Category Archives: Health & Fitness

March 2015 Competition 

Dan John says keep the goal, the goal, and a way to do that is to have a date set that helps you focus. For me it’s the 1/2 bodyweight kettlebell military press and 100 snatches in 5 minutes. That’s how I mark progress athletically every three months. 

So after tying on a five pound girly weight to my 53lb Kettlebell I tested my one-rep max.

  • Right: 3 reps w/58.2lb (62lbs/39%BW)
  • Left: 4 reps w/58.2lb (63lbs/40%BW)

I maintained my max and relative strength compared to the 159 I weighed in at with my right, and gained strength on my left. Simple and Sinister kept the pressing strength up. 

My conditioning was a little lacking…

  • 50 snatches with the 53lb Kettlebell in 5 minutes (-4 reps)

It’s a half step back on conditioning but still much better than the sad numbers I started with last year. In a week I’ll be exactly 12 weeks from the next competition and I’ll begin a program with a heavy press focus to see what happens. 

That’s Disappointing…

Eating everything in sight is a hard habit to break; it has been taking a while to get back into a more disciplined eating style. I upped my protein to maintain the lean body mass I had gained. Still it resulted in a drastic drop in calories and I was ‘hangry’ without the extra 500-1000 extra calories. I searched for a plan to cut fat without sacrificing what I had, finding most from T-Nation’s Facebook feed; The Time-Restricted-Plus DietFat Loss & High-Protein Breakfast,  and How Many Carbs Do You Need. The next six weeks I am going to make sure my carbs do not exceed my weight (158lbs=158 grams), cut junk, eat breakfast, and intermittent fasting with protein pulses. Already started after reading the Time Restricted Plus article.

Performance wise, when I restarted Simple and Sinister it was at a higher level. I could do ten one-hand swings with the 53lb kettlebell after the double kettlebell work increased my grip strength. I do have to give credit to the new Rogue kettlebell’s finish as well. Before I had to switch hands after five reps halfway through the set, and with my get-ups I decided to just use the 44lb kettlebell instead of alternating with the 28. Within two weeks, I was able to incorporate the 53. Then I had a two-week break to move (trading lifting weights for lifting furniture) and started again. I will do S&S until I am 12 weeks from the June 1 competition.

The March 1 competition I have not even prepared for, specifically. The plan for the June 1 competition is to start a near daily ROP, an idea I got from a thread on the StrongFirst forum. I will have another assessment halfway through the program.

So where am I on body composition now? Worse than I thought actually.

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.5                14.5              0

Shoulders             44.8                  44.5                -0.3

Chest                      38.8                   37.5                      -1.3

Waist                             34.1                        34.0         -0.1

Biceps                    12.8              12.8                         0

Forearms                   11.1            11.2                                      +0.1

Thighs                         22.6                 22.8                          +0.2

Calves                          13.6                   13.8                          +.20

Weight                  164.2lbs          158.8         -5.4lbs

Body Fat %                18.3%                18.1%         -0.2%

Lean Body Mass    134.2lbs            130.1         -4.1lbs

I lost most of the gains and I can only blame my poor choice of diet. The Time-Restricted Plus plan is supposed to be sustainable so we’ll see.

 

Fieldstripping Life

One of the first articles I read in 2015 was on artofmanliness.com about a principle called via negativa. I read about the concept before in the book Antifragile. It is fieldstripping life by removing deadweight rather than a complete change in direction. Instead of using your willpower to create a good habit in place of a bad one, just drop the bad one. The article gave two tools to do this: make a list of what NOT to do to be a better person and to make a list of all you want to do in the next few years. Then you focus on the top five and drop the rest like the plague.

As much as I hate to admit it, I procrastinate when it comes to things that bore me like maintaining the house and cars. I also seem to have the ability to lecture with just a look, according to my wife. I know when I teach, I get lecture-y (is that a word?) and preachy, which is why I do not teach like that anymore. Lastly, to not be insensitive, at times the narcissism rises up and I think I am the only important one. That is the list of bad habits I am dropping.

Now to make the good even better, I listed my goals for the next few years, which was easy since I only had five. All things I am doing in one form or another now so really, so really, if nothing helps accomplish them then it will not be considered. The list:

  • To be a better follower of Jesus Christ
  • A home of our own
  • Supporting my wife’s dreams
  • Getting stronger and healthier
  • Making WJ profitable

Looking at the size and scope of this list, putting myself last, self-discipline, thousands of dollars, and time is a bit overwhelming. This verse came to mind, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Every decision I make should do one of two things-benefit the kingdom and/or make sure I am representing Jesus. The latter should also take care of the former, I would think. Heh, rather reminds me of the old WWJD bracelets. At least I have a singular point to really focus on.

Ended On A High Note

IMG_6792 (1)Training wise, I ended the cycle with a bit of a whimper after getting sick the last part of it. I pushed back the competition day from the 1st to the 9th so I could finish the Total Tension Complex program. So we’ll cover both form and fitness.

The last cycle of the year I focused on adding muscle for two reasons, vanity and increasing strength. Three weeks in I beat a personal record on the double kettlebell military press. It taught me a few things during this program: four week cycles to preserve my CNS and lower fat levels, and no hard training during cold and flu season. I read somewhere that it suppresses the immune system as the body rebuilds itself after training. I also formed a love/hate relationship with front squats and double kettlebell swings. IMG_6794 (1)

As far as my strength and conditioning goals I ended 2014 stronger, maintaining the 62lb one-rep max from the last competition. My lack of conditioning was cured by the double swings and 5 minute snatch tests. Instead of my test weight I trained with the 44lb kettlebell. When I tested on Friday with the 53lb ‘bell I increased my reps from 29 to 54. I ended the year more conditioned as well.

So what did the double kettlebells and eating everything in sight do as far as body composition?

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.0                14.5              +0.5

Shoulders             42                  44.8                   +2.8

Chest                      36.2                   38.8                      +2.6

Waist                             32.5                        34.1         +1.6

Biceps                    12.3              12.8                         +.50

Forearms                   11.1            11.1                                      +0.1

Thighs                         21.20                 22.6                          +1.4

Calves                          13.5                   13.6                          +.10

Weight                  153.8lbs          164.2         +10.4lbs

Body Fat %                16.1%                18.3%         +2.2%

Lean Body Mass    129.1lbs            134.2         +5.1lbs

Gained over 10lbs, and looking at how I ended last year the complex added muscle instead of just fat from eating all the holiday food. Might repeat that, or just watch what I eat… The next cycle I’ll return to Simple & Sinister on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and seeing what Strength Aerobics do for my conditioning on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

 

The Year Of The Prodigal

I decided to look over at the past year at the road traveled, over the mountains and through dark valleys, starting with January up to the week of Christmas. I started 2014 lost, the things I loved did not matter anymore, and I was struggling to find a way. The politics I always had an opinion about were pointless, it is really about who has the bigger guns, the only way to make a difference was growing local grassroots up into the higher levels of government. 

I explored psychology with Freud’s Defense Mechanisms so I could understand that I was not losing my mind. During this time, I was humbled by the forgiveness of people who had the power to hurt me. Depression kept me leashed, with little drive to accomplish anything besides get better; it was like a heavy block on top of me. This in tandem with two lawyers negotiating my future, which did not help either. Research led me to an ancient philosophy known as Roman Stoicism around the time I quit therapy since it was not helping the trauma anymore.

Then I plunged back into a valley of death, it was my godson’s birthday and old wounds were reopened. That barely passed by when we lost a well-loved church member, our pastor’s husband. In that time I saw shining examples of leadership from the Head Pastor as he protected and cared for the grieving family and listened to the type of man Jake had been. I began taking all my experiences and reading to run through the filter of Bruce Lee’s philosophy: “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

Then the dreams returned with a heavy dose of anger so I dived into stoicism even more, looking for a way to deal with the negativity. It was at this time the negotiations ended, I accepted it, happy that it was over. From it I changed my focus, taking things less seriously, I wanted more than I had; a fresh start. I began again to find a way except this time I did not want to be perfect, I just wanted to be good.

It was in May that the pressure and ‘pruning of dead branches’ began. Left my wife for an emergency business trip, bawling like a baby most of the way. Lonely I slept poorly and if I was not asleep, I was reading the Gideon Bible in the nightstand. My ego and interpersonal skills with shifty people were refined under pressure when street hustlers came out of the woodwork. During this month, my grandma went into the hospital and later hospice, my wife’s granddad died of a massive heart attack, and while we were driving to the funeral, her friend succumbed to cancer. In Oklahoma during that time a large chunk of who I had been was removed, maturity bringing insights. Ego was not the way, its doing the right thing regardless. I did not know it at the time but I was at war with my narcissism.

My body was gaining strength, physically and mentally, I was coming out of the valley. I constructed a motto to prevent my egomania and other negative traits, followed by a way to filter my decisions. As a guide, I came up with twelve personal virtues, virtues that I read again, when I refreshed my memory from the blog, and I would not change a one. Does not stop them from being hard to live by.

I came to be at peace with my introversion after reading Introvert Power. On a trip to New York and the flight home, I learned that people face the same problems to different degrees and stories. Overcame a few fears with the Stoic method of Trichotomy of Control, yet emotions were still harder to deal with. Sadness enveloped me again, memories and the weight of the one-year mark of losing my godson. I did gain a sense of closure though during July.

BaptismThen another death, my grandmother; while in Tennessee I spoke, actually just listened, at length with my uncle. Something he had said about being placed in key moments resonated with me. I had been noticing things falling into place regardless of my efforts to do it myself. For example trying to hire an attorney and the cost being more than my assets yet a pro-bono attorney appeared in a timely manner. I only had one explanation and turned more towards the church that had been there all along, and God. I rededicated my life; even our pastor noted the change saying I had “a servant’s heart”. I went from independent of anything (I thought) Ronin, to serving a master, God. He is now my shogun if you want to carry on the theme. It was not lost on me that samurai means ‘to serve’.

From there I started reevaluating further, old beliefs, new paths, and failings that need to be addressed. I was walking through another refining fire that tempered me even more spiritually, in my faith, and recognizing my own limits. Therefore, I turned more towards God, following His direction, and was surprised at how he answered a prayer. Then it was not simply a religion, it became a true relationship, faith solidified.

From there I started a book at my pastor’s recommendation; I do not think she realized how timely it was, Immediate Obedience. It is about being a true follower of Jesus. I also started an in-depth study of the book of James in the Bible. From it God was instructing me on being a Christian, I recommend reading it first after any of the Gospels. Then I was tested, and instead of doing it my way, I did it His and it worked. I wanted to know more about how to interact with people so I read the Gospel of Mark and the sixth chapter jumped at me. What to do with rejection, and when people come to you regardless of your mood.

I was getting closer to my wife as well during the year, the past year and a half had been one that either tears relationships apart or makes them stronger. Ours was the latter. Still sadness and hope resurfaced with the approaching holidays. Then one night I heard from a pair of guys who’d been in the same place or worse than I. They taught me to be ‘a light’ to those around me, and not to rely on my own strength in these times. I have proven to have great inner-strength on my own, but I have far greater available to me.

Loneliness hit, and feeling alone I journeyed into what God was for me. A judge? A universal impersonal guiding force? No, he was a father awaiting his prodigal son. He had been instructing me in the past six months, testing and tempering the metal, and with His strength, it has been much easier to live the twelve virtues I had written before. If this year is anything, it is the year of the prodigal. I’ve been brought a long way since January.