Thursday, September 8, 2016

The cut down to 93 kgs continues...meanwhile, turned 50, feels the same as 49 so far.

I haven't bothered blogging about my training lately because, frankly, it hasn't even been interesting enough to me for me to think about writing anything about it.  I'm still in the process of dropping my bodyweight down enough that I can compete in the 93 kg weight class and while that's happening, I haven't put much of a priority in strength development.  At best, I'm trying to maintain what strength I have in the hopes that when I finally get my body to stabilize somewhere around 200 lbs, that I'll be able to build strength from that point.

At the moment I'm still 215 lbs so I have quite a bit of work to do to make 93 kgs (205 lbs) comfortably by Provincials on November 11, 2016.  I was able to make 93 kgs for the Niagara meet in May but it required a weight cut from 218 lbs a week out and 213 lbs the night before.  The cut sapped my strength approximately 10% so, while I was able to make a total and complete the meet, the quality of my lifts was definitely secondary to just being able to do it.  I think I will be able to make weight in November without a big weight cut but I'm not expecting to be able to hit a Wilks comparable to my results as a 105 kgs lifter (somewhere in the 380-389 range).  I think it'll take another year of training at a bodyweight of 200-207 lbs before I'll really be able to see what I can do as a 93 kg lifter.

A couple of weeks ago I turned 50.  It's just another number but it's a milestone marker so I guess it's important.  I'm now officially and irrevocably a M2 age group lifter but so far, I feel the same as I did at 49.  Aches and pains actually feel considerably better than when I was either 48 or 49.  I attribute that to losing 30 lbs.  Even without doing any cardio, my resting heart rate has dropped from mid 60's to mid 50's.

One of the birthday presents I received was a Skulpt bodyfat measuring device.

It uses a type of electrical impedance process to determine bodyfat percentages.  I thought it would be interesting to see how it tracks changes as my bodyweight continues to drop.  Previously, I had estimated my bodyfat using the US Navy calculator, a method referred to me by's Greg Nuckols, that uses two measurements along with gender, height, and weight. The results so far are interesting:

US Navy Calculator:   215 lbs, 5'9", waist at navel:  36"  neck at largest point: 17"


Skulpt quick scan:  215 lbs, 5'9", based on measurement at right tricep, right quad, right side of abs


I asked Greg what he thought about the two measurement methods and he commented that the US Navy Calculator may attribute more visceral bodyfat while the surface measurement of the Skulpt may not capture enough visceral bodyfat (visceral bodyfat tends to be more abundant as males proceed through middle age).  Either way, both his and my opinion was that I'm probably somewhere in the middle, for whatever that is worth.  I think this progress pic supports our opinion.

dirty mirror hides some details

In any case, I'm interested to see how consistent the measurements are over time and whether or not the Skulpt will prove to be a useful monitoring tool for me.  Also, once I have time to scan all the measurement points, maybe the bodyfat reading will be closer to the US Navy calculation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

4 days as a part-time dog walker and first two weeks with an Isolator 6 meal cooler bag.

The two items in the title are related only in that they both began in the same week.  The week that the powerlifting team that I'm a member of, Toronto Rex Powerlifting Club, was holding the Ontario Powerlifting Association's Toronto Supershow Powerlifting Open at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, my wife Vivian came to me with an emergency request.  One of her dog walkers had a family emergency and would be unavailable to service her client's dogs for the entire week.  Vivian asked me if I could take vacation days to cover the client's dogs that needed to be walked.  It wasn't an ideal situation to burn 4 vacation days but Vivian has been busting her butt growing her business (it has been an amazing success) and I wasn't about to not support her now.  I had already committed Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to the powerlifting competition but now I was also a part-time dog walker Monday through Thursday.

Since Vivian's business doesn't do pack walks, I would be walking one household's dog (or dogs) at a time.  Fortunately the weather forecast was excellent and I was looking forward to the chance to spend some time outdoors.  I was assigned 3 appointments on Monday, and 4 each on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Each appointment was 30 minutes from arrival to departure and occupied a total of about 3 hours in the middle of the day.

With the exception of one day where a puppy client had a diarrhea issue and required extensive clean up of both the puppy and its crate, the rest of the walks were extremely enjoyable.  One dog was very small and would barely walk a kilometer in the 25 minutes or so we spent on leash.  Another dog was very undisciplined and would pull at the leash for almost the entire two kilometres.  On average I walked about 6 kilometres over the 4 walks spanning about 100 minutes of walking.  As my time as a dog walker passed, I thought about all the low intensity cardio I was getting along with the stress release from working with animals.  This was amplified due to the perfect summer weather I enjoyed while "working".  For all the full time dog walkers out there, I hope the great summer days make up for the walks in the rain or the bitter cold of winter.

I thought about my time spent as a personal trainer and had the idea that merging dog walking with personal training might be a good fit.  Often times as a personal trainer, one is busy in the mornings and the evenings but slower in the middle of the day.  While paying less on a per hour basis than personal training, having 3 or 4 or 5 dog walking clients in the middle of the day is a great way to get some low stress exercise while also increasing the revenue density of one's waking hours.

Once my four-day stint as a dog walker was over, it was time to shift gears and help the team set up and run the Toronto Supershow Powerlifting competition.  This competition is always very interesting because it is held as part of the Toronto Supershow Expo.  Sort of like a mini-Arnold Sports Festival.  While I don't buy much in the way of supplements or tight fitting workout attire, I still like to check out the other exhibitors just in case there's something interesting.

While at the show, I stopped by the SyndicateFit booth.  They were running a special on Isolator meal bags.  I had never seriously considered buying one of those fitness meal bags because they were usually pretty expensive and I already had an old cooler bag that I used as my lunch box.  However, the price included a bunch of meal containers and seemed like a great deal so I bought one and happily retired my torn and worn Costco special.

out with the old (left) in with the new (right)

I've been using my 6 meal bag for about two weeks now and I have to admit it has made my meal planning and current calorie restricted diet easier to manage.  Not so much because the bag is special but because those meal containers that came with it are much smaller than the containers I used to use.  I've always had a big appetite so I could never bring myself to buy small food storage containers. However, the included containers with the Iso Bag are smaller and although I could use other containers inside of it, I wanted to give it a fair trial.

It's all mental but I find that I have to fill a container with food.  Big or small, the container needs to be full.  When I eat it, I have to finish all of what's in the container.  Turns out, I'm just about satisfied the same finishing all the food in a smaller container as finishing all the food in a larger container.  With the Iso Bag, two of the smaller containers is still a smaller quantity of food than a single larger container that I used to use.   In hindsight, could I have just bought smaller food storage containers and used any old cooler bag?  Yup.  But I gotta admit, the Iso Bag is a pretty tidy package.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Prep for Provincials, November 11-13, 2016, begins...
Now that I've officially competed as a 93 kg weight class lifter, the preparations for the next two competitions begins.  As of this morning, my weight was 219 lbs, up a few pounds from just before I started the water cutting process for last weekend's competition.  Next week, I'll be 24 weeks out from the Ontario Powerlifting Association's Ontario Open & Master Classic and Equipped Championships (Provincials, for short).  My goal is to be at or below 205 lbs by August 24th, the date I'm flying back to visit my family and to celebrate my 50th birthday.  I'll be out of town for about a week and while I will likely be exercising, I will also be drinking many local Boulder, Longmont, and Fort Collins area brewery product as well as other interesting beers found at the local liquor warehouse.  I will also be getting my fill of mexican food and Mom's home cooking.

A portion of the Micro-brewery section at a store in Boulder

Just the whiskey section!
After returning from Colorado, it will take a few days for my weight to normalize back around 205 and I'll have 9 weeks to prep/peak for Provincials.  Vivian and I have a vacation planned for October that will put a short delay into the peaking process but I'll have a good 2-3 weeks to sharpen up my lifting form by meet time.

After Provincials, I will likely enter the Canadian Powerlifting Union's CentralCanadian Championships in lieu of travelling to Saguenay, Quebec for the CPU Nationals in March.  There are 6 weeks between Provincials and the Central Canadian Championships, with one of those weeks being the Christmas/New Year's period.  It'll be a short turn around and not enough time to rebuild anything in the event something breaks, but the competition is only a short drive away.

So, the basic outline of my training priorities is:

From now until August 24th, 14 weeks to lose 15-19 lbs.

From September to the meet, 9 weeks to prep with no weight loss/weight cut to interfere.

From November 20 to January 6, 2017, 6 weeks to run a short mini re-peak for the Central Canadian Championships, again with no weight loss/weight cut priorities.

Training set from earlier this week, set 1 of 3, 495x3, bodyweight 219 lbs.  Felt better than it did a week before the meet at a similar bodyweight.  Right were I want to be, in a good position to build the deadlift back up to previous levels for November.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Meet Report: 2016 Niagara Open, first meet as a M2 lifter, first meet as a 93 kg lifter

Back in November, I made the decision that my next competition (and all those thereafter) would be as a 93 kg lifter.  At that time, my "walking around weight" was between 240 and 250 lbs.  To make the 105 kg weight class, I would usually have to diet for about a month and then do a 4-6 lb water cut.  After a lackluster performance coupled with some nagging back pain, I decided that carrying around extra weight wasn't doing my health or my lifting any good.  The only challenge was, I hadn't been anywhere near 205 lbs since the mid-90's.  Losing upwards of 35 lbs was going to be a long process.

For some reason, I have been exceptionally motivated by this goal and I have been able to maintain a calorie restricted diet since mid-November 2015 with the only notable exceptions being the Christmas/New Year period and two trips to Las Vegas.  My weight loss has been a pretty consistent 1 lb per week, slower than I would've liked but I chalk that up to a combination of a more sedentary lifestyle than when I was in my late 20's and not being in my 20's or 30's anymore.

Back when I signed up for the 2016 Niagara Open, I thought the qualification process for the Ontario Powerlifting Association Provincial Championships still required one to post a qualifying total in the weight class one intends to compete.  Since I had never lifted as a 93 kg weight class lifter, this meant I'd need to lift as a 93 kg lifter to avoid doing another meet before Provincials in November 2016.  With local meets filling up so fast in Ontario, I didn't want to leave it to chance.  I later found out, about a month out from the meet, that Ontario had indeed decided to follow the qualifying procedure used for Nationals, that is, once one posts a qualifying total in one weight class, that total qualifies one to enter Nationals at any weight class, higher or lower.   By this time, I was already committed to the idea of lifting as a 93 kg lifter so I decided to stick to the plan.

The only challenge was my weight.  A month out from the meet, my bodyweight was still hovering between 215 and 217 and I had one more trip to Las Vegas.  The morning of my flight to Las Vegas on April 14th, I was 215.5 lbs.  I flew back on the 20th and when I woke up on the 21st, my weight was a water-logged 231.5.  I was back down to 219 lbs six days later but that still put me 14 lbs over the 205 lb/93 kg wt class limit only 17 days out.  At this point, I knew I could still make weight but the water cut needed was going to be drastic enough that it would most definitely affect my performance. This combined with the basic structure of my training from December to the present which was designed more to preserving muscle mass while dieting than building and peaking strength meant that I really had zero expectations in terms of actually lifting anything that would result in a Wilks score close to what I had achieved in the past.

The day before my weigh-in, I was 213 lbs.  I still had 8 lbs to go but felt pretty confident that a water cut would accomplish the task.  I was following a fairly standard protocol of eating "low residue" foods the last week, a water loading period, and then no water or food for the last 36 hrs.  I also spent about an hour in the steam room at a local YMCA to lose the last 3 lbs of water the morning of weigh-in day.  When I weighed in at approximately 1 pm on May 14th, I was 92.4 kgs or 203.7 lbs.  I immediately starting downing pedialyte and other fluids and eating easily digestible carbs.  The first phase of my plan was completed.

Surprisingly, after getting in some food and water, I was feeling about a thousand percent better than I did just before the weigh-in.  I was worried that I would suffer some cramping but I hoped that by lowering my openers to very low numbers, that I'd be able to gut out even a worst case scenario situation.  Although I don't ever intend to have to cut that much weight and lift on the same day ever again, I saw this situation as a unique opportunity to see what effect it would have on my lifting.

I set my openers at 180 kgs in the squat, 130 kgs in the bench press, and 220 kgs in the deadlift.  Just my openers would easily surpass the M2 qualifying total required for the 93 kg weight class, so if the OPA hadn't changed their Provincial qualifying procedure, I still had quite a bit of wriggle room in case disaster struck and I needed to change openers during warm ups.  Fortunately, aside from some manageable quad cramps and my calves wanting to cramp, squat warm ups went well.  One benefit of opening 30 kgs lighter than I had in the past is an even fewer number of warm up sets.  Just the ticket since I felt like I had limited energy in reserve due to the short period I had to try to re-hydrate and re-fuel.

All three squats went very well and I even probably left 5 or even 10 kgs on the platform.

First attempt, 180 kgs, good lift

Second attempt, 190 kgs, good lift

Third attempt, 200 kgs, good lift

Bench presses went about according to expectations, my opener with 130 kgs was easy, my second with 140 kgs was slow and had a weird bobble at lockout when my left elbow collapsed momentarily at full extension.  I got three whites even though the bar oscillated at lockout so I considered that fortunate.  My third at 145 kgs wasn't close.  This was the first lift where I really noticed the effects of the water cut.

First attempt, 130 kgs, good lift

Second attempt, 140 kgs, good lift

Third attempt, 145 kgs, no lift

At this point, I suffered cramping in both of my sartorius muscles.  Each time it occurred when I was pulling off my knee sleeves.  Due to the sartorius' attachment both below the knee and above the hip, it was in a unique position to help power the contortion needed to pull a knee sleeve off the end of the foot.  However it was used, it hurts like heck when it cramps up.  Sitting down, the attachment around the knee cramped hard.  When I tried to stand up, it cramped up towards the origin--even more painful.  For about a minute I was worried I wouldn't be able to deadlift or if I could, I'd need to reduce my opener to the bare minimum I needed for the 477.5 kg total that I didn't really need to qualify for provincials.  Luckily, the cramps subsided and I kept my opener at the already much lighter than usual 220 kgs.

My first two deadlifts went well.  I hadn't been training the deadlift heavy since Provincials in order to let some back pain resolve itself.  It had been well over a year since I last deadlifted over 600 lbs in competition due to pain and a general lack of power.  As a result, I hadn't used anything over 495 lbs in the deadlift in order to give my back a chance to heal.  I really had no expectations here.  I had planned to take 260 kgs as my third attempt, which would've been a stretch, but I realized that if I could pull 267.5 kgs, I could move into third place.  Just a couple years ago, that would've been less than my normal second attempt at a meet but now, after a brutal weight cut and after 5 months of remedial work for my deadlift, it was a bit of a unicorn.  Still, having your last deadlift mean something is some of the best fun you can have at a meet so I changed my third attempt and decided to giv'r.  I got it off the ground a few inches, maintained my posture, and nothing hurt so even though I missed the lift, it still felt like a small victory.  It felt really good to miss a deadlift because I wasn't strong enough rather than because my back shut it down.  

First attempt 220 kgs, good lift

Second attempt, 245 kgs, good lift

Third attempt, 267.5 kgs, no lift

So, all in all, I ended up with a 585 kg total, all lifts and total are technically PR's since this is a new weight class for me.  And I ended up with some good experience with lifting under less than ideal physical conditions.  I'm really looking forward to continuing to lose weight and train in my new weight class.  I feel like I'm good for at least another 30 kgs on my total come Provincials in November.  

As always the Niagara Powerlifting Club puts on a world class event.  Our session of two full flights was over in under 3 hours.  It was great seeing old friends, making new ones, and seeing all the new lifters.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Weight cut, first 20 lbs down. 15 more to go.

This week I hit 220 or 20 lbs down from my starting point.  Since I started this process about a week before Provincials on November 22 it's been 17 weeks or so.  The pace of weight loss has been about what I planned since I'm doing no extra exercise other than my 3-5 times a week weight training sessions.

I've been taking progress pictures but they're not particularly noteworthy since I'm still a mostly ab-less squishy person.  Maybe I'll have something presentable when I'm down to 205 but I'm not holding my breath.  I didn't start this process for aesthetic reasons so it doesn't make sense to shift goals mid-way.  I did start this process to eventually feel better and I can definitely say I feel as though I have more energy and my back hurts less, especially in the morning.

I've had to take some clothes in for alterations and more will eventually go to the donation pile but I had planned for these expenses to occur.  Along with smaller clothes, I have noticed some loss of strength in the squat and bench press but I've also seen increases in strength in other lifts/movements that I didn't train very much in the past so I think it's more due to a lack of practice.  Either way, things are still on track to make the 93 kg wt class (with an aggressive water cut) for my next meet in May.  Once I get a 93 kg qualifying total, I'll be able to plan a proper lead up to Provincials in November.

So far, along with the 20 lbs, I've measured the following changes:

Neck:  from 18" to 17.5"
Chest:  from 48" to 46.5"
Waist at hip bones:  from 38.5" to 36"
Hips:  from 43.5" to 42"
Arms:  from 18" to 17.5" (right arm)
Legs:  from 27" to 26"

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Training update, weight cut update, sweet potato sheet bread

Back in early November 2015, I thought that I should consider dropping weight and since the next lowest weight class was 93 kgs, it would mean I would need to commit to a different set of priorities.   After a less than satisfying performance at the Provincial Championships later that month, I decided that changing my priorities had very little downside. My sore back was preventing me from even hitting previous levels, let alone set PR's in the total and it was pretty clear that carrying extra fat was not helping me make strength gains.

There's an old adage that goes along the lines of not ever becoming fat AND weak.  Well, with the stagnation of my progress and back soreness that was becoming chronic, I was now doing both.  And I can do something about "fat" part even if my body isn't letting me fix the "weak" part.  When I started the process, I was walking around at 240 lbs and required a combination of carb depletion the week or two prior along with a water cut to make the 231 lb (105 kg) weight class limit.  To make a 93 kg (205 lb) weight class, I figure I can walk around at 212 lbs at the most but more preferably, an upper limit of 210 lbs.

So far, I'm down to a walking around weight of 225 lbs so there has been progress, albeit slow. Certainly not enough to justify a progress pic that would just show a doughy guy and a less doughy guy.  But my pants are definitely looser and there are signs of where there might be muscular definition so it's encouraging.

Weight loss is tracking at right around a pound a week which means it'll probably require an aggressive water cut to make weight in May for the Niagara meet but things will be less hectic by the time Provincials rolls around in November.

Training weights are down but I expected that to happen between the weight loss and trying to give my back a chance to heal up.  I don't know if I'll ever deadlift 600 lbs or more again but the last time this happened (many, many years ago), everything came back as good as new after a year or two of not bashing my brains in with heavy pulls.  I figure I'll keep my training poundages to 500 or lower and if I only pull 550 or so for the next year as a competition maximum, I'll take it if it means pulling more later.

Watching my caloric intake and macronutrient composition for the last 14 weeks or so has resulted in doing more cooking that I've done in the past.  One of the things I am pretty happy about is a sweet potato sheet bread that I've been making the past couple weeks. I call it a sheet bread because it's just easier to cook it on a baking sheet than pour the batter into muffin tins or a bread pan.

I adapted it from a recipe I found for sweet potato muffins because I had a bunch of cooked sweet potato that didn't work macro-wise if I just ate it as is (because with my appetite, I'd eat too much at a sitting).  Conventional recipes for muffins have way too much added fat so I substituted a couple extra eggs for the butter and oil that would've normally gone in.  I also didn't want to add a cup or more of sugar so I substituted the only sweet powder I had, some vanilla whey protein.  This also had the added benefit of amping up the protein content even if that wasn't the primary goal.

I was afraid this might end up being dense so I used a cookie making trick and creamed the eggs, sweet potato, protein powder, grated ginger, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes.  This added a ton of air to the wet ingredients and insured that the bread wouldn't be too heavy.  Vivian even said it was okay so it wasn't one of many things I make for myself that are only edible by me.

the wet ingredients before creaming

the wet ingredients after creaming, just about doubled in volume

after folding in the flour and baking powder

ready for baking

Done.  I cut the sheet into 6 pieces, each one has 21g Pro/31g CHO/4g Fat

300 grams cooked sweet potato
3 scoops (90 grams) Vanilla whey protein powder
4 eggs
40 grams grated ginger
0.5 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1.25 cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder

6 servings, 21p/31c/4f   250 calories

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

November training recap

Since November culminated in a competition and because that competition didn't really meet expectations, there's not much to say about November that wasn't already said in my meet recap.

Squat:  4 sessions, 52 work reps, 73.8% avg intensity

Bench Press:  6 sessions, 114 work reps, 77.5% avg intensity

Deadlift:  2 sessions, 23 work reps, 69.8% avg intensity

In order to reduce strain on my back, I'm planning on competing in the 93 kg wt class in the future.  I've committed to a meet in May 2016 so that gives me 5 months or so to lose 25-30 lbs.  My goal for the meet in May is to make weight and get a Masters 2 (50-59 age group) qualifying total for Provincials.  The qualifying total requirement is very low so as long as I'm in the weight class, I should be able to meet the requirements (477.5 kgs).

For the next couple of months, at least, I'll be doing variations of the squat and deadlift at much lower loadings than my competition squat and deadlift so there won't be much point in tracking sessions, work repetitions or average intensity.  Right now, it's beltless, wide stance, high bar squats and stiff legged deadlifts.  Both at intensities less than 50% of my competition maximums.  The goal is to rebuild my mobility some as well as strengthening the posterior chain.  The upright stance from the wide stance high bar squats is taking stress off my back along with the much lighter weights used.  I'm also doing some single leg work via split squats and really hate them because I'm terrible at them.  This tells me that stability is a definite area of improvement.

Meanwhile, bench press work is continuing as normal except that I'm doing a fair bit of overhead pressing and lat/back work too.  Since I'll be dropping quite a bit of weight (hopefully), I want to make sure all movement patterns are stressed relatively equally in order to minimize muscle loss.

At odds with the weight loss plans are some Christmas season baking projects.  Oh well, it was worth it.  The gingersnaps and shortbread cookies I made were ultra tasty.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Meet Recap, 2015 Ontario Powerlifting Association Classic Provincials

Well, my last meet as a M1 (40-49) division competitor came and went.  Some bad but mostly good things.  I suppose there will come a point where there is no longer an expectation that forward progress will be made but now is not the time.  Based on my experiences at this meet, I'm starting to get an idea of what it might feel like when I'm just trying to hold on and resist the inertia of the inevitable aging process.

My training leading up to the meet was, for the most part, pretty good.  I didn't have any new aches or pains (at least I didn't think so) and my bodyweight, while not as low as I would've liked, was low enough that I wouldn't need to do anything crazy to make the 105 kg wt class limit.  I was dealing with a weird loss of power in my back but it didn't come with any acute pain or muscle spasms so I really didn't know what to make of it.

Since I had booked my hotel room early to take advantage of a non-refundable, non-modifiable rate, I was stuck arriving an extra day early when the lifting schedule changed to accommodate additional lifters.  It gave me the opportunity to watch some of the bench press only competition on Friday evening as well as the afternoon lifting session on Saturday.  My friend Jenn Dorr was lifting in that session and she was having a great meet, comfortably in first place as long as she made her deadlift opener, until a sudden and surprising deadlift bomb-out.  Powerlifting wisdom says to open with a weight you know you can lift on your worst day but sometimes you don't get a warning that you can't even lift that.   But she kept her head up and even came back the next day to act as my coach, running my attempts to the scorer's table, keeping me appraised of where I was in the lifting order, filming my attempts, and loading my warm ups.  So, much thanks to her for being a great sport!

On Sunday, after waking up at 0630 (I hate lifting in the first session of the day), I proceeded to check my weight and make a few last minute adjustments to guarantee I fell below the 105 kg limit.  I had already been limiting my bulky calories so these adjustments were limited to taking a hot shower and sucking on a lemon and spitting in a cup.  Once I moved my weight on my own scale down a pound, I got dressed and waited to be called for weigh-ins.  I made weight at 104.6 kgs which meant I could drink some much needed liquids.  Not because I was thirsty but because I needed to get some extra strength ibuprofen and caffeine down in order to wake my 49 yr old self up and take away the morning aches and pains.

I was lifting in the second of three flights so I had some time to let the caffeine and ibuprofen take effect.  Warm ups felt fine, nothing out of the ordinary but I decided to drop my opening squat 5 kgs just to make sure I got at least one fast rep.  I had already dropped my bench press and deadlift openers 5 kgs so I figured I might as well stay consistent.  In hindsight, this was probably a good strategy.

My opening squat at 205 kgs was stress-free until I re-racked the bar and got a nose bleed.  I had been sick with a cold for a week and while I didn't feel weakened by it, I guess all the noseblowing had left me vulnerable to the transient high pressures of 1 RM attempts.  Fortunately it stopped quickly so I didn't have to worry about spouting blood with such a measly load on my back.

205 kg first attempt squat

That felt good enough that I jumped to 220 kgs for my second attempt. I felt confident in this number even though it would match my competition PR as a 105 kg lifter.

220 kg second attempt squat

I immediately felt an ache in my lower back when I unracked the weight but not enough to stop the attempt.  I did descend a bit tentatively hoping not to feel it get any worse.  Luckily it didn't but the lift was a bit more of a grinder than would normally prescribe a 7.5 kg jump but I jumped to 227.5 kgs anyways.  My goal for this meet was to finally squat 500 lbs in competition so I decided I'd go for it rather than jump 2.5 or 5 kgs to build a total.  Having had issues with my back in the weeks leading up to the meet, I didn't really believe I had enough of a deadlift to hit a PR total so I wasn't concerned about possibly leaving 2.5 or 5 kgs on the platform.

While the 227.5 kg attempt didn't cause any pain in my lower back, it wasn't really close either.  But I still had a competition PR matching squat on the board so I wasn't too disappointed.

Bench press warm ups were pretty routine and I had a chance to chat with Shawn O'Halloran, one of Canada's best lifters of all-time and holder of the retired, equipped bench press National record with a 320 kg press as a SHW lifter.  He was coaching another lifter, Steve Magistrale, and shared with me some advice about how to let one's ribcage hold some of the weight while waiting for the press command.  It made a lot of sense so I figured I might was well try it a bit.  I had been training with longer pauses anyways so letting 50 lbs or so rest on my chest instead of holding it all myself seemed like a good way to conserve energy.  I don't know if a partial implementation of a technique I had never practiced before made a big difference but I do know that my bench presses all moved faster than ever and I set a new competition PR in the 105 kg weight class.

140 kg first attempt bench press

150 kg second attempt bench press

155 kg third attempt bench press

While I had lifted 155 kg in the bench press before, I had never done it in the 105 kg wt class in a full meet.  So 155 kgs was my new full meet bench press PR.   What's interesting is, it barely looks like it sinks on my chest at all but I swear, when I was under the bar, it felt like it sank a good inch or more.  In any case, much thanks to Shawn.  He currently offers coaching in bench press as well as full meet programming and if his quick tip in the warm up room is any sign, then his programming seems well worth the money.

So, despite missing on my goal of squatting 500 lbs, I was still sitting on a new PR sub-total.  My previous best sub-total was 370 kgs so I was 5 kgs ahead of that pace.  Normally I would've been pretty upbeat going into the deadlift, my best lift, but knowing my back just wasn't right was a big bummer.  Still thinking wishfully, I figured I'd hit my 255 kg opener, jump to 270 kgs, and then try 280 kgs for both a national record in the M1 age group and a new PR total for me.  In previous years, this wouldn't have been very ambitious thinking at all but things were not the same this year.

My 255 kg opener was stuck to the ground.  Or it seemed that way for a second.  Time slows down under stress and I swear I thought I was going to bomb out on deadlifts for a good second or two.  Turns out it was but a split second but it was still a very hard lift that came with a pop in my lower back.  Not a painful pop but a pop nonetheless.  And I got a nosebleed and got the platform dirty.  At least my hookgrip held fast.  Any concerns I had with my weakened left hand were addressed by the excellent knurling on the competition barbells.  Grip wouldn't be the limiting factor today.

255 kg first (and only) attempt

Since I hadn't failed to lift 600 lbs in the deadlift since July 2009*, my third meet back after taking 16 yrs off, I figured there was no way I couldn't at least grind up 270 kgs.  Well, 270 kgs did not leave the ground, just like 272.5 kgs didn't leave the ground back in 2009.  *At least when I missed 275 kgs at the 2013 Classic Provincials, I missed it at the top because I took 11 seconds to grind it up there. My excuse for missing it then was due to being sick for two weeks almost immediately prior to the meet with a very bad gallbladder attack.  I could point to no such easy answer for missing deadlifts this time.  The only thing I can think of is that I have some kind of pre-serious injury injury.  That this weakness is a warning sign that comes before some epic story of collapsing on the floor in a spasm of nerve pain from a hideously protruding disc or something.  So I consider myself fortunate that I got out with just a 10% loss of strength.

Now to rest up and let things heal up.  I've gotten so used to the dull aches and pains in my back and legs that I think I just grew to accept them.  Maybe I should listen to them before the dull aches become loud and un-avoidable roars.

Anyways, big congrats to Roberto Celio for winning the 105 kg M1 division.  We tied at 630 kgs but since he's always been much lighter than I, he won the bodyweight tie-breaker.  All in all, it was a fun meet with some lows but more highs.  There were about 5 masters lifters in my flight (including myself) and the rest were Open division 93 and 105 kg lifters.  These young guys were awesome.  Very supportive of each other and all hoisting big weights.  It was a lot of fun watching them hit PR after PR.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October training recap, 3 weeks out from Provincials

Roughly three weeks left before the Ontario Classic Provincials and things aren't really meeting expectations.  Which isn't to say things are going poorly, just that I think my expectations are incorrect.  What I have been unable to predict the last couple years, has been how my late 40's age body will react to training, especially the higher loads required in a pre-meet peaking phase.  I can feel fast and solid at 80% but at 90% or higher, not only does my positioning lose consistency but the amount of recovery I need from those sessions is much longer that I remember in younger years (not really that long ago, when I was 41-45).

At this point, I'll be very happy if I can match my gym PR in the squat, 505 lbs, that I set a number of weeks ago.  I'll also be happy if I can retain my current bench press numbers over the last 3 weeks since I'll have to cut a few pounds to make weight.  Deadlift is another story.  It feels great up to about 90% of my previous competition bests but I have no idea if I'll be good for much more than that this time around.  An added issue is some nerve damage in my left hand that's been causing atrophy of some of the muscles in my left hand for the past couple years.  Until lately, it hasn't affected grip strength especially since I've been hook gripping deadlifts for the past 5 years, but now it's even affecting my hook grip.  While I'm hopeful that my grip issues are a result of the crappy, non-competition style bars at the Y, I won't know until I get to the platform if I can rely on the competition bar's aggressive knurling to secure the bar.  If it comes to pass that I can no longer deadlift to my capacity due to this hand issue, I'll still train but platform days will be over.

Lifting summary for the month:

Squat:  8 sessions, 164 work reps, 72.6% avg intensity

Bench Press:  8 sessions, 171 work reps, 77.6% avg intensity

Deadlift:  3 sessions, 55 work reps, 74.1% avg intensity

Friday, October 2, 2015

September training recap, 6 weeks out from Provincials

September was a good ramp up to the final stages of preparing for Provincials in November.  I reconsidered my plans and decided not to compete at the CPU Nationals in 2016 so November 20-22 (whenever my weight class lifts) is now the only focus.  While Nationals are an amazing experience, the best competition experience a non-international team lifter can have, in the end, I just couldn't justify the travel expenses for something that only I could enjoy.  The $1000+ I would've spent on entry fees, airfare, hotel, food, parking, etc will be better spent towards a vacation for both Vivian and I.

Overall, I got in 17 training sessions and increased training intensity in all three main lifts.  I'm trying to balance training volume. lower back recovery, and increased intensity with my squat and deadlift workouts and so far, things feel pretty fresh.  I had one episode where I couldn't do my planned squat workout due to some unusually persistent sciatic pain but other than that, things are feeling better than ever.

On the fun side, Greg Nuckols wrote a couple of blog posts about "Your Drug-Free Muscle and Strength Potential".  Using the calculators in the two articles (link to part 1 and part 2 ), my estimated maximum total is approximately 741 kgs.  While that's still 10 kgs less than current National and World Champion Leon Brown, it's still 80 kgs higher than my lifetime best total.  So, it's fun to see that there's still a lot of potential there.  We'll see how much closer I can get before the gains finally stop.

On a less than fun side, another Ontario lifter failed a drug test.  This time it was a Junior competitor who in his first Ontario Powerlifting Association competition, totaled 595 kgs in the 93 kg wt class for an unimpressive Wilks of 379.  When someone is cheating just to be mediocre, you can't even use the "win at all costs" justification.  I don't get it.

cheating to be mediocre
Lifting summary for the month:

Squat:   6 sessions, 161 work reps, 74.53% avg intensity,

Bench Press:  9 sessions, 280 work reps, 74.45% avg intensity

Deadlift:  5 sessions, 107 work reps, 73.23% avg intensity

During the month, I set one rep PR, 425x5 is my new 5RM in the squat.  It wasn't a RPE 10 effort but it was what I had planned for the day and I had never used more for 5 rep set so it was what it was.  Going into the final 6 weeks before the meet, I'll be dialing in 3 rep sets of increasing intensity.  I'm sure I'll reset my 3RM at some point in the next 6 weeks in the squat.  Deadlifts and Bench Presses will be peaked with sub-maximal singles.