place. After spending about five minutes composing the sandwich on my desk, I ended up drinking about a gallon of water trying to put down the dry egg mix. Another downside was the lack of flavor. The biggest issue, though, was the fact that my entire office became infested with a not-so-splendid egg scent that would've made Pepe Le Pew proud.

Well, I just couldn't have this. I figured that I could improve upon this great snack idea. 

Egg Salad Sandwich, Transformed
Instead of producing a dry, bland, eggy mess, I decided to spice it up without any extra calories. Here's my work-in-progress version:

4 hard boiled eggs and 2 egg whites
1 chili from a can of Chipotle Chilis in Adobo Sauce 
Dash of salt
2 slices Ezekiel bread
Chopped cilantro

Step 1: in a blender, or better yet, a Magic Bullet, blend the egg whites, chile, cilantro and salt until well mixed.

Step 2: Using a potato masher, mash the boiled eggs into small pieces.

Step 3: Pour egg white mixture over eggs and mix well.

Step 4: Spray a non-stick pan with a bit of olive oil, set on medium low.

Step 5: Spoon the egg mixture onto the pan and form into a patty. Cook for a couple of minutes per side.

Step 6: Place in between slices bread and enjoy the much easier to eat, tastier, and definitely spicier, egg salad patty sandwich.


Now, the egg patty is not as delicious as it can potentially be, so I'll be working on this recipe until it's perfected. The great thing about this recipe is that you can add whatever spices your palate desires. You get to eat a healthy snack, close-talk to your coworkers with a mouthful of knock 'em dead egg breath, and then eat some more. 

It beats the snack choices of these clowns:

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

End of Super Heavy Week....Ho-ly-s***!

Kate and I finished the third week of Maximum Strength, "Ultra-Heavy, Make Your Ass and Everything Else Hurt" week. The volume was high, the reps were high, the weight were high, and certainly the soreness was way high. Let's discuss while I lay on the stretcher.

Very Heavy Week
Monday through Saturday brought on an onslaught of pain and soreness by way of heavy dumbbells after heavy barbells. 

Monday's lower body workout was extremely long and we didn't even have time to do the post-workout energy work. The entire day was an ordeal just going up and down the stairs throughout the day at work. No pain, no gain, right?

Tuesday was my off day. I could simply not eat enough on my off day. My legs weren't just shaking every time I tried to put pants on, but now the soreness was incredible.

Wednesday was upper body. As hard as this day was, it was nowhere near as rough as Monday's workout. Still, it was no easy task going through this grueling workout.

Thursday was time for our technique practice plus energy work post-workout. Easy to read on paper, much harder when it comes time to do it.

Friday was our dynamic lower body day. I thought Monday was rough, but Thursday was an even more painful experience. Primarily because of the Front Squat exercise, my eternal enemy. Besides that, the higher reps on every exercise plus the bulgarian squats absolutely destroyed my legs.

Saturday's dynamic upper body was it for me. If it weren't for Kate's encouragement, I don't know if I could've finished the workout. Out of a total six exercises, I was done by only the second exercise. Thank God for inventing traning partners.

Time for Rest
The fourth week will be a low week, meaning lower volume, thus less stress on the body. I'm glad, cause I don't think I could carry on like this week after week, even if the body would adapt slightly over a few weeks. 

Progress: two steps forward, one step back.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Biggest Loser. Top Notch Nutritional Recommendations

My wife loves watching the Biggest Loser, and being the committed couple that we are, we try to watch shows the other person enjoys. I do NOT enjoy the Biggest Loser, but try to bear through it. I tear my hair out every time it's on t.v. The more pounds lost, the less hair on my noggin'. 

I love the parts when one of the trainers takes a team into the kitchen to teach them "proper nutritional guidelines". Most of the time they're instructed to eat some major brand's cereal, crackers, snacks, or anything else choc full o' carbs. Not to demonize carbs, but if you have 200+ lbs to lose, you need a little more than just carbs day, noon and night. I hope these trainers pull the contestants to the side and tell them "Don't eat this crap! You just keep eating your healthy dose of protein, veggies and fruit. And by the way, here's a copy of Precision Nutrition. Live by it!"

I think a major reason for this obesity problem in America is a lack of proper dietary education, starting from a young age. I know I didn't have this when I was young, have had to learn it on my own (by finding the right resources), and have a lot to learn, still. So to show a poorly educated person that proper nutrition to lose hundreds of pounds is to ingest some simple carbs, seems like quite a disservice. 

It seems the show has good intentions, but advertising dollars trump all else. I don't think the Spinach Council of America can match the advertising budget of General Mills, so you probably won't see the trainers promote Popeye Brand Spinach. But maybe we can change that if we keep educating each other. 

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Lime and Ginger-Grilled Salmon. Dinner's Served!

My wife and I love to try out new recipes in the kitchen. There's nothing like trying new flavor combinations to make your coworkers jealous and your satisfy your healthy palate. Because face it, the stereotype of healthy eating is that all food has to taste like a cardboard box that a littler of kittens has lived in for a few weeks. Well, it doesn't have to be that way, you just have to get a little creative. Or when creativity fails, look for your closest recipe book, as long as you're following some healthy habits.

Lime and Ginger-Grilled Salmon Recipe
As I mentioned on the last post, this recipe was adapted from America's Best Recipes. If you like the flavor of lime, feel free to kick up the amount of lime rind and lime juice.

  • 2 Tbl grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbl grated lime rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (8-ounce) salmon fillets (1-inch thick), skinned
  • 2 Tbl butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • Garnish: fresh lime slices
Combine first 5 ingredients. Press ginger-lime mixture onto both sides of salmon fillets. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 45 minutes. Gently scrape ginger-lime mixture from fillets with back of a knife. Combine butter butter and lime juice. Baste salmon fillets with butter mixture.

Place salmon fillets in a greased grilling basket*. Grill, uncovered, over medium-hot coals (350  to 400 degrees) about 5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Transfer fillets to individual serving plates. Garnish, if desired. Yield: 4 servings.

*You can also cook these directly on the grill like I did, just make sure you spray down the grill well enough with Pam, or better yet, use a Misto sprayer to cook with your favorite oil. Also, remember to cook your fish hot and fast, don't let it sit on the grill for too long or you'll be chewing on some nasty, stinky, rubbery fish .

There you go, a simple recipe that'll leave you wanting more. Enjoy!

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Second Week Roundup

On Saturday we finished up the second week of Phase I of the Maximum Strength Program. And to commemorate the end of a successful week, I decided to bring on the carbs.

Carb Loading
On the last day of the training week, Upper Body day, we ended the week with a killer workout and felt that we needed to give ourselves a reward: it was time for a cheat. Dinner and dessert for Kate, carb loading day for me. Oh yeah, and a little dessert for me too.

If you do a search on your favorite search engine for Carb Loading, you'll get about 942,000 results. One of the biggest reasons for carb loading is to replenish your energy stores. So having had an extremely taxing week, my body just felt like it needed a pick-me-up. And it worked nicely. 

Kate doing eccentric chin-ups (chin-downs?) until she can 
do free-hanging chin-ups

Later, after the workout, I made myself a heaping plate of protein and carbs:
  • Quinoa salad (black beans, corn, red onion, lime juice)
  • Wheat berry salad 
  • Lean turkey bacon
  • Lean turkey sausage
  • Half of a grapefruit (not pictured)
  • Green tea

Awesome post-workout meal,
but two hours later, I was eating again

The rest of the day I just kept eating, eating and eating. Then ate some more. This is by no means something I do often or even plan to do on a regular basis, but this was just the thing to recuperate the body from some heavy-duty work.

Sunday Preppin'
Speaking of eating, one of our favorite things to do is take a couple of hours on Sunday, cook some delicious food and pack them up for the week. Here's a small highlight:

Egg Muffins from Chris Shugart's article on T-Nation

Triple-Threat Mexican Chili again from T-Nation

And one more from Chris Shugart's article

Not only did we pillage the above-mentioned T-Nation article for recipes, but we made a couple more from a different source. We hapenned to stop by a local thrift store and picked up a recipe book called America's Best Recipes. The darn thing barely cost us .75 cents and has some great recipes that are compatible with the suggested eating habits from Maximum Strength. My phone camera just doesn't do these meals any justice, but here they are anyway:

Honey-Garlic Grilled Pork Chops

Lime and Ginger-Grilled Salmon

Maybe I'll post some of these for you later this week. Trust me, you'll want to try these killer recipes. Now, off to mentally prep for the third week of Maximum Strength, Heavy Lower body. I may need some crutches to get around, we'll see.

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