Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You have a training plan for the next six months, right?

I'm trying a 5-step seasonal training schedule, adapted from Coach's notes and John Wild Buckley's blog.  I think it's time I let go of my 65kg bodyweight and got stronger, at least in the offseason when I'm trying to move up a bell. First PT and recovery, then a serious strength - mass - strength-endurance season before resuming KB sport. This post was written and edited during phase 1 and published late in the 2-wk break in (highlighted below) of Dan John's "Mass Made Simple" article on T-Nation.

Rehab/Phase 1 intro
  • 5wks PT, Convict Conditioning big 6 done 2/day, 3d/wk, stairs on day 1 and treadmill on day 3.  Made outstanding progress, bridges helped rehab, handstands helped shoulders and presses.  Testing double KB presses in wk 5, I pressed 2x20kg for the first time ever.  Running up to 3mi.
  • December and January: a close adaptation of Mass Made Simple. 3 sets of 2-3 primary lifts, 5 reps, 5 reps, and "as many". A finisher of 2-3 sets of 20-30 reps high back squats around 70% 1RM for the first 2-few weeks, then many sets for the next 4 weeks.  I don't know how his athletes had time for what was in that article.  25 sets of 20 after a regular workout?
    • Monday: 5 each bench presses (maybe dumbbell, maybe inclined), inverted rows, front squats. May substitute or add some uneven pushups. High volume back squats. Walk stairs 10' unloaded to finish.
    • Wednesday: 5 each clean and press, pullups, single leg dead lifts. High volume back squats.
    • Friday: back and spine work, more focus on joint mobility drills than other days.  10 HLR to the bar, 5 of the Spetznaz hip rolling drills (need a link), 5 Maxwell rolling planks, and some tumbling drills. Follow by 20-40' light run. 6mph = 2mi/20'.  5mph = 2.5mi/30'. Score a 40' run every few weeks.
    • Eat for growth and recovery: protein supplements, Metamucil, and 4 or 5 meals. Magnesium oil spray on knee and hip after every session and on back when needed.
    • 2-wk break in: I am visibly bigger but barely 2lb heavier. CC work always bulks me and did so in November. This hasn't been heavy yet. With 2x16kg, presses are solid up to 10 reps and squats up to 30. Time to add weight with dumbbells or barbells. Limit the bulking phase to 4 weeks. Repeat in February if necessary, but only after a break and some fat loss.
Phase 1 - Off-season (indefinite length, starting in January)
  • I have this idea that I would like to be 150lb and pressing 2x20kg for reps and squatting it for dozens of reps and running miles before I resume LC sport training. Not certain that's all necessary, but I don't want to be struggling every rep and gassed at 6:00 like last time.
  • Strength, conditioning, technique, and GPP. Build strength up to the next bell.
  • Barbell dead lifts and squats, KB swings, jump squats, and military presses.
  • Density KB work: 1-3' sets at comp weight or higher. Done at pace for timing and speed, done with extended overhead time for strength.  Aggregate volume, if not extended sets.
  • Cardio output work at HR 120-150 (5mph or less), 30-90min, 2-3/wk.

Phase 2 - Preseason (4-6wks, maybe 8wks starting in March)
  • KB sets 5-7' minimum at or near target rpm, 4-5 training days/wk. 1 10' comp set weekly or biweekly. All 1-2' density work stops.
    •  This is the AKC plan. I found I was doing well on a Russian/Denisov plan last year: 2-3' sets at pace to more than 10' volume, varying the rest.  May do 3-4days/wk density work, 1 day 10' comp set.
  • Barbell work reduced to squats and jump squats.  All pullups and horizontal pressing stops.  Overhead pressing replaced by heavy OAJ with static holds.
  • Introduce cardio power work at HR above 150, 2-3min intervals: sprints, KB stairs, Eagles. Maintain cardio work 2-3/wk.

Phase 3 - Peaking (2-4wks including competition, maybe 6wks starting in May)
  • 4days/wk: 1 set comp weight/6-8'@target rpm. 1 day/wk: 1 set comp weight/10'@target rpm. Any day that you feel smoked and unable to work the distance with comp weight, use 1 size lighter.
    • See comment above about AKC/Russian plans.  Not sure at this early time whether this is best for me, based on last year's experience.
  • Mix output cardio and power cardio, 2-3/wk.
  • Only strength work might be squat jumps. Almost all assistance work on mobility and low-HR cardio.
  • The week of competition, 1 10' comp set, 1 6-8' set at comp or lighter, then Competition phase.

Phase 4 - Competition (2-3 days in mid-June)
  • 1-3 days off with recovery work and light cardio. Federenko's experience was that he lost conditioning after only 2 days.  Maybe test this in Peaking phase with consecutive long runs and HR monitoring.

Phase 5 - Postseason
  • Karaoke and burgers.  (John Wild Buckley)
  • At least 1wk mobility/maintenance work, light running, stretching, and massage.

Tentative schedule based around June 18, 2010 meet.
  • Off-season - through February
  • Preseason - March to May (T minus 3mos)
  • Peaking - May to mid-June (T minus 4-6wks)
  • Competition - mid-June (T minus days)
  • Postseason - when the bells hit the mat

  • Technique at wk 2 of peaking phase should determine your target weight if you plan to make 10'.
  • Stair carries lifted me over the hump, but they should have followed a more solid month of long, 130bpm cardio. Bicycling barely served this purpose, but I abandoned it because there was no load on my legs. Running 5mph raises my pulse to 150, but running slower is bumpy on my joints. May just accept running as "volume cardio" and stairs as "power cardio", regardless of being outside my block on the HR chart.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why am I running?

I'm on a brief medical hiatus from lifting. I pinched a nerve in my lower back in a dead lift on September 19. That was probably healing on a timeline of 1-2 months, but it felt so much better in 1-2 weeks that I resumed training. I actually thrived and broke some personal records for a few weeks before straining it again on something totally inconsequential in mid-October.

In the meantime, I have seen my orthopedist for a 3-yr checkup and have had a month of PT. The doc says I have good hips, good knees, and a little bulge in the L5-S1 disc. He said I'm getting old, and I strained my back lifting something heavy. Offered me drugs, which I declined, and asked that I see him next time I have a boo-boo in 3 more years (joking). So far, PT has gone well. I'm pain-free and beginning to bend again.  My therapist recommended I continue running, as it's probably training good posture.  So, outside of all the weight lifting and kettlebells, what finally got me into running?

I only began running a couple months ago, after decades of not trying and 3 years of being completely unable. I've needed a long-slow cardio for quite some time. Stationary cycling worked my knees, but there was no impact or balance and no active engagement of the foot itself. It never "felt right". I needed to bounce. I could creep into a squat and explode out of a squat, but I couldn't leap-frog through the squat. Every running stride, especially downhill, would stiffen my knee and send the whole impact up to my hip, which would seize up in a half-mile.

It took squatting and stairs to rebuild my running, which is interesting. My orthopedist and I disagreed strongly about squats, but he could not argue with my success. I supposedly had a partial ACL tear 3 years ago, and there's no evidence of it now.  What does squatting have to do with running? I needed to safely train my leg to drop me in and out of the "hole" without seizing up as a protective reflex. You can't train around a fear reflex under the full-weight burden that causes fear in the first place.  You train around that reflex with a fraction of that weight to regain movement and confidence.  I had to do deep squats, jump squats, and other movements that required and reinforced elasticity to rebuild elasticity.

The running motion itself required some study. I've had an interest in minimalist shoes and the type of running done by unshod and barely-shod billions around the world since long before Nike, Inc was born in 1972. I work out in Vibram Five Fingers, so I started testing my running motion in them.  Running doesn't hurt because it's unnatural; it hurts because you're doing it wrong. (That could be an article unto itself.) It is, rather, the epitome of "natural" human movement. My wife comments that I creep around in my comfy shoes but have this unusually heavy footstep in my motorcycle boots.  In bare feet, I'm the wind itself.

I found a few steps into my first run that I land on my midfoot, with a little roll from the outer edge in.  I found a few minutes in that I like a fairly high step and broad arc beneath me. I described it once like an ostrich, where the foot reaches forward and scratches the ground beneath the body. A lot of other natural running schools keep the feet basically below and behind the body. I reach forward by comparison, but I've figured out why.  That is the important point; I paid attention to what my joints needed. It's inefficient by any measure, but I run 30 minutes twice a week without pain.

Why would I go to all this trouble? First, there's an element of self-discovery and achievement. I'm not a licensed physical therapist, but I rebuilt a cripple into a runner and a weight lifter. Second, every pair of strides is a chance to check my alignment, my balance, the blown right leg, the left ankle I sprained in high school on an otherwise uninjured leg. The footfalls in those goofy plastic shoes on the treadmill give me constant feedback, and I can tell by their tone whether I'm landing on my heel or too flat or too pronated. I run around 850 pairs of strides in every mile, each one a movement screen.

Understand I've done maybe two months of running, with a couple years of conditioning work before it. I'm running in increments not of laps or minutes, but of 2-3 miles. Running is not an unnatural movement. Minimal shoes and bare feet are not dangerous. Squats are not bad for your knees. If I have learned any overarching theme from this long process, it is that my problem is probably not the activity but that I am doing it wrong. I deadlifted wrong, and I knew I rounded my back when I did it, but prior to that, I had added 50lb to my all-time max dead lift. I was rehabbing my knee wrong until I started squatting deep. I was running wrong, in expensive running shoes. I'm clearly blogging wrong, but thanks for joining me along the way.

Friday, August 26, 2011

At least exert yourself

Ed. note: There is a slim chance that a couple of people I know will recognize the situation I describe and the people I'm talking about. I mean no offense, but this profoundly affected me and needs to be said. It's not hurtful, it's just blunt, and it is heart-felt and honest.


I did some jerk and some long cycle with a pair of 20kg (44lb) kettlebells today, my current standard, and a pair of modest jerks at the end of the 90min session with a pair of 24kg (53lb) bells. Now the 2 24kg bells were a personal record, and 48kg (106lb) overhead for the first time was every bit heavy. Not three months ago, I nearly put 2 20kg bells on my head with that same lift, but now I train with them regularly. It was a big deal to me that I didn't eat those green 24s.

I saw some new folks training this week. One was pressing a pair of 35lb weights without pausing at the shoulder or at the top and deadlifting 53lb in a circuit.  Realize that they were deadlifting, from the floor with both hands, less weight than they were lifting overhead. Now realize that again. When I was 16 years old, I deadlifted a spinet piano once when it tipped over on a moving truck ramp, and I had never lifted weights in high school. They were deadlifting 53 pounds, in a gym, for which they paid money.

These folks were turning their heads to make eye contact and chat. They were talking freely instead of bracing themselves with a deep breath to protect the spine. These are not just my pet peeves; these are details that you cover subconsciously every day to lift things out of your car because the reach feels awkward.

I'm glad they were trying, but let's face facts. This was not exercise. This was not focused; this was not even safe. Going to a gym to get less old/fat/feeble does not automatically make you less old/fat/feeble. Hard work does. I accept I'm good at this because it's my hobby, but I am not the strongest person my size that I know. I know a 120lb woman who can deadlift over 200lb, which I cannot. If some guy bigger than me doesn't want to launch 40kg (88lb) overhead like I do, that's fine, but I know he can lift it off the floor. The point is that he was not even exerting himself, so he was wasting his time and not getting any healthier.

Clinical studies have shown as little as 15min of strenuous exercise on 3 days a week can reduce your body fat and blood lipids.  90min a week was shown to add as much as 3 years to your life expectancy in a long-term study in Taiwan. This isn't about kettlebells or about fat shredding or cardio vs HIIT vs strength training. What I do and call "cardio" is carry 40kg up and down stairs after my regular workout, but I couldn't survive a modern aerobics class. I don't care. I'm stronger than 3 months ago. My cholesterol is down. I eat like a puppy in a bacon store, and I can see my abs in the mirror. None of this would be true if I were too lazy to actually exert myself or too bored by the experience to keep it up.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The longest 10min of my life, and the next-longest 10min

I prematurely published my log for 08/14-08/20 on the 19th, so I edited the title and wrote a new piece for today. I even did some sets of 5 heavy last night after work that aren't listed, but I'll just call it pre-dinner and let it go. Today's session was good enough to post on its own. I don't do this often.

08/20 Sat 2x20kg Jerk
Mobility, band work, 2 sets 5 Bench Jumps

Goal = J:2x20/6-8/1'/1'r x7-9 (felt another set in me at the end)
Done = 10 sets 8/1', a PR by 3 full minutes

Partial BW dips: 2 sets 20
20kg SW: 30ea, 20ea
10’ Stair carries: 2'carry/30"rest x5, longer rest on #5


This is actually the first time I've accumulated 10 minutes of Jerk in one session. My Spring cycle was organized to stretch short sets into long sets. The long sets wore me out, so I never actually did 3' x 3 or 5' x 2 or any volume that added up close to 10'. I was one of the few competitors at State who did not finish the clock. The pure beginners, the still-overweight women snatching 8kg, finished their clocks. I made rank plus 9, completely drained, and set the bells down. I knew I had done something wrong.

This was a technically good session, including a few recoveries. The overhead squat training helped me later on. I'm working on launching the bells straight up instead of up and back, more Denisov, less Goncharov. The balance is tenuous, but there's less strain on my back. My new shoulder-width stance can accommodate a clean, more stable and ready for LC. And obviously, I'm recovering well. This is a good place to be 11 weeks out from Regionals.

Clearly, this was not elite mastery of the 10' clock, but this is my new baseline. I had a baseline a year ago of 3200kg ballistics every workout, based initially on 200 16kg swings. Now I have 80reps/10' at 2x20kg... which is ironically 3200kg. (I just noticed that!) What's important is that I did 10 minutes of my skill, then 10 minutes of 2x20kg stair carries for conditioning. This cycle, that's step 1, ground floor, my de-loading routine after a month of heavier stuff.

Monday, June 20, 2011

2011 Georgia State Kettlebell Sport Championships

18 June, 2011, Duluth, GA at Extreme Fitness, hosted by WKC Master Trainer Scott Shetler. I counted 12 competitors on the card, male and female, representing biathlon, long cycle, and strong sport. There were several men competing 20kg LC, and several women put up numbers above rank and lasted the full 10 minutes.

I scored 60J, 54SN to make WKC rank III at 65kg with reps to spare.

I hoped for 60 Jerk and 55 Snatch, both of which would have been personal records by 5 reps. I tried to recover the last snatch, but I couldn't close my fingers around the handle. It was just "over".  I took a break in the Jerk at 50 reps, between rank and PR. That breather got me 10 more reps in the 7th minute. I am very close to a 10min set in the Jerk.

On a training note, this is the first time I've taken most of a week's rest before a max effort instead of maintaining momentum. I had a couple of light sessions, 10 reps of each and some bicycling and stretching. I do believe I went in rested, but I definitely came out more sore than I've been in a long time. My knee and triceps were sore for more than 48hrs afterward.

Where do I go from here?
  1. Make steady improvement on movement in my right knee and my left shoulder.
  2. Get my Long Cycle rank III by the end of July. I'm not actively competing it yet, but I don't want my two events to get very staggered.
  3. Train 3/wk for a while. Get a little of my life back on the weekends. Keep a 4th session of one-armed work on file for when I'm bored.
  4. Rank II (20kg) by the Autumn meet. Start some strength training now, which will involve some heavy lifting and more eating.  Maintain 10 pullups, 10 pistols, and <150lbs.
  5. Extend my 16kg work to 10min, no questions asked. I need a lightweight, high-volume option. I'm at 7min in both lifts right now.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What exactly did you train today?

I read a few senior trainers' personal training logs, and I'm noticing a pattern.  They don't seem to organize their own training like the rest of us.  So many group sessions and forum posts at "my level" will include snatches, Russian twists, Renegade Rows, KB deadlifts, floor presses, but I less often see "long cycle clean & press" (LCCP) or "swings and get-ups".  The first elective, advanced training workshop I was privileged to attend in the RKC school was all about swings and get-ups, by MRKCs David Whitley and Jeff O'Connor.  The answer to every question was "swings and get-ups", and yet it was revolutionary when SRKC Zar Horton proposed a season dedicated to swings and get-ups to start 2011.  Rather than be surprised, we all should have seen it coming.

I laid out a recent group session with get-ups, front squats, LCCP, and swings.  I thought it was a little busy, but those were the elements of ETK and the HKC and should be familiar to everyone.  It caught some of them completely off-guard.  They were accustomed to 6-8 different things a session, some of which I'd call assistance drills.  I was accustomed to drilling 2 basics.  I've done just LCCP for 45min every weekend of the last three months, but I didn't think it would fly for a group class.  Maybe I should have tried it.

The journals of many elite trainers have entries like "snatches and pistols" or "pullups and long cycle".  It may be 5-7 days between repeats of a particular exercise.  Some of them will do those two exercises for dozens or hundreds of reps, as practice.  Some of them have a seasonal focus, like Rif's gradual return to the press or Dave's bending stuff while his knee heals.  More often, it's because they don't need a whole week, like I do, to put in a significant volume of practice.  They, better than I, can answer the question "what exactly did you train today?"

I spent a year-plus working my press to the next heavier bell.  It was successful, but it took forever.  Now I'm taking a season to work a) the "rest of my body", b) get-ups and swings with a heavier bell, and c) competition lifts.  I'm by no means an expert, but I've learned to recognize a plateau and I'm learning to focus.  Pistols and pullups (largely therapeutic), carrying a heavy weight, snatches and jerks.  That's maybe 6 months of work, with a good sense of focus.  My blog's going to be BOR-ing, but I like what Rif reposted recently: "Simple and boring usually is code for consistently basic, heavy and progressive."