Monday, October 31, 2016

AN INTERESTING PROGRESSION

A couple of you may find this of interest.

SOME BACKGROUND

I started lifting weights when I was 50 - 1995.
I started running when I was 54 - 1999.
I have done both off and on, or one or the other since then.
There have been periods when I did neither.
The lapses have mostly been dictated by my job situation.
I have never stopped doing either of them because I did not enjoy them.

I stopped doing weight workouts and running when I took a job as a janitor in 2012.
I found that, while the work was relatively easy, there was a lot of walking and plenty of pushing mops and large brooms for eight hours a night.
The initial effect the new job had on me was to make me tired.
I did not believe I could do both, so I stopped working out and running.

THE PROGRESSION IN 2016

When my job hours changed in January 2016, I immediately began doing my weight workouts and running again.
I assumed that I would not be as strong as I was when I stopped doing weight workouts, but I was surprised how weak I was.

Understand that I was doing weight lifting to maintain my strength rather than to build muscle, as I was trying to do when I was younger.
At my age (71) there is little hope of gaining any muscle mass.
The battle is to hang on to what little I have remaining.

These exercises were selected because they require little set-up, use my bodyweight for resistance, and are compound/full range movements.
Because pull-ups are so difficult for me, I can do only a few.
This causes my biceps to receive a smaller amount of reps compared to my triceps and other areas.
So I added standing barbell curls to give some added work volume for my arms.

My point of reference was what I was doing in my last weight workout in February 2016.
My last workout was as follows:

Crunch 30 repetitions
Pull-up 6.5
Push-up 12
Standing Heel raise 60
Standing barbell curl 16 x 40 pounds

I count a half a repetition or incomplete movement as a half a rep for more accurate statistical analysis of my work load.

My first workout in April 2016 after I quit my job was as follows:

Crunch 30
Pull-up 4
Push-up 6
Standing Heel raise 50
Standing barbell curl 16 x 40 pounds
Squat (no extra weight) 20

PUSH-UPS

I was surprised by my poor push-up performance, which had fallen to almost half in just two months.
The next workout, the following day, I did 10.
The following week I was up to 12 and stayed there for about a month.
Then in May I did 14.
Two weeks later I did 16.

In July, I felt like I could do more, so I began doing two sets of each exercise.
The first two-set session I did 14 and 10 reps of push-ups.
I bounced around between 14 and 16 reps on the first set and 12 and 15 on the second set for the next three weeks.
Then on August 18 I did 18 push-ups on the first set and 16 on the second set.
I fluctuated between 18 and 12 for the two sets for the next eight weeks or so.
Then on September 23 I did 20 push-ups on the first set and 16 on the second set.
Since then my push-ups have varied between 18 and 14 repetitions for the two sets.
On October 26 it did 20 reps on my first set, then 17 and 14.
An average reduction as the muscles fatigue.

STANDING BARBELL CURLS

Standing barbell curls demonstrate another interesting progression.
I started doing them to provide a better balance of work volume for my arms.
They are one of my weakest areas.
In February I did one set of 16 with 40 pounds in my last workout before stopping for six weeks.
When I restarted my weight workouts in April I did 15 reps with 40 pounds – almost no loss of strength.
The next day I did 17 reps with 40 pounds.
The following week I completed 18 reps.
The following week I did 20.
Two days later I did 21.
A month later – June - I did 22 reps.
The following month I completed 23 reps with the 40 pound weight.

At the end of July I started doing two sets of each exercise.
My reps dropped to 21 for the first set and to 17 for the second – same weight both sets.
By the beginning of August my reps were holding at 20 – 21 for both sets.

The first week in September I increased my weight to 50 pounds.
I did 15 reps the first set and 11.5 for the second, an expected decrease.
The following week I was doing 14 and 14 reps.
In October first set reps increased to 16 and second set reps stayed at 14.

OTHER EXERCISES

In September I decided to add some variety to my exercises.
I replaced push-ups with bench dips and pull-ups with bent barbell rows using 135 pounds in the Wednesday workout.
My first workout with these new exercises produced the following:
BB Bent Row 20 x 135, 20 x 135
Bench dip 24 reps, 22 reps (partial bodyweight = 110 pounds)

This change in exercises has had the effect of improving my push-ups a little.
Push -ups are holding at around 18 and 16 reps.
Bench dips are up to 26 and 24 reps.
At this rate I will be doing 30 reps soon.

Since I prefer to hold my high rep exercises to a maximum of about 20, I may have to consider replacing bench dips with parallel bar dips.
Which has the effect of increasing the weight, which will decrease the reps.
I do not like parallel bar dips as much because they seem to not work the chest as much and work the triceps more, because of the angles of the range of motion involved.
But the variation will be useful in rounding out my “development” - such as it is.

As of mid-October 2016 I have increased my sets to three per exercise.
The downside of increasing the number of sets is it takes more time – about 15 more minutes per session with these exercises.
After just a couple of three-set workouts, I am surprised at how easily my system has accommodated the increased work volume.
I do not feel tired, and only slightly sore a day or two after the workouts.
The downside is this added volume may make it easier to overtrain.
I will have to watch my reps.
If my reps begin to drop, it is an indicator that I am overtrained and need to take some days off.

To be continued…..


Saturday, October 22, 2016

BALANCING THE FITNESS LOAD

Balancing the Fitness Load

I am a planner.
Almost everything I do is part of a plan.
When I started lifting weights in 1985, I recorded my sets, reps, weights, dates, and exercises.
Some of this I picked up from reading several magazines and online sites on exercise.
They taught that progress came in spoonfuls and fractions of an inch over time.

Visible changes were difficult to see in the short run.
Some of my interest in recording data was my genetic disposition to plan everything out.
I assumed that it would be useful to know my physical baseline to be able to see if the exercising was doing any good.

2016 has been an interesting year for my weight lifting.
I started out just trying to maintain what strength and mass I had left.
Aging is not fun to watch on oneself.
The normal progression - or rather, regression - is to lose strength and mass as the years progress past the age of 40 or 50.
And I have experienced this slow decline.
I have fought it kicking and screaming the whole way, as much as I could.

And one more thing - as you age, your body takes longer to recover from exercise - both after each set during the workout, and after each workout session.

So.... I set my exercise program to be simple to do.
It consisted of simple compound exercises that mostly used my bodyweight as resistance.
One set of each exercise, three days a week, and a run on Saturday morning, mainly because I love running.
The exercises were:  push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, and standing barbell curls.
All upper body exercises.

My leg work consisted of my hill run each Saturday morning.

But gradually my body became accustomed to the work load, and I found myself seeking more work.
So, I increased my exercise to two sets.  (I will present more details of this progression in another blog post)
Soon, I was craving more work, and went up to three sets of these same four exercises
Then, I felt that I needed to find some alternate exercises to work these same areas of my body.
So some workouts stayed the same and other workouts involved different exercises.
Then I decided to add some leg work to compliment my running.


All of this culminated in the inclusion of deadlifts into my exercise plan.
Deadlifts are, along with squats, an exercise I love to hate.
They are hard work, and involve almost your entire body.
They call into service your thighs, back, shoulders, chest and arms.

They require strict form and, if done incorrectly, you can injure yourself.
So it was with some caution and concern that I scheduled three sets of deadlifts in my Friday workout.
I kept the weight to 95 pounds to break myself in to this new exercise.
The concern had to do with my recovery time - how long would it take my body to recover from this new (new in this year - I have done them before with more weight) exercise, and would it adversely affect my run.


I wrote all of this to write this.....
I had a fantastic run this morning.
When I first started out, my left hip and knee were acting like they wanted to collapse with each step.

I was concerned that I would have to cancel my run if things did not improve.
It took about a quarter of a mile in the 40 degree darkness for things to sort themselves out.
But eventually everybody got happy.
It was in the darkest parts of the road that I realized that I had a big full moon to light the way for me.
Thus, I did not need the little flash light I had in my hand JIC.


As I started up the steepest part of the hill, I found myself running slower than I could have.
I call it passive running.
Just bopping along at a certain pace because it is comfortable.
This is instead of putting just a bit more effort into your stride and push against your capability.
I called to mind the mindset of my new athletic object of admiration, Katie Ledecky, who pushes herself every lap of every day of practice, so she can win races.

I am not trying to win any races these days, but I am trying to challenge myself.
So I put a little more effort into my run today.
Just a little.
I was mindful of my heavy workout yesterday.
Would any extra effort empty my bowl of Wheaties before I reached the end of my course?

I decided to push this a bit.
To my surprise, I felt strong - as evidenced by my level 2 breathing the whole way.
I pushed my pace both up the hill and down the hill to the end.
I was able to push hard all of the last quarter mile of my course and sprint the last 200 feet or so.

Another Ledecky finish.
Wow.