dan {at} dan-medeiros {dot} com

Keep calm & carry on

Posted on December 21, 2014


I once heard a lecture by a former coach who said there were 3 basic components to overall health:

  1. sleep
  2. nutrition
  3. exercise

In that order. Basically because if you recover crappily, whatever you eat or do for exercise won’t matter. Makes a lot of sense.

Picture this: you, relaxing for a while before you get to bed, with no screens, no music, no mental stimulation, in the dark, lots of silence & emptying your mind of thoughts, then drawing some blackout curtains so the room is pitch dark, closing the door, & sleeping like a block of granite for about 9 hours uninterrupted.

Holy shit, doesn’t that sound like the fucking best? That sounds like the fucking best. I’m down with all of that. He said that’s what every night should be.  I love sleep. I could be really wonderful at it if I had the opportunity. If you let me, I’d curl up & sleep anywhere, at any time, for about 10 hours. But my sleep has been garbage for a long time. I’ve worked night shifts for the past 16 years & now I have a toddler. I go to bed around 1:30 or 2 a.m. after having stared at computer screens for many hours & rushing to make deadline. I can fall asleep very quickly & sleep through quite a lot, but my sleep is often interrupted & I wake up feeling like a sack of rancid giraffe assholes. Most mornings I’m up after just a few hours in a panic because I hear Malley trying to climb down the stairs by herself about 6 or 7 a.m. looking for her mother (who gets worse sleep than I do & has already been up for hours).  I make sure the kid doesn’t break her neck, stumble back into bed for another hour or so, wake up groggy & anxious. About 85% of the time I’m not sure what day it is. I have to triplecheck my phone. About 3 or 4 days of my working week I’ll take a brief coffee break by napping on a table in a cold, disused floor of the office building, & I wake up doing that thing where I think I’m falling.  I don’t remember the last time I woke up truly refreshed.

The same coach recommended people try supplementing with magnesium to help with sleep — specifically Natural Calm. It’s powdered magnesium citrate you dissolve in hot water & drink before bed. Supposed to make you relaxed, help you drift off, make your sleep deeper with better quality so you wake up great. Side effects, he said: it makes you have vivid, fucked-up dreams, & it helps you poop. These effects might or might not be pleasant. Magnesium citrate is the same stuff you chug to clear out your bowels before you get a colonoscopy. This dose is much milder than that, though.

Nik & I bought some. Her sleep is fucking atrocious, worse than mine. So I figured this might help both of us.


Poor testing conditions

For most of the week, I got shitty sleep whether I took Natural Calm or didn’t. Didn’t much matter, because I was almost always up after 4 or 5 hours with Malley looking for mom, screaming or crying or shoving me to wake me up. Sometimes I went back to bed after we located her. Sometimes I slept OK after that, sometimes not. It’s not ideal but this is how things are going to be for a while.

The first night I tried Natural Calm, I lay there waiting for it to kick in, mentally spiraling. It takes almost no effort for me to leap from any situation into disaster, & this did not seem to alleviate that.  Am I relaxed now? I don’t know if I’m relaxed. I can’t tell. Is this relaxed? How relaxed am I supposed to get? Do I pass out? Is that healthy? Why did I do this? Why do I do anything? What kind of person am I that I can’t even relax right? What if instead of a “mild laxative effect” I shit myself in my sleep? And it ruins the mattress & the sheets? We can’t afford to buy a new mattress right now. How is Nik going to look me in the eye after that? One day, each of us is going to shit ourselves in front of the other. We’ll get old. It’s only a matter of when. Eventually I dropped off.

One night I didn’t take the Natural Calm because Malley was awake all day, didn’t have an afternoon nap, then decided to crash hard at 4 p.m. & stay down for the night. She does that sometimes. I assumed this meant she’d be up in the wee hours sometime & I wanted to be prepared to help her through it. About quarter of 3, Malley got up & decided it was time to play. We spent around an hour and a half taking her princess figurines to Princess School, then we went back to bed.


I didn’t have any dreams that were more bizarre than the dreams I already have.1 At one point Nik suggested I try a stronger dose, so I did. I was up 4 hours later because Malley had a screaming fit for 20 minutes looking for Nik, who had gone out with the dogs. I was a wreck the rest of the day. I might need a stronger dose still. Maybe I’ll keep trying it. Maybe not. I don’t know.

The only effect on my pooping was on the first day. I shit more. Which I wasn’t worried about anyway. It’s always fine.

Theories so far: I don’t have any goddam clue if Natural Calm works for me or not. Nik likes it, says it works well to keep her relaxed at night, which I’m very glad about.  Me, over the last few days I’ve been more exhausted & actually less calm than I have been in weeks.2 I have bigger problems than a little magnesium can fix. I’m also not likely to string more than 5 hours of sleep together at a time for the foreseeable future.

I still think the sleep > nutrition > exercise rule makes sense, & I’m sure Natural Calm probably does help with relaxation. I just think I’m unable to get the benefits from it right now. Maybe when the kid’s away at college. Further updates as they happen, if they happen.

The week’s log

Tuesday 12/16

  • Deadlift: 5 x 135, 5 x 155, 5 x 185, 5 x 215, 5 x 250, 5+ x 285 (moderate 9), AMRAP @ 215 (easy 10)
  • Press: 10 x 45, 5 x 55, 5 x 70, 5 x 80, 5+ x 92 (moderate 7)
    Boring But Big: 5 x 3 @ 90%, or 97#

Notes: Left off the weightlifting belt for the deadlifts this week. Trying to work my way up to higher weights without relying on it. Worked just fine.

Wednesday 12/17

Strength/conditioning: Shankle Complex x 10

  • 3 clean pulls
  • 1 hang power clean
  • 2 jerks

2 sets each at 95, 105, 115, 125, 135 — 30-90 secs rest between sets


Deck of Cards for 13 min:
♥ = pushups (26)
♦ = front squat @ 95# (23)
♣ = kettlebell swing @ 60# (40)
♠ = bar dip (61)

Notes: First time trying the Shankle Complex. Named after the great Donny Shankle. A lot of fun, & became tough by the end, since I can’t clean & jerk very much & the rest time was short. Got royally fucked over on bar dips for the metcon as you can see.

Sunday 12/21

  • Squat: 5 x 95, 5 x 135, 5 x 155, 5 x 187, 5 x 215, 5+ x 245 (moderate 5), AMRAP @ 187 (easy 10)
  • Bench: 10 x 45, 5 x 65, 5 x 95, 5 x 110, 5 x 127, 5+ x 145 (moderate 8) Boring But Big: 5 x 3 @ 152

Notes: Normally I work out both Saturday and Sunday, but that hasn’t happened for the last couple of weeks, this time because Saturday was a shitshow sleepwise. Anyway, it happens. Not a very good squat session. Tired from the week & hungry, so I did the minimum. That’s fine. Again, it happens.

Interesting link you might find interesting

My feelings about Planet Fitness are complicated. On one hand I appreciate that it’s cheap for many people to get access to gym equipment. On the other, any gym that doesn’t let people deadlift & humiliates people if they grunt while lifting — a natural & often unavoidable consequence of picking up something heavy for some people, like, ahem, me — & perpetuates unhelpful & mean stereotypes that lifters are stupid meatheads, is some fucking lame-ass bullshit crap-palace. That said, I guess it’d probably be possible to get strong at a Planet Fitness if you use the right equipment3 & if you motivate yourself properly, have a good program you stick with consistently & lay off the free bagels & pizza. But they seem to be more interested in taking your money & keeping you unfit, as this article suggests.

  1. Most of my dreams involve transportation: trains, buses, cars, highways, streets. Walking, driving, running to catch a plane somewhere. I had one of those, a bus this time. I often have dreams about staircases, or about rooms with uncomfortably low ceilings like 3 feet off the ground so I need to crawl around.
  2. Example: On Saturday I saw my face in a sideways mirror & became irrationally worried my eyes don’t both point in the same direction, & even now I’m still not convinced something isn’t messed up there.
  3. I.e., the goddam weights

What’s worth a rest?

Posted on December 13, 2014


This was a 1+ week of the 5/3/1 program for me, which I like because I like all the weeks in the program equally, in the same way that you love all your children equally, except for deload weeks, which I tend to hate, sort of like how there’s that one child you hate more than the others.

The 1+, of course, means you lift the program’s prescribed weight at least once, ideally a couple more times. It might not be much more than that, though. Every time this week rolls around I think of a mercifully brief conversation I had on Twitter more than a year ago that still disappoints me to this day. (Identity obscured because even though I don’t really use Twitter anymore & I seriously doubt this person will ever see this, I don’t want this person to feel too bad about it just in case.)


I left a polite “haha OK then”-type comment & got out of there.  Years ago I used to think that kind of crap too, though. I know a little better now.

The first obvious faux pas here is giving a shit what some stranger is doing over there, which you should generally not do unless they ask you for your opinion or they’re pinned under an unmoveable heavy object, turning purple & limbs flailing in a desperate signal for aid & succor, in which case you approach cautiously & provide gentle criticism that’s constructive, always. The second thing wrong with this is assuming that lifting something 6 times is not hard enough to be worth rest.  Which it most certainly can be, depending on lots of things, like how much the weight is, how strong the person lifting it is, what percentage of his max that weight is, how tired this person is, or maybe this guy’s injured or got some kind of tissue issue, maybe he’s on a program that requires him to rest for long periods between sets because he’s Doing A Thing, or maybe he’s got one of those deals where he doesn’t know if he has to shit or just fart & is taking a little stroll to test a few theories. Or maybe he’s just an asshole who’s faffing around in the gym, in which case that’s his problem, go reread the beginning of this paragraph again.

The point is that I used to be like that. I’d hear about guys lifting weights 6 times & walking around to rest, & think, Bullshit, that’s not exercising. That can’t be hard. Exercise is difficult & tedious. Shouldn’t you keep going until you’re all sweaty & limp & throwing up in your mouth a little?  How is picking up something 6 times “exercise”? Then I started doing it & realized that actually yes picking up something that’s very heavy for you just 6 times really can be difficult enough to require rest. Not only that, sometimes picking up something heavy twice or even only once is enough to make you have to sit down & collect yourself for a few minutes.  Hence the one-rep max. And hence the 1+ week, where the weights are supposed to be close enough to your max where you might just only get a few reps before you’re done & have to walk around the gym breathing heavily so you don’t pass out. It’s the “a little dab’ll do ya” school of exercise.

It all depends on what “heavy” means. It’s different things for different people.  One thing I like having learned from the running community is that one runner’s fast is another runner’s I’d quit out of embarrassment if I ran that slow. Which is totally fine, unless you’re competing against a field of other people, which I most certainly am not, in any sport — likewise for most people.  Like 90% of people are just marking time, having fun, doing a hobby. The weights I consider heavy for me, there are many millions of people who don’t even bother to warm up with that shit, because I’m quite new & weak. I’ve met a couple of people who are newer, though, & my weights are heavy to them. Different. You don’t know, maybe 6 reps of what looks like fuck-all was a strain for the dude, & saying stuff like Go back to the couch is just unhelpful. Also mean.  Knocking someone down doesn’t elevate you, which I feel confident I first saw in an inspirational-quote-meme with a corny picture of someone jogging into a sunrise or something.

I mean, I wasn’t there & the details are sparse so I don’t know. Maybe it was some buff gymbro doing sets of 6 x a measly 5# bicep curls then strutting around with his pecs doing the Riverdance to impress the gymbabes, which I suppose could be eye-rolling. Again, the deal there is not to care because this hypothetical person isn’t really affecting your workout routine unless you let him.


The week’s log

Tuesday 12/9

  • Deadlift: 5 x 185, 5 x 205, 5 x 225, 5 x 242, 3 x 275, 1+ x 307 (moderate 6), 10 x 207, 10 x 242
  • Press: 10 x 45, 10 x 55, 3 x 65, 5 x 77, 3 x 87, 1+ x 100 (moderate 4)
    Boring But Big: 5 x 5 @ 82# with just 30-45 sec rest between sets

Notes: Wasn’t supposed to lift the 10 x 207 set, but I was watching “Trading Places” in the garage because it’s a great Christmas movie, & I forgot there’s gratuitous toplessness all over the place. So I got distracted & put the wrong plates on.


Wednesday 12/10

8 x 3, supersets

  1. Split jerk (3 x 115, 4 x 125, 1 x 135)
  2. Dumbbell rows @ 75#


Deck of Cards for 12 min
♥ = squat at 125# (28)
♦ = pushups (45)
♣ = kettlebell swing @ 60# (35)
♠ = bar dip (38)

Notes: The split jerks were taken off a rack. Attempted to go 135 the whole time, but couldn’t sustain it.  Worked from 115 back up to 125, then just left it on the bar for the metcon. I like Deck of Cards workouts because they’re easy to set up, fun, you can do anything, & it gets the job done fast.


Saturday 12/13

  • Squat: 5 x 135, 5 x 155, 3 x 185, 5 x 210, 3 x 237, 1+ x 265 (moderate 5), AMRAP @ 210 (just 6)
  • Bench: 10 x 45, 5 x 65, 3 x 95, 5 x 125, 3 x 142, 1+ x 157 (moderate 6)
    Boring But Big, 5 x 5 @ 135

Notes: Not my best squat day, not my worst. Distracted again, but not by tits this time.

I wasn’t able to get in my usual Sunday workout on Sunday 12/7, & 12/14 is probably going to be a bust also. I want to hang Christmas lights on the house — already weeks behind. But even with only 3 workouts I still managed to increase my estimated 1-rep maxes in all 4 lifts:

  • Deadlift: est. 367#
  • Press: est. 116#
  • Squat: est. 311#
  • Bench: est. 190#

I’m happiest about the bench there, because if I can hit that it would mean I finally have a bodyweight bench press, & that would mean I’ve gained another 15# in just a couple of months. That’s also close to 200#, which I’d like to reach soon.  I test my maxes in 3 more weeks, so we’ll see for sure. Until then.

Shit and tumors

Posted on December 6, 2014


I can see the Google search terms that bring people to this site, & literally every week I get at least one person who comes here googling some variation of “If I get diarrhea right after I eat do I count the calories?”

[Sits quietly rubbing temples for several minutes.]



For the last time: I don’t fucking know because I’m not a scientist, but if you get diarrhea, don’t worry about counting calories.

I’m not saying anything about the calories. I’m saying don’t worry about it, because your anus is barfing & that’s enough to worry about right now.

Yes you’re trying to keep a record of precisely how many calories your digestive system absorbed before dinner rode the chocolate flume to Bowl Town, but you can’t. It’s impossible. It’s also pointless. It’s like getting your arm chopped off by a closing elevator door & saying, “Aw, my watch was on there.” You have bigger problems.

I don’t really think there’s a way to ever know for sure.  More precisely, no one fucking knows. But people keep attempting to crack this mystery. I’ve seen very long threads on the MyFitnessPal forums — a bottomless pit of headdesk, that site — where amateur gastroenterologists stroke their chins & trade theories. Count just half, I saw someone say once, like it’s a common rule of thumb. Or: How soon afterward was it? Hmm. Well then how many calories DOES the human gut absorb in 14 minutes, anybody know? What was the macronutrient composition of your meal? You see the veal cutlets being a dense protein would have been broken down more slowly than the Cinnabons you chased it with, though the steamed cabbage complicates the matter. Did you get a good look at the stuff before you flushed? How many ounces of salad would you estimate was intact?

Don’t sift through your feces & do math. As I wrote once before, getting the shits means you’re not feeling well. Take the afternoon off, buddy. Try again tomorrow. For now go sit hugging your knees to your chest, drink some herbal tea, & have a couple saltines. If you absolutely must log something, make something up. Or just write down whatever you ate & pretend you didn’t crap yourself.


It’s not a tumor

People always worry about the wrong stuff. I count calories, but I don’t pay much attention to it because right now things are OK. I mostly look at my total calories to make sure I’m eating generally enough, because that’s my problem some days, & I look at my protein numbers to make sure I’m taking in at least body-weight in grams.  I’m not laboring under any illusions that those numbers are dead-on-balls accurate. I weigh things & try to log correctly.  There’s no reason to do it if it’s totally wrong, but that doesn’t mean living as if every single calorie is accurately counted.  Shit happens. I’m fine with being closeish.

For as many articles I’ve read telling people the best way to keep tabs on their nutrition is to count calories, I’ve read an equal number telling people never to count calories. Because it makes people go crazy. Everyone’s different but personally I find it helpful & I think it’s possible to do without going crazy. Then I see stuff like this:


OK, here we go. The poster said she eats 1600-1800 calories a day (bad idea), weighs herself every day (worse idea), & jogs every day (even worse idea). She said she should be losing weight, but instead is up 7 pounds in a week. She asked people to look at her food log, so I did because I’m nosey & judgmental. About 90% of her daily food comes out of a box. Cereal bars, pre-packaged sandwiches, pre-packaged meals, & about 3 glasses of wine with dinner. Zero fruit, zero vegetables, no meat that didn’t come wrapped in plastic & cardboard. She ate almost no fats, even less protein, a fuckton of processed carbohydrates, & lots of sodium.

I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor, but it’s not a tumor. That’s eating like crap. Also the scale might be wrong, either before or after the 7 pound jump. Bathroom scales aren’t dead-on-balls accurate.

When people suggested maybe she was underestimating how much garbage she ate & overestimating how much she exercised, she said that wasn’t possible — because she did all the math right: x number of calories in (she knew precisely what this figure is since it was written on the boxes), y number of calories expended. Therefore, it must be some kind of foreign growth invading her body because otherwise it’s just not mathematically possible.

you are wrongjpg Im right

I don’t have degrees in this stuff, but I’m almost positive that human bodies don’t work that way. All this measurement stuff is an estimate. A food log — all of it, every bite — is an estimate. How much you burn from exercise, what you weigh on a scale, how much energy is extracted from your food before you take a dump, how much energy you expend lying around breathing, all that is an estimate. No measurement we do at home is exact, ever, because we don’t live in laboratories. Jesus Christ. Worry about the right things, like not eating any goddamned vegetables. Have some kale for chrissake. Side benefit: It makes you shit right.

Goddammit. Just.

[Puffs out cheeks.]

Fucking hell already.


This week’s log

Sunday 11/30

  • Every minute on the minute for 12 minutes: 20 single-arm kettlebell swings @16kg

Notes: This is usually a conditioning day for me, but I ran out of time for a full hour in the gym. This was a quick & easy way to get 250 kb swings in while I made dinner (it came out to 240 but I did another 10 because it was easy).


Tuesday 12/2

  • Deadlift: 5 x 155, 5 x 185, 5 x 205, 3 x 225, 3 x 260, 3+ x 290 (easy 8), AMRAP @ 225 (very easy 10)
  • Press: 10 x 45, 5 x 55, 5 x 65, 3 x 72, 3 x 82, 3+ x 92 (easy 6)
    Boring But Big, 5 x 5 @ 82

Notes: I could have easily deadlifted more than 8 reps @ 290, but I started to get dizzy. And I have been capping the AMRAP sets at 10.


Wednesday 12/3

8 x 3, supersets:

  • Push press @ 125#
  • Dumbbell row @ 70#


Descending/ascending ladder, 10-1, 9-2, 8-3 … 1-10:

  1. Front-rack lunges @ 95#
  2. Plyometric push-ups onto 45-pound bumpers

Notes: I only did plyo push-ups for the first half. Then I noticed my left thumb had gone numb. That seemed like it wasn’t good. Dropped to regular push-ups after that. I got feeling back in my hand afterward.  It’s fine.


Saturday 12/6

  • Squat: 5 x 95, 5 x 135, 5 x 155, 3 x 195, 3 x 222, 3+ x 250 (easy 6), AMRAP @ 195 (capped at an easy 10)
  • Bench: 10 x 45, 10 x 65, 5 x 95, 3 x 115, 3 x 132, 3+ x 150 (moderate 5)
    Boring But Big, 5 x 5 @ 132

Notes: I noticed today I’m quickly wearing through my backup jump rope. I already broke one rope this year, now my backup rope is fraying in the center too. All kinds of sharp steel wires poking through, snagging my clothes, catching onto my shoelaces. I jump rope a lot as a warmup, so this is a problem.


Interesting links