Monday, April 27, 2015

I'm not certain how this was scored, but I believe we won

Park? Hot dog? Definitely the park!
Kilo and I did a fun run over the weekend at the Bark In The Park Top Dog Festival. The schedule included Ultimate Air competitions that I've seen on Animal Planet and displays from several pet adoption shelters. After the fun run, we got treats at every other table and this cute little frisbee that's in bitty shards at the house. Nonetheless, it was pouring rain and 56F, and attendance was thin. I didn't see more than a dozen dogs with families at the hour the events should have started, and we were all spectators.

So, I've seen Kilo get bored of ordinary jogging until there's someone to follow. I've seen him run half a mile alongside a perfect stranger. I thought running with a pack out in the grass would be great fun. There were pits and labs and hounds, all eagerly play-bowing and trading wild strings of slobber, but only one other obvious human runner with a happy-looking cattle dog at the starting line. The course was a simple 1mi path around the farm, which we were welcome to lap as many times as we wanted. I expected maybe two laps.

The boy took off at a gallop, pulling me by the waist. I stopped him once to pee and poop and let the pack catch up. Thank God for the water buckets and waste baskets at every corner; you don't know volunteers until you know volunteers manning a dog poop station in the rain. By the first mile marker, we had passed the crowd. I believe we finished first, not that it was timed or rewarded in any way. Kilo got pets and cheers and a little textile travel bowl that barely accommodated his muzzle. The lady and the cattle dog wheeled into a second lap, so I cheered Kilo back onto the path.

This was where it got interesting. We had resumed a little late, and the first quarter-mile was clear. By 1.5mi, we had lapped this festive little white foofie and started to reel in that cattle dog again. There was a brief exchange of greetings, canine and human, and Kilo pulled me on. He had no interest in running "with" the cattle dog; he wanted to outrun the cattle dog! We finished clearly out front on that second lap, greeted by more cheers and petting, and he was finally done.

I had no idea Kilo had such a competitive streak. He is his mama's boy. I'm sure the Dog Whisperer would have volumes to say about the whole thing. He's enthusiastically social, fearless, and tolerant within certain limits that he firmly defends. He clearly had the highest play-energy of the dogs in the fun run, matched only by this one enormous lab mix that wanted to wrestle in a familiar way (made its owner REALLY nervous) but couldn't run worth a darn. There was a blue pit bull terrier that wanted to play but wasn't allowed to join the run, which was a shame. It would've been hilarious to see those two dragging me laps around the field by a leash.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Goal #1, coming through

5 paragraphs, numerous articles linked for references, and some footnotes. Half about weight, half about shoulder.

Dan John has a famous quote, which he may have gotten from Dick Notmeyer: the goal is to make sure the goal remains the goal. I set myself a physical training goal this year, and it is gradually, glacially pushing other goals aside: put on 10lb of lean weight. My greatest failure these last few years has been squeezing goals like this in between scheduled kettlebell competitions. Unfortunately, none of my goals ever meet those deadlines. This year, the remainder of this year's goals are on indefinite hold behind #1.

First, I don't ever want to be feeble again. It gets hard to defeeble yourself after around age 30, even harder if you've been forcibly befeebled by injury or illness. In 2008, I lost 15lb in a week and took 5 months to put just 11lbs of it back on. Over these last two months, I'm a slightly fluffy 9lb bigger, doing weighted pullups and trail running twice a week to monitor the burden of the extra weight.

I had to learn to tolerate the bodybuilding-ness of this goal because it serves a good purpose. This article discusses how muscle size is the only long-term factor we can change to make continued strength gains. (1) This Dan John article proposes that middle aged people need hypertrophy. Lastly, there was a peer-reviewed study by Brad Schoenfeld comparing the effects of training short, heavy sets versus longer, middleweight sets. The muscle growth observed was roughly equivalent in the two groups, but the middleweight group needed significantly less rest and recovery. (2) I wish this were more widely discussed, frankly. I should have stumbled across this years ago.

Second, the last few weeks of this training has isolated an old problem in my shoulder, one I've lifted "around" in a compensating way. Get this: it's easier for me to do 20 diamond pushups without pain than 20 regular pushups. (3) So, I give up; it's time to regress all the upper body work and address this. It may take months or a year to pick up where I left off, but I'll never get beyond where I left off if I don't address this. All I know is that I've 30 years of posturing around that shoulder and 100,000 reps of crooked kettlebell work that I have to defeeble.

So I'm testing a few weeks of self-guided rehab before engaging my doctor. My doc is very sports-minded, and we have a great working relationship. I just don't want to pay for PT unless I absolutely need help. This shoulder article by Dr David Ryan goes into great detail and gave me a few great movements to start with. This morning's session felt positively spastic, like trying to get a football jersey over a sweater. I am so asymmetrical. Mark Reifkind said once, "rehab is training". It's important to remember that. There's no shame in feeling better and moving better, even without a better bench press.

I'm also squatting. That's going great.

(1) Brief practice daily and long practice twice-weekly both add up to thousands of repetitions and neurological mastery in the long term. A person's bone length and tendon attachment points are not modifiable by exercise and only cause a fraction of the difference among humans that they do between humans and other species. Studies show that strength champions differ greatly from laymen in muscle belly size, and that is the only factor we can actually change. 
(2) Read the fine article for more detail; it's legit. I don't need top-end strength for kettlebell sport. I also don't have a 4-post power cage to do top-end work safely, and I train alone in a backyard shed. I totally should be doing sets of 10, where I can see failure coming, instead of 1RM tests.
(3) Diamond = thumbs and optionally index fingers together, forming a diamond shape. DPUs move the load from pecs and delts to the triceps and are supposed to be harder. Ergo, I am stronger with my triceps than with my pecs and shoulders combined. My all-time best overhead press was 110lb, ugly, but I can do 20 bodyweight dips at 155lb.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Days without squat injury: 1900

So I purchased a set of barbells and a home bench/squat rack a few weeks ago from Steve. I am so happy. I've missed Squat Day these last 10 months without a real gym.

The difference between a standalone squat rack and a power rack is that a power rack surrounds you with four posts and has safety bars on the sides to catch a drop at your knees instead of letting the barbell crush you. Squat racks or stands have just a pair of catches that you have to stand between or fall toward. I have squat stands, with catches about 18" deep. This works for me for two reasons. #1, I do tend to fail forward. (QUESTION: trainer-therapists ready to diagnose my weakness... GO!) #2, I am long past any need to train max singles ever again.

I have only ever dropped one squat in my entire life. I was training front squats, healthy and moving well that day. I beat my max single by 10lb and tried another 10lb. 'Clang!' I had a chuckle at my own expense and resumed squatting smarter loads without a moment's hesitation.

The whole "squats are bad for your knees" myth from a single paper in the 70s, the current "squats are bad for your back" argument trending on the internet, it's all so much chatter to me. I do not discount the value of regressed squat movements for people who need them, but squats have done more to repair me than to hurt me by any measure.

I'm committed to being bigger and stronger when I reach 46 than I was when I reached 45. Traditional "20-rep squats" cycles taught me to dig deep and grind out, but they just trashed me. I'm no longer equipped for that kind of risk and abuse, so I've been looking for more of a minimum effective dose. I'm doing sets of 5-10 now, adding weight weekly to my FIRST set and feeling out the remaining sets as each day goes. So far, it feels good. I haven't come anywhere near a max or a failure, and I'm almost up to my routine working weight from last Spring.

ANSWER: it's my hips. I've got screws in one femur and a foot of scar tissue in the external rotator. If a lift is just utterly too heavy, my butt will squirt out behind me and lock my knees. I need hamstring work. Guessing "upper back work" would be an honest good guess for this particular trick question. If you said "opposite-limb mobility drills", you're not a therapist and you should feel bad for pretending to be one with your clients. People do need doctors sometimes.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A walk in the park

I recently discovered North Mecklenburg Park, which I had driven by a dozen times without taking a look. The park advertises 3.8mi of mountain biking trails. Well, this just had to be done, so the boy and I took a run Sunday afternoon.

So this park had streams with little wooden bridges, hills, and small jumps intended for mountain bikes but hilarious for the two of us connected by a bungie cord. At one point I got completely turned around and recognized a clearing we had crossed on our way in. We were almost back to the car, and we would not be reaching the far end of the park today.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Two different weigh-ins now, I've been 155.2. That's straight out of bed and bathroom, dry and hungry, 155.2. It's finally a pound over the hump where I've been stuck, and it's not all water and belly fat. The goal has always been a lean 160, so I'm looking at probably 165 before I taper off the creatine and peanut butter.

Right now, for the foreseeable future, I'm not even worried about kettlebell sport. Right now, I'm sort-of bodybuilding, and it actually feels really good. The programming looks a lot like the Greg Nuckols article, "Powerlifters Should Train Like Bodybuilders", and it lines up a lot with Dan John's guidelines for training over age 40. For any younger person who has reached a plateau with their strength or any older person who is looking to make a change, I highly recommend that Nuckols article. I like that starts their articles with this header, like the abstract of a scientific paper.

What You’re Getting Yourself Into:
~4200 words, 10-15 minute read time.
Key Points1. There are six key factors that largely determine how much you can lift.
2. Of these, muscle size is the only one that’s impacted strongly by training choices in the long run.
3. Although focusing on heavy (85%1rm+) lifting CAN build muscle mass, “bodybuilding” style training is a much more efficient and effective way to maximize hypertrophy.
4. Very advanced lifters may benefit from an increased focus on training specificity, but to make the most of this style of training, it helps to have a solid muscular base first.
I erased and rewrote another paragraph three times. I was beating a perfectly good point to death. The article is worth a read if you're young and stalled or old and trying hard.