It's almost been a month since I last posted about my back injury and what I was going to do moving forward. I'm happy to report that I've started adding Leg Presses back into my lower body days with no pain. Next week I'm going to start Deadlifting again. I'm still holding off on Squats because they have caused me the most pain over the last month. In the meantime I've been doing what I think every strength athlete should do when they are injured: bodybuilding!
The results have been pretty great. My pressing and back days feel strong. I've been enjoying hitting rep PRs and adding in old favorites like Arnold Presses and Lat Pulldowns. I've seen the biggest change in my arms which is kind of funny because I still don't give them their own training day. I just tack on an arm exercise or two at the end of Pressing and Pulling days.
I'm coming for you Cory Lagasse and Brook "The Brick" Wilkerling haha. But seriously, for a few weeks I was really feeling down in the dumps because I had one frustrating training session after another. I'd go in feeling like Tarzan, hurt myself doing something that aggravated my back, and leave feeling like a 75 year old hobbler. Since I talked with Derek about the injury and started training smarter, I've had little to no pain and have found ways to enjoy training while I can't Squat heavy.
Eating has been going really well too. I figure I'm on the right track when I continuously amaze my coworkers with the amount of food I eat during an 8 hour shift ;).
That's about all I have to report for today. I feel some nice PRs coming in the Overhead Press in my future. I'll keep you posted.....and leave you with this:
Injuries are humbling. Overcoming them is inspiring. Balance is lovely.
I can't even remember when now, but sometime around 6 weeks or so ago I strained the muscles of my lower back. I assume everyone knows what it's like to have a sore lower back, but this was to the point where sitting was the most painful thing I did all day. After a few days it felt fine, or so I thought. I tried Deadlifting again. Same result. Ouch. Okay, so I decide to take a hiatus from Deadlifts and just keep everything else the same. Fast forward to last week. After each Squat session my back feels incredibly tight and tender. I ignore it because it's nothing like the pain I felt when I first hurt it. I decide to "rehab" my lower back muscles by adding in Good Mornings and light Stiff Legged Deadlifts. Big mistake. On the 3rd set of Stiff Legged Deads with just 185lbs, my lower back spasms and pain shoots up and down the right side of the area. At this point I was so angry that I just put my weights away and went home. The next day my back felt pretty much fine, a little tender; just like it has for over a month now.
There's nothing more frustrating to a lifter than being injured. It knocks the wind out of your sails and really makes you question the whole "I am superhuman-nothing-can-destroy-my-awesomeness" thing that you usually have going on. Basically I just feel really vulnerable when I'm injured. So what now?
I know people who work through their injuries, much like I was trying to do. They keep it light, but push as hard as their body will let them. My body has let me know multiple times that it's just not having any of that until it heals up. In the few training sessions since that Stiff Legged Deadlift debacle, I've come to a few conclusions. Here's a note I wrote in my training log on February 1st:
"Until your lower back starts feeling better do GHR, Leg Curls, Leg Extensions, and possibly lunges for Leg Day. Hit them hard, with a vengeance.
Do Pull Ups, Pull Downs, and Face Pulls on Back Day.
Keep pressing hard! Add more arm and shoulder work into your routine.
Do sprints to make up for lost training intensity for your legs.
Keep your spirits up and do what you can to progress in other ways while you heal!!!"
-Bench 95x5, 135x5, 185x5, 225x5, 205x8x8x8x7x6
-DB Incline Bench 60'sx12, 65'sx10, 70'sx10
-DB Flat Bench 70'sx8, 65'sx15x15
-Back Ext 10, 12, 12, +10x12, +25x12
-Leg Ext. 90x15, 105x15, 120x15, 135x15, 150x15, 165x15, 180x15
-Leg Curl 80x15, 100x15x15, 110x15
-GHR 10, 12, 12
-Leg Press Calf Raises 450x10x15x15x15x15
-Fat Grip Curls for the Girls 30'sx20x20x20, 35'sx20x20
I was down in NYC at my girlfriend's apartment. While she ran 10 miles training for a half marathon she's doing at the end of the month, I obliterated my shoulders and arms at the gym of Fordham University in the Bronx. I have to admit, as a kid from Green Bay, it was pretty cool to workout in the Vince Lombardi Training Center.
I didn't have my training notebook, or a plan. The gym had all kinds of wacky machines that I hadn't used in years. I started out doing a heavy overhead pressing workout, working up to doing a few heavy sets of 5 on the Seated Dumbbell Press. After that I shifted to full-on bodybuilder mode and just did set after set after set of presses, raises, curls, and extensions. My arms and shoulders are a blob of painful jelly today and it feels.....awesome!
So I've just had to shift my priorities and remember that an injury is just temporary. Eventually it will heal and I'll be back squatting and deadlifting heavy in no time. In the meantime, maybe I can add some thickness to this 192 pound frame ;) Let the games begin!
I think it's important to have goals for how you envision yourself transforming on your lifting journey. Here's mine. What's yours??
My shift toward a more bodybuilder-style of training has been going very well. Aside from some issues with my lower back being tight (my own fault for cutting out deadlifting for too long) I've been feeling strong and healthy. I decided to train this way for awhile for a number of reasons. A few months ago I was starting to feel pretty beat up and my strength was stalling out. This gives my body a break from the heaviest lifting week in and week out which was wreaking havoc on my joints. Another benefit is of course that wonderful side effect of reps known as hypertrophy ;). No complaints there!
Around 2 months ago I switched from primarily ground beef, eggs and bacon to chicken, turkey, uncured turkey bacon, eggs, and fish for my protein needs. I feel...."lighter" I guess is the best way to put it. It feels good. I've been able to eat more because I can get higher quality versions of those for cheaper than decent ground beef. I also just feel like I am able to eat more in a sitting than when I was downing beef everyday.
Here's some recent training sessions:
-Military Press 95x5, 115x5, 135x5, 155x5, 145x5x5
-Arnold Presses 40'sx10x10x10
-DB Lateral Raises 20'sx12x12x12x12
-Power Clean 135x3, 185x1, 205x1, 225x1
-Barbell Rows 95x5, 135x5, 185x12x12x12x10x10
-Pull Ups/Pulldowns 14/150x10x10x10, 140x10x10
-Bench 135x8, 155x5, 185x5, 205x3, 225x3, 245x3
-Slingshot Bench 275x3x3x3
-Bench Bodyweight for Reps 190x12
-DB Incline Bench 60'sx11x15, 70'sx10
-DB Flat Bench 60'sx12x12, 50'sx17
-Squats 145x5, 195x5, 235x3, 285x3, 315x3x3x3
-Leg Press 260x15, 350x10x10x10
-Stiff-Legged Deadlifts 135x7x7x7x7
Notes: My lower back was killing me this day.
-Good Mornings 105x8x8x8
-Back Extensions 10,10,10
-Barbell Rows 115x6, 155x5, 195x8, 205x8x8x10
-Pull Ups/Pulldowns 20/160x10, 150x10x10x10
-Seated Rows 180x10x12x10
Notes: Lower back was still very tender, but otherwise I felt great.
-Military Press 95x5, 115x5, 125x10x9x9x8x8
-Arnold Presses 45'sx8x8x10
-Triceps Extensions 100x20, 110x20x16
-Lateral Raises 25'sx15x15x15
My heart goes out to Brandon Lilly as he recovers from the surgeries on his legs. I'm sure he'll be back in the game before we know it!
I'll leave you with my prediction for Sunday's game ;)
For the past 2 or 3 weeks, about an hour before I head to the gym I eat this:
-2/3 cup of oats
-1 scoop of protein
-2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
-2 dollops Greek Yogurt
-A handful of sunflower seeds
-Sprinkle in cinnamon
-Add blueberry syrup to taste
Add hot water. Mi it all up. Enjoy!
The blueberry syrup has just been to change it up. I usually use honey or pure maple syrup. I don't go nuts with the sweetener, but since it's right before training I don't worry too much about it. I wouldn't recommend eating this hearty meal any sooner than an hour before the gym because you'll need that time to digest.
It's delicious though and seems to power me through workouts. And if you're poor like me, you'll appreciate how many quality calories you can pack in for so cheap.
I was passed up for a position within the agency I work for today. I have a sick feeling in my stomach that it was almost certainly because I was honest and up front with them about the very real possibility of me moving in 6-8 months to finish my master's degree in another state. I didn't want to hide that from them and deceive them into thinking I was a lifer, but in hindsight maybe that's what I should have done. This is a high turnover industry that burns a lot of people out and I am very good at what I do. Now it's back to scrambling for hours, working an erratic schedule from week to week to try and make ends meet out here; all while remaining a strong and positive influence to the kids in our programs.
In reality though it's just another hurdle in a big, long line of hurdles I've been jumping since I left home 6 years ago. Some how, some way, I've managed to clear every single one of those hurdles to get me to this one. So I see absolutely no reason to believe I can't get by this time around.
As I'm sure I've said before on here, music helps me process life. It's the filter I pass things through when nobody's around and it's just me and my thoughts. Part of what keeps me so positive about life all the time is that there's always a song out there that taps directly into my being. It's what lets me know that someone out there, at some point in their life, was dealing with something just like me; and they immortalized it in a song so that the moment is forever frozen in time to remind people that they're not alone in whatever it is that they're experiencing.
My girlfriend pokes fun at me sometimes because so much of the music I listen to is powerful, emotional music filled with love, pain, grief, sorrow, loss, anger, etc. I listen to that because it's how I get past the tough things, and one way I truly feel and appreciate the good things. When I find a really good love song, I don't think it's cheesy or corny. I immediately connect and relate to that feeling that's like no other. I'm so grateful to have a lot of love in my life. It's incredible and music takes me there. It reminds me when no one else is around.
The music of Aloe Blacc has really inspired me lately. I hope you'll give it a listen. Maybe you can relate it to something in your life. The first song is how I felt most of the day today. The second is how I feel once I step back, process the situation, and make a conscious decision to move forward and conquer it.
There are many ways to gauge progress in life. The last week or so I've been feeling pretty great about just about everything.
It's easy to get caught up in a net of self pity when I start focusing on how much I don't like the city I live in, how I'm not as big or strong as I thought I'd be by now, or how few digits my bank accounts regularly show. It's also January; which means unless you're living down south or even better, in the southern hemisphere.....the weather sucks. In Connecticut that means it's grey, wet, cold (not Midwest cold, but you know...brisk), dirty, and with all those leafless trees, generally drab. Every once in awhile I fall into that trap where I focus on too many of those things and it really starts to wear me down.
My best friend from back home was living with me in CT from August until just before Christmas. Then he moved back west. On January 2nd I dropped my girlfriend off for her 18 day fellowship in the Philippines. Most of my friends out here are from the gym or live anywhere in the state but Waterbury. What I'm trying to say is I've had a lot of time to think and reflect about things in the last week or so. And in that time, I've realized that I am an incredibly lucky, and genuinely happy individual.
I have a 2 bedroom apartment for just me and my dog, an incredible girlfriend who inspires me everyday, a family that loves me. I'm finally getting consistent hours at my job that will allow me to not live life so close to financial ruin. I have been eating a very consistent, nourishing diet of oats, almonds, eggs, turkey bacon, tons of veggies, Greek yogurt, loads of chicken, and rice. To most, this probably seems pretty boring. Trust me, without my friends barbecue sauce, sriracha, Frank's Red Hot, honey, and cinnamon....it would be. But the increased hours at work and the consistent diet have had some awesome effects on my training.
I've been training more consistently, with a clear focus, and SURPRISE!!! My results have been consistently on the rise. I've shifted to a primarily bodybuilding focused style of training that has been keeping me feeling healthy and strong. My deadlift is still down, but I expected that when I switched to a higher volume training where the deadlift is more of an accessory lift than a primary focus. I feel great. I'm starting to notice increased hypertrophy that I haven't seen in a long time.
I read something a friend of mine posted on Facebook titled "17 Signs You Graduated in 2004, 2005, 0r 2006". Some of it was funny, most of it was sad, and this....this was just pathetic:
"16. Your body is turning on you. Metabolism is slowing down, bones are constantly sore, changes are happening for the worse. People who used to devour pints of ice cream are now lactose intolerant, everything is going awry. It’s requiring you to watch what you eat, workout routinely (stretch before said workout or pay dearly for your carelessness), and basically realize just how mortal you are.
17. Your brain is corroding. Your knowledge is fading. Facts and formulas are being forgotten, math skills are rusty. The plus side is that you can use that newfound space in your brain on fun things like sports statistics, your various passwords and the classic moments you’re currently experiencing in your 20s."
This is written for people like myself who are between 25-28 years old. What?!? Your body is turning on you?? Then you need to get your sad sappy self to something heavy and just start picking it up. Hold on to it. Walk with it. Throw it. Anything to strengthen that devolving sack of bones you've become in such a remarkably short time. And READ BOOKS. Put down your handheld electronic brain sucking device, unplug yourself from the matrix and READ A REAL BOOK. Alright, end of rant.
Long story short: I miss my girlfriend, but I'm feeling generally fantastic about things and not like my body is turning against me in the prime of my 20's.
Mark Felix began his lifting journey as a bodybuilder for many years. He didn't start his Strongman career until 2003 at the age of 37. He still competes at the top level of the sport today, 11 years later and in his late 40's. Chew on that if you're feeling "old" in your mid twenties.
December 14, 2012 is one of those days I will never forget. I had been living in Connecticut for about 5 months and was about 3 months into the best relationship of my life. When the reports started coming out that there had been a shooting at a school in Connecticut, none of us in the office really knew what was going on. Then we heard it was in Newtown, just 10 minutes west on I-84; also the town where my girlfriend's mom works at a school. I remember the lump in my throat and the pit in my stomach as I watched my girlfriend scramble to get in touch with her mom.
Those were tense moments. Finally we had contact. She was alright.
There was a very brief moment of relief, but as the reports kept coming, reality sank in and hit me as hard as anything ever has.
20 children and 6 adults had been killed.
Even a year later I can't wrap my mind around the "why". I don't think anyone ever will. I know there is nothing I can do to ease the pain of the families or to give those kids and those adults their futures. All I can do is remember and act accordingly.
Today was a difficult day to train. The number 26 kept creeping into my mind. I hated that I knew the name of the killer, but could only remember a few of the children's names. I decided to end each exercise with a repetition for every one of them, saying their names in my mind so that I would remember the lives they will never live.
-Squats 135x5x5, 185x5, 225x5, 275x5, 300x5x5x5, 135x26
-Bench Press 135x5x5, 185x5, 205x3, 225x5, 135x26
-Pull Ups 26
-Fat Grip Curls 25'sx26x26x26
-Triceps Extensions 80x26x26x26
Be thankful today for everyone and everything you have.
"Feel my way through the darkness, guided by a beating heart."
I've been lost in my head a lot lately. I almost hurt myself deadlifting 365 yesterday because I just wasn't present; my mind was off somewhere else letting my body go through the motions of training. Last week I pulled 365x9 as if it were an empty bar. It's hard to describe how I've been feeling lately, but I'm going to try right here.
I hold myself to an impossible standard of the things I want to accomplish in this life. Nine days out of ten I feel good about the choices I've made and the things I've done; the people and organizations I've been with that have lead me to where I am. But when that tenth day rolls around, I start dreaming. I start asking a lot of questions. I get overwhelmed with emotion and desire and this burning feeling inside of me that I'm not doing enough, that I can be more than this. That I'm capable of so much more than this.
"I tried carrying the weight of the world, but I only have two hands."
I have tried to be too many people that I'm not and I'm finally starting to realize that I can't keep comparing myself and my life to those who I hold in the highest esteem. I'm not fashionable. I might never be. I don't really care about football. It's fun to watch sometimes and more fun to play, but I just can't sit around all Sunday and watch it. I admire the hard work and dedication of the players and coaches to their craft. I don't care about Dexter or Breaking Bad or Pretty Little Liars. I admire the writers, directors, and actors. I admire their hard work and dedication to their passion. There's too much living to be done to live life passively. I am in a constant struggle to figure out how to cross that line. How do I become a content creator instead of a content consumer? How do I master my craft? What is my craft? How do I maximize my potential to enact positive change in this world?
"Hope I get the chance to travel the world, but I don't have any plans."
The answer is: I don't know. I hope this graduate degree will open some more doors. I hope these 20 or so pages of material I'm about to write about social business and the 15 or so I'm writing about the cultural and religious conflicts between China and Tibet will lead to something. I hope the endless hours of training in the gym is leading toward something, toward maximizing that potential that I know is in there.
"Life's a game made for everyone and love is the prize."
I do know there's something to this "love" thing. I know it has completely changed my life for the better. And I know that I'm a better person because of it. I also know that I'm not entirely sure what the point of this post was or if it even makes sense, but that I'm glad I wrote it. I think that statement applies to a lot of my life. I'm not always sure why or where, but I'm always glad I did.
I've had a whirlwind of experiences over the last few days. Halloween night was spent wearing a purple shirt my roommate made for me of Haunter's face from Pokemon, drinking Sam Adams Fat Jack Imperial Pumpkin Ale and watching old episodes of Tales From the Crypt. The girl at the liquor store counter recognized the face and asked me if my shirt was indeed a Pokemon. Without hesitation, I responded in the affirmative. Before that though, I did this:
-Squats 135x5x5, 185x5, 225x5, 265x5, 295x6
-Bench 135x5, 185x5, 205x5x5x5x5x5
-Pull Ups 15, 15, 11, 9
-Side Bends 62x25x25
-Triceps Extensions 90x20x20x20
On Friday, I finished up a 3 month project at work and was immediately offered a host of new positions with the agency. To celebrate we drank a dangerously delicious scotch ale from North Carolina aptly named "Old Chub". As you can see I've definitely been taking to heart Willimantic Brewing Company's slogan "I'm Saving My Carbs for Beer". But hey, it's a holiday weekend, right?
Saturday's training was another solid session. I read Matt Mills' arm training for strength athletes article and infused some of that into the day.
-Deficit Deadlifts 135x5, 185x5, 225x3, 275x3, 315x3, 365x9
-Overhead Press 95x5, 115x5, 135x5x5x5x5x5
-Fat Grip DB Curls 25'sx12x12x12
-Fat Grip Reverse Curls 55x9x10x9
-Triceps Band Extensions Purple x12x12x12
Saturday night was Derek and Kristin's Housewarming Party which, as you'd imagine was filled with fantastic food and beverages. I truly am lucky to count them as friends. I wouldn't have lasted in Waterbury for nearly as long as I have without them.
I've also heard rumor that Derek's training will be kicking it up a notch in the coming weeks. This is fantastic news because when Derek starts hitting it hard in training it lights a fire in the gym that spreads to everyone else. I don't think he realizes that he has that power, but you can definitely feel it. When Derek is moving weight, PR's start happening left and right for everyone in the gym, myself included :)
Then we roll around to Sunday, today. I didn't watch a single game of football today and to tell you the truth, it never even crossed my mind. I spent my day reading Charles Fishman's The Big Thirst and listening to beautiful sad songs by Will Hoge, Trampled by Turtles, Blackstone Cherry, Tom Waits, Charlie Parr, Jack White, and Cloud Cult. It was one of those rare days when I found myself really reflecting on my life, my emotions, and other things too complicated to put into words. I connected with my sister today who I haven't seen since July and realized how much I miss hanging out with her and how little I know about what's going on in her life. Family is an incredible thing and I'm infinitely lucky in that regard. My Dad sent me some money to buy a nice bottle of bourbon because he remembered that one year ago today my greatest companion, my partner in crime, the first dog I ever owned since moving out on my own in this crazy world, passed away in a freak accident. This beautiful beast so full of life and love was gone, just like that on November 3rd, 2012.
A year later I find myself reflecting on the lessons that Fugee taught me about loving unconditionally and living unconditionally. I'm proud to say that I do my best to live a life filled with love, respect, and an endless curiosity. For my birthday when my girlfriend and I were driving through Vermont I thought about Fugee constantly because I felt that overwhelming desire to try to take in every site and smell and taste that I could. She really taught me about the importance of living life on your own terms.
I remember the day of this picture like it was yesterday. There were all kinds of issues going on in my life, but for Fugee, this little slice of Minnesota wilderness was the only thing on her mind. What was around the next turn? What's under that log? What on earth is that smell over there? Oooo! A squirrel!! In retrospect, as usual, the things I was so worried about on that day were nothing in the scheme of my life. As for the memories of fun times exploring the woods with my pooch? Those are there til I'm 6 feet under and they will always make me smile.
Life is full of distractions that take us away from what really matters: good times, good friends, and the people we love.....and single malt whiskey ;). Don't forget to smile and let the people in your life know how much they mean to you.
Live with love.
PS- A huge THANK YOU to Norah Remmers for painting that beautiful portrait of the beloved blockheaded beast
October 20th was my 26th birthday (man, where does the time go? Seriously.) So far 26 feels pretty great though. I'm healthy, strong, bearded, employed, and in a wonderful relationship. All is well. However as I welcomed my 26th year, I tempted Death to take me when my roommate, aka Wall-E the Robot Wizard Warlock, created this behemoth of a birthday cake for me. I can't reveal its exact contents because even the knowledge is a dangerous thing, but I do know that hidden underneath that sweet, innocent chocolate coating was 7 sticks of butter, a jar of peanut butter, and at least 11 eggs. The handle was a solid homemade peanut butter cup; easily 2000 calories on its own. This thing was so decadent, so rich and compact, that eating more than 5 or 6 bites sent weaker friends into diabetic comas. Wally said the theme of this cake was "Weight Gain 4000" from the South Park episode where Cartman needs to beef up. So if any of you are looking to move up a weight class and you can't be bothered with things like health or morals, this cake is for you. Wally's services can be contracted through this blog. He'd be happy to assist your slow sugary, buttery suicide.
Before that onslaught though, my lovely lady and I took a trek up north to central Vermont where we toured the Longtrail and Harpoon breweries, and the Silo distillery, as well as ate some delicious Vermont cheeses (don't worry Wisconsin, you'll always be my favorite). The fresh mountain air was a welcome change from whatever I'm breathing in Connecticut. It also provided another opportunity for me to realize the value of rest.
That short trip kept me away from the weights for 3 full days and I didn't even think about training. I just allowed myself to live in that wonderful moment with the lady I love. When I got back to the gym the next week, I was more focused, my body was ready to go, and I felt recharged in my goals and ambitions with the iron. Never underestimate the power of doing nothing!
I've also been getting tired of listening to the same music over and over and over. I went to the radio for guidance, but that was completely useless. Ten songs played on loop with constant interruptions from ads. Nonsense. I'm not paying for Pandora, I don't own any headphones right now anyway so Spotify and similar services only work when I'm home. I do most of my jamming in the car. So I've decided to go inward instead and explore the depths of my lofty music collection in hopes that I'll stumble upon something I've never heard or don't remember. And it's been working! I've rediscovered music by Cloud Cult, Eluveitie, Doomtree, and The Nightwatchman. And I have found some "new" stuff I never even knew i had like this:
Who says you have to buy stuff just because you're bored? Happy training!