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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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Xanthan Gum, Day II and Maximum Strength

If you read my previous post on Xanthan Gum shakes, you can see how I was a bit hesitant to try this shake thickener again. Well, I went for it again, and voilĂ , found the right mix.

What's the Right Mix of Xanthan Gum?
So it seems like the right mix of Xanthan Gum is 1/8 of a teaspoon. Again, my ingredients were:
This actually made the shake nice and thick and didn't take half an hour to descend down my throat. Give it a shot.

Maximum Strength, Upper Body
Today's Upper Body day was successful, and again, made some slight improvements over last week's workout. Namely, in the 10-minute post-workout steady-state cardio. I chose the treadmill, set it at 4.0 mph and a 1.5 degree incline and felt like I could've run for an entire hour. Ten minutes was all I was required, and could do, based on time limitations. Another successful day.

Quick Tip
Ever use the cable rowing machine and your current weight is too light, yet going up another stack (usually 15 lbs on a lot cable machines) is just too much to finish all your reps? Put a small plate (5-10 lbs) in front of the stack held up by the pin.

Not too little and not too much,
but just right

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How to Make Your Shake Taste Like Snot. Yum!

Who doesn't like an ultra-thick shake to fill up the tummy like a swarm of Dominicans overflowing a tiny boat sailing its way to Miami. Nothing like McDonald's-thick shake were they have to put a 1-inch in diameter straw that the paramedics can use after your stroke to pump the synthetic goo out of your stomach. The problem is that, sometimes, too much of a good thing can be a terrible thing.

What the Heck Are You Talking About?
Gum, Xanthan Gum is the name. I'll take that Casein Protein drink shaken, not stirred.  Xantham Gum is made from the outer layer of a small, inactive bacterium called Xanthomonas campestris and comes in a tasteless, powder form. It is basically a thickener for many things, shakes being one of them. The benefit of using this product as a thickener is its ability to bind small particles of food together as well as being a substitute for gluten. You can check out a few different selections over at Amazon. Another nice thing about this product is that per tablespoon, you only get 7 grams of Carbs, but it's all Dietary Fiber! You'll never use an entire tablespoon, by the way, I'll tell you why in a second. Also, this little bag of powder is relatively cheap for how long it will last you.

Sounds Delicious, What's The Problem?
The problem is that if you use too much, you'll end up with a gooey substance that will remind you of everything from a jar full of the school bully's snot to blown chunks, depending on your shake ingredients. Everything but a delicious shake. Mine was a simple one: water, casein protein, and some Girardelli 100% cocoa. I made two shakes (one for mid-morning and one for mid-afternoon) with these same ingredients, but added 1 teaspoon of Xanthan Gum to one shake, and only half a teaspoon to the other shake. I don't remember where I got this tip from, so I don't know who to thank for finding me a new compound to seal tire flats. Yeah, it's that thick.

I tried the shake that had only half a teaspoon of Xantham Gum. That was the only shake that I could drink. First of all, the shake had a strange consistency, like that of runny snot. Fortunately, it didn't taste like gooey boogers, it just tasted like my shake usually does. But we all know that food consistency is almost as important in food as flavor itself. For the almost full hour that it took me to drink a 12 oz shake, trying to figure out what the consistency reminded me of, I couldn't push away the thought of all those extreme Internet videos that I've seen over the years, Ok, so maybe it tasted a little bit funky.

For the rest of the day I could barely eat anything else, much less drink another one of these things. Remember, I only drank the shake with half a teaspoon and the serving size is one whole tablespoon! That's just ridiculous. I wouldn't use that much if I was making shakes for an entire town.

We're Not Giving Up Yet
Being that I'm not known to be a giver-upper, I'm not done experimenting here. Tomorrow, I'll be trying the shake again with the same ingredients, but with a much decreased dose of the Xanthan Gum. God help me it doesn't clog my throat on its way down.

Maximum Strength
On a different note, I've started week two, Phase I of Maximum Strength and that's been much easier to swallow that the thickener. On Monday I did the lower body workout and already noticed some slight improvements over last week. More specifically, I used the same weights as last week, but I didn't have as much of a problem lifting the weights but the workout was tough, just the same.

With enough weight and proper form, walking lunges can be a great single-leg exercise, especially for hitting the glutes. Now try it barefoot, or in my case, with the Vibram Five Fingers. You'll feel the exercise in muscles you didn't even know you had in your legs. I was reminded of this exercise on my second day, doing HIIT on the Rowing Machine. Every time that I bent my knees and hips, my glutes would stretch and cry out in pain from the day before. I fought the rower, and the rower won. Literally.  I did 15 minutes of HIIT, with 15-second work/45-second rest periods. In the middle of the workout, I realized that the rowing machine was actually a Transformer. Worse yet, a Decepticon. And it didn't want anything to do with my sweaty, debilitated glutes rubbing back and forth on its seat. Well, I'm not giving up that easy. The fight is back on next week, and the Rowing Machine should be afraid, cause this fight's been broughten.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Vibram Five Fingers Replace the Gooey Stuff Between Your Toes

My wife got me a pair of Vibfam Five Fingers for Christmas at a local Frugal Backpacker for only $30 bucks! Typically you can find these online anywhere from $60 to $100 bucks. Check them out at Amazon

Vibram FiveFingers shoes are similar to those cutesy toe socks your girlfriend wore in college. The difference being that these shoes actually have a purpose (but still look ridiculous). According to the manufacturer, they are intended to increase the strength in your toes, feet and leg muscles. This is accomplished by removing the dependency on shoes which inhibit the muscles in your feet and legs.

So How Do They Feel?

The first time I tried them on was on a lower body day. After getting used to the stares and the strange feeling between my toes, I got down to business. At first, I kept wondering why I felt shorter and lacked a spring in my step. Of course, when you're a half inch lower than normal without shoes and your heels are at the same level as your forefoot, that'll make you feel a little different.

I immediately felt a weak link on my right leg's peroneal muscles. No big deal. Later, on reverse lunges, I felt it even more, especially since I had a harder time keeping my balance. Not that big a deal. Then the next day, whoa, my right leg was on fire! I was a little concerned for a few days because the pain didn't subside for a while. After about a week or so of wearing the new shoes, my leg was back to normal. Presumably after my leg and feet muscles had gotten used to this and not being so dependent on shoes.

Are They for You?

The company recommends the shoes for practically anybody, except if you are completely flat-footed. If you're going to buy a pair, I'd recommend trying them in your intended environment immediately after buying so you don't miss your window for returning them.

These shoes are great to wear on most exercises despite how ridiculous you look (and believe me, there's no way to dress it up to compensate for them). I haven't tried them out running (I don't do pointless running) but playing around with them on the basketball court felt a bit limiting. Still, they're one of the best shoes I've ever had.  As for the style (or lack of style),  I don't worry about it too much, I just tell people that I have some horrible toe gunk and the only way to heal it is to saran-wrap each toe and separate them with these shoes. They typically don't use the bench after I use them for step-ups. Give them a try.

Know Thyself, Fool!

In order to reach your goals, be it strength gains, mass gains, fat reduction, or ear wing-span reduction, you need to know what will work for your body. Here's a quick tip.

Figuring Out What Works

For a few weeks, I've changed the layout of my meals like so:

  • Breafast - Protein, Carbs
  • Mid-Morning and Mid-Afternoon Snacks - Protein, Fats
  • Lunch and Dinner - Protein, Fats
Of course, all meals after my workouts consist of Protein and Carbs. Previous to this, I would consume my meals like so:
    • Breafast - Protein, Fat
    • Mid-Morning and Mid-Afternoon Snacks - Protein, Fats
    • Lunch and Dinner - Protein, Fats

    Again, Protein and Carbs post-workout. The problem with my original layout was that I was extremely hungry for the entire morning (even after the Mid-Morning Snack) and just couldn't seem to eat enough to subside the hunger. Making this small change has helped tremendously in staying focused and not thinking about food all day just because of a simple macronutrient misplacement. 

    Even on non-workout days, I still eat protein
    and carbs because that's what works for me.

    So how did  I get to this point?

    It's very simple. Because Protein and Fats in the morning wasn't working out for me (after a long time of experimenting with this) I knew that something had to change. So I switched gears a bit and it gave good results, therefore, I'll keep going this route until it stops working or I decide to try something else. Like the bug diet:

    Um, no thanks.

    You simply have to experiment until you find what works for you. To get a good start, pick up a copy of Precision Nutrition. No, I don't get any proceeds from it or own stock (I wish), but it'll definitely help to get your nutrition in gear.

    On another note, let's all stop and consider what an American icon Mr. T was. This is why Mr T is Original Gansta. A truckload of gold chains and Daisy Duke shorts. Awwww yeah!

    So what works for your body type?

    Friday, January 23, 2009

    Just Some Quick Pics and Tips

    Today marks the end of the first week of phase I of Maximum Strength and my legs are toast! I'll get right down to it and just talk about a few quick points:
    • Chris Shugart over at T-Nation has a new article called 7 Keys to Body Transformation. I've always been a fan of many of T-Nation's writers, but never really Chris Shugart. I always thought that his "psychological" angle to weight training and body transformation always came across annoying, like a mosquito flying around your ear. But the more I read his articles, the more they make sense and impact my way of thinking about training. You can't succeed, in any part of life, if you don't bust your ass. It's as simple as that. Now go read his article.
    • Doing Bulgarian Squats alone hurt like hell. Doing Bulgarian Squats after Front Squats and Rack Pulls will completely destroy your legs! Now go do them, like so:

    • Speaking of Front Squats, if you have a hard time using the clean grip because of tight wrists, you can switch to a crossover grip (arms crossed, pinning down barbell across shoulders). Another grip you can use (I think I read this from Mike Boyle) is to tightly wrap a pair of wrist straps around the bar, place the bar across your front shoulders and hold the bar in place.

    A couple of quick pics:

    Kate doing some Bulgarian Squats

    Me attempting to do the same

    One of my many meals today. I carried this
    tennis ball around all day, just trying to 
    work the knots out of my legs and back

    Other than being an ultra hunger-inducing workout, the Maximum Strength plan will make you sleep like a baby. Speaking of which, it's almost 8 p.m. and I'm getting ready to call it a day.

    Saw this at Alwyn Cosgrove's blog. Take 10 minutes and get inspired:

    Enjoy the weekend.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Day 3

    Just some quick updates from day 3 (Lower Body, originally day 1) of Maximum Strength...
    • Having two people on only one rack doing box squats takes a reeeeeally long time. Our workout ended up being almost 1.5 hours and we didn't even get to do our energy work
    • Kate kept asking if I messed up in writing down only 50% 1RM weight for speed deadlifts. She took that comment back by the eighth set
    • Walking lunges after box squats and speed deadlifts hurt, real bad
    Here's a couple of quick pics:

    Kate doing some box squats

    Me towards the end of a speed deadlift set.

    My company sits in a two-story building. A second story means that you climb and descend stairs to travel from one floor to the other. A lower body workout before work means cursing all the way up and down the stairs and wondering why it feels as if you're walking all the way to the top of The Statue of Liberty. Everything hurts...

    Technology And Organization = Better Workouts

    Taking on the Maximum Strength takes some time out of your schedule, that is, if you do the workouts plus all of the recommended energy workouts. So as to not get bogged down by the time requirements I had to make sure I got myself organized. Here's how it's going down, as well as some suggestions.

    Keep a Workout Log
    I decided that the old-school sheet on a clipboard log needed to stay old-school. I didn't want to be carrying around this clumsy thing all over the place, and I figured that I needed something a bit more up-to-date. I needed something that I could easily document my workouts, and be able to access from anywhere. In comes Google Docs. If you're one of the few people that doesn't use any of Google's services then you might want to check these out as your bound to find something helpful for many parts of your life. For example, take a look at this very simple workout spreadsheet created in Docs. You can modify your workout while at home, at work, or on vacation. Now you never have to worry about forgetting your workout when you travel. You're welcome.
    You're probably thinking that's great that and all, but how will you get this workout log into the gym? Well, you have three options here:
    1. You can, of course, print your workout at any computer. Simple enough
    2. With all of the advancement of cell phones (they're really computers first, cell phones second) you can use this to carry your workout log. If you have a Windows Mobile-compatible phone or a Blackberry phone, you can download your Google Doc, transfer it to your phone that has a spreadsheet program, and voila, you have your workout in the palm of your hands
    3. The most convenient (in my opinion) is to view the Google Doc as you're in the gym through your cell phone if you have Internet service. Internet cell service is becoming cheaper every day and you might already have this to check your work email. So why not use it to view something other than porn (but of course, that's not what you tell your boss)
    Food Preparation
    If you think that you can accomplish your goals of leaning out, getting bigger, or lifting a 1986 Camaro above your head just to impress the mobile home crowd without a solid nutrition plan, then just keep spinnin' those wheels. Of course, part of any good diet is food preparation. If you had to prep each day's meals you might as well set up a desk in the kitchen and work from there, 'cause it's gonna be a while. And after you get tired of doing this day in and day out, you'll start buying McBurgers with a heaping side of McFries, McPie, and before you know it, you'll be the new McPoster Boy. Here's what you can do:
    1. Make a meal list before you go to the store. Don't mess around. If you do this, you'll stick to your plan and not buy all the crappy fatty snacks
    2. Take a day to cook and prep all of your meals for the week. For my wife and I, who don't like to freeze food, we cook twice a week
    3. Allow yourself to cheat 10% of the time. If you eat six times a day, that's 42 meals a week. 10% of that is 4 meals a week. Cheat up to four times a week and you won't get those constant cravings and you'll actually stay on your planned diet
    4. Eat healthy food that doesn't taste like a tadpole-filled rubber tire. Learn from the  Precision Nutrition eating plans. They'll show you how to cook and what foods to eat. My wife and I swear by this. The nice thing is that after a while, you'll learn to take your favorite recipes, make them healthy (or less heart-attack inducing) and still enjoy your favorites on a regular basis
    Listening to music during your workouts can have several benefits like not having to listen to Ozzie Osbourne's Crazy Train every single damned morning for six months straight. Trust me, you can't make the music stop by pounding a dumbbell across your face, no matter how hard you try. Another benefit is you don't get to fall into the chit-chat conundrum and waste your time instead of working out like a madman or madwoman. Some other quick things you can do:
    1. If your mp3 player allows, get wireless headphones. There's nothing like having to stop in the middle of a set because you got a dumbbell stuck in between your headphone wires. Not good
    2. After you've gotten your futuristic headphones, signed up for Internet service on your phone, point your browser to Pandora's music service. It's basically a free radio station that you create from your favorite artists or songs and continually train by telling the service which songs you like and don't like. This way you don't have to sit at your PC to download music, set up a playlist, and wait for the songs to be transferred to your mp3 or music-enabled phone. Rock on...
    So there are just a few short recommendations for getting your healthy lifestyle in order and reach your goals. Now quit thinking about getting organized and just do it!

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    Second Day of Maximum Strength

    The second day of the Maximum Strength program came and went just like that, but the pain resides.

    Risking Life and Limb and Car Tire to Work Out
    The problem in this town when it snows is not the snow itself. Because really, how much damage can 2 inches of snow make? No, the problem is that Asheville doesn't have enough resources to properly salt all of the roads, which is where all of the slippin' and slidin' goes on. This was definitely the case with the roads in our community before we got to the main roads. On our drive to the gym, my wife Kate worked up a sweat just by freaking out about all of the ice on the roads. I think I may have soiled my pants a little, too. But despite this roadblock, we made it to the gym for Day 2, interval training.

    The Workout
    Just like Eric Cressey instructs in the book, we did our foam rolling and mobility drills prior to our high intensity interval training (HIIT). Here's Kate rolling her infraspinatus:

    Don't let this picture fool you, she's not napping on the gym floor, but rather slowly reacting to the smelling salts I had to use to revive her after passing out from the pain of rolling this damned ball under her infraspinatus. You know, this would be a great tool to interrogate terrorists. Just roll a ball on some shady bastard's infraspinatus and make him tell us where the terrorist leaders are! Who needs waterboarding.

    Here's Kate doing some X-band walks:

    And a very hazy picture of the elliptical warmup:

    Being that I was still trying to nurse a slight hammie injury, I wanted to do some sort of energy work but nothing that would make it worse. So we opted for the elliptical trainer, since the movement is limited in range of motion (good in my case). Now before you say anything about ellipticals being for wimps, let me tell you that anything is easy if you just go through the motions. The opposite is true that if you go all out on even the easiest machine, you'll be sweating like one of the Biggest Loser contestants being sat down in front of a mountain of pizza with all the fixin's. "Are you gonna eat that, chubby lubby?"

    Yes, the elliptical made us wince today. And sweat. And hungry as hell. But we'll be back again next week on the elliptical and handle it by its proverbial reigns (or handles), dig our heels in (or just put our feet on the pedals, whatever) and ride that metal horse into the sunset. Actually the sunrise, being that we workout at six in the morning. And even so it would be difficult to ride into the sunrise being that our "metal horse" sits two feet in front of a large mirror so it might actually break the glass and cut us all up. So let's just say that we'll be back next week and train hard. Yeah, that sounds good.

    Monday, January 19, 2009

    First Day of Maximum Strength...Or the Third Day??

    Kate and I started our first day of the Maximum Strength program...or was it the third day? You see, during the weekend I pulled my left hamstring at my rec soccer game, and I didn't even score! The first day of each week of the Maximum Strength program starts with a heavy lower body day, so instead of aggravating the hamstring more, we started the week with the heavy upper body day. As long as the hams are back to normal by Wednesday, we'll basically just swap workout days one and three.

    First Impressions
    As expected, the foam rolling and tennis ball rolling were a bit uncomfortable on some spots. This is no big deal since the pain only lasts a few seconds, is not unbearable, and definitely helps to loosen up those tight parts. The exercises were familiar and laid out in a way that make you utilize the most amount of muscle per exercise in the first few sets, to less intense (but still difficult) exercises later in the workout. I will say that the hardest problem that I had was with the neutral-grip, low-incline dumbbell press. I just seemed to continually rotate my wrists towards pronation (hands pointed towards feet as opposed to facing each other) and didn't keep my scapulae retracted. It just felt funky. Check out this beast pushing 140 lbs in each hand:

    Another addition to the workout that I haven't done in a while is steady-state energy work (cardio) for a few minutes after the workout. This was just a great way to end the workout with a little sweat.

    Food Selection
    A lot of the food selections that my wife and I make are largely based on the Precision Nutrition system, founded by the nutrition guru Dr. John Berardi. This is a killer system that instructs how to achieve the body you want (more muscular, leaner, stronger, whatever) by making the right nutrition choices. On top of that, by following the Precision Nutrition rules, you'll be healthier to boot. With this program, you simply follow the 7 Rules of Good Nutrition and watch your body change right before your eyes. Well, there's a little more work to it, but it's very doable and simple (though not always easy) to follow.

    Anyway, as for food intake for the day:
    Pre-Workout/During Workout - Gatorade and whey protein
    Post-Workout - Surge Recovery

    Breakfast - Quinoa, black beans, corn mix with grilled chicken and 1/2 grapefruit

    Mid-Morning Snack - Optimum Nutrition Vanilla Casein Protein, 1/4 cup nuts

    Lunch - Sirloin strips with cauliflower mash from Precision Nutrition's Gourmet Nutrition cook book, fish oil

    Mid-Afternoon Snack - Optimum Nutrition Vanilla Casein Protein, 1/4 cup nuts

    Dinner - Ground beef with veggies

    Pre-Bed Snack (later) - Cottage cheese, peanut butter, frozen raspberries, fish oil

    All in all, it was a good start to the program. We'll see tomorrow if we'll be able to get in the gym for our interval training being that we're supposed to get a ton of snow tonight. And when I say a ton of snow, I mean 1 to 3 inches. Now, before you say anything derogatory because you live in Wisconsin and our weather probably just prompts you to wear a bikini outside, just know that we're in North Carolina, and anytime that there's even a mention of snow, schools are closed, government offices lock the doors, and even gyms close for the day. 

    Will keep you posted...

    Sunday, January 18, 2009

    Packing Day, Maximum Strength

    One of the requirements of the Maximum Strength program is to go through a pre-workout test day, called Packing Day. You take five performance tests which you will compare at the end of the four phases. I've never really done anything like this, but it seems to me like a great way to start any workout regimen. Otherwise, how are you going to know if your plan is helping you achieve your goals. 
    After doing some foam rolling and some mobility drills, we started warming up for our lifts. I was a little worried for my wife, Kate, because she's never tried to test her 1RM (one rep max). So nothing too much out of her comfort zone. 
    Still, I think she did great:
    Broad Jump - 80 inches
    Box Squat - 145 lbs
    Bench Press - 95 lbs
    Deadlift - 125 lbs
    Chin-up - 1 rep  @ 153.5

    As for my numbers, they're not that impressive. But keep in mind that I was born sans powerlifting gene:
    Broad Jump - 96 inches
    Box Squat - 205
    Bench Press - 175
    Deadlift - 285
    3-rep Chin-up - 225 (170 lbs bodyweight + 55 lbs external load)

    My goals here are to add 10-15 lbs on each lift. Unless, of course, I get buried under a heavy bar for shooting too high.

    As for my wife, being that she's never done anything remotely close to this workout, I'm very excited to see how she'll do. 
    I'll post back here after tomorrow's workout.

    Saturday, January 17, 2009

    Eric Cressey's Maximum Strength

    So like I mentioned in the previous post, I'll be embarking on Eric Cressey's vessel of pain, the Maximum Strength program. Unless you've been stuck in a transatlantic cargo container for the past 10 months, you've certainly heard of this great training resource by now. If not, don't worry, because you can just come back here every now and again and take a look at some updates while I follow along Cressey's program.

    First, a Little Background on the Book
    If you aren't familiar with Eric Cressey, just know that this guy is seriously strong. Case in point:

    Here you see him deadlifting around 650lbs at a bodyweight of 190lbs! That's just a little bit insane if you ask me. 
    Now, you may not be looking to be the strongest dude or dudette in the gym. You may not feel the need to dunk from the foul line, lift an SUV overhead to retrieve soccer balls or carry Oprah up a flight of stairs, but you'd be mistaken to disregard strength as an aid to any of your weight training/health goals whatever they may be. If you want to get bigger, strength (with the appropriate diet) will induce bigger muscles. If you want to lose fat, the effort to gain strength will have you sweating like a politician in the middle of a sex scandal. Aside from aesthetic reasons, wouldn't you feel better reassured that you can pick up your cat/kids/german Shepherd/50lb box of shoes your wife made you lift if you knew your back was not going to give out on you. I'm glad you agree. 'Cause if you keep doing silly swiss ball crunches, Eric will send his cronies out to get you:

    The Workout Plan 
    Well, to put it simply, it's tough as balls. And not just because you're lifting a lot of heavy weight and doing a lot of isolation work, but because you have to foam roll your legs before every workout. Trust me when I say that rolling your IT Band and Quads can be worse than getting a dumbbell to the face.

    Man, I love YouTube.

    Back to the point, Eric lays out a nice workout that lasts 16 weeks and is split into four, four-week phases. Within each phase, the workouts vary slightly week to week, and vary a good amount from one phase to the next. So no, you're definitely not going to get bored here.

    Starting the Workout on Monday...and So's My Wife!
    When I told Kate that I would be starting this workout on January 19th, I asked if she wanted to come along for the ride for next 16 weeks. To my surprise, she said yes. It's like I proposed all over again, although it didn't take quite as long for her to say yes this time around. Typically, we go to the gym together, foam roll and do some mobility drills, then off we go in our separate ways for an hour.  So I was pretty excited to have a partner that won't induce tea-baggin' nausea during a bench press session. It'll also help to have somebody to push you on those days when it feels like life has been completely sucked out of you and the gym is the last thing on your mind.

    Keeping Track of Our Workout
    To make sure we keep track of our progress, I'll be posting updates throughout the next 16 weeks. I'll put info on what foods we'll be eating, how the workouts go, and some tools to make life easier and more efficient in the gym. Hopefully somebody can learn something useful.

    And off we go...

    Friday, January 16, 2009

    To Blog or not to...

    A lot of my friends are constantly on my case because of my healthy lifestyle. When eating a healthy salad with protein: "What the hell are you eating?"  like they've never seen green vegetables. When drinking a shake when everybody else is drinking a soda: "Why are you drinking that??" as if I was downing a glass of acid. When I'm working out at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning when everybody else is nursing a hangover: "You've got some issues." At least I didn't sleep with "Brenda" the dubious-looking chic with an adam's apple...and call her the week after for a date.
    Why do I hang out with these people?

    I've been working out for what feels like years on end. I would go into the gym for a few weeks, and then quit. Back to the gym with a different workout. Back on a break. There was never a real focus except for "get ripped." Whatever in the world that means. Other than the very subjective way of checking yourself out in the mirror ("Has that vein always been there?") the only way to track success or failure is to put down quantifiable goals. Whether that is to lose a certain number of pounds, drop 14% body fat to 10%, increasing your deadlift by 20 pounds, those are better methods to know if you've succeeded or failed miserably. 
    And boy, have I failed miserably...

    The problem is that I wasn't even cognizant that I was failing (double fail!). I would just train aimlessly and wonder why nothing was changing. Well, probably because I didn't know what I was training for! We are becoming such a spoiled society in respect to available knowledge. We browse the net on a certain subject for five minutes and think we're experts. Well, no amount of knowledge will replace application, dedication and purpose. I was really good at doing that.

    In reality, I've only been training with a purpose for the past year or two. And would you believe it, it works. Who would've thought that having goals (both small and large, short and long term, attainable and not so easily attainable) would make you work harder to try to meet them.

    Going along this train of thought, I recently purchased a book that follows the above logic of goal setting and outcome based evaluations of weight training. Eric Cressey's Maximum Strength is a great bridge to the land of outcome-based training, washboard abs, 900lb squats, and multi-million dollar pro sports contracts (like Pro Poker). Give or take a few, it's a very good source to get me going further along this path of weight training. 

    So that's what I'm about right now. I'm that guy that's always looking for a challenge. Once I get something in my head that I can't do easily, I get a little twitch in the eye and become almost obsessive. I'm constantly thinking about how to meet my weight training goals despite my poor genetics. How to overcome a new plateau. How improving my deadlift means further integrating my glutes which means humping the air with supine hip bridges while mom covers up little Elizabeth's virgin eyes because decent people just don't do that sort of thing in public.  
    Whatever it takes. And this blog is where I intend to document my successes and failures. 

    Succeed or fail, let's see what happens...