I’ve started and abandoned like five or six different blog posts within the past month, all on different subjects, all for different reasons. There’s a lot I could go into, but I can’t seem to finish anything.
Let’s spit something out, for chrisssake…
I wrote a thing
Been doing some writing for my local CrossFit box. Here’s something I wrote on the importance of getting an adequate amount of Vitamin D. I think it’s pretty convincing — shit, it convinced me, because I started taking a Vitamin D supplement. More on that below. Anyway, periodically I’ll be writing articles for them about health and fitness topics. When I do, I’ll pass them along. Good? Good. That’s one subject down. Moving on.
A couple of people have asked idly what I’m doing lately for fitness, maybe because I don’t share my logs as much since I quit using Daily Mile (more on that below).
I’m settled into a pretty nice pattern week to week:
– Two times a week I go to my CrossFit gym and work out.
– Two or three times a week, I lift a barbell in my home gym. I might or might not do a short conditioning workout after, like a tabata. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Depends on if I’m tired from lifting.
– Several times a week, I walk my dogs at a pace leisurely enough to let Stanley piss on everything.
– Maybe once a week I’ll go for an hourlong walk wearing a backpack with 30 pounds of bricks in it.
– A couple of days a week are rest days.
I’ve been following the “5/3/1” program by powerlifter Jim Wendler. It’s a 4-week cycle meant to increase your maxes in the major powerlifting lifts: deadlift, squat, press, and bench press. I’m now on my fourth cycle. It’s been working, although I won’t know for absolutely sure until I test my 1-rep maxes again, which I’m going to do after this cycle.
After that, I’m going to switch training programs for a bit. 5/3/1 is about building strength. I found an interesting one based more on burning body fat. It’s summer, so I’m going to do that fat-burning plan for a little while so I can see some more improvement in that department. It includes a lot of sprinting, tabatas, lifting heavy, and so on, which I’m down with. I’m at 16.91% body fat, as closely as I can measure (see below). I’d like to drop under 15%. Maybe down to 12%. I don’t know. I can’t describe where I want to be, but I’ll know it when I see it. Maybe I’ll pick up 5/3/1 again in the fall, because I like it and it works.
A while back, in March, I was trying to bulk up a little. I sort of did that.
I have trouble.
When I’m standing at the stove debating whether it would be OK to make myself a fourth egg for breakfast, or sticking some cherries into my face because I missed lunch and thinking that’s enough, or leaving tiny, odd-shaped pieces of chicken in the fridge because I felt bad adding that extra 0.75 ounces to my salad, Nik will tell me: “You don’t know how to get big.” This is a household where two people own three T-shirts from LiftBigEatBig.com. That’s meant to be an insult. It’s like“Do you even lift,” except with food.
She’s right though. For a couple of months — ever since I lost the initial 50+ pounds of fatness that led to me where we are today — I’ve shifted my focus. Instead of trying to get smaller, I’ve been trying to get bigger, the correct way, meaning bigger the more-muscles way. Not bigger the three-plates-of-nachos-a-pint-of-Ben-and-Jerrys-and-two-beers way. It’s been a tricky reversal for me psychologically. I dropped down to 156 pounds at my lightest. I wasn’t unhappy as a 156-pound man. That would’ve been fine. I just wanted more muscle and stronger muscle. The way to get them is to eat more and lift heavier. I like lifting bigger, but eating more still spooks me a little.
I added whole milk and protein powder to my diet and ate more carbs. I tried to make a conscious effort to eat more. But overall I still probably drastically under-ate every day for a man of my size and activity level. In fact, I know I did. Nik regularly eats more than I do.
Despite me under-eating, I’m now at about 170 pounds. Sometimes this worries me, because I can’t seem to get it through my thick fucking head that weight is not what I’m trying to fix. Body composition is what I’m trying to fix. I can wrap my head around it, but I can’t wrap my head around it, if you get me. It’s hard overcoming the “lighter is better” mentality. And I get worried because almost all the excess body fat I still have is concentrated in quite conspicuous pockets around my lower stomach and lovehandles. It’s highly probable that at this point in my life nothing I ever do will get rid of these pockets, because I’ve had them way too long. Which sucks. That’s the price I pay for having taken shitty care of myself for 35 years.
But listen. Here’s the important bit. I’m up several pounds, but I’m wearing the same size 32 pants just fine. I’m still in medium T-shirts, although they fit tighter around the arms and chest. I’m still on the lowest notch of my belt. I took measurements of myself on Jan. 1, Feb. 23, and again on June 16. Yes, I’m that fucking ridiculous that I take measurements of myself1 with a tailor’s tape and keep it in a spreadsheet. Anyway, my physical measurements are almost identical except for my chest, which grew 1.25 inches. That’s a good one. And check this out:
Jan. 1: 159 pounds, body fat @ 17.66% =
lean mass, 130.9 pounds
June 16: 171 pounds, body fat @ 16.91% =
lean mass, 142.1 pounds
The math says I gained 1 pound of body fat and 11 pounds of lean mass in half a year. OK. I think that’s right.
Maybe my numbers are off. I don’t think so. I’m using body fat calipers and three-point measurement. I’m pretty persnickety about my data2. A closer way to be sure would be to get into a BodPod and get measured that way. I’ve actually looked into it. There’s a few available within an hour driving distance, for maybe $30 a ride. But I haven’t done it. I think what I’m doing — measuring tape, spreadsheets, math — is bizarre and obsessive enough. Going into a BodPod might put me over the edge into fucking-kook territory. I’m happy and I seem to be gaining muscle. Let’s leave it at that.
I gave up using DailyMile a while back. It’s nice as a social tool but I hate it as a log. It has no calendar view, it’s not easy to view your past workouts, and the tags are not searchable.
I looked for a more flexible workout log, something with tags that worked.
BuckeyeOutdoors has tags, but that guy has lost my goddam data too many times. No.
I tried WODstack. It was nice for a bit, then I realized the site’s about 55% broken. Basic shit doesn’t work.
Nik turned me on to ScienceBehindSweat. It’s extremely nice and is for data nerds only. It’s not so much about logging your workouts as it is about calculating how much work you’re doing (in foot-pounds!) and if you’re getting fitter. It’s CrossFit-specific, so you can log specific CF exercises and it calculates how many foot-pounds of energy you’re producing. It also costs $20 a year, and I’m cheap. I’m trying a month free. I don’t think I’ll keep it after that.
I’m still using Garmin Connect as my main backup logging site. No tags, but all the notes are searchable, and it’s got a calendar view.
I might start using a spreadsheet. What the hell. Anyway, we’re really knocking out these topics. Let’s keep going.
Eating, counting calories, and health
I used to be religious about counting calories with MyFitnessPal. I purposely stopped when I was bulking. As in, I made a conscious effort not to count calories. It was a difficult habit to break. The idea is, I don’t want to be tied down to counting for the rest of my life.
Also MyFitnessPal pisses me off sometimes. When I stopped, it was telling me to eat 1,520 calories a day. My basal metabolic rate — the amount I need to eat to survive — is over 1,600. That’s starvation and it’s irresponsible. Almost every other calculator I’ve used online says a guy my age, my size, who works out intensely 4 to 5 days a week should be packing away 2,300 to 3,000 calories a day.
Within the last week or so I’ve started using it again, but I’m not paying attention to the bullshit calorie limit. I’m using it to keep track so I don’t under-eat. I’m trying to make sure I eat a lot. Also not paying attention to MFP’s 95g protein budget. That’s ridiculous. I’m not a veg.
I’m currently reading an e-book called “Paleo for Lifters” that Nik bought me, written by Justin Lascek of ‘70s Big. Great so far. I don’t describe myself as “paleo” or aspire to label myself that way or any other way because I’m an atheist when it comes to food-religions. But it has interesting ideas on how to get and stay lean, muscular, and strong while eating lots of nutritious food. Nik reminded me that I have to stop cutting calories like a fat guy losing weight. I have to eat like a guy who lifts.
I’m still healthier than I’ve ever been, too. I just went to the doctor for a yearly physical and surprised my doctor. My blood pressure was 108/60. For years I’ve been over 120/80. I have a history of hypertension in my family. This is good.
Just a few more topics to bang through. We’re really on fire here.
Supplements I’m taking
Like I wrote above, I basically talked myself into taking a Vitamin D supplement of 2,000IU every day after I did a shit-ton of research. In the past I’ve been terrible about/uninterested in taking vitamins and supplements, because I’m not convinced they do anything. But I don’t know. Maybe. Specifically D because of the reasons outlined in the link above. Go read it if you want to know why.
I’ve also started taking fish oil. Supposed to be good for joint health. I dunno. My elbows used to get wicked sore from doing presses. They haven’t since I’ve been taking 2,000mg of fish oil a day. Take that anecdote for the zero amount of scientific proof it’s worth. Anyway, I got them at Costco super-cheap.
A few weeks ago I also started taking creatine. It’s a nutrient found in meat and helps build muscle. It’s not HGH or steroids. It speeds up the delivery of energy to muscle cells and keeps your muscles hydrated, which means you can theoretically eke out extra energy for explosive strength movements. That means more reps at higher weight, which means you can lift heavier for longer and build more muscle in the process. It’s a pretty common supplement taken by strength athletes, well-known, scientifically studied, essentially harmless, and I have yet to read anything negative about it. Because it can be dehydrating, you’re supposed to drink a ton of water when taking it — about a gallon a day — which I’m quite bad at. Trying to improve, but drinking that much water is like a second job.
I take 5 grams of creatine a day either in a protein shake after a workout or, if it’s a rest day, in a glass of orange juice. I’ve read conflicting things about how much to take. Some sources (and the label on the canister) say 5g a day is all you need. Other sources say you should take 20g. Others have a more complicated formula based on body weight. Others say anything more than 5g, you’ll just piss out. It’s hard to know what’s right. I’m sticking with 5g mainly because that will make my canister of creatine last the longest.
It seems to work so far. It increases your water weight, which is probably also why my weight is up a couple of pounds. All my calculated 1-rep maxes are up a bit. Not long ago my max jerk was 130 pounds. Just today I jerked 125 pounds 3 times. Also my previous max consecutive push-ups until failure was 26, and the other day on a whim in the office when I was bored I knocked out 41.
It also increases post-workout muscle pump like a bastard. A few days after starting it, I did a bunch of chin-ups and after I dropped off the bar I noticed my forearms had grown massive. Popeye huge. I was alone in the garage and literally said “Holy shit” aloud, then stared at them for a while wondering if everything was going to be OK. It is.
There’s a CrossFit gym literally right down the street from me now
Funny, but years ago when Nik first got into CrossFit, CrossFit Providence was one of the only boxes around. Now they’re everywhere. She just noticed there’s one literally right down the road. I can just about see it from my back porch. We could walk there in about 5 minutes. It’s in exactly the spot that Nik and I used to think would be ideal for a CrossFit box.
No, we’re not going to switch. I like the people at my current box too much and the programming at my box is much better. Those things count for a lot. I’m just saying, it’s been interesting to watch the growth and seeing how different places program workouts. And I’m glad there’s a new business in my city because fuck knows we need it around here.
It also goes to show how every CrossFit gym is different. The programming at this new place is not my cup of tea. Based off what I’ve seen online, it’s mainly long cardio-ish conditioning sessions and very little random barbell work that doesn’t seem to be progressive. I wouldn’t be happy with it long-term. Which is why it pisses me off when I see people online who don’t know very much about CF criticize the whole fucking thing based on the shitty examples of it they heard about. We all know there are shitty CrossFit gyms out there with shitty programming. But saying every box and all CF programming is shit is like hating Italian food because you read poor reviews of the Olive Garden.
Oh hey, I ran the other day
I had a spare workout day so I went out for a run. I wore a tank top, only the second time I’ve been outdoors in public with bare shoulders since I was a little boy. That’s not a joke. It was a big step for me.
I ran 2.16 miles in 18:30, for an 8:33 pace. It was tougher than I would’ve expected because:
(a) my endurance tolerance is lower than it used to be,
(i) which is what happens when you do only short, intense workouts and almost no endurance running, so no surprise there;
(ii) although I’m not all that interested in doing endurance events anyway, so it’s a moot point;
(iii) although maybe a 5K later in the fall or whatever because Nik is thinking of doing one and that might be nice
(b) I’m much faster than I used to be and I’m not used to it. Nik & I were talking about this the other day. When I first started running, I was a 13-minute-miler, 14 if it there was an incline. Eventually I worked my way up to 12 min/mi. I remember being thrilled to hit 11 min/mi. It took years and a lot of speedwork and Nik pulling me along whining the whole way to manage a 5K at a 10:42 pace. About the time I stopped running, I was around 10 min/mi on average. Now, I’m averaging 8:30 miles. I’ve tested 400m sprints at 1:45, a 7 min/mi. Pretty good, but keep in mind that’s only running from like here to over there. I don’t run very often and when I do it’s never more than 800m at a time. So I’m not used to keeping that kind of pace up for very long. If I were of a mind to run a 5K and be somewhat successful at it, I’d have to get my lungs used to my new pace. Otherwise I’ll crap out. So maybe if I decide to run a 5K at some point, I’ll do some training runs.
I think we’ve done some big work here today. We’ve covered a lot of topics. I think you’re all caught up now. Go hit the showers.∗