Friday, February 29, 2008

Running the Carbohydrate Gauntlet

I got a preview tonight of what my weekend is going to be like while officiating a swim meet. We only had an hour of swimming tonight (two heats of 1650 yard freestyle), so they didn't set up a full-fledged hospitality room. But there was a table set up with some edibles. There were three platters: one full of cookies, one with mixed nuts, and one full of fruit. The cookie platter was much larger than the other--but having those other choices made it easy to stay away. Tomorrow I will be there from 7a.m. to after 4p.m. Hopefully the ratio of choices will stay as good as it was tonight!!

The Tale of the Scale

Popped out of bed this morning, changed into my birthday suit, hopped on the scale, and saw:


Looks like I'm down a couple pounds for the week. That was pretty much the norm during my first three months when I went from 242 to 212. The rate of loss came to a screeching halt after my hip injury which curtailed both my racquetball and some rather intense kettlebell training I had been doing. Both of those activities had something in common--they both include interval type training rather than long, sustained efforts. Hopefully now that I'm back to training like this, and I stick to my "Primal Nutrition" style of eating, I will continue to drop the body fat. I do have a challenge in front of me however. I will be at the pool a good part of the weekend officiating a meet. All officials at these type of meets (USA Swimmng age group) are unpaid volunteers. Heck, it's worse than unpaid--we have to pay $55 a year just to belong to USA Swimming. But one thing that meet organizers do well here in Corpus Christi is provide a well-stocked hospitality room. Of course, the definition of "well stocked" is open to interpretation. Often that means a large supply of baked goods, pasta dishes, and other things that don't exactly meet my needs. So sometimes I have to improvise such as picking up a couple of breakfast tacos and scrapping the contents off the tortilla and onto a paper plate. But it's always a struggle because the old sweet tooth is still there (I'm looking for a dentist to extract it). I can only hope they have some fruit!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Heavy Metal Day

Ok. You can take this title with a grain of salt. First of all, all the plates at my gym are totally encased in plastic. Secondly, the weights I lift hardly qualify as heavy, but it's as heavy as I've I guess the title stays. :-)

Press (front rack position)
10 x 65
8 x 75

15 x 105
8 x 155
4 x 175

10 x 135
5 x 155

Those press numbers clearly show my weak area.
I felt pretty good doing the squat. I was able to maintain good form for all these lifts.
I don't know if my shins can take much more deadlifting. I ripped open a scab from the last time I did deadlift. I also think that I probably need to work with a knowledgeable teacher before going any heavier than I'm doing now. I don't want to take chances with my back!

I probably won't do much until Monday. I have a big swimming meet to officiate that starts Friday and doesn't end until Sunday evening. This means many, many hours on my feet so the odds are I won't feel like doing much when I get home.

Friday's Tale of the Scale is about 7.5 hours away!!

The Comeback (or How I Survived the Ibuprofen Invitational)

Racquetball is a great sport. One of the things that makes it so is that it can be played at any level from a novice to a professional and the participants can get a good workout and have fun as long as both players are at the same relative ability level. Unlike tennis, where beginners may have trouble sustaining any kind of a rally, anyone with a modicum of hand-eye coordination can get their racquet on the ball and advance it to the front wall. But the sport really shines as a conditioning tool when played by more advanced players. It calls for sudden bursts and quick reactions, all contained in periods of intense effort with recovery built in. It's "doing intervals" without "doing intervals."!

Back in the early 80s, I lived racquetball. I was on the court for two hours every weekday, and spent lots of weekends playing in tournaments. Unfortunately for me, I played my best racquetball when I wasn't in a tournament. My biggest disappointment came in 1983 while I was stationed at Osan Air Base in Korea with the USAF. I was playing in a tournament that sent the two-finalist to the All-Korea tournament. In my semi-final, we had split the first two games and I was up 10-6 in the tie-breaker. I only needed one point to make that final but it didn't happened. I wouldn't use the word "choke" but....ok...I choked! I went back to my room, threw my racquets in the closet, and didn't play again for around 15 years. I turned to running instead and started collecting 10K t-shirts.

Fast forward to 2002 or 2003. Some guys in the office were playing racquetball at lunch and I decided to give it another try. One thing I noticed right away was the racquet technology had changed big time. My little Ektelon 250G looked puny compared to the oversized racquets being used today. So I bought a new racquet and started playing 2-3 times a week. I didn't come close to regaining my old form but I was having fun and getting some exercise. But that all came to a screeching halt when I injured my hip last fall. I would play a match but then when I got out of my car to walk to the office I would get a "stop you dead in your tracks and have you call for your mama" spasm in my right hip. It was diagnosed as a strained hip flexor (Psoas) and I was told the only cure was rest. I waited a couple months and tried again but all I did was set my recovery back to square one.

So yesterday was the big comeback. I played one of my old regular opponents and split a couple of games. When I got back to the office, I had a snack that included 800mg of Motrin. I made of point of getting up from my desk often and walking around so that I wouldn't stiffen up. This morning it feels fine and I'm ready to put regular racquetball back in the fitness mix. I also think that the kind of training I'm now doing, the intervals in particular, are going to help my game immensely. The pattern that I normally followed playing this one opponent was that I would win the first game big, then the second game would be close with the other guy winning about half the time, followed by a third game that I usually lost. His advantage over me is quickness and court coverage. My strengths are a good serve and tactics--knowing when to hit a defensive shot rather than go for a kill. But my achilles heal has always been my lack of ability to sustain a high level of play over three games. Hopefully that is about to improve.

Bottom line--if you have never tried racquetball you should give it a shot!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Failed Trial

I've read several times that having a daily glass of red wine, maybe together with a piece of dark chocolate, was actually a fairly healthy indulgence. I put it off thinking it wasn't something I should do while I was still trying to lose weight. But a couple weeks ago I said what the hell and bought a box wine offering of Cabernet Sauvignon. I had one glass late in the evening and had a few smoked almonds to go with it. This past Sunday I bought a container full of bite size pieces of dark chocolate. The first couple days I ate one piece of chocolate. Last night I had two glasses of wine, caught a bit of a buzz, got the munchies, AND WIPED OUT THE CHOCOLATE! So no more chocolate, and with my decreased alcohol tolerance, I am reconsidering this whole wine drinking thing altogether.

Easy Evening (For a Reason)

I took it pretty easy at the gym this evening. I didn't want to push my luck after doing that hard workout yesterday, and after making my come back to the racquetball court earlier today. I'll post tomorrow on the racquetball but meanwhile this evening:

10 pullups (Gravitron @ 100)
10 Incline sit-ups
3 rounds

20 minutes stretching

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Whole Lotta Tabata

I decided it was time to do a little more strenuous workout than I have done lately so I went with the following:

Tabata Intervals in three flavors
5 minute break between each.

First some explanation. Tabata intervals are named after a Japanese exercise physiologist who pioneered the protocol. Google it for lots of information but basically it calls for 20 seconds of effort followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated eight times. So you're only talking four minutes of actual hard work but it's a damn long four minutes. I've done these several times on both the Lemond Revmaster spinning cycle as well as the Concept2 rower. So I thought what the hell--I'll do both and throw some thrusters in between

The cycle portion went ok but I didn't elevate my heart rate as much as I have doing these in the past. I didn't get it above 150bpm until the last three or so work intervals.
The thrusters were another story. I originally was going to do them with barbell but I needed to be able to see a clock (note to self: order a Gym Boss) so I took a pair of 15lbs dumbbells over to where I could see a clock. I thought going in that 15 pounds would be kind of light but that I didn't really need to kill myself with the rowing session yet to come. Well it turned out that these were tough! After four work intervals I decided to finish them off just holding the dumbbells in the rack position. I just couldn't get them overhead--perhaps a consequence of doing those TGUs yesterday. But it still turned out to be a tough workout and my HR was getting up into the 160s.
Of course, I saved the best for last. The C2 rower never fails to kick my ass. Here's some stats from the eight work intervals (read meters rowed and stroke rate)

  1. 90 42
  2. 89 39
  3. 90 42
  4. 91 42
  5. 85 39
  6. 77 39
  7. 77 39
  8. 85 39
Obviously I was feeling it for #6 and #7 but I sucked it up a bit to finish it out. I got a glance at my heart rate during one of the rest periods and it was at 168! All in all, a good workout that left me tired but feeling good at the same time. Now I'm typing this up while enjoying a glass of Cabernet Savignon (for the nutritional benefits, of course) !!

Catching Up

Although I've been working out regularly for the last few weeks, I only recently began recording my efforts. So this post will document three previous workouts. As I stated in my introduction post, I have several influences shaping what I do in the gym. In some cases, I'm using a specific workout (heavily scaled down) from the either the Crossfit (CF) or Gym Jones site. Other times I may do something I devise myself, or influenced by Art Devany. All workouts include a warm up. So here goes:

Thursday, Feb 21, 2008

Hierarchal Squat Set

Hierarchal Deadlift Set

These are the type of sets prescribed by Art Devany. The idea is to decrease reps and increase the weight so that you can do reps of approximately 15, 8, and 4 with only a long enough break to change the weights. Reps are NOT done to failure--you are supposed to do all with good form. You can find Art's description and reasoning behind it on his website (

Prior to this workout, I had been doing a lot of dumbbell sets of things like Arnold press, bench press, incline press, and rows. So I'm still in a feeling out process to see what kind of weight I can work with using the full bar. I also want to make sure that I'm practicing good form before moving on to heavier weights. One problem is that I am working out at a gym where bailing out of a failed lift by dropping the bar would probably not be appreciated. This makes it a bit difficult to figure out what my one-rep max is for the different lifts. A lot of workouts prescribed on CF and Gym Jones are expressed as a percentage of the one-rep max. But since my goals aren't quite as lofty as some of the younger studs doing this program, I'll just safely work the weight up.

Saturday, Feb 23, 2008

Power Clean 10@65
Step Up and Over Bench 2 minutes
2 Minute rest
3 rounds
5 min break (includes 2 min above)
Squat 10@95
2 min row on C2
2 min rest
3 rounds

5 min break (includes 2 min above)

10 Pull-ups
10 Dips
10 Situps
1 min rest
3 rounds

This was a good workout. I lifted this from the Gym Jones site. If I recall correctly, the weights were supposed to be percentage of body weight but that was beyond me. I'm not real comfortable doing cleans because I don't have the technique down so I don't go too heavy on that. I'll bump the squat up next time I do this one. The rowing was supposed to be a 500 meter pace. I really haven't established what that is for me so I figured shooting for 500 meters in the two minutes was a good start. In the three rowing reps I did 446, 458, and 516 meters. It was pretty tough (more on the rower later). I can't do a pullup but my gym has a Gravitron 2000 which lets you use a weight stack to assist with pullups and dips. I set it to 100 pounds for this workout. To me one of the real indications of progress is going to be how I handle pullups as the weeks and months go by. But for now I have to live with the fact that my 63 year old wife can knock out three sets of 10 with no sweat, and I can't do ONE!

Monday, Feb 25, 2008

20 Turkish Get Ups (TGU) alternating left and right with 25# dumb bell
10 situps on the Ham Glute Developer (HGD)
Box Jumps 2x30 8" Box
20 minutes on a recumbent bike easy pace (HRM 100bpm)

Overall not a very taxing workout although my shoulders felt the TGUs. I had done TGUs in the past with my 35# kettlebell but never as many. On the HGD I only went back to parallel. I'd eventually like to expand the ROM to a floor touch, but I'm no where near ready for that. The box I used for the jumps is one that was out on the floor to be used by people who are spotting for bench press. Pretty wimpy compared to some of the videos online showing people using 24', 36", and larger boxes. Lots of room to progress there but my heart was definitely pumping after these. The bike part was a waste of time--I didn't care for the recumbent (although I've owned two and enjoyed riding them outdoors). I'm going to stick to the Lemond Revmaster for any future cycling.

The Tale of the Scale

I weigh in every Friday morning so to establish a baseline, I'll report last Friday's result: 210.6 lbs. A couple weeks ago I went through an evaluation at the gym (the Navy calls it a Fitness Center) and my body fat measured 20.8%. Another baseline that I hope to improve over the coming months.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself

I am not a man of wealth of fame. Instead, I have started a journey to become truly fit. The purpose of this blog is to document that journey. I hope to make frequent entries describing the workouts I have done, and the things I've eaten to help achieve my goals. Of course, I may end up quiting after a couple weeks and eventually deleting this thing. Who knows. But since I've been keeping track of my workouts, I thought this would be a good place to keep the record and to share it with anyone who might stumble on it. Even if NO ONE else ever reads it, I least I have a record. But before I start documenting the workouts, I think a little background is in order.

Back in August of 2007, I was reading a post in the Usenet newsgroup One of the posters, Steve Friedes, had a link to his website which introduced me to kettlebells. From there I found the kettlebell forum on, and after purchasing a kettlebell, started working out with one. While reading the forum, I followed a link to Mark Sisson's blog named Mark's Daily Apple. That was an eventful day for me because it was the real start to my program to get fit. Mark endorses an eating style he refers to as Primal Nutrition. You can read all about it by going to his site ( I began following his advice and within three months I had dropped from 242 to 212. I believe the weight loss was a combination of the change in eating habits, along with some pretty intense exercise. I was doing four kettlebell workouts a week as well as playing a couple racquetball matches. But right about the three month mark, I sustained an injury to a hip flexor that brought my exercise routines to a halt.

I need to take another step back for a moment.

I have an athletic background of sorts. I played high school baseball and basketball, and as an adult have raced 5k's through marathons, as well as road and mountain bikes. I also played tournament racquetball. But one thing I always found abhorrent was working out at the gym. And when I did manage to do so, I usually worked my lower body to help with running and cycling. I have a terribly underdeveloped and weak upper body. I can't do a single pull up and maybe I can do one dip. I've made some attempts to make regular resistance training part of my schedule but I've never been very successful. But shortly after finding Mark Sisson's blog, I followed a link to Art Devany's site. Art had same interesting posts on his theories on weight training, and I started heading to the gym to try them out. From there I found the Crossfit site and the Gym Jones site which introduced me to a whole new paradigm for fitness training. The Gym Jones site in particular provided the motivation for me to get serious about getting fit. And that brings me to the present.

I am a 56 year old with no desire to run marathons or ride centuries--I just want to achieve fitness level that will enable me to do everyday tasks ( and play a lot of golf) well into my "golden years." So I'm doing a program that draws from the advice of Mark Sisson, Art Devany, the Crossfit gang, and the folks at Gym Jones. I'm making it up on the fly--trying to make sure I push myself two or three times a week, and do lesser efforts on other days. Hopefully I'll do enough to make real progress and I'll document it all here.