Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Good and Bad Numbers in the Gym Last Night

My wife and I had a nice weekend in the Finger Lakes region of NY, spending time with friends and tasting wines at a number of wineries.  The person who invited us is a fellow ski instructor who has been a mentor of mine for a decade now.  He noticed that my physical shape had changed since the end of ski season.  While I simply feel fat (but I always feel that way), he said that my upper body had clearly grown some and that my body was more proportional that it was before.  He said that at the end of the ski season, I had a large, strong lower body, a beer belly, and my upper body didn't match up.  So now, my upper body has caught up and I'm too big everywhere?

We were discussing this because I told him about the testosterone treatments I've been doing.  He was intrigued because he is really stymied in the gym these days.  A few years ago, he developed a form of auto-immune hepatitis, spent a year on some strong drugs, and he's never really come back 100% from that illness.

We are about the same age, and spent some time lamenting how time is not kind to our skiing abilities unless we work really hard every single off-season.

After our relaxing weekend (I lifted on Thursday, did sprints on Sunday, but took three other days off), I was back in the gym last night.  There were two reasons for being there.  First of all, we started the second half of the 12 week squat cycle we've been doing.  After a lazy weekend, I was curious how this workout would go.  It was our heaviest workout in the cycle to date, and on our fifth set of back squats (rep scheme of 5-5-2-3-1), we were supposed to tie our current best in the back squat.  The coach warned us that a few people had already come in earlier in the day, after a bit too much partying on the holiday weekend, and struggled with the workout.

The second reason for being at the gym was the start of another month-long Paleo challenge.  I have participated in three of these earlier.  All three have started well, but my resolve didn't last in two of them.  So, I've paid $20 each to enter and got $40 in prize money once.  This will be my fourth attempt.  Our scores are based on dietary adherence, body weight change, a subjective review of body composition (shirtless pictures - ugh!), and improvement on a couple benchmark workouts.

But, before we could even get to the benchmark workouts, we had 9 sets of squats to do, including heavy back squats.  Overall, I was pleased with how I felt, and rather than tying my best on the fifth set at 330#, I put on an extra 5#, to shoot for a modest PR.  I also really wanted to feel how my strength was compared to that lift.  Sometimes, if a squat weight is difficult, it's easiest to move pretty quickly, but this can result in questionable depth.  At 335#, I squatted slowly, let myself settle into the bottom and really feel the weight, and then stood back up.  I was shocked by how easy it was.  We then did 4 sets of front squats, before moving to the benchmarks.

Our first benchmark workout was max pull-ups, without releasing from the bar.  Assistance is OK, as long as you use the same assistance at the start and the end of the challenge.  I used a green resistance band and completed 12 dead-hang (non-kipping) pull-ups.

Our next benchmark was as many reps as possible in ten minutes:

10 power cleans
20 wall balls
40 double-unders

I scaled the workout somewhat, but I'll use the same scaling at the end of the challenge.

After the workout came the shirtless pics and the official weigh-in.  My weight was the highest I've ever seen.  In the 4 months since I started testosterone supplementation, my weight has gone up 14 pounds.  At first, I'd gone up 10, then dropped 3 and now I'm up 14 net.  Overall, my clothes don't fit much differently.  I have had a couple shirts where some increased size in my shoulders and arms has made the shirts tight.  But, my pants still fit, my workout clothes still fit, and I was surprised to see an increase that large.  I'm curious how much is muscle and how much is fat.

I do feel like I'm dragging more weight around when I'm running or going uphill on my bike.  But, I still feel fairly strong as well.

So, for the next thirty days, my goal is to work out as many days as make sense.  I'll do some extra reps, on my own, at CrossFit, to help with the skills for the benchmark lifts.  From a food perspective, I really want to focus on what I'm "allowed' to eat, rather than what I'm not supposed to eat.  So, for the next month, I'll be eating meat and seafood, lots of veggies, lots of salads, some nuts, some seeds, coffee, and high quality fats. All I need for dinner most nights is some meat to grill, my salad spinner, and a homemade salad dressing.  Given the time of the year, with a late season bounty of veggies, this isn't a tough way to live.

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