Working Out - A Year In Review
Around the start of August of 2010 a good friend contacted me and asked me if I wanted to start doing a lifting program with him. I have never done any structured lifting program but it was appealing to me and my friend was in good shape and was more knowledgeable about working out/fitness. So, I started in on the Practical Programming Novice Program which was interesting as I was never taught any correct form for squatting, bench press (for the rest of the article called "bench"), standing shoulder press ("press") and I had never done deadlift. To say that I had a lot to learn was an understatement. In my typical fashion I got a few books and watched a few videos on YouTube. Looking back at my training logs I started at the following weights:
- Squat - 130
- Deadlift - 115
- Press - 65
- Bench - 75
Not exactly heavy weights for a guy, especially one weighing 180+ pounds :). My main goal at this point was to gain strength and lose a little fat. The whole program focused on a linear progression of weights, every week you would end up adding a total of 15 pounds to your squat, 10 pounds to your deadlift, and 7.5 pounds to bench and press. For the first month it was easy and I tried to focus on form. This is where I started to learn a few things about me:
- My inflexibility especially around my hips made it hard for me to have correct squat form
- Static stretching (what most people think of when you say stretching) isn't that great for me when I lift
- I couldn't bench or do pull-ups to save my life
- I was surprisingly strong doing press
- I liked this structure program setup
- It was confirmed that I really had no clue about working out
I kept going on this progression till 10/6/2010 which is when I received my first injury. It was from bad form on my squat and well my back and I didn't end up on speaking terms. At this point my weights were:
- Squat - 270 (3 sets of 5)
- Deadlift - 275 (1 set of 5)
- Press - 140 (3 sets of 5)
- Bench - 170 (3 sets of 5)
Not too shabby for ~2 months of work. At this point I weighed around 195 pounds and was stronger but still had gained a bit more fat. One interesting thing around this point is I started to get hungry and I mean hungry. The only other time I was this hungry was when I was training for the marathon and running around 35-45 miles a week. Since I wasn't concerned about the actual weight on the scale I ate. Because guess what? If you want to build lots of muscle you have to fuel your body to grow that muscle :). At this point it was still weird but I would eat around a pound of chicken for dinner, etc.. but I was still learning how and what to eat at this point as well. Eating a pound of chicken for dinner is a bit too much, at least for someone at my level. After this a month passed and in the first half of November I went over to visit my friend who got me started on this program for us to do our maxes as we were about to switch programs. On 11/21/2010 I did my first max on all four lifts in umm forever, I did the following:
- Squat - 315
- Deadlift - 365
- Press - 165
- Bench - 205
I was pretty happy with all of this, except my bench didn't jive with the rest of the lifts. It might be because it was the last lift or it could just be I am not that great at bench. Anyways, on 11/24/2010 I started to do a program called 5/3/1 which I really enjoy. 5/3/1 program changes the progression from a day to day basis to monthly changes which worked well for me and I liked that on the very last set of each lift you went all out. At this point it became very apparent that lifting also was a mental game. Here is an example from my workout logs.
11/24/2010 - Press @ 125 - 7 Reps
12/8/2010 - Press @ 140 - 7 Reps
Umm.... At this point my muscles aren't growing that quickly, so, for me to do the same number of reps on press with a 15 pound difference in a two week time span raised the alarm that it was probably mental. If you look through all of my presses it can be shown that once I started 5/3/1 the max number of reps I had was 8. Every month I would go through about a 20 pound range easily so there is no reason I should have been limited to 8 reps so I am quite sure it was a mental factor. Don't get me wrong 8 reps are fine but it illustrates one point for me that if you aren't pushing yourself you can become limited.
Some of my friends have been doing crossfit for quite some time and I have always wanted to try it out but for one reason or another I had found an excuse not to do it. Finally in Feburary of 2011 I started crossfit elements (the newbie class) at CrossFit Deep Ellum and there was no turning back. There are a few things that I wanted to get out of crossfit:
- Learn a few different ways of working out
- Get better at pull-ups
Doing weight lifting solidly for six months without much else really made crossfit tough for me as I was slower than crap and had no endurance. I tried to go three times a week and was doing it fairly solidly and making some progress but then in May I had my first major injury. In the middle of May I was doing a workout of deadlifts 3 reps on the minute for 10 minutes. For about a month before my injury of my right leg and gluteus had been acting weird but this was the tipping point (note to self: listen to your body when it hurts). On my 7th set I did something that caused a lot of pain, it turns out I herinated one of my lumbar discs. Later that day I ended up going to the ER and getting some drugs as the pain was the worst I have ever experienced in my life. That put me out of working out or doing anything except walking my dogs for the next six weeks. Around the end of June I started to do light workouts at home and in July finally went back to crossfit and did workouts without any weight. It is now August and I am adding weights back in but still not at a weight that are super tough for me. I still can't run for crap or jump rope as I can't lift my right leg up by itself (the first two months after my back injury I couldn't even flex my calf).
After working out for a solid year my weight has bounced all over the place. Here are some stats:
- 7/1/2010 - 180 pounds
- 1/1/2011 - 200 pounds
- 8/1/2011 - 185 pounds
Now in August 2011 I will have to say the amount of fat I have on me is at a lower point then I am used to and I am sure I will lose some more fat in the coming months.
Some overall things I have noticed over this year are:
- Not being an active kid really does hinder you as you get older. I have no hard proof on this but I feel like it is harder for me to push myself and be explosive compared to people who have been doing sports all their life (or a large chunk of their childhood).
- If you have no one that can help you spot bad form it can really end up bad for you. YouTube is helpful for form but it is no substitute for coaches and/or people who know more than you and telling you when you are being dumb.
- I have a decent capacity to build strength fairly quickly. Since I had never squatted more than 200 pounds before August 2010 and I ended up having a 3 rep max of 315 in May of 2011 I think that is fairly good growth.
- I have a competitive streak in me that I did not know was there.
- I like workouts that are circuits better than workouts that are just go run for 45 minutes.
- Building strength is not overly complex and having a structured program where you are progressing weekly, monthly or yearly is the way to go (imho).
- Crossfit works for me, it doesn't work for everyone. I will say they don't have much strength building in their programs. Don't get me wrong you will get stronger if you do it but if you want to be really strong (like deadlifting 600 pounds, pressing 250, etc...) doing just crossfit won't get you there.
- Your diet can hugely affect workouts and your energy levels. For example, if I eat cereal or granola before working out my energy level is crap and I feel like a slug.
Overall, this past year has allowed me to learn quite a bit about fitness. That being said I still know very little and look forward to the coming years and learning more and getting in better shape.