Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Next Phase - Strength-Endurance

After pouring over various resources, I've cobbled together the next session of workouts (but I'm still evaluating as I go).

As I stated here about this, I decided to follow the 50/20 plan (which is based on Density Training) but with some twists.

1.) Two workout movements picked. In this case, I chose the Sandbag Clean & Press and the Sandbag Back Squat.
2.) The first movement (Clean & Press) is done on Mondays and Thursdays, the other (Squat) on Tuesdays and Fridays.
3.) Based on Prilepin's numbers and Wiggy's thing about Heavy Weights+Volume+Limited Rest, there would be 3 reps per set and the weight used would start around 55-65% (but I'm going to increase this sooner, I'll explain later).
4.) Rest intervals are timed with a digital cooking timer I got at DollarTree (works great!). 60 seconds after each set, reducing the rest period by 10 seconds with each new workout until I hit 20 seconds. Once the workout with 20 seconds is up, the next workout of the same movement will increase in weight by 5 lbs and the rest time clock resets at 60 seconds again.
5.) All workouts are within a 20 minute window and it is to be done with as many sets as possible. Obviously, as the rest times decrease, the number of sets will. (Yes, this does train Power-Endurance/Work-Capacity also - so I might as well get the best of both worlds).
6.) Eventual goal should be 17 or more sets with 20 second rests.

So far, I've done one Clean & Press workout and one Squat this week. The clean & press was at 60 lbs (about 50% of my calculated 1-RM for the Military Press), but the weight felt too light and I did 19 sets. This is too many for the first time at the longest rest, meaning that I'm more durable and need more weight. I'm going to increase the weight to 75 lbs today and decrease the time to 50 seconds for rest. That should get my sets closer to 14-15 at most. The squat was done at 137.5 lbs (about 53% of my calculated 1-RM for the squat). I could tell I was a bit rusty doing the squat at first since I had not really done any weighted ones for nearly a week. But I eventually got into my groove and I hit 12 sets in the alloted time. This is much better and on target for the number I should have landed on for sets compared to the clean and press. But I think I'll also raise the weight as well on this one (just needs a slight amp-up in the intensity).

While this is going on, I'm still running on Tuesdays (typically intervals) and Thursdays (typically tempo/Steady-State) and Saturdays (Long). I'm also doing the 100 Push-up program and 20 Pull-up Program as well for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as well at home (pull-up bar is there). Yeah, I've got a great deal more volume than before with my schedule being:

Monday - Lunchtime Clean & Press, PM Push-up and Pull-up
Tuesday - Lunchtime Squat, PM Run
Wednesday - Lunchtime Rest, PM Push-up and Pull-up
Thursday - Lunchtime Clean & Press, PM Run
Friday - Lunchtime Squat, PM Push-up and Pull-up
Saturday - AM Long Run
Sunday - Rest

Also, I'm Greasing The Groove and practicing my one-legged squats (pistols) and one-arm push-ups throughout the day. My range of motion is gently increased for both movements, but it's going to be a long time before I nail both of them down.

Since I suck at pull-ups, I'm starting on Week -2 and doing a great deal of negatives. But things are moving in a positive direction. However, I'll repeat that week anyway to improve. The push-ups are not going so well. Seems that my 15 max push-ups aren't translating well to week 1 of the push-up program (failed in set 4 of the first day and failed set 3 on the second), so I'll be repeating that week for sure.

One thing I'm trying to figure out is where to insert the Max/Raw Strength workouts. I know that if I keep up with the strength-endurance ones, I'll lose some raw strength in the process. I also need to watch out for staleness too and switch things up. But I'm sure I'll come up with something. Edit: And I figured it out. After getting to the 20 seconds of rest, I'll do max/raw strength work (upper-body on Thursday, lower-body on Friday). This will get me 4 sessions of max/raw strength work during this cycle.

During this cycle, I've got a few events that will supplement my training mileage.

11/28 - Seattle Ghost Marathon (5th week of the cycle)
12/19 - Pigtails Flat Ass (8th week of the cycle)
1/2 - Western WA Fat Ass (10th week of the cycle), but this is weather permitting since last year's snowstorm killed the event and a few brave/insane folks decided to give the run a go anyway in the heavy snow.
1/9 - Bridle Trails 50k Twilight Run (11th week of the cycle)

There's also the Last Chance Marathon on 12/31 and the 1st Call to Run Marathon & Ultra the day after on my birthday. However, I'm not in the position to start running back to backs just yet...not until the next cycle anyway. ;-)

I'm also experimenting with my nutrition as well. Following the Carbohydrate Curve on Mark's Daily Apple, I've set Mondays and Wednesdays as low IF/Ketosis days - keeping my carb intake at 50 grams or less. The rest of the week, I'm ranging from 100 to 150 grams a day with maybe one cheat day depending on my mood. I remember when I went almost completely carbless and the volume of weight I lost. However, I was a weak bastard and didn't do enough strength training and didn't eat enough protein and fat to supplement properly compared to now.

So far, the first low day was tough. The second one (yesterday) was much easier to deal with. I purposely set it up on Mondays and Wednesdays due to my running on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I felt that I didn't want to screw myself up too badly since running taps more glucose stores than lifting. Like I said, so far, so good.

What I'm expecting will happen in the next 12 weeks:

1.) A significant increase in stamina. (This is already happening, based on my last interval run - I reduced my time by 5-10 seconds.)
2.) Recovery time will improve. Less time to suck wind = More time to keep moving in a race.
3.) Strength gains I made during the first cycle will maintain.
4.) Body composition will change further for the better (lighter, but still durable).

Half-way through the first week. Let's see where the rest of the cycle goes.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

And the weight rolls back!

The scale is cooperating now and I'm 1.5 lbs from my 235 lbs original weight when I started the Stronglifts 5x5 Sandbag program 12 weeks ago. w00t!!!!

Early this morning, a nice 9.2 mile run in 1:55. It has been a long time since I did a run in the morning and not have any food before going. Would have been a bit faster, but nature called and I'm so glad that there was a Wendy's along my running route.

Looking forward to chilling out tomorrow and officially ending this first cycle.

I'll post up the workouts for the next cycle. It's going to be intense!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Phase 1 complete

Today was the last lifting day...and I didn't bother.

I needed a few days to unload. I've noticed that is done in quite a bit of exercise training programs (whether they're for strength or running or whatever). So tonight, I'll do some lighter lifts, but not in excess of what is approaching my 1-Rep Max.

So my final numbers in the end come out to be:

Back Squat - 215 lbs (in a 5x5, which by 1 Rep Max calculators - 215 lbs matches my 5 Rep Max and my 1 Rep Max comes out to 259 lbs, which is above my current body weight!)
Overhead Press - 122 lbs (in a 3x5 set via barbell. My 1 Rep Max is calculated at 129 lbs, so I think I've exceeded this.)
Bench Press - 110 lbs (in a 5x5. Too easy though and I've already subbed for push-ups now since I'm lifting more weight via push-ups than by sandbag or barbell anyway).
Power Clean - 105 lbs (in a 5x5, but as I said before in my past post, I've done 130 lbs sandbag cleans and 122 lbs barbell cleans, so with more polished technique - I can do 150 lbs or better if I practice.)
Deadlift - 250 lbs (in a 1x5, but I really should head to a local CF gym to see if I can test my Max and get anywhere close to 322 lbs.)

Since I've never lifted before like this, I would have to say this is indeed a success - even with subbing/ditching some of the days (4 days out of 12 weeks).

After my 2 hour run tomorrow, I need to focus on getting ready for my Strength-Endurance phase. I think I've hammered enough of the details out, so I should be good. But it's always good to re-check your info too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


To those that don't believe that completing a 100 miles is possible for anyone:

Yeah, Amy Palmiero-Winters. She lost her leg in a motorcycle accident a few years ago and she's done tons of races, from various running distances to tri's. Now she can check off "Ultrarunning Champion" to that list as well.

So, what did you do today?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Getting into the next phase

I'm in the middle of week 11 and have one more week to go to end the first cycle of my training.

As I said before in my original plan description, the first cycle/period would be a strength-focused one. I followed the 5x5 plan but with a Starting Strength twist by ditching the supplementary exercises (no push-ups, pull-ups, planks, or crunches - all good exercises, but not in the Starting Strength program) and I swapped the inverted rows with power cleans. I still kept the 5x5 method over the 3x5 one simply because I believe that pushing past the 3x5 and doing two more sets of five would appropriately push me further without killing me. Thankfully, my believe paid off.

Another twist to make guys like Zach Evan-Esh of and Josh Henkin of Sandbag Fitness Systems proud is that I used a sandbag for pretty much the whole damn time (there were two sessions where I did use the barbell at home since I had days off and the sandbags are at the office).

Numbers-wise, here's where I'm at right now doing the 5x5 (these are not Max Rep numbers):

Back Squat: 195 lbs
Bench Press: 100 lbs
Power Clean: 100 lbs
Deadlift: 220 lbs
Military Press: 100 lbs (although I did do a 3x5 @ 120 lbs)

I have another week left. Unless I stall, I should be looking at:

Back Squat: 220 lbs
Bench Press: 115 lbs
Power Clean: 115 lbs
Deadlift: 260 lbs
Military Press: 115 lbs

Again, these numbers are not 1-Rep Max, but doing a 5x5 (or 1x5 for the Deadlift).

Also, I found an appropriate strength calculator for my 1 Rep Max and I was a bit ambitious using Ron Shaul's numbers at first. I'm confident I'll get there in the future, but for now this is what I found:

1RM Standard Calc:
240 lbs male


Squat - 258 lbs
Bench - 193 lbs
Military Press - 129 lbs
Deadlift - 322 lbs
Clean - 186 lbs


Squat - 316 lbs
Bench - 236 lbs
Military Press - 162 lbs
Deadlift - 370 lbs
Clean - 228 lbs


Squat - 431 lbs
Bench - 323 lbs
Military Press - 193 lbs
Deadlift - 503 lbs
Clean - 310 lbs

Since I'm a novice, I'm approaching the 1-Rep Max limits rather quickly and I can do some maintenance heavy lifting as the weeks go on to keep it or not lose a majority of it.

And yes, I'm at 240 lbs at the moment. So within the entire program, I gained 5 lbs. However, the weight gain seemed to have stopped after the 8th week and my body shape has changed quite dramatically. My waist is a bit smaller, I can see my abs more and my chest and back are much more broader. Arms are a bit bigger and my quads & calves (as always) are solid as rocks. Overall more dense and durable. So, even though my weight is moving in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go, I'm turning more bulletproof. My last few runs aren't beating me up.

Speaking of runs, my mileage isn't very good. Minimum mileage has been zero. Max has been 16 miles per week. Longest run has been 12 miles so far. However, I'm still confident that I'll still get through the Seattle Ghost marathon (or 50k, still haven't officially decided yet) on November 28th. Some of the reduction in miles has simply been due to not running mid-week. After my lifting the previous day, I just felt too tired to run the following day. I'm just a lame-excuse machine, but I plead the "listening to my body" amendment. But as I said, there is still time and I'm still confident that I'll complete the run.

One thing with my runs is that I temporarily abandoned doing any kind of hardcore speedwork (no CFE-style runs). My body wasn't tolerating them and my form broke down hard during them compared to just running easy, tempo, or fartlek style. It could also be a time-issue with when I do these runs since I noticed with myself that I do better with my runs that are speed-intensive if I do them as one of the first things of the day instead of the last things of the day when my body has been chewed through the daily grind that's life. But I'll probably re-incorporate them back in if I'm able to sometime down the road depending on how things go.

So what's next after Oct 24th and the strength cycle ends? The strength-endurance cycle begins. Now, this is where things get a bit tricky. I could have gone from doing strength work into doing power-endurance (aka Work Capacity) workouts like the ones you typically see with CrossFit or other similar workouts where you do task-based and/or go against the clock. However, it boiled down to whether I wanted to:

1.) Lift fast but heavy with little rest. A good example of this is a task-based workout that involves multiple sets of lifts, little rest between sets, and an increase in weight if you tackle that next workout.


2.) Lift fast as many times as possible, but not necessarily heavy. Good example of this is a person pulling off a Fran workout at the typical Rx'ed weight. A very strong lifter will treat that 95 lbs barbell like it's air and get through the workout fast and the only thing that could slow them down is either bad pull-up strength (which is not very likely) or if they do a "Heavy Fran" and jack up the weight of the barbell and/or load some weight on during their pull-ups.

So I had to decide if I wanted to increase my work capacity and do more in the same time or increase my strength and the endurance/stamina to lift heavy instead.

Matt "Wiggy" Wiggins put this down when commenting on Density Training here:

Density Training is very beneficial because, depending on how it's "tweaked," it can accomplish a fairly wide variety of goals at one time. Coupled with extra calories, it can result in muscle and overall weight gain. Used with high sets with low reps, brute strength can be increased.

If rest periods are kept short, strength-endurance is benefited. If a fair amount of reps are used (say, perform 50 reps of a compound movement in 20 minutes), work capacity and overall conditioning are increased.

I figured that for the moment, strength-endurance was more important than power-endurance. Added bonus, my strength-endurance work will make it more possible for me to do power-endurance work better & faster. Although this explanation does give CrossFit's methodology and design some sense since a great deal of their workouts are tied to Work Capacity and it seems that "doing more in less time" does promote better overall fitness.

So now that I know what to focus on, the workouts that I have to do are proving to be a bit tricky to plan. I already know to do Volume + Minimal Rest + Heavy Weight. The question is what workouts should I do? I decided that I should still focus on the basics. Taking a page from the CrossFit Strength-Bias program, I opted to focus on Squats, Deadlifts, and Overhead Presses. No bench press, no power cleans. I also decided to have Mondays still used as the standard strength days, basically following the same 5x5 template, but seriously extended out. So what does this look like?

Week A:
Monday (Strength) - 3x5 or 5x5 Squat, 3x5 or 5x5 Overhead Press
Tuesday - Run
Wednesday (Strength-Endurance) - 15x2 or 15x3 Squat, 15x1 or 20x1 Deadlift
Thursday - Run
Friday (Strength-Endurance) - 15x2 or 15x3 Squat, 15x2 or 15x3 Overhead Press
Saturday - Long Run
Sunday - Rest

Week B:
Monday (Strength) - 3x5 or 5x5 Squat, 1x5 Deadlift
Tuesday - Run
Wednesday (Strength-Endurance) - 15x2 or 15x3 Squat, 15x2 or 15x3 Overhead Press
Thursday - Run
Friday (Strength-Endurance) - 15x2 or 15x3 Squat, 15x1 or 20x1 Deadlift
Saturday - Long Run
Sunday - Rest

The starting weight will be at 65% of my predicted 1-Rep Max and my rest times will be 60 seconds. Each workout will decrease the rest time by 10 seconds. When I get to a 20 second rest successfully, the weight will increase by 5 lbs and the clock resets back to 60 seconds again. The strength part I'll do my best with, but I have a feeling that I won't progress but be maintaining more than anything...but who knows?

Also, in addition to the lifting, I'll be focusing on my push-ups and pull-ups at home (another reason why I ditched the bench press and power cleans). So while I'm doing this strength-endurance stuff at work using the sandbags, I'll be following and Similar to other programs that build strength-endurance like Recon Ron and even Grease the Groove (although GTG is meant to be done throughout the entire day, having access to a pull-up bar at the office is impossible...otherwise, I would have done that instead). So strength-endurance lifting at work, push-ups and pull-ups at home at night. The pull-up and push-up programs are only 6 weeks long (8 for the pull-up program for me since my test sucked and I could only squeak out one pull-up), but with the chance of any kind of setback, I can repeat a week or two during this cycle.

With my running during this time, I expect to be doing more volume due to various events from November to my "A" race in August (about 1 ultra per month). Based on my past performance, doing about one race a month gets enough aerobic conditioning in to where it has made me a bit faster at the same distance at other events. When I did my first 6 races in 6 months (four 50k's with a 50 miler after and then a marathon), my times were relatively improving compared to the difficulty of the previous event. When I didn't do as much volume, I suffered (my last two Mt Si ultra runs being a prime example of this.)

Crossing my fingers on this one! Let's see where this next cycle takes me!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Doctor Who Ain't Got Nuthin' On Me

I renewed my position as The TimeLord, keeper of the 4th dimension for the Baker Lake 50k again this year.

Some things were the same. Long drive from home to Concrete. Same stop @ Starbucks to get a coffee box for the race. Cold morning.

Some things were different. Brought my guitar and portable stove with some food to cook with (although barely played the guitar and didn't eat anything from my stove or practically nothing at the race except for a roast beef Subway sub). Had some company this time with Arthur who was racing this year.

Other different things: Lots more stuff! When I got to the campground, they had a few coffeemakers running along with music from an iPod docked in a speaker. There were pastries (cakes) everywhere it seemed. Someone else also had gotten Starbucks coffee too in a box like I did. Other folks that were helping out this year that I didn't see last time were Jay (Shawn's bro), Michael & Tamera Cartwright (Tamera was running this also), Steve Stoyles, and a few other guys that I didn't get a chance to introduce myself to.

A dark and cold morning, things were moving along very well. I have to say that this is probably the most organized I've seen races done in remote places. Usually, there is some kind of chaos. Things forgotten, things misplaced. Jay and Steve were working the check-in's in the dark. There was plenty of coffee for everyone. My buddy Stan Nakashima gave me a ton of produce from his farm (Thanks Stan!). Shawn and tc* were busy taking care of the last minute things on the course. Much better than last year for certain, I believe we learned from the last time.

Soon the early starters were getting ready and I sadly didn't have time to get my airhorn (the signal for last year). So with keeping time like last year, I had to substitute. In this case, my countdown ended up as:

3, 2, 1 - HAUL ASS!!!!!!!!!

Not quite the same punch as an airhorn, but good enough with my ability to project my voice thanks to years of vocal music training.

More check-in's and another countdown for the regular starters and the start was virtually empty of people as usual. Checking around the table, I was surprised to see the amount of cakes that Haggen Foods provided (20+, seriously!). I begged for us to do a Cake Walk, but that idea died quickly. Tried playing my guitar to kill time, but my fingers got seriously frozen from the cold. It was one of those days where if you were in the sun, you felt warm. You got in the shade, you were a frozen fishstick.

I got to run about 90 minutes before the first runner (Terry Sentinella - YAY TERRY!!!) came through and I got in a good 4 mile run along the trails. I noticed that I wasn't nearly as winded when it came to those rolling hills and my leg muscles were able to take the abuse without feeling beaten up. I was even able to run virtually all of the inclines with little difficulty. I can only assume that my strength training cycle of heavy lifting is responsible for this. However, I do notice that my aerobic conditioning isn't as good as it could be. I am confident that this will be remedied as I continue to progress in my training plan and move into future cycles that have more metcon and sport-specific conditioning.

I got back about 40 minutes before Terry showed up and was kicking myself that I could have gone a bit longer. Oh well, there's always next year.

About 15 minutes before the 5th hour, Terry showed up and won first place overall and first masters - a 2nd Baker Bear award for him. Funny thing is that the next several folks that came through also snagged Baker Bears for 1st Women Open & Overall, 1st Women Master, 1st Male Open, and 1st Male Senior all within 30 minutes of each other. Some of those runners had done other events a week before, especially the 1st Women (Shawna Wilskey) who WON 1st woman at the Hundred in the Hood the previous weekend! Yeah, she ran 100 miles a week before and then ran 31 miles more the next week, winning both 1st place spots for the women! Some people were built for speed, Shawna was built to make you eat her dust and like it.

As everyone started coming in, I was doing what I do best - playing the role of the timelord. However, this timelord got an upgrade and we were actually doing the timekeeping on a laptop this time, using an excel spreadsheet to enter the time in via keyboard macro. I tweaked out the form even further by making it calculate the start time against the time they came in - giving us a total time in hours and minutes. This was a great benefit for us and allowed the results to be posted practically the next day!

For the most part, everyone was pretty cool...except for two dudes. One guy who bitched about the course being about a half a mile longer than he expected and another guy who wanted us to adjust his time to match a 50k finish. Damn! Can't please everyone...although I was REALLY tempted to put DQ on their names. Maybe next year I'll be more brutal if someone acts like a dorkus.

Time eventually was winding down and towards the end, we had a few folks that were struggling to come in. Our final finisher came in just under 10 hours with an early start. He was given the Dead F*cking Last Baker Bear award. In these events, when everything is falling apart, sometimes the heart is the thing that pulls you through to the finish line.

After our final runner and sweepers were done, we tore down as fast as we could to get the hell out of there. I was there for almost 12 hours and up for about 15. Others were there for nearly two days. A nice place to visit, but you really don't want to stay around any longer than you have to. A final goodbye and Arthur and I were headed back south. Lots of chit-chat along the way home and I did enjoy the company for a change.

Another day of race volunteering done. I should have enough good trail karma now to complete 5 Cascade Crest 100's. :-) I kid, but I enjoy helping out (yes, even when there are some ungrateful people that always show up at races). Folks that really appreciate the help on the course, those are the people that I like. My buddies who work along side me at these things, always a party when we're together. Running, especially ultrarunning can be a very selfish thing. Helping out at events seems to balance things out a bit. It would explain why trail work is starting to become more of a requirement at races than ever.

Anyhoo, next event is November (not Ron Herzog, apologies to tc!). A nice 26.2 mile (or 31 mile, haven't decided yet) friendly fun-run we like to call the Seattle Ghost. It'll be my first event back in quite a long time. I don't plan on smashing PR's or anything crazy like that. I plan on getting some serious time on my feet, enjoying the camaraderie, and eating some of that yummy post-race food that completely trumps the so-called post-race food that the actual Seattle Marathon provides. Scott Krell's post-race food rocks!