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Posts Tagged ‘fitness’

The Not-So-Good Kind of Hurt

First a warning, this post is about something I like and most people don’t – exercise. Lifting weights, in particular. If fitness isn’t your thing, no harm done. You may move along with no guilt on your conscience. For the two people still reading, let’s talk about squats.

I’ve been seriously lifting weights for thirteen or fourteen years now. Sure, I worked out before that, but not with any clear understanding of how best to do it. I dabbled and saw some results, but then would get pulled away by life and lose them. These days it’s a part of my life and not something I’m capable of abandoning.

In all that time I’ve worked up to some impressive weights and accomplishments, including a peak in my home gym of 475lbs while squatting. That was years ago, probably between 2009 and 2012. I’ve squatted up to and over 400 since then, but squats and I never really got along. I suspect it has to do with my body mechanics. Leg to torso ratio and whatnot. I’m a lot better at other lower body exercises than any sort of squats – deadlifts in particular. And don’t get my started on front squats!

Last night I stretched and warmed up, then went for a light squat workout with 225lbs. Like always, I felt the pain instantly in my quads. It’s a jabbing and stabbing kind of pain, or maybe there’s a pinch or two in there too. Whatever the case, every rep at the bottom of my range of motion (I go as far below parallel as possible without falling over or sitting on the ground) my quadriceps yelp and squeal like baby pigs about to be turned into bacon. It’s not just unpleasant, it hurts.

So last night I went for a wider stance after my first set. A wider stance calls in more hamstring activation. I’ve got great hammies, strength-wise, so it should be a no brainer. Except my intent is to work my quads. In any event, the experiment was a minor success – my thighs didn’t hurt as much. They still hurt, but not as badly. It’s a problem and one I haven’t been able to solve in more than a decade – I just sucked it up and dealt with it. Power through, that’s always been my mantra. Even the times when I ended up injuring myself – but I’m getting wise enough to learn that maybe pain is a warning and powering through isn’t the best option every time. Maybe.

I’ll keep squatting for a few more weeks. Typically I go through a circuit of squats until they hurt so damn much I can’t do them anymore, than I switch to deadlifts or something else for my lower body. That will probably be the case this time too, but I’m not sure how invested I’ll be down the road to doing this kind of exercise again. Focusing on a wider stance the entire circuit might make a difference too, only time and hard work will tell.

After the squats I did a few sets of clean and presses. Only 135lbs, but I really enjoy doing power cleans and clean and presses. I can’t lift as much, but the explosive movement is fun. Not to mention the whole body exercise does great things for, you guessed it, my whole body. The only downside is the day after a lower body day has me wiped out and ready to take a nap at a moment’s notice.

Is there a message to be shared and learned here? Nothing obvious, only me willing to share some data for other exercise junkies out there. I like to think that somebody, somewhere, can learn from my trials and mistakes without feeling to consequences of poor decisions. I like to learn my lessons the hard way, it seems, but somebody out there has to be smarter than me!

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Why Cardio Disappoints

This post isn’t about books! It’s about another passion of mine – and one shared by few people: fitness. So you have been warned, read on at your own peril.

Longtime friends and readers (one and the same, as far as I’m concerned) know that I’m a weightlifting junky. A former competitive powerlifter, in fact. Not one of the super heavyweights that crammed anything and everything into their mouths either. I was a fairly lean powerlifter when I competed – and I was in the 242lb weight class (my highest competition weight was 232, usually I was 229 or lower).

Sadly, my competing days are over, courtesy of an injury caused by overtraining for a meet and not being as safe as I knew I should have been. Some major surgery to reattach torn tendons and muscle to a bone and I’m back in business, but never like I once was. These days I still lift heavy 3 – 4 times a week, but I don’t push myself as hard as I used to. That means I have to make up for the lack of work to keep myself looking decent with other activities. And that means including some cardio elements in my routine.

I read a few studies and educated opinion pieces long ago stating how weightlifting was better in every way for a body than cardio. Since I agreed with it out of principal, I took it as gospel and moved on. Many years later, I still believe that way and happily share such information when asked (no, I’m not the kind of guy who offers it unasked and pesters people). As I get older and my routine is changing to more health and maintenance based instead of trying to amass raw strength, I’m finding more and proof that supports what I’ve believed to be true.

I measure my progress in many ways. How much I can lift, how many times I can lift it, what the dude in the mirror looks like, what the calipers figure my bodyfat is, and what the scale reads. I hit the scale almost every morning and every night because what gets measured gets done. It’s those measurements that leads me to posting this blog and supporting my belief of why cardio is disappointing.

First a mild info dump, here’s a typical week for me:

Monday: Heavy Bench Press, Heavy Cable Rows, supportive exercises (curls, tricep extension, etc.)

Tuesday: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training – Clean and Presses supersetted with running on a treadmill)

Wednesday: Deadlifts / Squats / Rack Pulls (only one exercise, it varies by month), Declined situps, more arm and shoulder work

Thursday: rest

Friday: Volume bench press, volume lat pulldowns, supportive exercises (arm stuff)

Saturday: HIIT (same as Tuesday)

Sunday: rest

 

Every day, if possible, I try to get in some rollerblading or low impact cardio around my subdivision, typically 10 – 20 minute’s worth. I’ve ramped that up recently, leading to this post.

 

 

So Sunday, father’s day, my wife decided she wanted to start doing my 2 mile cardio with me. For me that means rollerblading around our subdivision several times (rather fast, I push myself and keep my heart rate in the 140 – 150 range). I’d also mowed my lawn today in the 91 degree sunshine, which takes about an hour with my push mower thanks to a couple of short but steep hills. So no weights on Sunday, just cardio…

 

On virtually any weightlifting night I will lose 1.5 – 2 pounds overnight while I’m sleeping. Doesn’t matter the exercise, as long as I work myself hard. Without fail I wake up lighter in the AM, although if I strain my lower body too much it can cause some inflammation in the muscles that takes a couple of days to wear off – the weight comes off over those couple of days though. On any day where I do cardio only I will lose .4 – .8 pounds overnight. Less than half what I lose when I lift weights.

 

Weightlifting works the muscle, breaking it down and building it back up. The building part takes time though, and also requires calories. That means burning calories, both to do the repair work and to strengthen the muscles. A workout will continue to burn calories for 1 – 2 days afterwards. Cardio, on the other hand, only burns calories while you’re doing it and, unless you bust your hump for more than 20 minutes, you’re only burning the calories in your bloodstream and not any stored fat. With weights, it’s a constant slow burn happening behind the scenes, which takes care of the calories in the bloodstream and then moves on to stored fat. My two mile rollerblading only takes around 10 minutes, so the only gain I get out of it is an improvement to my energy systems (heart, lungs, cardiovascular, and flushing water out via sweat).

 

So why not do long term cardio – 30+ minutes? Even if there weren’t studies showing the damage it can do to joints and muscle fibers, it’s f***ing boring! I’ve got way too many things to do to spend that kind of time. I’ll never run a marathon, and I’m okay with that. I ran a 5k once, by myself, and that was enough. I much prefer more intense focused training to keep my energy systems where I need them or close enough that I can ramp up sport specific training as needed (e.g. if I ever joined another hockey league). For those that do it and, somehow, enjoy it, I salute you. You do what works for you and godspeed, just as I’ll do what works for me.

 

If you’re wondering what HIIT is, it’s weight training done aerobically, for lack of a better term. In my case I do a set of 6 – 135lb clean and presses (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_OGoQ94mPQ, except I make sure I go all the way to the floor on each rep). After that set I hit the treadmill and run for 2 minutes. Ideally there should be next to no rest between exercises. For me I rest 30 seconds or lest just to catch my breath. My heart after the clean and press is in the 150s, typically, and then in the 140s after the run. Five sets of that and I’m done. Any compound exercise can be used – I’ve done squats, front squats, and bench pressing as alternatives from time to time, but I really like what clean and presses do for the body – it’s a full body workout and helps support every other exercise as well as general strength and conditioning.

 

So there it is, my rare workout post. Social media is a funny place – people get upset about others posting about working out, which baffles me. I encourage it, but I don’t want to upset anybody either (unless they deserve it, and even then I’d typically rather just save my time and walk away). Still, I got some great feedback on my workout posts a couple years ago, so maybe somebody can learn something from this and use it for their own good.

 

These days I’m floating in the 225 – 230 range, depending on whether it was a bad weekend or not. Last night I was 226.4 and this morning I was 226 (remember the cardio only yesterday). My bodyfat is in the 11% – 12% range and I can still bench 315+ and deadlift 500+. I figure I’m doing okay for a dude in his 40’s.

 

 

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Picking Up Heavy Things…Again

September 5, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I’ve gone personal on here – hopefully that doesn’t drive anyone away! This has very little to do with books or writing and more about health and fitness. You see, almost entirely by chance this morning I stumbled across the reddit Arnold Schwarzenneggar did on a fitness channel. There wasn’t a heck of a lot there from him, but what there was hit home.

A couple of points – he indicated he doesn’t lift like he used to. Seems like a no brainer to me, I’m suffering the same sort of things and he’s got over two decades on me. Case in point, he can’t do as many barbell curls as he used to due to shoulder injuries and surgeries, so he’s worked in the preacher curl machine to help out. Well, for anyone that’s seen a recent movie of his, it’s working!

I’ve been a big opponent of machine for a long time, but I’ve been discovering recently that my go big or go home mentality towards lifting isn’t working like it used to. I wipe myself out and suffer minor injuries that end up being more of a setback than they are a gain. Coupled with being so darn busy between work and writing and family, I haven’t even been able to find as much time as I should to lift. Factor in an injury and you can see where things are headed.

To counter that line of thinking, I grinned like a fool when I read his method of gaining strength. He’d warm up for several sets (10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps, 4 reps – I might be missing a few in there) and then do sets of 2 at the heavy weights before backing down to 4 and 6 rep sets. That’s virtually the same thing I used to do when I was getting stronger for powerlifting! Some tweaks here and there, but there’s a lot of similarities. It would probably still work too, especially given multiple warm ups to really make sure the battered and abused body I’ve given myself is ready for it.

And speaking of injuries and taking time off – Arnold had another great point about making time to work out. Every minute spent on improving your health is not a minute lost from a day, it’s minutes gained on your life. So what if 30 minute are gone some evening, if that helps me live a week longer, that’s 10,080 minutes extra. And without health there’s no way to pursue other goals (work, family, money, building a replica of the empire state building out of toothpicks, etc.).

A final note on cardio. That’s how he said he’d cut weight / fat when he needed to, he’d add in extra cardio and cut out bread, pasta, and desserts. I’m notorious for hating cardio, but I have to admit it is damn effective. There’s nothing like jogging to burn calories. I also discovered something a year or two back when I got in a minor cardio frenzy that didn’t last long – I got stronger too. I was lifting as well as running and somehow my gains were improved when I did both over the span of a week. There was a study that Will Brink posted / commented on that supports it. I can’t say anyone else will have similar results, but what’s trying going to hurt?

On the subject of goals after fitness there’s writing. I’m on the verge of finishing my latest Vitalis book, but I’ve been on that same verge for over a week now. I keep adding more and more to it, improving the story and details. I’ve been on the last two chapters for at least ten chapters now, believe it or not, but I think I’m finally almost there. Looks like I get my cardio through my fingertips when it comes to writing!

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Wake Up Dead

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s Monday morning. That and the fact that I woke up feeling like I hadn’t gone to bed yet are no coincidence. Monday mornings require an alarm clock set to go off before most clinically sane people wake up. So do the other weekdays, but there’s just a special kind of hell to a Monday morning.

So I staggered into the bathroom and did my usual morning routine. Mostly. This was a little different. Today’s routine involved not only shaving off a weekend’s worth of scruff but also a frank evaluation of the dude looking back at me. In the mirror- not some creepy neighbor watching me shower.

It’s been a heck of a year so far. By and large, 2013 has been a very positive year. Some ups and downs and a few troubles along the way, but by and large we’ve made good things happen. I’ve got a great day job, my writing is going very well, everyone’s healthy and happy, and aside from our ongoing housing issues with our landlord and landlady, life is good. But it’s been a busy year too, and that means there’s been a price I’ve had to pay. Other than sleep, that is.

The dude in the mirror directed his eyes downward and let me know, with a pointed glance, what the problem was. No, not THAT far down. No problems there, thankyouverymuch. I’ve had many weeks where I was lucky to make it to the basement to work out one time, let alone the 3 or 4 I used to enjoy. Between that and too much crappy food (junk food, eating out, etc.), I’m afraid I wouldn’t look presentable in a bikini. Then again, the leg hair and incongruous bulges might make the bikini an unpleasant viewing experience even if I was in the kind of shape I wanted to be.

So starting last night I’ve established a short term goal of two months to whip myself back into shape. Yes, I admit, this morning’s frank appraisal was planned. Normally I don’t like planning things because then the word “premeditated” gets thrown around, but this was an exception. I even took a pic in the mirror this morning to compare in a couple of months with the guy staring back at me. It should be a good time. The plan is simple, eat better and work out more. Nothing to it, right?

Actually no, it’s not difficult. So why haven’t I done it before now? First I needed to have a talk with my doctor. Not a “can I work out without dying” kind of talk, but rather the wtf is wrong with me kind of talk. He’d done some labs on me a month or so back and one of the many things he tracks has to do with iron. I give blood regularly and it turns out that can be a minor problem. Not life threatening by any means, but my body has a tendency to try and make a lot of blood. One of the reasons I give blood, outside of being a nice guy, is to keep my red blood cell count from getting too thick. Lots of those are a good thing, but too many can lead to complications including a stroke. And trust me, nobody wants to see me stroking out.

So I get bled out every now and then. Usually on purpose, although the occasional jack knife in the leg incident can lead to significant accidental blood loss too. My body goes crazy trying to replace that blood and it needs iron to do so. What it can’t get from normal sources it finds internally. It’s called ferritin, and that’s the iron stores in a person’s body. Mine, it turns out, was below the bottom end of the normal range.

Common symptoms of low ferritin include chronic fatigue / tiredness and headaches. Well I’ve had an increasing number of headaches lately and when I do workout I get exhausted damn quick. I was blaming it on only 6 hours or so of sleep a night, getting older, and the stress of a busy year. Mind you since I left the automotive industry my stress levels got a LOT better, but my crazy rental house situation is trying hard to fill the void.

I learned this stuff last Thursday (which was ironically two months ahead of schedule – turns out I drove from Novi to Lansing for my doc appt and I had the date wrong, by two months! My doc was due in for surgery but squeezed in time to meet me anyhow. Hell of a guy.). That night I picked up some iron supplements and also some other stuff he recommended to bring me back up to optimal levels. Now four days later, I’m already feeling back on top of the world. Last night’s workout only consisted of two exercises but I had the energy to take them all the way and would have done more if my kids hadn’t been wanting me to come and put up Halloween decorations with them.

So the new goal is this: 2 – 4 exercises per session with 4 – 5 workouts a week. I may even do a little cardio, although I can’t stand that stuff. I much prefer lifting hard and heavy. And no, that’s not a euphemism. As an example here was last night’s workout which felt great and left me wanting more:

Bench Press:

135lb x 10 reps (warm up)

225 x 8 (this felt really good and easy)

275 x 3 (could have done more but I was warming up for the next one)

315 x 1 (haven’t done this much in a while so I didn’t want to push myself too much. It felt good though)

315 x 1 (decided to do it again and I bet I could have done two, but the last time I really pushed myself while benching I ripped my pec off my arm and had to have surgery. My powerlifting career was ended so I can afford to minimize risks now)

Supinated grip lat pulldowns:

180 x 8

200 x 8

230 x 8

250 x 8

250 x 8 (good lifts all with the last set being difficult to do)

Most doctors, by the way, don’t check or care about ferritin. Or so mine says. I don’t care what he thinks of other docs, he does a good job with me. He even came recommended to me as one of the leading experts on men’s health. I’ve been seeing him for around 8 years now and I keep going back for more. Must be he’s doing something right. My only suggestion to people interested in optimizing their own health is to ask for a copy of any bloodwork you get done and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Google the tests and numbers to see what’s what and then ask away. If your doc doesn’t give you a satisfactory answer, maybe there’s a reason for that. I know I have yet to meet a general practitioner that knows much of anything beyond chicken pox, flu / cold, how to set a broken arm or finger, other basic ailments. That’s not a criticism, there’s a lot to know and it’s virtually impossible to keep up with everything. My criticism comes in when doctors discard something that they’re unfamiliar with or were told didn’t matter. But that’s a rant for another day. For now I only recommend keeping an open mind and being willing to look for a second or third opinion if you feel something’s not right.

I’ll post infrequent updates on how things are going more as a guide than as a narcissistic look-at-how-buff-I-am sort of thing. Will there be pics? I don’t know. Maybe, but probably not. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself. Sure I take the pics, but I reserve my vanity for myself. I’m the person I have to impress. Well that and my wife, but she’s looking better and better every day all on her own.

Enough babbling! There’s work that needs to be done and a group of unfortunate people stranded on Europa that have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. And that’s without considering the guy who appears to be a mad scientist that’s locked himself up in the laboratory…

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.