Wednesday, April 30, 2014

One month out

One month out from the ACT Throwdown III, I'm making some peaking cycle tweaks to my training. I did experience a typical slump in top-end strength over the last 6 weeks, but my general endurance and middleweight bell work remains good. I'm expecting 5-7min, so I'm training toward that range from here out.
  • Running 3/wk, working toward a 30 minute 5K.
  • Lifting 2/wk: Long Cycle mostly with 24kg, squats, complexes, and swings.
  • Bodyweight exercises, including lateral movements and rotation.
  • Physical therapy: overhead mobility, spine mobility, and leg maintenance.
Running is becoming progressively more comfortable for me. I've got one ankle that gets tweaked if my alignment is off, but it hasn't bothered me in several sessions. The struggle after the first few minutes is more mental than respiratory or orthopedic, which shows improvement.

I'm also finding that  I'm capable of a faster pace with 24s that gets me winded sooner but is less stressful for my back. I'm hoping the assistance work will reinforce my rack and improve my recovery to make the jump up. I may be able to split the rack time before and after the clean, too. When you're a complete novice, it's never to late to improve on technique.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

To Sleep, To Dream

There's much written in the sporting world about poor sleep and overtraining and the injuries they lead to. People commonly measure their recuperated status with tests of pulse variability or finger-tapping reflexes or visual acuity. I have a tech career with on-call days, so I'm acclimated to waking to immediate mental demands. I'm generally clear the moment my alarm sounds and occasionally awake before it. But if I am cloudy and unfocused when I wake, then I will decline to lift heavy, quickly, or overhead that day. I have never had a fatigue/overtraining related sports injury, but I have learned to adapt to my sleep patterns. Maybe those are related points.

I spent 6 weeks training 5 days per week this quarter, more frequently than usual and something I historically only maintain for about a month. As recorded in my notes from weeks 4, 5, and 6, I missed one kettlebell day each week due to broken sleep. I was aware of 1 or 2, but not 3. My scores flattened off 2 weeks ago. Life happens, and life comes before trophies and numbers valued mostly by other people with numbers of their own. Exercise is health; sport is entertainment, and entertainment should never supersede one's health or peace of mind.

I ran well yesterday, and my ankle's fine. I lifted well this morning and stopped when I felt myself forcing it. It was shorter in volume and sorted toward heavy bells, plus some basic strength work and PT afterward. I'm already about 2 hours in sleep debt this week, but I have tomorrow off from lifting. Maybe I'll make time for pain, gain, and insanity when the summer rolls around.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

So I lost my mind in the gym today.

There's a well-documented set of guidelines for ordering exercises in a workout. NSCA guidelines here, BreakingMuscle here, and so on. The idea is that mental focus and available energy stores are in highest demand for speed and technical work, then for maximal strength, and least for low-intensity endurance work. My kettlebell seessions are all planned along these terms.
  • general warmup, then warmup from single bells to double and light bells to heavy
  • n minutes with heavy bells, 2 sets at competition pace. 1.5n minutes with medium bells at faster pace. 2n minutes with light bells at faster pace still.
  • single limbed work: swings, military presses, overhead holds.
  • physical therapy: 2-bell "first dips", mobility work as needed, stretching.
That's where this weekend comes in. This was a frustrating and expensive week for me, in terms of sleep, money, and peace. Saturday morning, I had been 5 days without handling bells or clearing my head properly. The only thing that worked well was Friday's run, which ironically left my calves tight. In my second set (the first one actually being good work), I launched a jerk that only made it as high as my nose. It was as if I dropped into my first dip, then completely lost my train of thought. Resuming with the heavy bells, then substituting with medium bells, proved to be fruitless. I had lost my mind in the gym.

I recorded my reps and time and comments in my training log, then breathed it all out. I took a short walk, then repeated my chalk ritual. I picked up my light-weight bells and did a 6:00 set at a relaxed pace. I had planned 6:00 at a fast pace, but it wasn't realistic. I wanted to set them down at 4:00, but I needed to prove something. I needed to finish some sort of quality work, so I finished a light set with only a time requirement. Then came single-limbed work and physical therapy to finish.

In the big scheme of things, one bad session does not mean the world. One bad week can set a competition prep significantly back, and I do have a meet in 5 weeks. Eventually, a day like this comes down to finishing a block of quality work, creating and meeting a single goal. It's not a personal best or a full ten minutes or even the heaviest weight on the schedule. It's about showing up, setting a realistic goal, and achieving a goal. I got that done today. I can find my mind next week.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Post-Punch Planning

I wish I could have attended the Punch Kettlebell Sport Championships last weekend. My local friends from Pride Conditioning and my friends from the Ice Chamber and Team Kettleguard were there and performed well. Punch Gym puts on a great show, with great lifters in-house and great enthusiasm and hospitality.

I lifted a long set Saturday in a PR attempt that didn't pan out. My usual competition pace with 20kg bells is 5rpm, plus a few reps over the course. I had been training 6rpm for medium sets, so I decided to try 6rpm for a timed set. I got to 40/6:30 before I completely ran out of air. I shouldn't have tried to bump my PR from 54 to 64 in one shot, but I did try.

What caught my attention was that some of my fellow athletes posting that they had the same experience at the competition. I read "worst set in two months". I read "aggravated with myself". Another scored almost exactly the same as last year.

I'm aware that a several of these lifters build their programming around many short sets. My midseason volume work is organized the same way, but my peaking cycles include longer sets. This made me revisit exactly what I'm doing.

I'll be cycling my volume less and stretching my sets for the next few weeks, testing a long set every other Saturday. I've been training bodyweight instead of barbells lately, with good results. My legs had gotten stiff, and what I'm doing now feels like physical therapy. I must be careful to keep my strength up over the long-term. I've started using the Couch 2 5K app to avoid reorganizing my running when I'm tired. My pace is up, and my capacity is up, and I can usually still run when my sleep is inadequate to lift bells.

I think my biggest shortfall right now is inadequate sleep. I finished all my reps this morning, but the 24s were heavy. Heavy's usually a sign I didn't rest enough, as these bells are fixed sizes that I handle every session. I don't know what kind of rest people got in Sarasota, but I know how squat days felt when I wasn't rested, and it's familiar.

I will see some of you at the ATC Throwdown in May. 24kg is alone on the menu, so this will be a real test for me. I'm excited.