Saturday, December 26, 2009

White Christmas

This is the first "White Christmas" that we've had in many years. It started snowing on Christmas Eve and lasted well through Christmas day - even have some in the shadow of the house still.

  • We had some time drawing around the table as a family. We put out some duplos and set the timer for 12 minutes and drew what we saw. It was fun. We also tried making origami.
  • My Granddaughter sitting in the snow laughing and having a great time.
  • One of the fun things we did on Christmas morning was have a "BIG" snow ball fight!
  • More fun for my Granddaughter and her Aunt.
  • Our White Christmas.
  • Christmas lights on our evening when we get hot chocolate and drive around looking at Christmas lights. It's a family tradition. Unfortunately the neighborhoods that we used to visit have less and less each year.
  • My favorite chandeliers! I always have to stop in front of this house and just look at it -- it's quite amazing. Here's a shot from over 100 yards. (This is also a family tradition.)

End of 8 weeks

It's gone pretty quickly, as time does these days; eight weeks of working on strength training. The running has taken a hit with the colder weather and busy schedule - no runs this week. :-(

[Photo: the last 3 leaves on the new tree that I planted this summer - now gone.]

Trainer: I did get the bike on the trainer once this week though - yesterday, for 2:05. I was wanting to watch a movie, so I rode while watching it. According to my Cat Eye it was 32.69 miles, 15.6 mph Avg, 23 mph Max, 80 avg cadence, 150 max cadence, no HR data. I've not ridden for a while, so two hours on the saddle was a little uncomfortable. I found myself sitting up right towards the end of the ride as well as moving around a bit. I've never had nor seen 'saddle sores', but I was wondering if that's what was starting as my bottom was getting quite sore...

Weights: I forgot to do my 1 minute sit up test (again). Today's pull up ladder had a second step of 5 pull ups (1,2,3,4,5,5,4,3,2,1). Last week it was just 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1. On week one it was 1,2,3,4,3,3,2,1. So over the last weeks I'm seeing 11 more pull ups in the ladder work out and have gone from a max of 4 to 8. (This is good improvement for me.)
On the bench I saw 2 more reps @ 155 and maintained the increases from last week: so only a small increase in 'work' over last week. Next week I plan to move the max lift on Th from 215 to 225. All in all I feel stronger now than I did 8 weeks ago - no question.

Weight: not so good; still up. I've been allowing and enjoying to many sweets. I plan on getting a little more serious at some point ... maybe tomorrow (which is saying I'm not ready to really make the commitment yet!). If I say I'll start something tomorrow instead of today - that's a warning flag to be dealt with and it's the thought I have when I hear others putting of starting something until the next day too.

Wed with Wife: she joined me again this week. That's 5 in a row now. And this week she did two cycles with me over the exercises. It was good and fun! She's lost many inches - not just in the last 5 weeks, but since she started this past summer - wearing belts and considering some new clothes... :-) Which is a good reminder: the scale isn't always the best may to measure progress as an increase in lean body weight doesn't always look nice on the scale, but does show up in the wardrobe.

I'm still playing with different ideas on how to quantify strength progress. My latest formulas include body weight to help scale the numbers based on the weight of the one doing the work. So a lighter person doing the same weight is producing more power. It's kind of fun in a few spare moments here and there. My latest formula is : work = reps ^ ((weight/body weight)^3).

My wife tells me these are hard to read ... hmmm, trying to work on that. Unfortunately I've not had any good stories like the gym experience earlier this year. :-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Back on the Saddle Again

It's been over 3 months since I've ridden my bike outside; the weather last weekend was very tempting, but I had no time. This weekend was more than I could resist. Having missed my Friday workout and Saturday run - with only two shorter runs this week, when Sunday afternoon started to give way to early evening ... I was able to go for a ride.

I was a little nervous as it had been so long, but after a couple miles I was fine. The routine to get ready to ride is more complicated then going for a run:
check / lube the chain
check brakes
check tires - inflate to proper air pressure (120 psi)
prepare two water bottles
decide on clothing
backpack or fanny pack or none
pack phone, camera, something to eat
check lights
find shoes, gloves, helmet and mirror, glasses
put on chap stick,
It's quite an extensive procedure. From the time I took my bike off the rack to being ready to leave it was over 30 minutes.

The ride was part of my regular route last year: over the dam and up to Lake Ridge. The wind was out of the South so it was in my face on the way out and helping me on the way back: a good thing for a first ride after 3 months. It was nice to get out. I could feel the loss of stamina in my legs as I would go up some of the hills / inclines. Over the bridge I got to do my TT (time trial) section and managed 31 mph avg for the .5 miles with 181 as a peek HR. Over all the ride was 17.8 mph avg and 150 avg HR.

I continue to be pleased with the bike that God allowed me to be able to buy - well above my pay grade and experience, and something I don't take for granted. Having served my for over 5,000 miles earlier this year and hanging from the ceiling for the last 3 months -- it needed very little service and rode like the champ that it is. (Go Cannondale!)

I don't like missing my Friday workouts as those are the second workouts of the week that focus on the muscles that are helping me improve in my pull ups - something that I would very much like to have improve. I can do 7 now, but I'd like to get over 10 with the hopes of 20 some day. I've found that twice a week is enough to have improvement, but once just isn't enough. So, hopefully this week I'll get all five workouts in.

At the passing of another year I am more thankful for my health. One of the gifts I was given was a nice kitchen knife. I have some OK knives, but this one .. is amazing to use. It's almost like everything I cut is soft: it just goes right through it. I wish I would have gotten a premium knife years ago. (This one is a J.A.Henckels 8" Chef knife.) I have $10 chef knife and like it, but it just wont keep it's edge. I cook a fair bit if meals and dishes - so it's fitting for me to have a nice knife.

Eating wise: my weight is back to where it was 8 weeks ago. I've jumped 2 lbs down to 4 lbs up - 6 lbs. It's easy for me to move 1-2% in just a day or two. I continue to see some muscle growth, but I also see extra weight around my mid section. I have been doing pretty well with not eating much junk - until buying some Mint-Chip Blue Bell Ice Cream on Sat. That's my favorite ice cream and flavor - so I've had some every day since then.

My Monday routine is hard, or at least challenging in that it requires a high intensity level. There are no single exercises - all of them are in the form of two different but related exercises with no, or just a short, rest (30 seconds or less). I don't do heavy weights, but do more reps which lead to tight muscles before I'm done. Only minor improvements over last Mondays routine: which is acceptable as my intensity level is already high on this day so improvements are more likely to be due to strength increases over a couple of weeks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Measuring strength progress...

With my focus being mostly on improving my overall strength and core - I'm finding it more challenging to share those details than it was to share my running or cycling stats. But, I'm going to continue to try as I think there is some value in it. (For some reason it feels more personal. Maybe because I'm not seeing others sharing it.)

My seventh week is almost over (just my Friday routine remains). Last week I logged a number that I am going to use to help monitor progress. I'm calling it a 'work' number. By 'work' I mean the traditional meaning in Physics: "In physics, mechanical work is the amount of energy transferred by a force acting through a distance." I'm calculating a representation of that number by multiplying the number of reps * weight. (EX: if I do a set of 12 reps at 135 lbs: = 1,620.) I will use this 'work' number for my Th bench routine as this is my weekly Heavy routine. For Pull ups I will use my Friday pull up ladder total. For core, I will modify my Friday routine to have a 1 minute sit up max rep test and include that number too.

So, today's routine was my Heavy bench and my 'work' number increased from 5,420 last week to 6,425 this week: an increase of 1,005 or ~18%. That gain was accomplished by one more rep at 175, 195, 205 and adding a new set of 2 at 215.

I know that this isn't just an increase in strength from last week, but a combination of strength and intensity - a pushing closer to my limits. (If I were on the bike this would be seen as a high HR - like my short time trials over the bridge this past cycling season where I saw a max HR of 191.)

I do train alone and have many times reached a point of failure on an exercise before completing the rep. Not to big a deal most of the time, but on the bench it's a bit of a pain: having the bar siting on your chest while you push it off to the side until it rests on the safety and then squeezing and crawling out from under it the other way. So, I expect over the next 4-6 weeks I will run out of intensity improvement and will see the 'work' number slow down - but at that point it will be more of an accurate measure of strength increase.

I have gotten in two runs so far this week: a 5 mi and 3 mi. The runs are not happening as the days are full - so I'm turning down my expectations with them and just wanting 3 or 4 per week. Mostly it's a filler until I start back on my bicycle - sometime next month. There is a ride in TN on May 1 called the 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge that I'm hoping to ride in. I have one riding friend that is doing it and a few others that are warm to the idea... :-) It would be a neat way to start the season.

As for other possible cycling dream/goals for 2010:
  • do my first sub 5 hr century
  • ride 7 century's in 7 days (did 4 this year in May)
  • ride for 12 hrs straight
  • do my first triathlon
Being new to cycling - there are many 'dream goals' out there. Maybe some new technology would help: like a power meter... or some Zipp 404's, or ... maybe I need a sponsor ... :-)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Time to hang up the shoes, but...

I've been running off and on for enough weeks now that I was expecting my times to be coming down by now. Last week during one of my runs, I was thinking about how I'm not motivated to work a lot harder in running to see the improvements that I'd like to see.

It was a moment of truth and honesty. Then this weekend, Sunday was such a beautiful day I wanted very much to be out riding my bike - especially after seeing three cyclists on the route that I normally ride. So I was thinking it was about time to hang up my running shoes sometime soon and start back on the bike again. I have been off it for a couple months now and I'm starting to look forward to riding again.

Then I went for a run today: it was a beautiful day, sunny, warm, running in a tank top. It was just so nice. Not the hassles of cycling: the extra gear, pumping up tires, checking brakes, helmet ... more prep time. I was just able to put my shoes on and head out the door. I didn't wear my chest strap, so I don't have my HR numbers, but I didn't think that was too important as I've not been pushing myself for the last 3 weeks or so. I did wear the GPS though, so I could track the time and distance information.

Numbers: just over 5 miles, 40:06 time, avg 7:57 /mi, max 5:50 / mi, ~760 calories. I haven't tried to avg under 8 minutes for probably 4 weeks. So today was just a 'enjoy running day' and it was quick and very nice - enough to make me want to keep running (and maybe add some bike rides for now).

[Photo: this mornings log from the weights showing the up arrows.]
The weights this morning were good. Monday is mostly chest, triceps and forearms - besides the normal warm up. I like to put little arrows in my log book when I go up in reps from the previous week - this morning there were many up arrows. By the end of the work out I had some tight muscles which is the fruit of a good work out for me. (When I go down in reps I put in down arrows.)

Weight: is up a couple lbs - and I know better than to think it's just an increase in lean body mass. There has been some of that, but I can still see and feel some not so lean mass around my midsection ...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The rest of week 6

With the days so full and not having a 'hard' goal - my blogging has bumped down a few steps and I'm trying to blog as often as I can make time. This week that is twice..

Signs of progress: as I mentioned in a previous comment - I have made the 5 strength training routines the primary goal right now. Partly because I can schedule them in first thing in the morning and have little risk other than sleeping in of them not happening; and the rest because I do enjoy them (after they are done). The following are signs of progress as I've finished my 6th week:
  • I'm taking shorter rests in between each set. I use a timer and set it in advance for the exercise to 30, 60 or 90 seconds depending on the exercise and day.
  • I'm doing almost twice as much work on the bench press (3,040 lbs lifted on Th of week one VS 5,420 lbs lifted last Th - those numbers are computed from the reps times the weight for each set).
  • Pull ups started with 4 regular on week one and I did 7 this week.
  • The pull up ladder on week one went to 4 and was weak and this past week went to 5 with complete reps (1-2-3-4-3.5-3.5-1.5-1 VS 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1, or 18 total VS 25 total).
  • Warm up was just punching bag and hanging knees on week one; this last week it is over 10 minutes of core warm up and training: twisting and stretching, hanging knees, knee raises, L's, crunches, Punching bag and a plank.
Training with my wife: This weeks Wed routine was the 3rd time in a row that my wife joined me: and once again it was a good time. I actually wrote down one of the things she said as it made me laugh when she said it. Now it's not likely to be as funny here, but the scene is we are on the last exercise of the circuit, the plank, and she says - "I don't wanna do the plank...". This wasn't said in a rebellious tone, but rather a child like whinny voice - looking for sympathy and an out. (It kind of made me think of someone being forced to walk 'the plank' in a Pirate movie - and them begging for mercy...) So, rather than having to do the full minute (and falling to the sharks in the water below), we agreed to 2 reps of 30 seconds with a very short rest in the middle. :-)

This past week I was able to get in all 5 strength workouts; but I was only able to run three times for a total of 14 miles. My road bike has been calling out to me! It's hanging in the garage .. tempting me as often as I enter. I have some loose spokes and a little bit of service that needs to happen to it and then I'll likely ride it again soon. I've not been on it for ~3 months now: long enough to 'want' to start up again after 5,000+ miles this year.

More big rocks .. as is to be expected, but that's OK. My thorn continues to be wanting to exercise or eat when I'm stressed. Eating is easier, but I prefer to exercise: to much of either is a problem; balance continues to be the goal and will likely be the life long goal that I continue to reach for that is just beyond my grasp ...

[Photos: my son's swim meet, the last stages of a spectacular sunset, breakfast one morning (2 fried eggs, onions, bell pepper, garlic, pepper jack cheese and spinach.]

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 1 - Week 6

Since this is the 6th week, I've modified my routine a little more.

[Photos: our small dog in his bed, our big dog in our small dogs bed, both dogs in our small dogs bed.]

The last 5 weeks have been good in the sense of increasing in strength (and muscle). The intent isn't so much muscle growth, but I was starting at a place where I had been cycling and not doing any strength training for ~ 8 months. So, a little muscle growth is a natural by product of the strength training and probably a good thing too. In the log book I can see more reps and higher weights - more to support my perception that the current training is effective.

There is much talk about keeping variation in a training routine so the body never gets used to a routine or work load. I have been doing that over the last couple weeks and have added some more variation this week. Specifically what I did to my Monday routine today:
  • The light bench routine is now done at the same weight for all three sets (135 lbs) and now has a 30 second rest after each set and then a set of dips is done; followed by 30 seconds and then another set on the bench. Three cycles of this is done .. it's a workout that I felt well into the afternoon.
  • The decline bench is the same as the regular bench with the exception of a closer grip and by the 5th and 6th set of dips I was just squeaking out 1 rep.
  • I then did a circuit of incline bench with light weight bar bells (35 lbs) and butterflies at 25 lbs; doing three cycles with no rest.
  • Lastly it was triceps: push downs forwards and reverse grip with 30 seconds in between starting at 30 lbs and ending with 50 lbs.
  • I always start with a more through warm up now that includes twists, sides, hanging, L's, punching bag, crunches and 60 seconds holding a plank - about 12 minutes of warm ups.
  • The whole routine took me 51 minutes today.
During lunch it was cool (~42) and drizzly. Not what I've been used to running in, but I had to run as it had been over a week since my last run. So .. I put on my running tights and a windbreaker, ear covers and a visor and headed out. I ran just over 5 miles and ran just for fun. It was very nice and enjoyable. The avg pace was 8:32. I was also able to encourage my wife to go for a run over lunch too. That was good as she has a harder time being motivated when it's gray, wet and cold. She wanted to, but just needed a little extra push to do it. (More good coaching - IMHO.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

End of week Five

This past week (the one with little blogging and NO running) was week 5 of making the weight workouts a higher priority. This was the first week where I didn't get in all five workouts - I missed Friday. This was also the first week where I didn't get in a single run!

[Photos: our first snow, One of the big rocks finally finished - no more falling down fence, a large spider my son found IN the house this last week.]

This was one of those periods where life was not able to accommodate my desired workouts - and so they were were shuffled when possible and lost for the rest. At this point - writing my Blog when I probably should be in bed, my thoughts are hoping for a week of 5 and 5: five periods of strength training and five runs of 30 miles. Unfortunately I'm sitting here eating Hot Tamales (the candy) and have had WAY to much ... another clear indicator of not getting enough exercise.

I still need to set a goal that is concrete. At this point I just have training goals: 10 / week. I also need a point in the not to distant future where I can accomplish something with the training to give it value. Over all I know I need to continue to get fitter, but I need some milestones.

That's all for now. Any suggestions for some goals or milestones? Thoughts or questions?

Working out with my Wife...

Wed is now known as "Last Chance Workout" days ... or so that's what my wife said she now thinks of them as. She has for the last two Wednesdays joined me for a portion of that work out.

It's more of a circuit day with most of the exercises working core and large groups of muscles. We have a warm up period (twisting, side stretches, hanging knees, L's, punching bag, crunches and planks). Then we cycle through the following exercises (squats, calves, jumping, good mornings, knee raises, crunches and plank). She does one trip through through with me and then I will do two or three more circuits after she leaves.

We have decided that this is good and we're going to continue to make time for our workout time together on Wednesdays. She'll also be eating the same protein drink in the AM. It's kind of neat to share this together after 21 years of marriage - it's fun. I like to coach and it's meaningful to be able to coach my wife in this way. I know it's no small thing for her to get up early in the cold and spend this time with me and to be subjected to some intense exercise ... all part of the significance of that time now.

My Wed routine has quickly become my favorite of the week! :-)
[Photo: Geese flying south last Sat on my run.]

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I've had some big rocks, that aren't appropriate to discuss here, going on in life. That has made blogging fall behind.

So briefly:
- last week I got in all five routines with the weights (4th week of 5/wk)
- last week I went on 4 runs totaling ~26 miles
- my weight is down maybe a pound

I have a neat shot of some geese flying south that I took Saturday late afternoon while I was on my run (11 miles: from my house to the dam and out just over half way then back).

Monday - yesterday: weights, but no run due to other bigger rocks.
Today - no weights this morning, another big rock. Hopefully I'll get the weights in during lunch.

That's all I have time for. I hope to have time very soon to be more regular in tracking my efforts and progress. :-)
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