Sunday, 31 October 2010

Remedial Sprints

Location: Birmingham, UK
Date: 31st October 2010, 8.30am

2-minute jog warmup
5 sprint intervals (16-18 seconds, 30-90 seconds reset between)

10g BCAA 10 minutes before
Planned: 10g BCAA 1 hour laster, then lunch

After a unfortunate late-night drinking, pizza and cake session on Friday night, I needed some hormonal therapy this morning. I also have a race coming up on the third weekend in November so it's some to get serious. ... Read more

Thursday, 28 October 2010

This Week's Weights and Food - One Week Left of Leangains

Tuesday - dumbbell chest, dumbbell shoulders, upright row, ab crunches - 25 mins
Thursday - Weighted chins, one-arm dumbbell rows, deadlift, 3 mins mobility - 29 mins

Nutrition - Tuesday
Forgot the BCAA before the session, but had 20g straight afterwards.
Then, 2 hours later, lunch:

Sardine bonanza for lunch, chicken bones & cauli fry for dinner

Nutrition - Thursday:
10g BCAA 20 mins before session
10g 1 hour after
10g 2 hours after that

Scrambled egg and salmon for lunch, lamb's liver & veg for dinner

My eating's back under control after the buffet insanity of my recent US trip. Another week before the end of the experiment. Then I will start a 4-week fast stripping period, and prepare a post detailing my progress or lack thereof during the 12 or so weeks. ... Read more

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Back Session, Fasted at Mandalay Bay, no Buffet

Date: Thursday 21st October, 5pm
Location: Mandalay Bay Gym, Las Vegas.

Chin Ups (2 x 5 weighted @35lbs)
Barbell Bent Over Row (5 x 5 @90lbs)
One-Arm Bent Over Row (3 x 10 @55lbs)
Dumbbell Deadlifts (Romanian) (3 x 10 @75lbs)
Leg Raises on leg raise machine (3 x 10)

Time: 33 minutes

Nutrition - this time barely compliant with my Leangains experiment :-(

- Fasted all day until the session, after 'buffet gone wrong' the day before
- 20g BCAA 30 minutes after session.
- Wine, steak and veg spiraled into non-Paleo gluttony ending at 1 am

The gym at Mandalay Bay must get kudos for having the best equipment I've encountered in a Vegas gym. The only criticism would be the lack of an Olympic bar, in contrast to Caesar's. On the other hand, Mandalay had dumbbells that went up to 75lbs, which for me wins over Caesar's insubstantial 50s.

In addition, the $15 fee was more palatable than the $25 at Caesar's.

Nothing interesting to report from the session, except perhaps my continued determination to keep a straight back with the Romanian deadlift. This actually helps when you have limited dumbbell size, because in fact doing 10 slow, strict reps was perfect at 75lbs whereas I can lift much more with bad form.

As I write, our US holiday is coming to an end. Good job really, because the wheels have started to fall off the nutrition vehicle. Once things start to go wrong in the holiday environment, it's really hard to pull them back. It's just as well I managed to keep things on an even keel until the final 4 days.
... Read more

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Finally a Decent Gym - Chest & Shoulders at Caesar's Palace

Date: Monday 18th October, 5pm
Location: Caesar's Palace Gym, Vegas baby.

Dumbbell Chest Press - 4x5 @70lbs, 5 @65lbs
Upright Row - 3 x 10 @65lbs
Machine Ab Crunches - 30, 30, 20 @100lbs
Dips - 3 x 10
Machine Shoulder Press - 2x10@40lbs

Time: 40 minutes

Nutrition (loosely based on my Leangains experiment)

Nuts and unsweetened cocoa a few hours before:

Buffet abuse at Wynn a couple of hours after:

To be honest, my sole intention in the gym was to do as much damage as possible to justify the vast amount of food I had every intention of eating that evening. This topsy-turvey exercise-nutrition philosophy is akin to the marathon runner who maintains the hobby as a means to enjoy eating lots of food.

However, as a holiday strategy it ain't bad. I am still determinedly avoiding the dessert areas. I am building a bigger series of posts for PNLL documenting the buffet abuse, so won't go into the detail here.

Weights-wise, I stayed clear of failure on all the exercises, thus leaving the door open for more frequent training to 'justify' the inevitable frequent buffet sessions. It was all pretty random, with sets and rests determined by availability of machines and spotters.

Tomorrow I am going to get medieval on the weights because it will be the last night in Vegas and therefore the buffet finale. I dare not think what will happen.
... Read more

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Semi-Adequate LA Gym Allows Back Workout

Date: Saturday 16th October, 7.30 am
Location: Sheraton Universal Hotel, LA.

Workout - 45 seconds rest between sets

Back warm up - 20 reps on some kind of machine, nearly to failure
One-Arm Bent Over Row (5 x 10 @50lbs)
Dumbbell Deadlifts (Romanian) (1 x 50 @50lbs)

2 minutes of mobility work to finish, mainly to stretch my hams and back.

Time: 20 minutes

Nutrition (according to my Leangains experiment)
15g BCAA 10 minutes before session
15g BCAA 1 hour after

Buffet at 3pm: @3pm - meat bonanza.

I was flying LA to Vegas late morning, so this interrupted my normal Leangains protein schedule. Instead, I nailed two lots of 15 grams, one before and one and hour later before heading to the airport. I didn't think it would be appropriate to start messing with white powder on the flight.

The gym was okay-ish. With only 50lb dumbbells to play with, I used a first set with a machine to pre-exhaust my lats, but it still took 5 sets of 10 with minimal rest to do the required damage.

I wanted to keep my deadlifting muscles in business, so I did 50 with the 50lb dumbbells, which turned out to be a good plan because it was also a good conditioning exercise. By this I mean that it hurt, I was breathing heavily by the end, and I wanted to stop. With my recent focus on weights for the Leangains experiment, I have lost my familiarity with pain somewhat.

The Vegas buffet at Luxor was average quality but as you'd expect, plenty of meat on offer. The first plate took about 20 minutes to eat. There was a lot of meat on there. Pork, chicken, prime rib. Nice.
... Read more

Friday, 15 October 2010

Jet-Lagged Hotel Gym Workout and Buffet Abuse

Date: Wednesday 13th October, 4.50 am
Location: Royal Sonesta Hotel Gym, Boston.

Workout - 60 seconds rest between sets
Dumbbell Chest Press - 15@50lbs, 13@50lbs, 6@50lbs - failure on last two sets.
Upright Row with Dumbbells - 3 x 10 @40lbs
Pulley Ab Crunches - 3 x 20 @58lbs
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 10@35lbs, 7@35lbs, 6@35lb - nearly failure on each set.
Push Ups - 11, slow, high quality

3 minutes of mobility work to finish.

Time: 28 minutes

Nutrition (according to my Leangains experiment)
10g BCAA 10 minutes before session
10g BCAA 1 hour after
10g BCAA 2 hours after
Brunch @10am - buffet abuse - 500g smoked Salmon, 4 eggs and various fruit
Late Lunch @ 5.30pm - two portions of broccoli and chicken - I picked off the bread coating
Late Dinner @9pm - 12oz steak, salad and a glass of red wine.

I hit the heath and fitness centre before 5am, clutching goggles and a towel, naively assuming that the 24-hour opening would include the pool. Alas, it was closed.

I had intended to rest from weights for longer (more like 10 days) but the allure of the fitness room was too much, especially given that compared to the usual rubbish you find in hotels, the equipment was actually okay.

The dumbbells only went up to 50lbs, so I had to adjust my reps accordingly, but I started to fail surprisingly early on the chest press after an initial 15-rep glory set.

The whole session was pretty random and intense. There was a lot of grunting and shirt removal. When you are the only person awake in the whole hotel you can pretty much do what you like. It was nice to get medieval with the dumbbell upright row - I had forgotten how much aggression you can put into those once you get the rhythm going.

Later, after my 16-hour fasting window was over, I hit the breakfast buffet. Smoked salmon, boiled eggs and fruit were the only things I could eat from the display, so I made it my business to eat a lot. I could see the manager eyeing me nervously from the behind the bar as I repeatedly spooned the delicately rolled salmon pieces onto my plate and asked the waitress to get more boiled eggs. He knew a pro when he saw one.
... Read more

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Death-Defying Somersault on Langdale Horseshoe

Location: The Lake District, UK
Date: 9th October 2010

Distance: 14 miles
Elevation: 4000 feet

I was on a mission to get a good time for this. It was no time to worry about avoiding 'chronic cardio', taking photos, taking leaks or drinking water. F@ck all that.

After last year's humiliating attempt (the only time I have given up on a race) I was determined to make this one count. Plus, Lightning and I had unfinished business. Last month my 40-second margin at Ben Nevis had been trumped by his 4-minute lead at the Peris. It was my turn.

Time: 3 hours, 17 minutes. 39 minutes ahead of Lightning :-)

Here are the photos and the story of how I nearly ruined myself one one of the downhill sections:

Breakfast at 7am: 6 eggs with coconut milk, 2 bananas, cocoa

The feast I took for after the race: mackerel, herring & avocado for savoury; fruit, coconut cream and cocoa for dessert; nuts just to be greedy.

The Langdale Pikes come into view as we arrive, the start of the route.

Crinkle Crags on the right, Pike O'Blisco on the left, the final stages of the route.

Ready for action.

Race over, the huge pot of fruit, coconut cream and cocoa, about to be devoured.

Just before bed, some leftover chicken and leftover sauce with nuts.

The Somersault

There is a long section after the first main checkpoint behind the Pikes involving a long steady descent on boggy ground, ideal for running very fast. If you have lunatic tendencies, which I do, then you can overtake a lot of people here.

This time, my lunacy nearly did me some serious damage. As I careered past a fellow runner, one foot found an unexpected hole. Normally I would correct with the next stride. However, the other foot found another, deeper, unexpected hole. I lurched forwards towards my head. It was only the sheer speed I was travelling, a sudden dip in the terrain and the instinct to tuck my head which stopped me slamming into the ground head first.

A disturbing crunching sound came from my neck as I performed a full forward roll and for a split-second I wondered whether I would walk again; but as I rolled forward over my back I was catapulted back into the running position and continued hurtling past other runners. The guy behind me was stunned.

Validation of Low Frequency Training?

I was pleased with the time. 3-minutes slower than my best (3:14) several years ago. But several years ago I was training obsessively. This year I've mostly just done races and rested in between. So to achieve a comparable performance feels like a validation of that approach.

To be fair to Lightning, he had an off day. If he'd been on song, I reckon 3:40 was on the cards. Still not even close :-D

Refuelling - Just Eat Big

I decided to eat big all day and include lots of fruit. After the 6-hour Peris race last month I went on a bit of a non-Paleo rampage afterwards - yet my recovery in the days that followed was good. This had reminded me that it's pointless to starve your body of what it wants after an effort like that just because you think it's an opportunity to get a little leaner.

So this time I had the best of both worlds - loads of food, but all healthy.

Season Finale

This was the season finale for me. I am going to take a good few months out of long mountain runs to let me legs get really strong. Whilst my foot (which I was recently wrongly grizzling about possibly being fractured) was fine, there was a general sense that my knees need a little R & R, and they were getting a bit sore on the final descent.
... Read more

Back Workout and Half a Cow's Heart

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Day: 6.50 am - Thursday - 8th October

Chin Ups (3 x 5 weighted @15kg, 1 x 4 @15kg, 1 x 6 @bodyweight)
One-Arm Bent Over Row (3 x 10 @24kg)
Pulldowns with the machine (in front of neck) (3 x 10 @ 70lbs)
Romanian Deadlift (1 x 10 @70kg)

Rest - relatively quick changes between my partner and me

Total Time: 25 minutes

Nutrition (normal low-carb Paleo, since I had my weekly high carb day two days previously, based on my version of Leangains):

20 minutes before: 10g BCAA
1 hour after: 10g BCAA
3 hours after: 10g BCAA

Phenomenally large lunch at midday - a quarter of a cow's heart, cold from the fridge + 6 large eggs scrambled with half a tin of coconut milk, celery, red pepper, carrot and water cress.

Forgot photo for dinner @ 7.30 - which was heart stew with vegetables.

Weights: Apparently not making much progress with weighted chins, my benchmark exercise for the pull/back exercises. I was very strict about the rest this time (roughly 70 seconds between each set) and did feel more in control of the reps. I will just press on with it. The gains will come.

Just threw in one set of slow, strict deadlift to stay familiar with my new, stricter form (if you follow this link scroll to the bottom for my video) but avoid doing any damage because of an upcoming fell race.

Food: I had to defrost an entire cow's heart (4.5 lbs) and cow's tongue earlier in the week because I'd failed to slice it up before freezing. Thus, I've been eating little else for a week and on this day ate about half of a heart. The source was grass-fed and organic, so I am sure it was very good for me. However, I am a little hearted out.
... Read more

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Chest Improvements and Big Eats

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Day: 6.45 am - Tuesday - 6th October

Dumbbell Chest Press 3x5@32kg, 2x5@30kg (touch for final rep) - one rep better
3 x 20 Ab Crunches (with a 1/2-second squeeze)
Upright Rows with barbell (EZ bar, wider grip) 2x10@35kg, 1x10@32.5kg - 2.5kg better on last set
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3x5@18kg, 1x4@18kg, 1x5@16kg - more consistent weights
Push Ups - 10, slow, high quality - 2 more

Rest - relatively quick changes between my partner and me

Total Time: 33 minutes

Nutrition (higher carb, lower fat on workout day, based on my Leangains experiment):

20 minutes before: 10g BCAA
1 hour after: 10g BCAA
3 hours after: 10g BCAA
Lunch @ 12.00
Dinner @ 7.30pm

Weights: consistent, marginal improvements. This is good. I am not compromising on form. Like many people, I am seeing chest press as my benchmark. When I started the experiment I was unable to complete 5 good sets of 5 with 30kg dumbbells. If I can get to 5 good ones at 32, then it represents a tangible, significant strength gain, something I've not really had in a while.

Food: the photo does not really do justice to the sheer size of the evening meal. It was a very large piece of tongue and a lot of vegetables. ... Read more

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Scrambling, Hiking and Running in Wales

My brother and I had two great 6-hour outings in the mountains of North Wales over the weekend. It was a medley of scrambling, downhill jogging, uphill power walking and normal hiking. Great training for next week's Langdale Horseshoe Race.

Scrambling is and excellent all-body workout. I used to think it sounded twee and unadventurous before I really understood what it involved. In reality, it's a hybrid of hiking and rock climbing, capable of being very hard indeed.

I took my pulse at various points. 120-130 for the hiking, 150-160 for the scrambling and downhill jogging, 170-180 for one 10-minute power hike to a summit.

The Joy of Scrambling and Climbing

I enjoyed the scrambling so much, I have vowed to take more of an interest in pure climbing.

Natural Messiah is a serious climber, as you will know if you are a reader of his blog. I think I am starting to see how well this gels with the Paleo philosophy, and why it works so well for him. There is something incredibly primeval about scaling a rock face.

In the evenings my brother showed me some climbing videos. These guys do things that give you the fear just to watch.

Mixing it Around

Conversely, my brother has agreed to try a fell race. I think the days of long hiking slogs are over. The mountains offer an excellent opportunity to mix walking with running and climbing, so I'd like to take advantage of that more.

Oh - and of course, swimming. I am ashamed to say I failed to grasp the wild swimming opportunity this time. The best chance came at the end of day 2 when we walked past an inviting lake where some people were already swimming. Since I had no swimming shorts and no towel, there was no way to swim without risking public indecency.

Minimalist Kit

I also had an epiphany about kit. Chris from Conditioning Research, who also has a hillwalking blog, says he hikes in Innov8 shoes, which are basically fell/trail running shoes. That got me thinking.

Previously, my brother and I have always loaded up with kit. Boots like deep sea divers, rucksacks full of food, water, emergency this, emergency that.

I guess some of this is necessary for comfort and safety... but the reality is that a little less comfort and a realistic assessment of risk can radically reduce that load; and if you are scrambling or climbing, that makes a huge difference.

Comparing an archive picture from a previous trip with a photo from the weekend shows the difference this can make. I did spend the whole of the first outing this weekend with wet feet - which was fine, once I accepted it. Not sure it's viable in winter though.

Here are the key differences with my new approach:

- waist bag, not rucksack
- food beforehand if possible, rather than carry
- water from streams instead of carrying a bottle
- no change of clothes

This is pretty much the kit I take on a fell run. Why would I need significantly different kit for this type of outing?

Eating Big

I ate big all weekend, but still avoided breakfast, according to my Leangains experiment. One pre-walk epic lunch consisted of 9 eggs scrambled and drizzled in coconut cream, avocado, nuts and fruit. It took the entire 6-hour walk for my furnace to burn that one off, but when I got back I was ready to nail a baked mackerel and roasted vegetable feast.

There were also, even this late in the season, opportunities to forage some berries in the mountains. Up there, these wild berries probably contain several times the antioxidants of the big, overly sweet berries available in supermarkets.

The Foot

This was a big test for my foot, which I mentioned in a previous post might have a stress fracture. In fact it took everything I threw at it, and felt fine.

Participation in Saturday's 11-mile Langdale Horseshoe race therefore looks likely. Perhaps my previous diagnosis was a little over-dramatic.
... Read more

Friday, 1 October 2010

Improvised Back Workout in Woeful Hotel Gym

Date: Thursday 30th September, 7.30am
Location: Gym at Millenium Gloucester Hotel, South Kensington.

3 x 10 pull downs (chin up grip) using multi-gym pulldown
3 x 10 one-arm rows using another pulley on multi-gym
60 seconds on rowing machine as hard as I could

Time: 25 minutes

Nutrition (according to my Leangains experiment)
10g BCAA 20 minutes before session
10g BCAA 1 hour after
10g BCAA 2 hours after
Lunch @2:15pm - chicken drumsticks + an apple
Dinner @ 6pm - roast lamb and veg

The gym was dire: 6 dumbbells in the entire room, the heaviest being 10kg. The rickety multi-gym was my only hope of an effective workout, and I did manage to do the required damage in spite of the rudimentary apparatus.

I was presenting to 50+ people in the morning, so this session was primarily about stress management. I took the back exercises close to failure, not much rest, then hit the rowing machine to inflict some pain.

I also wanted to do some deadlift, but there was no chance of that. It did occur to me to use the disinterested gym attendant as an improvised sandbag to get some lifting action, but he did not look amenable.

Later, the chicken drumsticks were additive laden so I had a salty taste in my mouth the rest of the day. I was glad to get back to some organic lamb in the evening, and ate a pretty big portion, possibly over a pound.

I need to post a progress update on Leangains soon. I feel bigger and stronger.
... Read more