Monday, September 29, 2008

Doing a 180

Brief warmup, then a single rep at 180. Failed on the second- and of course I tried a second. Finished the day with lat pulldowns, skullcrushers, tri kickbacks, incline dumbells and declines using the kettlebells.

I've now added 15# to my bench in the last couple of months. My weight is exactly the same. At last check, body fat is down to 8.5%... Sadly still no change In the belly caliper reading despite significantly fewer homefries.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Today's Workout: I'm a 7-card stud.

Here's the draw today. I took 7 cards because 5 didn't seem like enough of a workout. I'm thinking of assigning a point value to each card, and you stop drawing when you get enough points.

3 of diamonds: 3! burpees... that seemed light so I also did 3! pushups and 3! situps
4 of hearts: 4 suicides. It's a short room so these are about 20 seconds of sprinting each.
A of clubs: "warmup" clean and jerk at 135, max at 145, failed to clean 155, then did 5x135.
10 of spades: ugh. TEN alactic reps on the bench press, 155 lb each.
Q of diamonds: 15x -30lb, 8x-20lb, 3xfull weight. Could not get that last one.
5 of spades: five alactic reps, sumo deadlift. First two at 275#, last 3 at 225#. Back was a bit sore.
8 of hearts: 8 suicides, with a 10-15 second rest between each.

The whole workout was 45 minutes - and if jacks are 11 points, queens are 12, etc. this was a 3+4+14+10+12+5+8=56 point workout.

Power Law Random Workout - Pick a card!

Here's something I came up with for a random, power law exercise plan. You will need: a deck of cards, some thought, and a fully stocked gym.

Each suit represents a different kind of exercise, and the value of the card represents the level of effort. For a workout, draw 5 cards from the deck and do the exercises in any order you choose. I recommend doing it this way so that if a card calls for a max anaerobic effort you can get that out of the way before the other exercises tire you out. Going from day to day, you can either shuffle the cards back into the deck or keep drawing until you do all 52 exercises.

This is what my deck means. Of course every individual should come up with a set of exercises that makes sense for him or her. You will want to adjust some of the numbers I quote based on your own weight and strength.

Hearts- Aerobics
Choose an exercise first- preferably one with sprints and/or intervals. Examples include, 100m sprint or "suicides".

If you draw a number card, (2-10), that's the number of sprints/suicides you will do.
Jack of Diamonds: 7 minutes on an aerobic machine: rowing, elliptical, treadmill, stairclimber, etc. Go fast!
Queen of Diamonds: 10 minutes
King of Diamonds: 15 minutes

Aces in any suit mean a max effort- Here it might be 15 or 20 sprints, or it might mean this is the day you run 5k. But decide what a "max effort aerobic" means, for you, in advance!

Diamonds- Body Weight Exercise
This can be pushups, pullups, situps, all of the above, or burpee factorial sets. Decide in which it will be before drawing cards, and stick to it! You can mix up the exercises. For example,

Number Cards- Burpee sets, up to 10! (10, then 9, then 8 etc.)
Jack of Diamonds: 15 reps of assisted pullups (-30lb), slow. 8 reps at -15lb, faster, 4 reps at bodyweight.
Queen of Diamonds: Three sets of pullups, all to failure. The first unweighted, the second at +10lb, the third at +20lb.
King of Diamonds: Two minute drill: pushups, situps, or pullups (make it 1 minute for pullups.)
Ace of Diamonds: max effort! How about 15! burpees? Or 20 ?. Whatever challenges you.

Spades- Steady Force Weight Training
The exercise you pick in this suit will depend on which muscles are sore that morning. Stick with big barbell, big muscle groups though. Bench or incline press if it's a chest day, squats or deadlifts if legs, or military presses for shoulders. The cards:

2-10 of Spades: the number of reps in an alactic set. Pick a weight at 70-90% of max, lift once, rest 15-20 seconds, lift again.
Jack of Spades: 15/8/4 style: 15 reps at light weight, slow. 8 at medium weight, faster. 4 at max weight, fastest. Example for me on the bench press: 15@ 95#, 8 at 125#, 4 at 145#
Queen of Spades: 5x5: five sets, five reps each, at a weight the allows you to finish.
King of Spades: Warmup set at low weight, then two sets to failure at a weight where you can just get 3-5 reps out. Do a negative on the last set. Use a spotter!
Ace of Spades- Get a spotter. Warmup set, then go for your maximum single rep. Then one or two sets at reduced weight. Example for me on the bench: 8@95#, one at 180#, 2x5 at 145#.

Clubs- Plyometric
Time to get explosive. Your exercises will depend on the equipment available. For me, my deck is:
2-10 of Clubs: Factorial sets of box jumps (with 50# barbell on back) or kettlebell swings. For example, a 6 of clubs means 6 swings with each arm, then 5, then 4, etc.
Jack of Clubs: Full squat clean and jerk at an appropriate weight (115#, for me), 2 sets of 8 reps
Queen of Clubs: Alactic clean and jerk, resting between reps. 6-8 reps. (@ 135# for me)
King of Clubs: Two minute drill: hang cleans at 115# with full squat.
Ace of Clubs: Clear the area! Max effort clean and jerk or power clean. Do a couple at lower weight for form, and then let it rip. My current best is 145#.

I'd love to see how my reader(s) do on this plan, and alternative card decks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wait...I'M the cat?

After seeing a Stephen Hawking look-alike in the latest page of Dr. McNinja, then wiki-ing the real Hawking, then following some more links I came upon an explanation of the many-worlds hypothesis and the concept of "quantum immortality". This sparked a lot of thought on my part - something I had considered before, but never saw written up as a complete theory.

I'll try to explain. For starters I have to assume that the reader(s) of this blog are familiar with the general principles of quantum mechanics and the famous Schrodinger's Cat thought experiment.

There are a couple of leading interpretations to the often-cited result of the experiment, the cat being simultaneously alive and dead. One holds that the two stated exist "smeared" over one another until the box is opened, then reality "collapses" to one state or the other. The other interpretation - the Many Worlds version - has it that when the quantum event occurs that either kills the cat or does not kill it, two parallel universes are created: the cat is alive in one and dead in the other. When the observer opens the box, he finds out which universe he happens to be in.

OK - now, what if Many Worlds is true... and you're the cat? Two universes are created. You're alive in one and dead in the other. You cannot observe the fact that you're dead... so you must continue to exist in the universe where you're alive, and can observe the outcome!

Take this to the logical end... if every random chance is the result of a quantum event, and there are infinite universes that encompass all of these possibilities, you will continue to live in at least one of them as long as there exists a non-zero chance of you being alive.

Quantum immortality.

What could be wrong with this? A few things. So don't try this at home. The Many Worlds interpretation could be wrong. If there's an afterlife then all bets are off- you would be able to observe a universe in which you had died.

But what if it's correct? It would explain a lot. We often hear that the odds of human life arising in the universe are infinitesimal. Well, this just happens to be one of the few universes where all those coincidences happened. Ever think that you were lucky to have survived something? Maybe in 99% of all possible universes, you didn't.

This raises a question in my mind(s): there have to be a lot of possible universes in which I could still exist. Why is my consciousness in this particular one? Is it,
  • I have a consciousness in each universe, and they are not aware of each other or connected
  • I exist and remember my life in the final universe in which I continue to exist
  • I exist in the "best" of the possible universes - by some unknown measure of quality

No way to tell, of course, but intriguing. If all this is true, one must still be careful with one's safety. Perhaps even more so. We might have quantum immortality, but if we behave stupidly we limit ourselves to existing in a small number of possible universes, and many of them may not be pleasant.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Oy, the weights I lifted!

Rare workout at the JCC today while I'm home on a sort-of-working vacation. I ran there, probably about a mile, and went straight to the squat rack. They have good rubber-bumper weights there so I could drop my bar from about waist level and not strain myself trying to set it down. These weights are in kg, which is a nice treat for the athletic engineer. The workout:

Warmup - clean and jerk, 60kg - 5 lifts
Squats - 70 kg x 5
90 kg x5, four sets
alternating with military presses on the Smith machine: 70 pounds plus whatever the bar equivalent is
Deadlifts: 120kg x5, two sets

The deadlifts were fun. I asked a trainer to help me lift the bar off the rack, but she demurred.

"I'll hurt my back! Can you really lift all that?"
"I can lift it from the floor, just not the rack. I'm stronger than I look," I said, "That's easy, since I don't look very strong."

So I took off 50kg. She offered to help me with that, but I set the bar down myself. Then I put the 50kg back and she watched me do a few deadlifts. Later, I did,

Clean& Jerk: 50kg x5, two sets.

She came in just as I was finishing. "I've never seen anyone work out like that here."
"It's a shame," I said, dropping the bar for a satisfying thud that shook all the plates in their racks, "these bumper weights are great."
"So what do you get here," I asked her, "A lot of big guys who come in and do curls?"
"Not even that. Just a lot of old people."

It was true. There were a fair amount of old people working out, bless them, and younger folks too. Many of them were doing exercises that had to be just plain ineffective. One gentleman of about sixty had a lat pulldown machine with about 10 lb on it. He stood in front of it, gripping the bar and with vigorous shakes of his arms from the shoulders he made the plate oscillate up and down slightly. A woman of maybe forty-five worked with a trainer. He handed her small dumbells and watched her do various exercises, with a good four minute kvetch between each set.

The young guys I did see were even worse, because they should have known better. One loaded up the Smith machine for bench presses. He was twice my size and lifted less than I do, lots of reps. I'm sure in the cosy confines of the Smith he got no benefit from it at all. Somehow, though, his muscles were big and puffy.

Oy. Genetics.

But so was his belly.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Oracle at DelFino's - Part 2

Angie pulled another beer for Andy Castro, clear-pale yellow in a frosted mug.

"Twenty- three," Andy said to me.

"What's that?"

"It ain't come up all day, twenty-three. You think I should play it?"

"I don't think you should play at all."

"Yeah, right. But I'm no good at math, so I ain't gonna listen. Should I play it?"

"It doesn't matter. It has exactly the same chance as any other number."

"Oh," Andy said, nodding thoughtfully. I knew he was mocking me.

"Then why doesn't it come up, smart guy?" he demanded.

"It just hasn't. It's luck."

"What're the odds of that?"

I thought about it. Twenty numbers drawn out of a field of 80. The odds of not getting a 23 would be 79/80 times 78/79 times.... not worth it.

"Pretty good," I estimated, "Maybe close to even."

"For one game, right? Well, they do a game every four minutes. I been sittin' here about three hours. That's like sixty games."

"Forty-five," I corrected him.

"Whatever. So what are the odds now?"

"Pretty low," I admitted. I whipped out my Blackberry, raised 50 percent to the 45th power.

"Wow. Hundred billion to one."

"How about that," Andy said. He drained his glass and called for another.

I sipped my bourbon in silence. The Quickdraw numbers rolled. No twenty-three.

"See? Told ya."

"So? It still doesn't mean anything."

"So ya gonna bet twenty-three, then?"

"I'm not going to bet, Andy."

"Good. Cause if ya bet twenty-three, it ain't gonna come up."

"At least you're not saying it's 'due'", I said, "but it's got the same chance as ever."

"Tell ya what, it doesn't come up next game you buy me a beer."

"You have a beer," I said.

Andy drained his glass in one gulp. Tiny streams of watery beer escaped the corners of his mouth. He ignored them..

"You said it's a hundred trillion to one, on luck. What're the odds they just lost the disk or whatever with the twenny-three on it?"

"That's not how it works," I said.


Four minutes had passed. A new game. No twenty-three. I finished my Jack Daniels and put some bills on the bar.

"Get this guy a decent beer, will you?" I said to Angie.

This post is Completely Fabricated.

175# and other numbers

With Jeff spotting, managed a single rep at 175 on the bench: now halfway to the goal of 185. Working the triceps has been the key, I think. Following the new PB, I did a few reps at 155 and then did 2 reps plus a negative at 165#. Not too long ago, that was the max of maxes!

Alternated back exercises with more chest and tris:
- close grip lat pulls
- sled rows (alactic method)
- incline dumbells, up to 60#
- weighted dips (+20#)
- pullups (bodyweight)
- skullcrushers (50#)
- cable pec crossovers

Chest was BURNING afterwards. I think it also helped that I have had a week off from heavy lifting, except a session of mostly clean and jerk at the JCC last Friday.

Just took my BP: it's 110/68. Remember, I got into this because at 165# body weight and exercising several days a week - including earning black belts in aikido and iaido - I had stage I hypertension (130/90). Now it's,

weight: 147# (for reference - 70.5" tall)
body fat: 8.7%
BP: 110/70

Not bad so far!

In the works: another installment of the Andy Castro story, and a method for doing a random power law workout.

Monday, September 1, 2008

It doesn't get much more evolutionary than this...

Since Jeff likes to show pictures of his dinner sometimes, here's mine... next to the knife I used to personally KILL it! Would have been a very paleolithic meal if not for the nice Chilean Cabernet I enjoyed with it, and the sausage and peppers... some chicken... one of Emjay's cookies... well, at least I killed and ate some protein. I was very hungry after 20!-12! burpees. (getting farther!)

Sorry I could not get a picture at an earlier stage in the preparation, but I have a pretty nice camera and I did not want to get fish guts all over it.
Fish in question was a good-sized grass pickerel caught in Helderberg Lake. We were visiting some relatives at their lake house. Some of my second-cousins were snatching sunnies out of the water by dipping the lure straight off the dock, then releasing them.
I deplore this! Since so many hooked fish die no matter what you do, I believe in keeping and eating any fish I hook including sunfish, perch, whatever as long as it's a legal species and legal size. Not a lot of people know this, but a 7" sunfish has enough meat for a good-sized taco and the bones and skin come right off when you grill it on an open fire. Mmmm. Fish tacos.
There's no limit on such fish in most waters in New York - or the limit is something ridiculous, like 50 fish - so catch enough to make a meal of it. In my opinion it's the only respectful way to fish. You wouldn't stab a bunny, pick it up so the kids can take a look, then pull the spear out if its leg and let it go to live or die with that wound... would you?
If you don't know how to clean and cook the fish, put it in a livewell and take it to your local Asian market. The one in my neighborhood carries live fish that they slay and prep on-site, I'm sure for a nominal fee they'd prepare your catch.
Oh, and GET A LICENSE, as long as I'm declaiming here. The State spends a lot of money stocking the waters and keeping the fisheries in good shape, so it's the least you can do to pay for the privilege.