Ancient History



I hope everyone is surviving this devastating blizzard and haven’t had a roof collapse under the weight of all this snow. </SARCASM> At least the Brandywine School District behaved a bit more rationally last night than they had yesterday morning; after dismissing all the schools at lunch time because of light flurries, they held off cancelling school today until this morning, and of course were able to have a regular school day as a result because we got no more white flakes on our driveway than I would get on my bedspread after brushing my cat. (Siamese produce much less dander than other breeds.)

The weather has made it difficult to get in my regularly scheduled workouts, which is frustrating and making me a bit depressed; I had to leave work at lunchtime yesterday to meet the kids at the bus stop, so I didn’t get to swim, and my general malaise has made me less likely to do my chinups, pushups, and planks; I haven’t done a plank since the middle of last week, and the last few days have failed to meet my daily 30-rep goal on the other two. At the same time, being trapped at home with my children has made me much more likely to drink delicious, calming liquor, as well as completely fall off the wagon food-wise.

My plan to try and shed fat by simply avoiding carbs most of the time isn’t going very well; after last week’s birthday-related debauchery, I haven’t dared step on a scale, and I’m still eating far too much sugar and crunchy snacks in the evenings. As much as it pains me, it’s probably time to start deliberately counting calories to try and stay under my daily limit, even on weight-training days. ‘Tis the season for seasonal depression, something that’s affected me in recent years, and it’s a bit of a death-spiral: I get sad because it’s cold and dismal, which makes me more likely to eat and drink things I shouldn’t, which makes me more sad and frustrated with myself, which makes me more likely to skip out on workouts, which makes me *more* sad and frustrated with myself, which makes me a rather crappy husband and father ’cause I just become a completely miserable jerk.

I’ve done better at staying out of my funks than I did last year (when a few times I think Sarah was going to simply put a pillow over my head to put me out of everyone’s misery), but the winter is yet young. Only 52 days until spring.

Falling off the wagon

Golly, it’s been a brutal week. I actually wrote a post on Monday but forgot to actually, you know, publish it, and I kept putting it off, and procrasting, as I do, and yesterday was my birthday so Sarah’s just been stuffing me with things that are very bad for me and inspiring me to drink too much.

So it’s all her fault, as you can obviously see.

I’ve managed to keep up with my workouts, for the most part, though today was supposed to be a scheduled swim and I just didn’t have it in me. I decided to go for a nice hike at the office instead, wandered through the woods and did about 3 miles of hills in an hour. I didn’t measure my heart rate but it was definitely elevated; I might add a weekly hike to my workouts, at least until early March when I start really ramping up the triathlon training.

Tomorrow’s going to be fairly hectic, so it remains to be seen if I’ll get any training in at all other than my chins and pushups; I have to take my truck to the shop for repairs and borrow a car and drive to take a certification test about an hour away, and I’m cutting things a little fine to get there in time. If I can’t lift tomorrow, hopefully I find time for it over the weekend, otherwise I will have a super sad.

I haven’t checked my weight in a few days because my diet has been horrific, though I don’t seem to have backslid much when I look in the mirror. It looks like I may be writing off most of January, and I probably need to seriously think about a different way to stay accountable and make better food choices more frequently.

If you skip this one, I’m cool with it

It was rather a busy weekend, as you might surmise from my silence.

I hit all my usual workout metrics on Friday; squat and overhead press, plus all the usual chins and pushups, plus a nice little 30 minute jog. I was supposed to do 4×3 of the squat and overhead press, but found after two sets that I couldn’t get all three reps, so I switched to doubles to finish things out. This is probably an indication that I am due for a reset of some kind, but I’ll wait until I actually fail on the big singles that are scheduled for next week.

Saturday I did all my chins, pushups, and planks, but we went out to dinner with friends in honor of our various birthdays, and I ate and drank too much, which caused Sunday to be a bit of a misery. At least I didn’t have to go to church, just sat around watching soccer and football and trying not to move too much or be in direct sunlight, which was helped a bit by the fact that it absolutely poured rain all day. I did not do any chins or pushups because agony. I also ate poorly, something I’m sure I’ll pay for all week.

Here we are on Monday, and unlike civilized folks I’m at work. I ran over to the YMCA for a swim and it was outrageously busy and I still felt kinda iffy, but I managed to pound out 1800 yards. Anything’s better than nothing. I haven’t done any chins or pushups yet, I’m not looking forward to trying to pack all of them into one Monday evening when I’m not feeling 100%, but we’ll see what happens; I may short today a bit and make it up tomorrow when I’m working from home.

This not-particularly-interesting update has been brought to you by hangovers, exhaustion, and hunger.

Healthy Mexican food does exist

Eating out can be challenging. Even in places with good healthy choices on the menu, those choices can sometimes be pretty boring (salad, chicken and broccoli, etc.), and eating out always feels like a “special occasion” when one should be able to splurge a little, even if you eat out once a week like I think most families do. You go in with good intentions, and then look over the menu and think “Man, if I have another piece of skinless chicken breast I may weep openly. Maybe a piece of fish…oh look, they have fish and chips.” And then you eat a nice 1500 calorie meal, which, at least in my case, leads to thinking “Well, I already screwed up, might as well go whole hog” and you drink a bunch of beer and a fantastic dessert.

If it really is a “special occasion” (your birthday, wife got a big raise at work, your eldest son came out of the closet), then a little splurge is fine, but you can’t do it very frequently, which is a problem for me ’cause I do so love me some splurgin’. So whaddaya do if you find yourself at a Red Robin and are trying to steer away from a double cheeseburger with guacamole, bacon, and a fried egg?

What I like to do is try and pick something that’s going to provide me with a ton of protein. So even if I end up getting a 1000 calorie meal, I might get 70 grams of protein from it, which is pretty stellar. A good chicken sandwich with some awesome flavors might get you close to that. Then the trick is the side dishes; maybe don’t go with regular french fries, but you could rock some sweet potato fries instead. Slightly fewer calories and a ton more micronutrients and fiber.

Tonight we met my parents and my sister and her family for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, and I managed to steer away from the “Sampler platter” (two plates of awesomeness that have to total at least 2000 calories) and got fajitas instead, with chicken, beef, and shrimp. Staggering amounts of protein. Did I also eat chips with huge loads of salsa on them? I did. Did I eat beans and rice? Of course. Was it probably 1500 calories of awesome? Perhaps, but lunch was just some chicken and veggies, and I did swim another 1500 yards today, so I think it’s a wash.

Per uzh*, I’ve banged out my 30 chins and pushups, and need to blast through some planks before heading to bed. My back feels a ton better so I should be able to do my OHP and Squat workout tomorrow, and maybe even get a short run in, time permitting.

*“Usual,” duh.

Ow, quit it

Whoops. I typed this all up last night and then forgot to actually hit submit. Derp.

Unsurprisingly, I’m injured. Surprisingly, I’m not sure why.

My lower back is kind of a mess, and it seems like I strain it every month or so, in levels that range from “back to normal in a couple days” to “unable to deadlift or squat for 6 months,” as happened to me after I hit my 455lb deadlift in September 2013. Usually I can pinpoint exactly when it happens, because I’ll be in the middle of a squat or deadlift and will feel a distinct pop, usually on the right side of my lower spine. Yesterday’s injury, though, I can’t explain; I finished my deadlift workout with no pain other than the usual exhaustion from having lifted several hundred pounds a dozen times. Then at some point later on I noticed my back was a bit achy, and this morning it flat-out hurt. As the day’s worn on it’s loosened up a bit, and I was able to get in a decent half-hour on the stationary bike during lunch.

One thing that I’ve learned when it comes to injuries is that if they’re not debilitating and I can work around them, I should do so. If I started skipping workouts every time my lower back was acting up I would never progress. I anticipate this mild strain being back to mostly normal by Friday, and I’m still planning to squat heavy (though if it starts hurting a bunch as I warm up, I’ll bail out). Chinups and pushups don’t seem to bother it much (I did 7 of each this morning) and even planks are mostly painless; after my bike ride and a brief stretch, I did a full two-minute plank (apparently I can do those if I don’t tire myself out doing chins and pushups first).

Stupid back.

I forgot to weigh myself this morning, which is probably for the best because of all the carbs I ate yesterday; the mirror tells me I’m pretty bloated up, though even in just a week of “non-holiday” diet I believe I’m seeing some slight abdominal definition. That might be a hallucination, of course.

Food today: I had leftover turkey and leek chili for lunch, which was delicious but left me wanting more. Dinner was chicken casserole, with brussels sprouts and eggplant.

Dem carbs be tasty brah

I was hoping to get all my chins and pushups in after the Flyers game last night, but I ended up watching the College Football Championship, staying up too late, and only finishing with 16 of each and only 40 seconds of planks. It’s probably a bad idea, joint-health-wise, to try and make up for what I didn’t do, but I’m an idiot so I’m doing it anyway.

So far today I’ve gotten in 44 chins and pushups (some of which came during my weight training), and I’ve knocked out about 2:40 of planks, hoping to get another 1:40 to reach what I should’ve done yesterday and today. I also did my heavy bench presses and deadlifts, along with as many overhead presses (supersetted with chins) as I could get in under the hour. I also got in a nice gentle run, about 2.7 miles in 30 minutes.

Food-wise I probably haven’t been sufficiently careful; I made an omelette after my run, and Sarah had pre-made a fantastic turkey and leek chili for dinner, but I haven’t shied away from cookies and breakfast cereal either. Theoretically I need the carbs after working out, but I probably don’t need to get them in the form of 2/3 of a bag of Mint Milanos. Oh, Pepperidge Farm…you know how to love me.

I was up a pound this morning, and will probably be up a few tomorrow ’cause of the carb load, but I should be back down to the high 220s by Friday.

Today’s weight: 230 (+1 this week, -1 since 1/5)

Wait on your weight

It drives me a little crazy when I see folks, many of them friends and relatives, posting things like “down 5LBs since last week!” Losing five pounds of fat is a significant achievement, but guess what: in a week, you almost certainly didn’t lose five pounds of fat. You lost, ideally, one pound of fat, and probably four pounds of water, which will come back as soon as your various hormones will settle. And then you’ll post something next week about how it was a tough week, you gained a few pounds back. You didn’t! You just soaked up a little water.

Note: if you’re significantly obese, like pushing four hundo, it is possible to lose many pounds very quickly, but if you’re just trying to lose a few Christmas cookie pounds before heading to Punta Cana in March, you can’t do it that quickly, unless you simply stop eating altogether, and then you’re going to pay a heavy price in muscle loss, so don’t do that. #runonsentence4lyfe

Short term weight changes fluctuations are the bane of the fitness-minded. You have to ignore them. The only thing that matters is the long-term trend, which you’ll find follows a nice gentle slope of 1-2 pounds a week, depending on how much a deficit you’re in. This is obviously frustrating to folks who have a *lot* of weight to lose, but keep in mind: it took you decades to put it on. It ain’t coming off in a few weeks.

That being said, I weighed in at 229 this morning, two pounds down from last week, so I’m going to celebrate with cheese cake. I did go to a Flyers game tonight and had a couple hot dogs, but avoided having any beer, which is good from both weight loss and wallet health perspectives. I did come home and have Scotch, but that’s because I took my 8yo son and 9yo nephew to the game, and little boys are exhausting.

Food today: pork tenderloin and mixed veggies for lunch; hot dogs for dinner.
Workout: The sleet this morning delayed school, making me late to work and cancelling my intended swim workout. I’m still trying to get all my chins/pushups/planks, but it’s getting late; I may have to make things up tomorrow.

Weight: 229 (-2 since January 5th)

McDonalds is bad for yoooou

I didn’t manage to get a post up yesterday, as you may or may not have noticed, if you had been waiting with baited breath until the wee hours and finally went to bed, disappointed, wiping cold tears from your cheeks and cursing the day you ever trusted Matt “Le Douteux” Hearn.

It wasn’t the greatest day for nutrition; I managed to stick to the fasting schedule for the most part, not eating anything until a hot dog at lunch, but backslid a bit when we went to a bonfire party in the evening and I ate pizza and drank hot cider. At least I got in my usual chins+pushups+planks.

On Sundays I usually eat breakfast because while I’m a big proponent of fasting, I’ve had bad experiences with being undernourished at church; not sure why, but I’ve gotten dizzy a few times up in the choir stall, so I make sure to get some eggs and meat in my system before I go. Lunch was a hot dog with cheese, though I did spend a lot of the afternoon picking at things (like the pork tenderloin we premade for the week), and then we went to the mall and bought new phones and ended up picking up McDonalds on the way home to appease our unruly children. It’s amazing how even a good choice at McDonalds (in my case, a grilled chicken sandwich) is still *incredibly* unhealthy compared to almost anything you could make at home.

Fries be delicious as hell, doe.

Weight’s still holding steady at 230. Perhaps if I stop eating fricking fast food I’ll actually start dropping pounds…nah.

Gotta get down on Friday

Facebook is infuriating. You’d think it wouldn’t be that big a challenge to set things up so that when I publish a new post, it posts to my feed, but nay nay, it requires creating an “app”, going through a ton of privacy policy BS, and applying for some sort of approval to post to my own damn feed. I spent about two hours on it, which is about how long it would cumulatively take me to cut and paste about 400 post links to my feed manually over the next year.

Facebook: suck it.

Today I managed to get in most of the workouts I wanted to do, since zero precipitation meant I could go for a nice run, even if I did have to tread lightly so I didn’t slip on ice and turn some important joint into ligament pudding. First I did my Overhead Press and Squat workout, and was hoping to do some light bench press work but bumped up against my hour limit so I only got a few sets in. Then I ran for a half hour, nice and slow, keeping my heart rate low. (One of these days I’ll talk a bit about heart rate training.) Then throughout the day (I work from home on Fridays) I was able to get in my 30 chins, 30 pushups, and 2.5 minutes of planks. After taking off a couple weeks from all activity and watching my max chinup set drop down to 6, I was pleased that yesterday and today I maxed out at 8 and 9 rep sets, respectively.

Food-wise, I’m probably not as careful as I should be on Fridays, but figure that having lifted weights, a few extra carbs won’t kill me. After my run I ate a banana, and then got a bunch of leftover pork from last night and inhaled it, and later made some eggs with turkey bacon and toast. Dinner was chicken tacos, not my favorite, but the kids really enjoy them. I imagine before bedtime I’ll probably indulge in some cereal or other carby snacks ’cause gainz brah.

Today’s weight: 230 (-1) again. Not having significant fluctuations in carb intake like a true Leangains-style diet means not having significant fluctuations in weight, either. I haven’t been super-careful about calories this week, and plan to continue trying to eat clean without religiously counting for a few weeks, along with maintaining my 1-9pm fasting window. Hopefully that and 4-5 cardio sessions a week will help me drop fat, but if I fail to see my weight drop I’ll start counting everything I eat, which will suuuuuck.

Trying not to drown

It occurred to me that writing these things first thing in the morning and talking about the previous day is kinda dumb; it’s better for me to post them in the evening and talk about that day, so that’s what I’ma be doin’ from here on out. I also realized that links aren’t getting posted to Facebook and Twitter, so I’m fixing that; if this is the first post you see, you might wanna go back to the first day of this week and, you know, catch up. ‘Cause it’s getting real around here.

We had a last minute lunchtime meeting at the office today so I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d be able to get over to the Y for my usual swim, but that bad boy let out a few minutes after noon and I sprinted for the door. Still a bit pressed for time, I decided to just swim until I either reached 1500 yards (60 lengths of the short course pool) or started to drown.

Something that bit me in the ass a little bit during my International-distance (aka Olympic) triathlon from last August was the fact that I always breathe out of the left side when I swim. What I hadn’t anticipated was that we were going clockwise around the 1500 meter course, which meant that I couldn’t see the buoys I was meant to be passing unless I stopped to pick my head up and glance over to that side. It wasn’t a fatal issue (not nearly as badly as the current that added 10 minutes to my usual 1500m time, or the fact that I’d been eating horribly in the week prior which bit me hard while biking through the hills of northeast Maryland), but a bit concerning. I’d read of folks having issues during a swim because the waves came from one side and they couldn’t breathe to that side without inhaling water, which would be really bad if it happened to me and I wasn’t trained to breathe to the other side at all. Plus, it’s just good swimming form to breathe every 3 or 5 (or even 7) strokes because it helps keep your stroke more ambidextrous.

So I decided that the fall and winter I’d teach myself to breathe to both sides. Actually, the hard part wasn’t learning to breathe to the right; after getting used to rotating properly to that side (I have a tendency to under-rotate anyway, so this was a good thing to get used to), I can swim more or less endlessly breathing to just one side or the other. The part that was killing me was breathing 33% fewer times over a given distance, which reduced the oxygen available, and increased the carbon dioxide I had to get rid of. At first I could barely swim one length of the pool before having to switch back to breathing every two strokes.

When I first began training myself to swim freestyle in 2013 (after completing a couple of triathlons using nothing but breast stroke), I found a program online called “Zero to 1650 in 6 Weeks” (a “swimmer’s mile” is 1650 yards, or roughly 1500 meters). It aims to take someone who can barely swim 100 yards to being able to swim that full mile, swimming just three times a week. I could only allocate 2 swims a week, so I spread it out over 9 weeks, but it worked a treat. I went from being able to barely swim 4 lengths of the pool, to handling a full 66-length mile in under 40 minutes. After struggling to add bilateral breathing to my regular workouts, I figured I’d go back to the 0-to-1650 well.

It worked fantastically, even fast than six weeks. After completing the 1000 yard week, I found I had solved the problem; it was just a matter of setting a reasonable pace, and not stopping. The next trick is going to be improving my speed. While one of my goals is completing an Ironman (which starts with a 2.4 mile swim), my preferred distance will always be sprint races, because you can bang them out in a morning and be home in time for brunch, and the training requirements are much more reasonable. The guys who are competitive at the sprint distance can swim a true half-mile in under 10 minutes; it takes me closer to 18. This is obviously somewhere I can improve a great deal. (The same of course goes for my cycling and running, but swimming is where I’m least comfortable).

Today I managed 1500 yards in a bit over 31 minutes. Next week I’ll probably work on some speed drills to see if I can keep breathing every three strokes will pushing hard with good form.

Yesterday’s activities: 30 chins, 30 pushups, about 3 minutes of planks throughout the day.
Today’s activities: 1500 yards swim, 30 chins, 30 pushups, about 2.5 minutes of planks.

What I eated yesterday: I polished off a leftover pesto pork chop for lunch, with vegetables; dinner was eggs, ham, turkey bacon, and a nice bed of spinach. I was trying to avoid carbs but couldn’t resist a few crescent rolls.
And today: Lunch was the last 1.5 pork chops, with some broccoli. For dinner, Sarah threw a big pork roast in the crock pot with apples and sweet potatoes, and there were green beans as well. (The kids also had mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, I couldn’t resist having a little of that as well.)

Today’s weight: 230 (-1)