Workout: June 3, 2015

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Teaching The DL

It took a little convincing, but I successfully convinced my 16 year old daughter to come to the gym for the second time. Today I completed the middle workout for Week 3 of my current StrongLifts Advanced cycle which included warming up with foam rolling, stretching, body weight squats and front squats. The main sets were front squats, standing overhead press and dead lifts.

dl-setupMy daughter, still quite sore from the Monday session, found the wonders of the foam roller and its role (no pun intended)  in alleviating pain and promoting mobility! :) She seemed very confident on squats and did a great job learning the OHP and DLs. I sure hope she keeps it up and comes with me Friday–I would hate for the DOMS to be for nothing.

Good luck to the Tampa Bay Lightning and, as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!

6-3-2015-workout

Workout: January 9, 2015

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The Pain Is Receding!

The theme for this week has been pain! :( Shoulder pain from a minor snowboard spill, and DOMs from getting back in the gym and resuming squats and deadlifts on Monday and Wednesday. I’m happy to report the shoulder pain and the leg DOMS have faded significantly. That being said, I’m still taking it easy, haven’t done Pendlay rows for fear of shoulder stress.

Today’s StrongLifts Advanced workout included squats and bench presses, and here is my Friday bonus playlist:

  • Nocturne – Rush
  • Best Of Both Worlds – Van Halen
  • Jenny (867-5309) – Tommy Tutone
  • Mystery Man – The Outfield
  • Witchy Woman – The Eagles
  • Shoot To Thrill – AC/DC
  • Shout – Tears for Fears
  • You’ll Accompany Me – Bob Seger
  • In The Dark – Billy Squire
  • Beneath, Between And Behind – Rush
  • What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? – R.E.M.
  • Nothin’ But A Good Time – Poison

Have a great weekend and, as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!

1-9-2015-workout

2014 Holiday Foam Roller Giveaway

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Multiple Chances To Win!

roller

Can you believe Thanksgiving is over and the holidays are just weeks away? I’m celebrating by giving away a 6″ x 36″, EPE Black High Density Foam Roller, Round, 1.9 lbs per cubic foot, just like the one I use nearly every day. You may have read on this blog how important the foam roller is for my mobility and muscle pain management. For me, there is no better treatment for delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, than spending quality time with my foam roller.

The winner will be determined by a drawing to be held on December 20, 2014.

There are a few different ways to enter and you can earn multiple entries:

  • Sign up to receive the free Fit Over 50 Newsletter to earn a chance to win. Anyone already signed up will automatically earn a chance–no need to do anything.
  • To earn additional chances, simply refer your friends–for each person you refer that voluntarily signs up you will earn an additional chance in the drawing. The person you refer MUST sign up in order earn the additional chance. These is no limit to the number of chances you can earn!
  • Like” the Facebook page. Anyone who has already “liked” the Facebook page will automatically earn a chance–no need to do anything.

 

Thanks for entering, good luck and, as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!

Workout: November 19, 2014

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Volume is Back

Since I’ve just started a new StrongLifts Advanced cycle, the weights have dropped but the volume (in reps) is back. Monday’s workout volume caused a bit of DOMs and stiffness which I’ve been treating effectively with stretching and foam rolling. Today’s lifts included squats (5 sets, 5 reps), overhead presses (5 sets, 5 reps), and deadlifts (3 sets, 5 reps) plus I added weighted pull-ups, barbell curls, and sprints. In the evening, during my son’s swim practice, I did a five mile walk as well.

I get such a great feeling of accomplishment on workout days like today because it boosts my mood, energy, and productively for the day! Hope you got come physical activity in and, as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!

11-19-2014-workout

Consistency Is Key To My Success

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Consistency

One of the biggest keys in my quest for optimizing health and fitness is consistency. This applies to both the food I eat, exercising my body, as well as other behaviors I believe are keys to health, like sleep and fasting. Throughout my life I go through cycles where I am consistent when it comes to practicing one or more of these behaviors and then, sometimes by choice or sometimes by circumstance, I lose discipline and stray. Sleep is a good example (as I outlined in this post)–when I don’t focus on getting the proper amount of sleep, bad things usually happen, including getting sick, poor gym performance, and being grumpy to name a few. Eating poorly, especially sugar and wheat (because they are remarkably addictive to me), can be a serious problem–if I allow these things into my diet, even a little bit, on a regular basis, I can find myself doing very destructive things, like gobbling a box of donuts to combat stress. My goal is to consistently practice all of these critical behaviors at the same time: good diet, exercise, sleep, intermittent fasting. When I’m hitting on all cylinders, my mental, emotional, and physical optimization skyrockets resulting in:

  • better mood
  • increased performance
  • less illness
  • reduced mental and physical stress
  • a stronger and leaner body

As a result of much self experimentation, here are some of my “hows” and “whys” on consistency…

Turn Key Behaviors into Habits

Brushing-habitWhen I was a kid, my parents stressed the importance of dental hygiene and, for as far back as I can remember, I had to brush my teeth, at minimum, once in the morning and again before bed (if not after every meal if possible). This behavior, now a habit, is so ingrained in my being that, at the advanced age of 50 :) , I don’t consciously think about brushing my teeth twice a day, it just happens. Consistency. I’ve tried to make the following key behaviors habits, just like brushing my teeth:

I’ve found a few tricks that have helped me turn the above behaviors into habits:

  • follow a program or framework
  • do things at a consistent or set time
  • track or document progress toward goals

My history clearly shows that following a program or framework helps me convert a behavior into a habit and, when there’s a lack of structure, habits don’t form and consistency drops. Let’s look at my weight lifting past as an example. Before following the StrongLifts 5×5 (and now the StrongLifts Advanced) program, I thought I had structured approach to lifting weights. In reality though, I was the guy wandering around the gym hitting the chest, shoulders and triceps six different ways on “chest day” and then back and biceps on “back day” and twice a year I would throw in a “leg day.” :)

The problem for me with a very loose approach like the above is there are too many decision points. Lack of strict structure meant I was “allowed” to make make decisions on the fly and a decision might be, “I’m too tired this morning, so I’ll just skip ‘chest day’ and make it up tomorrow.” Having this kind of built in “opt out” mechanism constantly forced me think and make participation a choice and that’s not a habit. A habit is something I just do without thinking about it.

With my current approach, each workout, exercise, weight and rep is mapped out. If I skip a workout, the program gets messed up. Of course there are days when I skip workouts, but when this occurs, I work very hard to get back on schedule because the program builds on itself and I hate getting out of rhythm. Since moving to this very structured program about three-and-a-half years ago, my workout consistency has been remarkable (injuries aside)–so I know this is a key to consistency for me.
Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss

This applies to my current preferred eating pattern as well, which is my implementation of Primal/Paleo eating. By following my personal version of this eating framework, where I concentrate on eliminating refined sugar, grains, and processed food from my diet,  the decision points about what to eat drop dramatically and eating the right stuff becomes a habit instead of a series of agonizing decisions. When the waiter brings bread to the table now I don’t even think twice about if I should eat it…I just don’t out of habit…simple.

Another trick I have successfully used to turn these behaviors into habits is making a huge effort to execute the behaviors at relatively the same time of the day. I like to work out in the morning and I know my if I wait until the evening the chances of my skipping the workout increase dramatically. So just focusing on scheduling my workouts first thing is a simple way for me to make working out a habit and increasing consistency. The same thing applies to eating for me. It didn’t take long for me to turn my intermittent fasting behavior, trying to only eat in a set eight hour window, into a habit because I set the fasting time each day to start an noon and end at 8pm. Again, no decision points, just wait until noon to eat when possible.

Lastly, I have found documenting goals and performance against those goals to be a important factor in turning behaviors into habits. I am a results oriented person and I like to challenge myself on many fronts. From a weight lifting perspective, when I did not have a specific, documented goal and, just as important, tracking my progress toward that goal, I never made significant progress in actually getting stronger. I can remember lifting about the same weight on bench press for years, give or take 10 lb. Once I set a goal and began tracking my progress toward the goal (using a structured program), my bench press performance has increased dramatically. The same thing applies to other behaviors, like sticking to my desired eating and sleeping patterns. Until I started tracking my actual sleep times (using my FitBit One tracker) I had no idea how bad my sleep habits were. So, setting goals and tracking progress toward these goals is key for me.

Keep It Fun and Interesting

Whether it’s exercise or a specific diet strategy, if it’s not enjoyable, it most certainly won’t become sustainable activity in my life. For instance, I have never really enjoyed running, yet many times over the years I’ve attempted to incorporate running into my fitness regime. I’ve tried all kinds of tricks and distractions to make running enjoyable (listening to music, varying the distances, etc.), but have never been able to force myself to like it. I have finally learned, running is not my thing so I no longer fight it and just concentrate on physical exercise that I enjoy. This has resulted in enjoyable, consistent, long-term participation in these activities.

Fun-cookingI’ve also tried to make the implementation of my eating strategy fun and interesting through cooking. This isn’t a stretch for me I have always liked to experiment in the kitchen and cook. Some folks hate to cook and that is probably going to make an eating scenario like mine, avoiding processed foods, sugar, and grains, hard to sustain since most packaged and restaurant meals don’t really work. There are so many great cookbooks and web sites with recipes out there for creative, healthy dishes, that when I have the time I like to get my hands dirty (okay, probably a better way to make this point :) ) and try new things in the kitchen and this helps me stay consistent with my dietary goals.

Avoid Injury and Illness

injuryNothing is more frustrating to me and can derail my health and fitness goals than injury and illness. It’s almost guaranteed that athletes that challenge themselves and push for aggressive fitness goals are going to suffer injury–at least that’s been my experience. I hate working so hard to hit the next personal record on a lift and then get injured or sick, and have to recover and start the process over again. Similarly, on the rare occasions I get the flu or am sick enough to miss work, I tend to temporarily discard my preferred eating pattern and default to comfort food which often times is not the most healthy option. There are a few things that have helped me to avoid the dreaded injuries and illnesses:

  • start slow, it’s a marathon not a sprint
  • listen to my body and understand my limitations
  • don’t ignore mobility
  • get enough sleep

One of the great things about a beginner weight lifting program, like StrongLifts 5×5, is, if you follow the program as documented, you start with incredibly light weights and then progressively add a small amount of weight each workout until you fail. In fact, the programs starts each exercise with an empty barbell (45 lb.). When I first started the program I was tempted to “cheat” and add additional weight because the exercises were too easy. DON’T DO IT! Trust me, the weights get heavy soon enough so take the time, when the weight is light, to concentrate on form. Proper form in any exercise is what prevents those injuries. It doesn’t matter if I am walking, lifting, swimming or doing sprints, starting slow and concentrating on form is key to avoiding injury and promotes consistency.

Using the same “start slow” technique for diet and intermittent fasting was key as well. When I first decided to go Primal/Paleo, I did it in stages and made liberal use of the 80/20 technique–I tried to eliminate sugar, grains, and processed food 80% of the time and allowed leeway the other 20%. I knew from others’ experiences that changing cold turkey would be too difficult and my chances of consistency and long-term success would be slim. Same thing with fasting–I tried the eight hour eating window a couple of times a week in the beginning and in no time at all, with minimal struggle, intermittent fasting became a consistent way of life.

It is critical for me to listen to my body and know my limitations when it comes to working out and eating. I have preached quite a bit about how I follow a strict weight lifting program which progressively adds weight to each workout, but eventually everyone hits a wall and can no longer add weight. Over the three plus years I’ve been doing this style of program, there have been plenty of times where I just know to back off from a particular attempt because my body is just not ready to endure the stress at that moment. There is fine line between pushing past a mental obstacle and just going for it and understanding when to stop and not risk injury. I would much rather avoid an injury and be able to come back in two days to try again than to have to wait two or three months to heal and start over with very light weight.

I also have to listen to my body when it comes to eating. Some days my body craves more carbohydrate than other days and some days my body needs red meat. Once in a while my body feels like a complete cheat meal, so, with prudence, I’ll eat things that are far from my preferred foods. I’ve found it critically important to listen to my body in order to keep a long-term consistent diet strategy in tact and when I do my chances for success are greatly improved.


For years I ignored stretching and mobility and, in so doing, I’m sure I’ve suffered needless injury and certainly have hurt my performance. It wasn’t until I read the book, Becoming a Supple Leopard, and began using a foam roller and proper stretching on a consistent basis was I able to get rid of the pain and tight muscles that made doing compound barbell lifts unbearable for me.
Just adding a five minutes of foam rollling and stretching before and after each workout has done wonders and the result is better consistency because of reduced injury and minimal aches and pains (DOMS).

Sleep in general is such an important aspect of my health, but even more important as a weapon against illness and injury. In the short few months I’ve been tracking my sleep habits with my FitBit One, I have already observed a correlation between lack of sleep and getting sick. I also know that, due to the stress of heavy weightlifting, my body requires quality sleep in order to recover and rebuild. For me, not focusing on getting the proper amount and quality of sleep is simply inviting illness and injury which, in turn, negatively affects my consistency in all aspects of health and fitness.

Conclusion

Being consistent in all aspects of health and fitness isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s certainly a key factor in my goal to optimize my life as I age.  These aspects include exercising, eating properly, and getting quality sleep. My consistency in these areas increase dramatically when behaviors become habits, I keep it fun and interesting, and when I avoid injury and illness. If I can use these techniques to be consistent, the benefits are amazing!

How do you manage consistency in your quest for health and fitness? Please leave a comment and, as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!

 

Workout: November 17, 2014

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New and New!

It’s the start of a new work week and the start of a new StrongLifts Advanced cycle. By the end of last week, my muscles felt sore and fatigued as I hit the final and heaviest week of the previous cycle. I felt my form going bad so I’m happy to lighten up a bit and concentrate on my form. The plan executed today: squats, bench press, and Pendlay rows, plus I added weighted dips, chin-ups, and some curls.

As usual, I workout out first thing in the morning, fasted other than drinking my daily 5g dose of creatine, caffeine, and BCAAs (none of which take me out of the fasted state). I love starting the week with a workout–hope you get to the gym if your plans call for it and, as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!

11-17-2014-workout

Workout: November 7, 2014

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I have to say, it’s Friday and my body feels a bit beat up from the heavy weights on Monday and Wednesday–I woke up this morning my legs felt heavy and tight. This made the pre-workout foam rolling and stretching so important. Once I smashed my Celsius all-natural energy drink on the way to the gym my mind was right as I hit the rack for today’s squats. I followed up with bench presses and Pendlay rows per the finale of Week 8 of this cycle of StrongLifts Advanced. I finished up with dips and chin-ups.

Hope your Friday includes a workout and, as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!

11-7-2014-workout

Workout: October 31, 2014

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HalloweenJackOLantern

Boo! Hitting the gym is the perfect way to kickoff Halloween. Still pretty sore from this week’s other workouts so, per usually, I spent some quality time with the foam roller and stretching before embarking on this morning’s lifting. Today I did the Friday exercises scheduled for Week 7 of my current StrongLifts Advanced cycle: squats, bench presses, and Pendlay rows. I added some weighted dips and weighted chin ups at the end.

Glad I got my lifting in because I will no doubt be indulging in some candy tonight. Pass out a candy bar to the ghost, eat a candy bar, pass out a candy bar to the zombie, eat a candy bar, pass out a candy bar to the princess, eat a candy bar…you get the idea. I also have another terrible habit while passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters–I like to sip on some single malt scotch. Gonna be an unhealthy night :) so I today I know I’ll get at least half of this right…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!

10-30-2014-workout

Food: October 30, 2014

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10-30-2014-over-under10-30-2014-weight 10-30-2014-water 10-30-2014-sleep

Woke up in a great mood today but with a case of the DOMS :) My legs and glutes are sore–guess I’m feeling yesterday’s walking and deadlifts, but it’s a good pain! Started the morning by getting in the daily 5g of creatine and kick starting my brain with a dose of caffeine. The keto test showed me maintaining my ketogenic state so my low-carb eating strategy combined with intermittent fasting is keeping my body in fat burning mode. I can see the results on the scale this week as my weight is steady and I feel lean and strong.

I wasn’t home for lunch, so I hit my favorite place for quick and delicious food matching my Primal/Paleo eating patten: Chipotle. I love the salad bowl, no rice, no beans with double carnitas! Dinner was broccoli drenched in butter and a leftover spice rub chicken leg quarter. If you notice, no green or red smoothy today–this is when I’m glad I take my daily vitamin supplement to fill in the gaps.

We are headed into the weekend so, as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!

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10-30-2014-weekly

Workout: October 29, 2014

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I love the accountability this blog brings to my life! After doing a featured post on sprinting, I, somewhat sheepishly, realized I hadn’t actually been doing much sprinting after going on and on in the post about what a great part of my fitness routine sprinting is. I tweeted last week that I promised to add sprints to at least one workout this week… (trying a cheap writing suspense trick here, so please hang with me :) )

I was definitely sore (DOMS) yesterday and this morning from Monday’s workout so I made sure I warmed up with the foam roller, stretching, and some body weight squats before the workout. Today I did Week 7 of my current StrongLifts Advanced cycle which included deadlifts, overhead presses and weighted pull-ups.

The main workout went very well so guess what I decided to add to the end of the session? First I added a quick set of chin-ups. “Anything else?” you ask. YES, I DID SPRINTS!!! :) There you go, I fulfilled my promise and feel great about doing it–thanks for allowing me to use you for accountability and motivation.

I hope you hump day is going well and, as always…

Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!

10-29-2014-workout