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Squats and the sandbag

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Today, I’m expecting delivery of canvas sea bag, which I expect will be a better bag than what I’m currently using for bag to hold the double-bagged freezer bags of sand. Still, the sandbag is becoming more popular with me for strength training. It’s fun somehow to wrestle with it and playing with it gives a very strong whole body workout sensation. The last two morning I’ve done sets of squats with it. Yesterday I did one set of 10 and another of 15. This morning, I did a set of 10, then one of 15 and a finisher set of 20. The great thing about the set of 20 was it was done fast, I pushed myself to knock out rep after rep without ever taking a small break to breathe at the top. The last 2 reps were done with shaky legs and what felt like pure will, no matter how much my butt, hamstrings and quads were shaking, I would power up through.

That last set with the 20 reps is a sign of large improvement. When I first figured out how I could use the sawhorses, and straps to let me do barbell back squats, well, I’ll be honest and admit that my starting weights were pathetic. My first set of 20 rep squats was a paltry 60 lbs. And it was not easily done. I began pausing and breathing after just 5 reps. My heart was pounding pretty good by the end. Although one good thing I can say about that set and all the sets I’ve done since with the barbell and sawhorses is that they are nearly rockbottom squats. I fit just about perfectly under the bar with the height of the sawhorses. So when I drop and do each rep, the ends of the bar have to touch the sawhorses. Every rep is deep and below parallel. They are full range. Since that pathetic start, I’ve been bumping up the weight 5 or 10 lbs at a time.

Now I’ve built enough deep squatting strength that I can do 20 unbroken reps of a sandbag with ~85 lbs in it. So I’m going to add another 10 lbs to the sandbag and work on getting to some morning where I can get that bag up on a shoulder and squat 95 lbs in 20 unbroken reps. And so on, and so on.

And now that I’ve done some more serious squatting, by that I mean being strict with form and depth, I can say that squatting is a very primal and powerful feeling. Having the weight pushing down the whole length of the body, going down to the bottom and then standing up with it, it’s primal. So’s the sandbag. The sandbag doesn’t have a convenient hold to it like the barbell. It’s a bit of work to wrestle it up onto a shoulder, but I’m getting stronger and better at it.

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Weighed in at 154.8 lbs this morning, the most I’ve weighed since I weighed in at around 155 late December before the flu knocked me down to around 152.

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Pezaĵlevo

January 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Lastnokte, mi levis pezaĵojn. Faris mi tri arojn da kaŭroj kaj kelkajn da farmist-promenoj kaj tri arojn da surdorsekuŝ-premoj. Ŝajnas ke mi bezonis krei vortojn por pezaĵlevo? Muskultrejnado? Muskultrejnado estus pli generala ol la levo de pezaĵoj. Do mi pensis ke pezaĵlevo estas la plej bona. Eble. Eble mi malpravas. Sed pezaĵlevo ŝajnas okej por mi kaj miaj oreloj. Tamen, se iu esperantisto scias plibonajn vortojn, bonvolu lasi komenton kun viaj sugestoj.

Fakte, mi bonvolas ĉiujn sugestojn kaj korektadon(?), korektecon(?).

Esperanto iĝas pli multe faciliĝa por mi, sed mi ankoraŭ estas komencanto-parolanto de ĝi. Komprenas mi pli bone ol parolas mi.

Redakto por aldoni: Mi iĝas inteligenta kaj serĉis la esperanto-vikipedio por la Olimpikoj. En la artikolo pri la Olimpikoj, mi trovis la vorton, halterlevo, kaj haltero aperas esti la vorto kiu priskribas la anglan vorton, barbell. Pensas mi ke haltero estas de greka origino.

Ankoraŭ, mi pensas ke pezaĵlevo estas ankaŭ bona vorto. Eble tiel bona kiel halterlevo. Ankaŭ muskultrejnado estas bona. En multe da lingvo, estas multe da vortoj kiujn povas uzi, kaj Esperanto estas alia lingvo. Do ĝi ankaŭ povas havi multajn vortojn por uzi pri la samaj aferoj.
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It’s interesting. This morning I’ve had about as much spontaneous thinking in Esperanto as I’ve ever had. I’ve certainly had times before when I’ve been thinking in Esperanto, especially when I’ve gotten deeply into some reading, but I’ve still lacked the ability to generate thoughts and series of thoughts in Esperanto. But maybe now I’m taking some first steps (unuajn paŝojn!) to a higher level of skill with the language.

So, to mark that, I worked on writing the first part of this blog post in Esperanto.

I did 3 sets of squats last night, some farmer’s walks, and 3 sets of bench presses. With the bench presses, I am using a thick book on my chest to keep the bar from dropping too far and causing stress and discomfort in the left shoulder. Eventually, as the shoulder continues to thaw out, I should be able to return to presses where the bar goes down completely to the sternum. But I’m in no hurry with that, I think I should still be doing good things for my upper body pressing strength with the book on my chest.

split pea

January 2, 2013 Leave a comment

I began craving split pea soup on New Year’s Eve, so yesterday morning I went to the market and bought some ham and dried green peas. The soup cooked up quite nicely. Along with the ham and peas, I also used carrots, a potato, some milk and butter, Canadian maple syrup, tabasco, salt, pepper, and paprika. The tabasco, pepper and paprika gave the soup a nice little zip to the flavor against the slight sweetness from the ham and syrup that I had used. It made for a good lunch and dinner on a chilly first day of 2013, and the remainder has been packed into containers for lunches at work for the rest of the week.

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When I woke up yesterday, there only remained a faint tickle which could make me cough lightly and a tiny sliver of nasal drip. Strength wise, I felt a bit off, but mostly recovered. So I decided to do the deadlifts and farmer’s walks yesterday. The decision I made was to start the 2-week plan I had begun last week over again. Somehow it made sense. Just start from there again.

The first thing is that I don’t think I was entirely full strength yesterday. One weird effect of that was the first rep of each of the 3 working sets of deadlifts felt strangely heavy. I could almost feel the aches of the flu back on Saturday in those initial reps. But the rest of the reps would tend to feel almost progressively better. And the final result was that in the last set where I would do as many reps as possible, I did one rep more than when I had used that weight the prior week. That was the clearest sign to me that I was nearly fully recovered, and that felt good, felt good to know that I was fairly healthy again and that I could get back to work on getting stronger.

It was after the deadlifts that I got the soup cooking for lunch and dinner.

In the afternoon, I took a short walk to help me get back to the goal of taking 10,000 steps every day. The effects of the flu had kept me from that for 4 days, a stretch where the pedometer only counted 17558 steps. Then late in the afternoon I did a series of farmer’s walks and in the evening I foam-rolled and stretched.

And I woke up feeling pretty nearly flu-effect free this morning. I still have a slight sensation that I can’t take a full deep breath into my lungs without the risk of coughing, but the nasal drip is completely gone. Strength wise I feel pretty good. So I guess the flu is very much behind me now and I am glad about that.

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On Saturday, when I was at my most ill, I watched Forrest Gump again. I saw it once before back in the 1990s and liked it then okay enough, although I got annoyed a great deal by the cultural tide it created where people would often say some of the Forrest Gumpisms. Saturday when I watched it I was even less impressed with it. Some of that disenchantment was due to what I’ve learned about physical effort and well-being. One of the famous sorts of scenes from the movie are the ones where Forrest is being picked upon by bullies and his childhood friend Jenny yells at him, “Run, Forrest, run!” Yeah, I’m sure all those kids back when they used to put so many of them into leg braces will tell you about the time they were able to begin running like the wind after being stuck in braces, that they were able to run themselves right out of their braces.

Yes, I realize that Forrest Gump is fictional, but even fiction has its limits. That sort of disparity with the laws of reality in Gump’s fictional universe is unbelievable to me. It very much damages the narrative.

But later I began thinking about it more. What if? I think that many times people watch Forrest Gump and get suckered into thinking to take Forrest at his word. He is just a simple man, talking plainly about things he’s seen and done. What if that’s not so? What if Forrest is an unreliable narrator? What if the movie is a tale of things that he’s imagined, that he’s fantasized, that he’s made up and lied about?

Suddenly, if you start thinking about it that way, it’s not just a somewhat melancholy tale of a simple man who achieved a lot and loved a woman, a woman who eventually came to appreciate his devotion and married him before she passed away. Maybe instead Forrest and Jenny were childhood friends, but eventually with her growing up and growing older, she left him behind, a combination of wanting to escape the location of her abusive childhood and once gone, she never wrote back to Forrest, because she found his devotion/obsession a bit too threatening and weird. So Forrest Gump is no longer a hero. He is instead just a sort of strange tragedy, someone who not because of any really conscious fault of his own, is just not well-suited to the world. One who has not achieved any measure of greatness, but has only imagined himself doing great things — playing football for Alabama, winning a Congressional Medal of Honor, running back and forth across America 3 or 4 times, has imagined himself flawlessly loving, protecting and honoring Jenny as best he can, having had a son who is just like him but finally smart. What if the last scene of the movie was completely imagined? There was no Forrest junior. It was just Forrest returning to where his bus stop was when he was a kid, and imagining that he now is sending a son of his own off to school, a son that he and Jenny had?

Now, if Forrest Gump exists as a great movie, it is not one that sees Forrest Gump as telling a straight and truthful tale, it is one where he is seen as somewhat deluded and lying, and trying to see how many of us he can con into believing he was some simple paragon of virtue out of America’s turbulent past.

flu?

December 28, 2012 Leave a comment

I woke up about 4:30 this morning and have since found myself with a slight tickle and cough, little bit of tickle in the nose too and general sense of blah. There’s supposed to be a lot of flu going around right now and I’ve heard that one of the strains circulating wasn’t in this season’s vaccine. If it is that flu strain I’ve caught, I’ll hope that the vaccine will provide me some boost in immunity against it so it doesn’t lay me out.

It’s disappointing some because I went to bed last night feeling good after a strong workout where I squatted, did some farmer’s walks, and chin ups with isometric holds at various angles. It felt energizing almost, a bit of satisfaction at having done the work to improve strength. And even if it meant some chance that I might wake up a bit sore in places from that workout today, I wouldn’t have minded it.

I’ll have to see how I feel tomorrow morning and make a decision then on whether or not to deadlift. It will be a little frustrating if I have to cancel any scheduled workouts. It’s been a small source of rejuvenation for my mood that I can feel myself getting stronger and can see the difference in how my body looks again. Although the legs are still very skinny, but I think now that I’m smarter and more knowledgeable, I will be able to make my legs grow some more. One big part of that, I believe, will be doing plenty of deep and effective squatting, along with the work I’m doing to improve the function of my glutes. Increasing the muscle mass in my legs seems particularly more important in view of how a Danish study found a link between lack of muscle in the thighs and heart attack risk. It occurs in both women and men, so that’s another good reason for women to squat and deadlift. Being strong as you get older not only helps protect you against falls and frailty, but also can help protect the heart and metabolism.

Yuck, as I took a break from working on this, I began to feel the first bits of fever. All I can do now is hope that it doesn’t last too long and I get back to full health soon. Also getting the first sensation of just wanting to crawl into a bed, pull the covers over me and go to sleep. I like to sleep when I get sick, that seems to do more than anything else on helping me recover. Sleep seems to be my body’s way of shutting down things so the immune system can get to work.

damnit

December 19, 2012 Leave a comment

6 more victims of the Sandy Hook Massacre will be buried today.

There is no comprehension here. I can’t understand the mindset of someone who kills his mother and then goes to elementary school and shoots young children. Sometimes when I hear a news story about one of the victims I start to cry. It happened again this morning when the radio said there will be 6 more funerals today, 2 of them adults, one the principal of the school who tried to take down the killer and the other a teacher who sought to shield the kids in her class.

If there is one tragic symptom of a form of insanity that has gripped my country, it is this tragedy. But symptom is the wrong word, isn’t it? Manifestation maybe? What word really describes what happened there last Friday? Beyond that, what word describes a nation where a large enough segment of the population, even after Sandy Hook Elementary, would believe that the answer is more guns in more hands?

Fuck that. It’s simple math. The more guns that are available, legal or otherwise, the more chances there are of someone sufficiently disturbed or evil enough getting their hands on guns to do shit like Sandy Hook.

In spite of that simple environmental fact, there will still be those who think we need more guns in more hands.

I suppose in my ideal world with a 2nd amendment interpretation about well-regulated meaning that the government does have the authority to regulate gun ownership, I would see something like this:

–Individuals could still own guns if they have no criminal record and they receive certification from qualified therapists. At the lowest level of gun training certification, those guns could only be kept at licensed ranges with proper storage facilities. Possession of guns at home would be restricted.

–No more handguns. I know there are some legitimate purposes to handguns even in hunting, but other than that, handguns are more about being able to carry a potentially lethal object without others knowing about it.

–Definite restrictions on how much ammunition a person may be in ownership of.

–Gun buyback program by the government. Buy up the guns that people turn in and melt them down. Maybe turn them into a monument that can be placed in Newtown, maybe a simple monument of two words saying, “Never again.”

–Regulation of what kinds of guns the gun industry can make.

–All gun owners must purchase gun liability insurance, insurance which must cover all health and injury related expenses caused by the gun owner’s gun. If you’re going to own a gun, be prepared to pay a steep price to keep it around. If you let your insurance lapse, your guns are seized.

Work on those areas and over time reduce the number of guns that are out there. No, it won’t stop all massacres, but fuck, it will reduce the ease of someone deranged enough to go on a shooting spree. It’s time for some sane regulation of guns in America. It’s time to kick our love affair with guns to the curb, it’s time to take steps so one day there will be next-to-no-chance of Sandy Hook happening ever again. 20 kids. 20 kids. 20 kids sacrificed for the strange warped conception of freedom by America’s right-wing.

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It’s a rest and recovery week after 4 weeks of heavy lifting. Yesterday I did some pushups, chin ups, light squats, barbell glute bridges and glute-ham raises.

I’ve gained about 5 pounds over the past month, but it’s muscle. So that’s good weight to put on.

glutes and hamstrings versus the quads

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment

The 2 largest muscle groups in the human body are the glutes and the hamstrings. It’s that backside that ought to be propelling you along when you walk and run. But it may be that in this day and age of comfortable chairs and jobs sitting at a desk much of the time, that many people have a posterior chain of reduced consequence. I was thinking about that yesterday as I tried to remain conscious that when I go up the steps, that I put my heel down on the step and drive myself upwards through my heel.

I also carried that same thought into the deadlifts of last evening. I wanted to feel very strongly that I was pushing the basement floor away with my heels. It seemed to work nicely, too. The pulls felt strong and I went to 10 reps, the same number of reps I did last Saturday but with 10 lbs less on the bar.

After deadlifting, I then did some farmer’s walks and closed out with carrying a sandbag with over half my bodyweight for about a 1/4 mile of distance. All in all, it was a good workout. I already feel a lot stronger than almost 4 weeks ago and it feels like I’m being smarter about my training than when I first began fumbling around with strength training back in 2007 — I’m paying more attention to the lower body and paying very close attention that I improve how much the glutes and hamstrings are doing what should be their proper share. If I’m correct in my suspicions, I don’t think it’ll be any great difficulty for me to move past my old deadlift PR. A little over 2x my own bodyweight ain’t a terrible PR, but it’s probably far short of what I should be able to achieve.

Another way I’ve been focusing on reactivating the glutes and hamstrings is to do simple squats more often. Now, when I go to the wood stove and check how it’s doing, I squat down instead of dropping to one or both knees. Doing that, along with the goblet squats in warmups before lifting, has helped a lot with me restoring better hip mobility, and use of the glutes and hamstrings when standing up.

Another daily use trick has been to change how I sit in my office chair. Instead of sitting back fully in it, I sit at the edge of it and with my left and right legs forming a right angle with each other. Then when I stand up, I do it with the thought of the glutes driving my body straight up.

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I almost didn’t want to get out of the bed cocoon this morning. It was one of the colder night we’ve had lately, and it was really nice in that warm shell. The bedroom had become quite chilly overnight.

the 3-week difference

December 10, 2012 Leave a comment

After 3 weeks of lifting again, there are some noticeable changes and results.

— Approximate increase of 18% with deadlifting strength, based upon using a one-rep max calculator on the AMRAP (as many reps as possible) sets of the 5-3-1 template I’m using.

— my body had taken on a kind of slack look to it from the lack of strength training. That slack look is gone. I’m on the skinny side again though. I lost weight during the year and now touch the scale at around 150 pounds.

— the left arm and shoulder looks to be regaining some muscle. That was one of the worst parts with the frozen shoulder, the arm and shoulder couldn’t do too much work and there was muscle loss.

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It’s still important to be patient. I see the improvements coming in and they tempt me — do more work! Hurry it along! But that might not be true. You need rest and recovery, so the body can rebuild, so the nervous system can recharge.

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I finally figured out a good way to do back squats without a rack, but with 2 sawhorses, along with the fact that my left shoulder won’t let me put my hand on the bar if it’s laying on my traps. I put the bar up on the sawhorses, and then I loop the lifting straps I have onto the bar. I squat down underneath the bar, then use my right hand to pull a strap into reach of my left hand, then grab the other strap with my right hand. With those straps I can hold the bar in position. Then I start the squat from the bottom. It works really nice and gives me a way to back squat instead of zercher squat. And thanks to the practice with goblet squats, I’m being very conscious of making sure I squat, rather than leaning forward and then doing a good morning. I also get to squat much deeper than I could with the zercher squats. And you know what? For the first time I think I’m getting a real good bit of work with the glutes.

I had tried the strap idea with front squats before, but I could never get comfortable with how for me the front squat bar position seems to sit very tight against my throat. Seriously hard to breathe. Maybe I’m just being wimpy about it, but maybe it’s also possible that my physical form does put the bar tighter on my throat than for others.

Anyhow, I feel good having found a way to do deep back squats in spite of not having a rack and a left shoulder that still has to thaw out. It’s pretty safe too, since if I can’t squat a weight back up, I just drop down until the sawhorses catch the bar.

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We’re approaching the bottom of darkness here in the northern hemisphere. Something I didn’t realize until a few years ago is that the loss or gain of time for sunrises and sunsets is not symmetrical. In fact, right about now, where I am, there is no more loss of daylight at sunset. By this weekend, the sunset time will start growing later. That’s the most important one for me. I hate, hate, getting home from work and it’s almost dark. I like to have some light left to me at the end of the day.

Of course that means it won’t be until some point in early January when the sunrises will reverse course, but that’s not as hard on me.

Still, today is going to be tough. Foggy, gray, dismal, dreary. It’s going to be one of those days where I will feel so thirsty for light it’s almost like the thirst I felt when I became diabetic almost 28 years ago. A desperate thirst for light, like my body might start wasting away

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Just got back my bloodwork results. A1c of 6.2%, first one I had over 6 in a while, but I don’t mind it. I’ve tried to be a bit more relaxed on things and also have fewer hypos. Lipids were good, total cholesterol of 183, HDL 75, LDL 97, and triglycerides of 54. So my doctor ought to be happy with those.