Thursday, April 28, 2011

Personal Training - 4/26/11

Okay. This is not easy for me to say, but my wife kicked my butt on Tuesday. She outlasted me at most of the exercises we were doing. I can make excuses about me using heavier weights or whatever, but the truth is that she's freaking hardcore and I'm a tiny squalling infant. Now that we've established that, let's get down to the real business at hand.

This weekend, we ate like crap. Really crap. We had a potluck dinner on Friday and I consumed a ton of meatballs soaked in BBQ sauce, chocolates, cookies, chips, etc. the only vaguely healthy thing I ate the whole time was hummus with pita chips. I honestly don't even know if that's healthy, it's just not drenched in chocolate or sugar, so it has to be better than everything else. So that was Friday. Saturday morning we ate okay, but dinner time was an exercise in dietary seppuku. We had double cheeseburgers from Freddy's, and I also had an order of chili cheese fries to go along with it. here's where the whole thing gets downright funny. We had looked up the nutritional value of Freddy's frozen custards after our last trip and learned they averaged about 900 apiece for the smallest size. So we decided to go to Dairy Queen for dessert instead. At least they're only 350 calories, right? Jeez. Then Sunday we ate pretty well for breakfast, before going over to my parents' house to spend some time with my dad on Easter. I finished off three bags of chips (mostly empty, I was just helping them get the bags out of the pantry. Honest.) and then ate a whole bag of microwave popcorn and a box of Reese's Pieces all by myself. Then it was time for dinner. See what I'm talking about? Awful. We went to Saltgrass Steakhouse and it was actually very good. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the steaks there. So I got a 10-oz ribeye, ate a caesar salad and then my dad and I shared a giant chunk of cheesecake for dessert. Is this sounding at all like the diet of a man who's trying to lose weight? No. No it isn't.

So on Saturday morning, I weighed 237.8 even after the whole potluck thing the night before. By Monday morning, I was back up over 240 again. As of this morning (Thursday) I'm back down to 238.4 again. If I had eaten more reasonably over the weekend, I would easily be below 235 now, which is my first big milestone (10 pounds lost, also the least I've weighed in years). If those 10 pounds lost are all fat, that means I'm halfway to my goal of losing 20 pounds of fat in less than 4 weeks. See how exciting that would be? My plan to lose 20 pounds was on a 12-week schedule. It seems that by watching what I eat and working out just a few times a week, I can shed easily 2 pounds per week. It's almost like my body wants to be healthy. Weird.

My food log is working beautifully. We've gotten to the point now where most of what we eat is in there, so I have to add foods less often. In another few weeks, I'm anticipating that will happen even less often. I have a few dream features I'd love to put into it, but I sort of doubt I'll get there. It's complicated enough as is, and as long as I'm intending it to be used primarily by me (which I am) there's no reason to worry about making it super user-friendly. I'm still pushing for 2800 calories per day, and getting there much more easily some days than others.

Now, for the workout on Tuesday. We started out on the treadmill again. After all the incline work we've been doing, my lower back no longer gets sore while I'm walking up a steep incline. I hadn't noticed it before this session, but I think that's huge. Even when Gilles had us jog up a 15% incline, my lower back still didn't hurt at all. You read that right. Jogging. We jogged for 30 seconds up the incline, and then rested for 30 seconds. Repeated that about 5 times. After that, he taught us a new stretch for our hip flexors, since we were working them pretty hard on the treadmill. Then, we did a circuit of upper body and core work. Gilles wasn't fooling around this week. he said he's going to really start pushing us now, and he wasn't kidding. We did 30 second sets of pushups, shoulder presses, planks, bicep curls and v-sits (w/ chops and overhead throws). I think that was the order, but I don't remember for sure. We did 3-4 rounds of that, and I was absolutely shot. The pushups killed my shoulders right off the bat and everything else started failing from there. I can't blame it all on my shoulders though, because I was also sucking at the v-sits, and those don't have anything to do with shoulders. My wife, however, was a rockstar. She was rock solid on her planks and v-sits, and did very well on her bicep curls, presses and pushups. I'm so proud of her!

After that, we went to the free range elliptical and got to work again. Doing leg work on an upper body day? Gilles was punishing us for something I don't remember doing. We hadn't been to the gym (except for a trip on Sunday involving some goofy racquetball and basketball games) since the previous Wednesday, and i foolishly told him how poorly we'd eaten that weekend. Maybe that's why he punished us. It seems to have worked, though. My weight today indicates that a good hard workout is exactly what I needed. So far, Gilles has only ever had us doing the stair stepping style of workout on those machines, and this time he had us crank the resistance way up. We did that for about 10-12 minutes (don't remember exactly) and then stretched out. It was really hard, but it felt good to get my blood pumping again.

We have another session tonight, which should focus on lower body. After this, we only have two more personal sessions with Gilles, and then we're probably going to switch to the group classes that he teaches. Should be fun, and it will still help to keep us on track. Plus, it'll get us two training sessions per week for less than it would cost to do our semi-private training only once per week, which was the other option.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I've been slacking on my updates, unfortunately. We've got more fun stuff going on.

Jenna wasn't feeling well on Tuesday, so I was on my own for the upper body session. Lifetime closed Thursday and Friday this week, so our Thursday class got bumped to Wednesday night. Sounds like a fun time, right? Here's how it all went down.

On Tuesday, with Jenna absent, Gilles really got to focus on making me miserable with heavy weights. Not even all that heavy, but pretty heavy. We did our normal treadmill warmup, then hit some machines. Normally I'm not a huge fan of machines because I prefer to get the full free weight range of motion and stabilizing muscles and all, but these weren't too bad. They really helped me focus on a couple of muscle groups that I normally end up ignoring and compensating for with other muscles. We also do supersets to keep up my heart rate. So we did chest presses on the machine, with v-sit chops (and the catching and throwing of the medicine ball) while I was resting. he had me throw the ball from behind my head instead of my chest to force me to work my core and balance more. I did several sets of that, 3 each I think. Then we switched to lat pulldowns on a different machine. I've done those before, but I'd never actually felt it in my lats. It turns out I was letting my shoulders rise when the weight was high, and then kept them there through the whole rep. It takes the focus off your lats that way and that's why I'd never felt the exercise in the right spot before. Good to know. So we alternated those with medicine ball chest passes. Did 4 sets of those. Then we went and did some pushups and incline pullups on the squat rack. I still think that is a downright awesome idea. The pullups were tough, as it seemed like I could never get the right angle on them. I took an underhanded grip on the bar, and angled my body (feet pushed out in front of me, chest under the bar) and started pulling. I didn't do so hot. We raised the bar more and decreased the angle and it got much easier. We pounded out 3 sets of those as well. Then to the bosu ball again. This time, I was standing on the flat side with the bulgy side down, which is much harder to balance on. Gilles gave me two 20-pounds dumbbells and had me curl them while standing on the ball. That was tough. I had to really crank down on my core to stabilize myself. Then I had to do shoulder presses (after my pushups, which always ruins me) on the ball with 5-pound dumbbells. Did I mention that my shoulders are my weakest link? I think I have. I should say it again. My shoulders are not just weak, they're "tiny blond girl with pigtails" weak. It's sad. I'm working on it, though. So after that, we stretched out and called it a day.

The following day, we came back and got ready to do lower body. Again, warmed up on the treadmill, then got to work. We didn't go to any of our normal haunts, though. Gilles took us down to the indoor turf field for some lunges. He also had us do some dynamic warmup exercises, which were fun. Let's of side shuffling, high knees, butt-kickers, and high kicks down and back. Then lunges. Then wall sits. More lunges. More wall sits. It was seriously tough. Both Jenna and I were pretty wobbly after all of that. As far as I can remember, we spent pretty much the whole session down there, so I think that's about all the detail I can give on our activity. it was cool to get out of the "gym" part of the gym and go do something different, for sure. Then stretching and we were done.

Also, I've been tracking my food on a food log I built in Excel. I love Excel. Like a man loves a woman. Anyway, this food log is sweet. It's like those online ones that are already built and loaded with tons of nutrition info, but this one took me many hours to put together myself. So...I guess it's awesome if you think spending hours futzing with Excel formulas is awesome. I do. You probably don't. According to my Fitpoint, based on my activity level and my lean body mass, my daily maintenance level of calories is about 3300-3500. The fitpoint recommended I go with a 20% calorie reduction per day, to get to about 2700-2800 calories. Gilles suggested a macronutrient ratio of 50% carbs, 25% fat and 25% protein. It's pretty close to what I've read in other sources, and it seems like a pretty reasonable split, overall. I don't like anything that's really super drastic, because it seems like that stuff always ends up biting you in the end.

So anyway, I have this food log, we have a little digital kitchen scale, and I've been tracking my calories. Turns out I've had a hell of a time eating enough. Odd, right? It turns out that when you're trying to keep your total calories to a specific ratio, it's tough to pack in all those extra calories. I can eat a 2,000 calories meal without even stopping to take a breath, but it's mostly fat and sugar. Obviously, that's not cutting it. So I'm having to find ways to pack in more healthy calories. It's a good problem to have, certainly. I'm finding ways to pack in more calories without upsetting my ratios, by adding lean proteins and whole grains and beans and such

 We're also finding that cooking the same portions for me and Jenna isn't really going to work, since she's supposed to be eating about half as much as I am. That's going to be easier to manage with the scale, at least.

So there you have it. All the updates that you could want, right? But wait, there's more! I weighed myself this morning (after breakfast, like a dolt) and found that I am significantly below the 240 mark. I was at 239.2 if I remember correctly. This morning (Saturday), weighing before breakfast, I'm at 237.8, which means I've lost about 7 pounds in three weeks. Not too shabby at all. I'm already almost down to my lowest weight in recent years, and much more quickly than it happened last time.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Personal Training - 4/12/11

Last night, we did our first joint personal training session. I think it went extremely well. here's what we did.

First, we did a quick 6-minute warmup on the treadmill together, just to get the blood flowing a bit. Then we did our three big stretches (both of us are super tight all along the backs of our legs, so we stretch glutes, hamstrings and calves) on the stretching tables. Then Gilles took us over to another couple of treadmills and had us do the climbing thing. Start out at 0% incline and a comfortable fast walking pace, then every minute, increase the incline by 2% until you get to 12, then increase to 15% for the last minute. I was wearing my HRM and after we got home I watched my heart rate graph just climb and climb while we were doing that. It's a very good way to slowly and steadily increase your heart rate, for sure. I think I got up to about 165 bpm or so.

That's the prep phase. I like it because it gets your really warm and gets your heart pumping, so the circuit training stuff just sorta keeps your heart rate high. Speaking of circuit training, that's what we did next. He took us over to a squat cage and brought a half-ball thingy called a Bosu, a floor mat and a medicine ball. He said he likes the squat cage for pushups because you can adjust the bar up and down to make them harder or easier. I hadn't thought of that, but it's really pretty ingenious. So we did 30-second stations. 30 seconds of pushups, then 30 seconds of squatting on the Bosu, 30 seconds of one-leg plank (half with each leg) and 30 seconds of "Chops," which is what he calls a v-sit with a medicine ball touching it side to side. Then a minute rest, then all the same, but for 40 seconds. Gilles is big on doing exercises that have progressions, which I like. Pushups too hard? Don't stop, just raise the bar and do easier pushups. Too easy? Put your feet on the bar and do the pushups on the floor (we're not there, so I'm guessing that's what you could do). Squatting on the ball too hard? Just stand on it, or squat a little higher. Too easy? Maybe do one leg standing and eventually one leg squatting. Again, we haven't gotten to that point, but I'm seeing how the exercises he's picking allow you to increase and decrease the difficulty across a whole range. Planks, you can do one leg, both legs or drop to your knees if you have to. The v-sits you can use the medicine ball, just sit, or sit and support with your hands behind your butt if you have to. That way you're not just wearing yourself out and twiddling your thumbs for the rest of the station, you get to keep working for the whole time.

Next, we took a decent break and then went and got some resistance bands with handles on them. We did shoulder presses and bicep curls. i tried to do the presses with the band, but the angles were weird and the bands just ended up rubbing on my arms the whole time. not the end of the world, but very distracting and uncomfortable. One thing I will mention is that Gilles had us take a different stance for shoulder presses than I usually do. He said that standing with your feet together (front and back-wise) has a tendency to make you lean back at the waist, which is bad for your back. So he had us put one foot forward and lean our chest out over the front leg and push up from there. It was different, but I could definitely tell that it took a lot of strain off my back. I was only using 10-pound dumbbells (when the band wasn't working so hot) and still struggling like mad after the pushups. For whatever reason, pushups make my shoulders tired before just about anything else. I think it's because they're one of my weakest links. I know my form is good, so I don't think that's the issue. Anyway, these shoulder presses with 10-pound dumbbells are really kicking my butt. I finish them out and we do resistance band bicep curls. Those aren't as bad. I can hang with those. Then we go back and do more shoulder presses. I'm really struggling. I finish them, but just barely. More curls. Gilles gets me 5-pound dumbbells for the next set of presses. I mention that I'm really glad that I'm married because I am picking up exactly zero chicks with my current lifting regimen. The 5-pounders are still tough. My shoulders are just freaking shot after the pushups. Gilles says he has some pink vinyl-covered 2.5 pounders he could grab, but he won't do that to me. I appreciate it. I manage to finish that set, then do my curls. He gives us a longer break for water and I'm able to pound out all the presses with the 5-pounders after that. Then he has us do the curls, but he has me keep doing them as fast as I can until Jenna finished hers.

We finish up with more stretches, and we're all done. Neither of us could really use our arms effectively. We drove through chick-fil-a to get non-fried chicken sandwiches because we weren't confident we'd be able to use our arms well enough to make food at home. I was so worn out I couldn't even pick the tomato off my sandwich. I just ate it. Like a chump. And it wasn't very good, but I did it anyway because I was starving and exhausted.

Here's what I learned: Every workout has four components, which I had learned previously: Cardio, Strength, Core and Stability. This time, Gilles actually went through them with us one by one and had us identify which component each of our workouts was working on. So for Cardio, the treadmill obviously, and also the quick pace of the circuit workouts. For Strength, basically everything. for Core, the planks and the chops, but also the bosu ball squats and the pushups to a lesser extent. For Stability, certainly the bosu ball and the chops, with the planks a little bit as well. He also asked us what we felt the focus of the workout was. We worked our legs a little and our cores a lot, but it was definitely mostly an upper body day. It was cool that he had us identify what we were doing and what it was working on for us. It's helping us figure out how to build routines for ourselves, how to put together circuits for different days, what exercises are good for what, and how they complement each other. That's all exactly the sort of stuff I wanted out of my training time.

So there you have it. Day one of our joint sessions. Thursday will be lower body, and we're both looking forward to that in a dread sort of way. Can't wait to see what Gilles has in store for us!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Training Update

Okay, I haven't posted much, but quite a bit has happened.

Last time I posted, I had just finished my boot camp class. Since then, Jenna went in and did her Fitpoint with Gilles and then I had my first session with my new trainer, Rosa.

I was wary of having a woman trainer, probably because I'm a big sexist jerk and a bad person and someone should kill me with rocks, etc. Still, I went in and gave her a fair shake. She was nice and gave me a good workout, but we just didn't really click. Part of it is because I have a few very specific things I want from a trainer.

I want a trainer to teach me how not to need him/her anymore. I don't want someone to take me from place to place and tell me to do this many reps of this exercise and then go to this machine and do this many reps at this weight and then I get sweaty and go home. I want someone who will take me to a machine and tell me what it's doing, how it differs from the other machines that purport to work the same muscles, why I should use it as opposed to something else, etc. I want to learn. I want to spend a couple months with a trainer and come out of it knowing how to diagnose my own needs, how to design a workout to fill those needs, and how to track my progress towards my goals.

Also, I want a good, functional workout. I can go in and pound on machines all day without any help. I want a trainer who understands my goals and shapes my workout to help me reach them. I'm looking for a very generalized fitness, but with certain specific major parts to it. I want excellent cardio endurance. I want excellent strength to bodyweight ratio. I want excellent muscular endurance. I want to be able to do just about anything with my own body. I'm not super concerned about being able to bench press a certain weight, but I would love to be strong enough to do 10 pullups in a row. I'm not as worried about having 6-pack abs as I am about being able to carry 100 pounds up a flight of stairs. See the theme? I don't want to be a gym rat, and the workouts I want to do may well end up being non-standard stuff like ring dips and kettlebells and all.

So anyway, that all leads me back to this. Rosa was very nice and I was certainly worn out by the end of our session, but I didn't feel like I learned much. She tried to tell me a few things, but it felt very much like she was repeating words she'd heard rather than telling me stuff she really understood. I could be absolutely 100% wrong about that, but that was how it felt. Also, it turns out that the 6:00-7:00 in the morning workout is just not feasible. I thought I could make it work, but by the time I get that done, drive home, get some breakfast get showered and get out the door, it's after 8:00. For waking up at 5:15 or so, that's not ideal. So even though I really like working out in the morning, it seems more practical to work out in the evening. Add to that the fact that Jenna would also need to find a trainer for herself who she liked and you could work with her schedule, and the whole thing just really didn't work very well.

So, while talking with Gilles, he proposed what i think is the perfect solution. Instead of two private trainers, Jenna and I both work with him in one joint session twice a week. It'll cost the same as two trainers, but we get to work with a guy we know we like and we get to be together, which you know is a major plus for us. So there you go, then. Problem solved, with a solution I didn't even know was an option. I couldn't be more pleased. Our first joint session with him is tomorrow, so I'll let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sample Boot Camp - 4/4/11

Lifetime is offering Boot Camp classes for free this week for people to try them out. Kristie and Chris invited me to come out and try it and I thought it sounded like fun, so I did. Here's some background. My trainer, Gilles (who is not going to be my trainer in the future, unfortunately) recommended against doing boot camp classes until I get my form and my stability muscles all worked out. I believe him and I don't think I'll be doing this regularly, but it was really fun to try. He was totally there last night though, so I had to be all "Boot camp? After you told me not to? No way, man. That's crazy talk. I'm here for...Schmoot Camp." It was awkward. But I'm glad i tried it, because it confirmed for me that I have a lot of strengths (namely power) and a lot of weaknesses (cardio and muscular endurance, specifically on pushups) and it helped me realize that I will be better served by doing the work to get my foundation stronger and then going and doing the boot camp thing.

So, that said, here's what we did last night.

Those two big circles on the right are big tractor tires. The red dots are cones and the smaller circles are weight plates (45 for boys, 25 for girls). The course is maybe 30 yards long, I think. I'm really bad at estimating distance. We were split into two teams of four (the other team had 5 because they can't follow instructions), and then sub-split into guys and girls. The two guys took one tire and did two flips each and then switched off all the way down and back. I think the women did the same thing. The other team took plates and held them straight overhead and jogged to the cone, set the plate down, then did lunges back. The other guy on the team then picked up a plate and ran it out to the next cone and lunged back, and so forth. While the one guys is running and lunging, the other is back at the start, doing bicycles or doing raised-leg crunches with the weight plate.

After we finished flipping the tires, we switched places and did the other side. We just lunged out and then ran them back until the tire flippers were done. We took a bit of a break and switched back. This time, we had to flip the tire until the guys on the other side got all the weights moved out and then back. That took much longer. Honestly, flipping the tire was the easiest thing we did. I think it was harder for other people because they're smaller in relation to the tires. Being a big dude helps in some situations, for sure. After the other side finished, we switched over and had to take the plates out and back. The lunges really started getting to me after a while. I can do them just fine for a while, but that was a heck of a lot of them. Bit of a break for some water.

This one is sort of self-explanatory, except that it also involved the weight plates again. You start at the bottom and lift it over your head. Jog out to the first cone, set it down, do 10 burpees (without pushups) then pick it back up and run to the start. Turn back around and go to the next station and do 20 twisters with your plate. Twisters are like v-ups because your back and feet are both off the ground, but you add a weight and you're twisting your torso from side to side. We did 20 of those on each side. Then up with the plate and back to the line, then back to the next cone. Put the plate down, and do "No Hands" pushups. I haven't even seen these before, but i can see what they're doing. You go all the way down to the ground and rest your chest on the plate, then lift your hands up slightly. This absolutely forces you to go 100% of the way to the floor, obviously. So we did 30 of those. I got a little ways through it and had to drop to my knees to finish the rest. I can pound out a decent number of pushups with good form (a good number being like 30, maybe) but after all the other stuff we'd already done, I was simply not getting anywhere with them. Even from my knees I had to keep stopping and resting. It took forever and completely wore me out. Then up with the plate and back. Repeat the same three exercises, only with 40 burpees, 50 twisters and 60 pushups this time. Even the burpees weren't that bad. I had to do five and then breathe for a while and then do 5 more, but I was hanging in there, pounding them out pretty well. It was just the darn pushups that got me. this is where being a big dude really bites you.

So anyway, that's it. No idea how many calories I burned, unfortunately, as I forgot my HRM in the car, but Kristie said hers said she burned over 600, so I'm guessing I was around 1000 due to my greater weight. That may be all the way wrong, but it doesn't much matter in the end since I don't count calories in anyway. I just know I was all the way worn out and it felt pretty darned good.

First Personal Training Session - 3/31/11

Had my first personal training session at the new gym. It was awesome! Did mostly bodyweight exercises, worked myself really hard, and learned a lot. I feel like I have a much clearer picture now of where I am, where I want to be and how to get there. I'm really glad that I'm doing this to develop a strong foundation before I start going nuts with the training. I need a lot of work on technique and my core before I'm ready to work as hard as I'd like without injuring myself.

Here's some of what I did:

6 minutes on a treadmill at about 10 min/mi to warmup
Stretching my glutes, hamstrings and calves. They are crazy tight and that's one thing I really need to work on.
Back on a treadmill to get my heart rate back up. Started at 3.5 mph, incline of 2.0 and increase incline by 1 every minute. By the time I reached 15, I was really huffing and puffing.
Did some circuit work. Pushups for 30 seconds, then plank for 30 seconds, then bicep curls for 30 seconds, then jumping back and forth over a rope for 30 seconds, then hold a v-up for 30 seconds while catching a medicine ball, touching it to the right and left twice, then throwing it back, all without letting my feet touch the ground. Then rest. Then all that again, plus a sort of half squat low row thing for 30 seconds.
Weighted squats on a machine. This was partially for strength and partially a diagnostic so the trainer could see how my technique looked and see if I was forcing my body to do weird things to compensate for muscle weaknesses. I did pretty well with it. 12 reps at 50 pounds, then 12 at 100, then 12 at 160. After the last set, the headrush and leg wobbliness almost put me on the floor.
After that, we did a balance exercise. He had some foam rods cut in half and had me stand on one (flat side up) with one foot for 30 seconds, then switch. Then do it again, but then he bounced a medicine ball to me and I had to catch it and bounce it back to him without touching. After the squats, this was really tough,
Finally, stretching again. The same stretches to cool myself down a bit.

I think I remembered it all. It was a heck of a workout. Even the strength training stuff kept my heartrate high. He said that every workout should incorporate four elements: Core, Strength, Cardio and Stability. We hit all of them to varying degrees, and it's cool to have a guide to be able to start thinking about what to do for my own workouts. I also got to use my Garmin HRM for the first time during a real workout. I'm going to have to see how that worked out for me. I still don't really understand the workings of that thing very well.

More soon!