Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Week Away, and a New Best!

Spent the first 3 days of last week in Washington DC and took Thursday and Friday off for a 5-day weekend. Hotel workouts were not bad...despite the biggest weight being 55# and the ceiling being too low for snatches, I managed two decent workouts in Huge in a Hurry format. Did kettlebells when I got home. Over the weekend I did a run of about a mile to the playhouse in the park, and ran the steps there several times (and ran home, of course)

Today was the first day back in the home gym. Short workout, just clean&jerk and some weighted pullups. Hit a new best of 155# on the C&J! I yelled pretty loud in both phases of that lift. A guy on the stairmaster made a comment, and I told him that if I hadn't yelled, he would have heard weights drop and me moaning instead.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Large New Toy

The gym at work got a new weight rack, and it's gorgeous. Features adjustable rails that almost go low enough for deadlifts--but I found I can get them to the right spot and stand on a platform to get the level correct. Now I can drop the weight to save my back and not crack the concrete under the rug.

I took yesterday off from the gym and even smoked a small cigar. If I had found a piece of pie I would have eaten it. But Wednesday I was a good boy:

Deadlifts: 15x 225#, single reps
Incline dumbbell press: 25x 60#, sets per "huge in a hurry"
Chinups: 20x me+20#, per Hin-a-H
Overhead dbell triceps extension: 25x 40# Hin-a-H
Floor Wipers: 25 each side= 50

My son didn't want to go to school this morning. I told him I didn't want to go to work and we should both just go fishing. He stopped crying and told me I HAD to go to work, then he got dressed for school.

Damn. I wanted to go fishing.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The functional swim

This week's workouts so far:

Monday: fencing
Tuesday : olympic lifting 10x barbell snatches at 115#: 12x clean and jerk at 135# with some high pulls thrown in
Wednesday: Big 5 with Jeff: getting stronger and holding longer

Today: a new thing- swimming. I found out that my membership at Albany JCC gives me privileges at the Schenectady J, so I went. Did 10x25 yards each in freestyle and breaststroke, for 500 yards total.

I did these as fast as I could manage, sometimes 25 and sometimes 50 yards at a time. Thing is, I don't really know how to swim well so I am probably using a lot more energy than I need to and not activating all the muscles I could. I'll thrash around in the pool for a bit longer and see what I can learn on my own, then maybe get a coaching session somehow.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Yeah? Well it stands for "Superman" too!

I shopped for shirts at LL Bean yesterday to burn a gift card from my parents. I got two great shirts, one linen and one seersucker. And on the tags a letter I hadn't seen before: an "S".


I'm convinced this is not a case of me getting smaller, it's the world getting bigger.

Sure, I'm not a big guy. You can see my weight in the sidebar and it's not much. But I've always been a medium. There are guys smaller than me-- what the heck are they going to wear? I didn't see any "XS" on the racks.

Today's workout for the little man:

Snatches- Olympic bar: 4x95#, 4x115#, 2x120# (w00t! new best)
Flat bench: 150# plus chains. 15 reps over several sets. Last 4 were single reps.
Pullups: 25 reps over several sets, alternating with the bench press. 25# hanging from the belt.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

39th Earth Day Update

I had a fantastic "Big 5" workout with Jeff this morning followed by my annual barbershop shave. Ahhhh. Here's where I am on fitness on this, the first day of my fortieth year on the planet.

I got a new pinch test yesterday and updated the age-based algorithm to account for the extra year. It seems that the older you get the less of your fat is stored at skin level, so 23.5 mm at 38 years old is less bodyfat% than 23.5mm at 39 years old. I'm happy to report that I more than made up for the extra year: caliper measurement was 22.5mm down 1mm, so I am now a mere 7.8% fat. I can't imagine wanting to go much lower than that--which means that if I want to add muscle at this point I have to add total bodyweight. I'm not convinced this is a good idea for my health, so I think I will try to hold where I am.

Some years ago I was diagnosed with stage I hypertension-- 130/90. I went on an agressive cardio plan and didn't change that number by much. Then I lost ten pounds, added muscle, and went to 120/80. At this point I've lost five more pounds, can lift my own weight over my head, and my BP is 110/70.

Here's a quick overview of my typical fitness week these days:

Fencing, about one hour. I tend to fight very aggressively and really try to wear myself out so that this is an explosive workout.
If I can work it in I also like to do a fast strength workout earlier in the day: a deadlift/push/pull routine to 15 reps each on the "huge in a hurry" plan.

If I got in the strength workout Monday, then Tuesday is plyometrics: box jumps, sprints, medicine ball, etc. But if not, then I do the "huge in a hurry" with 3-4 exercises, to 25 reps each. Of course if I do this then I might be in trouble for...

"Big 5" with Jeff. Leg press, machine bench, seated row, machine shoulder, wide pulldown. It takes under ten minutes and it jellifies every muscle.

Functional: boxing, sprints, core strength like floor wipers, inverse crunches, and hanging leg raises.

Strength: olympic lifts. Lately I've been going for 25 total barbel lifts, perhaps 10 snatches and 15 clean-and-jerks. TIme permitting I can finish with dumbell snatches or kettlebell clean-and-press.

I don't usually work out on the weekends, but when I do it's swimming or Olympic lift at the JCC, or kettlebell at home. In summer I may do some downtown running. And of course there's wrestling with the kids every day.

That's what works for me. I am in better shape now than I have ever been. I have confidence that I can maintain this lifestyle and keep myself healthy for a good long time. Many thanks to Jeff, Andy, Theory to Practice, and all the other resources from whom I've learned so much.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Horrible New Project

While Saint Mark's Body continues to plod its way towards (I am hopeful) publication I have begun working on a new book. Sorry, it's not the comedic tale of my neighbors nor is it a sequel to SMB.

I won't say much yet- other than that it's an "alternative historical" set in 1798-1814. Napoleon is in it. Oh, and so is an army of about 10,000 walking undead with muskets and cannons. Working title: [b]Emperor of the Damned[/b]. [I]Quelle horreur![/i]

Writing this one will be like eating candy. I have a draft of the first chapter and am very excited about writing the rest.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hill Sprints

I began in the gym, and did a circuit between incline presses (taken to the neck-- scary-- Iron Guru style) and one-arm standing cable pulls. Each on the 25-rep plan. Then I headed outside for sprints. I thought I might just run across the parking lot. That's when I saw it-- the tall, steep, earthen berm protecting one of the buildings from a nearby pressurized tank farm. Jeff knows the one I mean, but neither of us can post a picture because of corporate policy.

So you'll have to imagine it. It's easily over ten feet tall because it reaches as high as the building it's next to. The slope is probably between 60 and 70 degrees. It's at one end of a grass field where people sometimes play volleyball. I started at the other end, about 100 meters away, and sprinted across the field and up the hill. I had enough momentum to reach the top in four strides, I think. Then I went down the side of the hill-- the slope I came up was too steep-- and walked/jogged back to the starting point.

By the fourth time I did this, the trucker unloading cryogenic hydrogen into the tank farm was staring. I managed seven before I wasn't getting the same 'pop' to the top of the hill; then I went back inside.

Finished with supramaximal-hold on the flat bench, trying to ramp that back up to 185# again.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'm back.

Don't worry, I have indeed been working out all this time. Mostly though I have been working on the book in all my spare time. I have been getting a lot of great advice at the absoulutewrite.com "water cooler" forum and I think after another pass through the text I will be ready to get the sucker published.

In the gym today I did clean and jerk for about 40 minutes. I ramped the weight up slowly until I got 145# over my head. No bad effects. I think I will go for a new personal best next week around this time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Workout Update for 3/3/2009

I seem to have reached a new stability on weight: 144lb before most workouts and 143lb after. I've decided not to risk deadlifts or back squats for a while, and am compensating with other exercises and lifts. It seems to be going well... the pounds I'm lifting are going up on most exercises, the boys in the locker room are saying I'm leaner (stop thinking that, right now.) and my wife pronounced my abdomen "like a rock" (and again, stop thinking that.)

Sunday workout: at home -
  • 25 reps on the flat bench with 60# dumbells: superset with DB rows
  • Then upstairs to the living room for 25x 20kg kettlebell snatches and 25x clean and jerks (each hand), while watching a dumb movie.
Monday workout:
  • front squats: 195# which I think I've never done in a front but have exceeded in a back squat. 25 rep method. Superset with...
  • pullups: 20# on the belt; 5sets x 3reps in the "rest-pause" style
  • military press: 90# ; 5sets x 3reps in the "rest-pause" style, superset with...
  • jump-lunges (that is, do a lunge, jump and switch legs in the air) 5x8, holding 20# dumbells

Tuesday workout (today): I meant to do a 28 minute mayhem, but I had too much fun with the first exercise and stayed with it.

  • DB snatch: 65#, did 5sets x 3 reps as a rest-pause. Felt so good I did 3sets x 2 reps at 70#! Each hand, naturally.
  • Close grip pulldowns: 155#, 5x3 rest-pause. Superset with...
  • Dips; 35# on the belt, 5x3 and then another 4.
  • Sprints: 5x one lap track sprints
  • Ballistic pushups: 5x5, full airborne each time. Brutal.

Had a big omelet for lunch after.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Meatheads III: the Second Battle of Ypres

Well, they finally got it out. On the second night, aided by pizza boxes, cinder blocks, plywood, and some dude with a flashlight who seemed to understand the procedure of "rocking" a stuck car, the meatheads next door have finally gotten their car out of the mud. Hopefully they have learned their lesson and there will not be a THIRD battle of Ypres next door.
Fig. 1:
Soldiers of the Royal West Surrey Regiment evacuate wounded following the extrication of a mired Toyota Matrix from a rented backyard.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Meatheads in the mud, Part II

New neighbors... same inept handling of a motor vehicle.

I'm not even sure why they felt the need to park in the backyard. There was only one car, and plenty of nice asphalt driveway. Maybe this was the same guy Emjay heard scraping the house next door trying to back out? Was he trying to turn the car around so he could nose out instead? We may never know. Perhaps future archaologists who uncover this Toyota Matrix from a fossilized mudhole will be able to put together the forensic evidence, and tell us.

I actually spoke to the guy this morning in the midst of his attempts to free himself.

"Welcome to the mudhole," I said.

"Yeah. Fuckin' ridiculous."

Meaning, 'it is ridiculous that I cannot drive my tiny front-wheel drive car through a mudhole with impunity, for both God and Nature entitle me to do so.'

I let it go at that.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Crash Wednesday

As far as diet, my day of repentance was not so bad. I did not feel any ill effects from Tuesday, and fasted straight through until dinner. My workout was a bit disappointing, though. I hurt my back trying to clean 135# in the middle of a set of sumo deadlifts of the same. It really annoys me that I am still messing up my back after 3 months. Bench press was also disappointing, I could not manage 175#. But my pullups were stronger, I had no problems in a 5x3 with 25# extra on the belt. Thanks to Jeff for putting up with my grumpy petulence during this workout!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday

My EF friends, I must confess to you and be shriven: I am going completely off the wagon today.

In honor of Mardi Gras, I am suspending all paleolithic rules for one day. I intend to graze on carbs and fruit. I've already had a muffin and yogurt, nuts and cheese (OK, protein does taste really good) and a piece of toast! Oh, and it gets better. Leftover pasta for lunch. And there's a pancake supper at church tonight, and I'm gonna have me a stack. With syrup.

Laissez les bons temps roulez!

Really, this is mostly motivated by the fact that I'm home sick. I could certainly have toughed it out, but I had no meetings scheduled today and it would be better to take a day to recover than miss work later in the week. But hey, if there's a day to break the rules this is it.

Of course Fat Tuesday leads to Ash Wednesday. That means fasting, until dinner unless I feel that the fast will blow my recovery. I'll take more opportunities for fasting during Lent, probably on Fridays as is the tradition.

And no, growing up I never seriously observed Lent- but hey, I fast for fun and health now, so why not take advantage of the spiritual angle? I might also see if I can drop hard liquor for 40 days.

But you'll have to excuse me now, I hear a cookie calling me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Accuracy of Fiction

Susan Higginbotham has a post on accuracy in historical novels that I find very interesting. There is always a question in historical fiction of how "historical" it should be. Of course there are as many opinions as there are readers. Some people just treat the work as pure fiction using a previous time and real people, and don't expect much. Others at least hope that there is nothing misleading or impossible in the work. And then there are those who expect it to be a fully realized scholarly work that nears the genre of narrative history. I had one reader of an early draft of Saint Mark's Body insist that I should include a disclaimer that clearly stated the parts that were true and the ones I made up.

She doesn't read much historical fiction.

Anyway, it caused me to examine the characters in my book who were real people, and the liberties I took with them.

Buono and Rustico, the Venetian merchants who according to legend stole the body: I've never been able to find a thing out about them other than their names, and that Buono is also called "Tribunus" in some legends. I made them fully developed characters with personalities, which I have no reason to beleive accurate. However, it is likely that I do so without fear of contradiction.

(the future) Pope Gregory IV: biographies paint him as an ally of the Franks and favored member of the Roman ruling classes. He's only in one scene so I don't need him to do much. I chose to have him sort of gently push things in the background, and created a purely fictional character to bring in some of the heavier intrigues.

Emperor Michael II "the Amorian" : A lot has been written about this man - a soldier, probably illiterate, constantly at odds with the workings of the Byzantine Empire he rules. Michael had a lot of trouble both internal and external in his reign. I tried to present him as straightforward, uncomfortable with the byzantine nature of the Byzantine empire, and easily frustrated.

Caliph Al-Ma'mun : Here a lot of writings survive (thank you, literate medieval Islam) about not only the politics and interests of Al-Ma'mun but also his character. I felt that I knew him reasonably well, and was quite comfortable giving Al-Ma'mun words and actions according to his character as I understood it. Interestingly, despite him appearing in only two chapters, a couple of my draft readers said he was their favorite character.

The Doge of Venice, Giustiniano Partecipazio : His history is known, but I have found very little about his character. So I made him what I needed him to be, and tried to think about how the known events of his life (his brother jumped him in the line of succession to the throne, so he deposed his father and brother.... then later on made that same brother his heir!) would have shaped his character. One nice thing about Giustiniano is that his will survives, so we can at least see what he was thinking in the year of his death.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

28 minutes of mayhem

I admit it, I paid attention to an infomercial.

It was playing on a TV in the gym yesterday, and it showed a bunch of flabby people turn into cut, lean physical specimens as a result of the program. Ho hum. Another ad targeted to the masses, home waching TV at one in the afternoon. With one exception:

It looked like it could actually work. It looked kind of paleo!

There was a fair amount of timed resistance work and boxing-like drills. I realized watching it that I could go a bit more hard-core. So, I decided to do a series of 4 minute drills today: most were 3 minutes on and one minute rest. I managed seven:

1) Dumbell Snatches: 65# - did about 17 each hand in 3 minutes.
2) Squat Thrusters: with two 20# dumbells. 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off. Managed about 40 reps total.
3) Heavy bag; 3 minutes.
4) Burpees: 27 reps in 3 minutes.
5) Kettlebell clean and press: 35#, one hand at a time- 40 second on, 20 off, Lost count of reps, but was about 20 each side.
6) KB pushups to row: 35# bells, did pushups holding handles then balanced on one kettlebell while rowing the other. 3 sets of 3 reps each side in 3 minutes.
7) Turkish Get-ups: again 35#, did 5 each side total.

It was a great workout: being on the clock was very helpful. It was a challenge to design a sequence that would not just destroy one part of my body too early, for example my legs.

If I'd had four more minutes, I would have done front squats.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

President Lincoln's Body

The DVD recorder/player is broken, so Emjay and I took a rare look at the broadcast tv schedule. History channel had a program on that I couldn't resist: "Stealing Lincoln's Body" I couldn't help but laugh, especially when we sat down to watch and the program made repeated references to thefts of saints' bodies and relics over the centuries.

So, how similar was the theft of Lincoln's body to that of Saint Mark's? Well, not very. A few similarities:

  • Lincoln was about the closest thing America had to a native saint, having been martyred for the cause of Union. It's estimated that 20% of the U.S. population saw the train carrying the body from Washington to Springfield, and millions actually viewed his remains in more than a dozen open-casket stops.
  • In the legends, a saint's body is always preserved incorruptible by holiness. (in my book, I give a more scientific explanation for Mark) Lincoln's body was prepared for its long journey and many viewings by the relatively new science of embalming.
  • Merchants (in my book, smugglers) steal Mark. Counterfieters steal Lincoln, with the intention of holding the body for ransom.

And some major differences:

  • Lincoln's theives were not successful. The counterfieters were stopped by U.S. Secret Service agents. Interestingly, their mission was NOT to protect the President, nor had it ever been, at that time in history. They were involved simply because their role in investigating counterfieters.
  • There is no mention of miracles surrounding the theft or (attempted) transport of Lincoln.
  • Lincoln's head seems to have remained attached to his body. As far as anyone knows, it still is.
  • Springfield, Illinois did not become the central city of an empire destined to dominate the Great Lakes for centuries.

More than once I had to snicker at the incompetence. Buono and Rustico would have gotten away with Lincoln's body, no problem.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Some Historicals of Note

Now that I'm getting more and more into the business of finding representation for my book, I've started to follow a couple of blogs by historical fiction authors.

Historical Boys is by author C.W. Gortner. He posts on a variety of subjects, brings in guest authors, and lists some good resources for the aspiring writer.

Another is Readings, Rantings.... (I'm not typing the whole title) by Susan Higginbotham, who specializes in late medieval England and, like any good blogger, doesn't let that specialization limit her posts.

Friday, February 13, 2009

One simple rule: OBEY!

Oh, how sick are we in the Evolutionary Fitness community of these paid ads popping up everywhere? If you've ever bothered to click one you see that the one simple rule is actually two... or really, two supplements. The first apparently turns all your fat into poop, and the second makes the poop come out. Hooray, poop!

What drove me to post on this foolishness is that we have been obeying a very simple set of rules ourselves, and the results show. Of course the execution of these rules is far from simple. It requires dedication, a little suffering, and sometimes teriffic discipline. But one of the simplest rules of all is TANSTAAFL.

I'd like to start the discussion with One Simple Rule that I obey... I invite others to add theirs. History teaches us that lists of Simple Rules tend to number about ten. (As in, commandments, and the Bill of Rights) However, even the greatest ten-rule lists could use some editing. (Quartering troops? Come on. And we could maybe have been told not to covet only once. But let it be as Thou wilst.)

My rule: (OBEY!)
"The physical training regimen must make the body fit for combat, because that is the most relevant evolutionary pressure recognized by the human genome."

Going on from there... the body optimized for combat is capable of delivering explosive power in bursts, enduring for long enough to kill or critically injure another human being. If you watch a knockout in boxing or mixed martial arts, you'll see that it takes several seconds of mayhem to finish off a trained fighter. That defines the time window in which your exercises should be developing full power at full speed. You'll also notice that this knockout sequence does not usually happen right away. A fighter will see an opening, attack, and if the defense is successful he will have to create or wait for another opening later. So your body needs to make full power at full speed several times until the attack is successful. Boxing rounds are 3 minutes long because if they were much longer then we would only have one-round fights. (one fighter would get exhausted enough to fail to defend.)

And this brings us to exercises like the tabata: 4 minutes total, 8 sets of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off at full power and speed - whether you do it for front squats, thrusters, or wailing on the heavy bag.

I invite your One Simple Rule. OBEY!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It was a stormy and punishing workout

"Off" day yesterday following heavy lifts. On such days I like to do sprint-like training. This week my plan on the heavy lift days is to reduce reps and aim for failures/maxes, and on non-lift days do, well, stuff like this. Next week I will probably go back to the 25 rep-bigger engine plan, unless I think of something else to try.

Track sprints: 5 sprint laps (each ~100m) with a lap of jogging/walking in between
Front Squat Tabata: 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for 4 minutes. I did the first 2 sets with 60# and had to drop down to 40# to respect this very punishing sequence. Doing the math, there were 8 sets total with the squats as fast as I could go. I averaged 12 reps in each of the 20-second sets.
Heavy Bag Tabata: Again, 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for 4 minutes total. Each of the 20-second punching sets was a full-speed flurry with as much power as I could deliver- a much faster pace than in a typical 3 minute round. The limiting factor on speed was me having to chase the swinging bag all over the room.
Suicides: Short gym version: did 4 at a reasonable pace and sprinted the last one. lots of squeaking sneakers.

The legs hurt today but not as bad as I thought they would.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Early abs, and first rejection

My son woke me up early so I did a quick abs workout: 25x toe-supported situps, up fast and down slow. Then 2x24 alternating knees, then a minute each on front, left oblique, and right oblique plank.

Then opened the computer to find my first rejection letter from an agent! I had actually been looking forward to crossing that hurdle. It's a milestone every author has to pass. I expected a rejection from this agent since he reads just the first page of the book before making an initial decision, and my first page was admittedly somewhat weak. But wait!

In chess, you move the weakest piece first... when we lift weights, we concentrate on the weakest muscle... why didn't I deal with this before?!!

So I changed the first page before sending out to another crop of agents. Now instead of painting a picture first of the sky and the sea and then getting into the action, here's the first line:

"It was a magnificent sunset, and since the San Nicola's sailors had nothing better to do than worry about being hanged, they lined the rail to watch it."

Hopefully at least one agent will want to know why they're in mortal danger, and ask for the rest of the book!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

First queries to agents

I took an important step this weekend towards the publication of my book: I sent queries to three agents who I think might want to represent it.

If you haven't tried to get a book published before, let me tell you it's a strange process. (Possibly filled with mayhem.) First, you have to do all the work and finish the book. Only then, can you try to get an agent. Then the agent has to hook an editor, and the editor has to sell it to his or her publisher. Every agent has unique preferences and quirks. Each one has different rules for what you can and cannot send in the initial contact. Since agents can get dozens of inquiries from unpublished authors every day, this is necessary. It doesn't make it any easier on the author.


To agent JK: by email, a one-page query that includes a description of the book's plot, and the first page of the text.

To agent ES: by snail mail, a one-page query that just gives the "hook" for the book, because the package also includes a 9-page complete plot summary and the first three chapters.

To agent IG: by email, a one-page query (short version), the aforementioned summary, and the first ten pages of the text.

I'm sure I'll be doing lots more of these - hey, maybe I'll submit to an agent that wants exactly the same thing as one of the first three, and I can save some time for workouts!

Weekend Workout Catch-All

I could not get to the JCC this weekend - but am finding myself able to improvise more using some of the tools I've learned recently: notably the 25-rep "huge in a hurry" method.

Yesterday I got up with the kids and when my son had gotten on my nerves enough, I invited him to come in the basement and watch me swing the kettlebell. That session was,

20 kg kettlebell:
25 jump squats (in one set)
swings, descending sets, each hand (8,8,7,7,6,6,... 1,1) No rest for this whole sequence. Near wipeout!
25 rep (each hand) clean and press. Roughly, 7+6+6+6.

In the evening, Emjay had a girls' night out and the DVD player is broken, so a good excuse to get in the rest of the work:

DB press, 55#, 25 reps as 7,5,5,4,4
DB chest fly, 35#, reps as 7,6,6,6
"Jack LaLanne" pushups, arms stretched out overhead. 3x10

What I like about the 25 rep method is that I can do it with ONE weight. I do not have a whole rack of dumbells at home, and it's laborious to change weights two or three times for a single exercise. This way I set it once, and I am doing something that gives excellent results.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Google can be strange sometimes

I signed up for Google Analytics so I could track traffic over at www.saintmarksbody.com. Yesterday I started tracking this site.

One of the visitors yesterday got here from the Google search, "all about theodore being in the russo-japanese war". According to the analytics, the searcher bounced right off the page and I suppose went on to the real information.

Too bad; I would have liked to see the angry comment after some kid got an "F" for repeating my story about Teddy and Batman.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

<8 :^)

No, that's not a party hat emoticon. See sidebar.

Finally affecting the ab fat! I credit intermittent fasting over the last few weeks.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Power of a Workout, and the value of a calorie

I was thinking a bit about the physics of lifting weights. Just off the top of my head:

Bench Press
I will do a 25-rep sequence in about 5 minutes with 66kg. (145lb). I estimate the bar moves about a half meter, and if I'm lifting with "snap" then the lift takes about half a second.

Power is (force * distance) / time = (66kg* 9.81m/s^2)*0.5m / .5sec = 647 watts

Wow! That means I'm almost as strong as a horse! (one hp= 746W)... but only for half a second.

In the 5-minute sequence this happens 25 times. The total energy expended is 25*(66kg)(9.81m/s^2)(.5m) = 8093 joules. What's a joule? Interestingly those convert straight to calories.

7970 J = 2.0 C

WHAAAT? only two calories? That's a tic-tac! Well, there are a few other things going on here. First off, it takes energy to bring the bar back to the chest with control. Maybe, half the force for a full second each time... that would add 25% to the watts and 50% to the joules. So, three calories.

To me, this points out something very interesting: counting calories out is about as useful as counting calories in... from an evolutionary fitness perspective. You will "burn" a lot of calories treading a mill for 40 minutes. You will probably "burn" as many calories racking your weights as you did in the actual exercise.

So what's the point? What I did do for two calories that I didn't do for 200 calories of treadmill walking is build a structure in my body that requires fuel all the time, whether I'm in the gym or not, and will burn that fuel from the protein and fat I eat or store in my body.

Think of it another way: suppose you have a 2500 calorie/day diet. A hard-core treadmill session might "burn" 400 calories. Where do the rest go? If your weight is stable, you have to be using the vast majority - 2100 calories - somewhere else. You do it walking, sitting, standing, sleeping.

Think of how much energy it takes to maintain body temperature! What if you had your body weight in water? For me that's about 66kg, so 66 liters of water... so, imagine 3 cases of Perrier. (Hey, I'm French.) How much energy would it take to maintain that much water at 37C / 98F? A heckofalot more than it takes to lift a weight a few times, beleive me.

To summarize: the workout is not to burn the calories. The workout is to build the engine that burns the calories when you're NOT working out.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My workout

I wanted to compare my workout and Jeff's , since we did exactly the same workout on Tuesday and maybe both have some effects from it still. I did not exercise yesterday, so I did my sprint-style stuff today (which Jeff hit yesterday), combined with plyo.
  • warmup sprints x3 track laps, some jogs in-between
  • heavy bag: 5x 2 minute rounds. "rest" period in-between, for just as long as I could hold a plank.
  • DB snatches: 25 reps each hand at 50#, each set ~1 minute with ~1 minute rest. Sets: 8(each hand), 7, 5, 5.
Interesting that we both did the DB snatch.

I will be ready to hit weights hard again tomorrow, and have not decided whether to do it 25-rep style or go for a max on some exercises.

I am Fate!

A few friends are now reading the manuscript of Saint Mark's Body. One wrote,

"I don't normally get to confront an author... but you're going to kill the captain, aren't you? He's too wise, too respected... every character like that in a book or a movie always dies."

That's some of the best feedback I've recieved about the book! It means this reader has invested some emotion in that character, and cares enough about him to confront me BEFORE anything even happens to him.

Regarding killing characters, it IS a violent book. It's set in a violent time. I killed off a few characters I really liked, and I let one live who I originally decided would die at a certain point. That thought process was an interesting one. A character needs to live if the story can't go on without him, and he has to die if his death advances the story.

I can't wait to see what this reader says when Buono's fate is revealed... and when some other characters "advance the story" in various ways.

Monday, January 26, 2009

BP back up: WTF???

And this is why we monitor. My blood pressure as measured with my little electronic cuff has jumped up to the 130s over 70s again. This surprises me a lot, since my BP has tracked my weight/fat% very well and at 146 lb / 8.2% I am as light as I've ever been.

There are a few possibilities: of course the measurement could be wrong. I'll verify with my doctor later. I think it's correct, though. If it is, then the top culprits are diet and exercise.

For diet, I may be having too much salt- I eat a lot of nuts these days for the protein. I'll cut that back and see what happens. Also I have not been drinking as much water as I used to after reading about overhydration. Well, maybe I need to actually follow my doctor's advice and drink a lot to control the BP.

Regarding exercise, I will work in some more focused cardio days. I know the EF man isn't supposed to do that, but if it was the paleo days my family line would have died out due to this heart condition anyway... so I'll play the hand I was dealt.

Preparing to launch

You might have noticed in the sidebar that I'm claiming SAINT MARK'S BODY is finished. Well, there is indeed a pre-publication draft out that is going to a few friends, including my high school english teacher. (I've kept in touch with him by designing fights for plays he directs)

Just to make sure no one squats the domain name, I've started a site for the book. Soon it will contain excerpts and news as I begin the slow, treacherous march from writing to publication.

If it works correctly, I THINK you can send me mail there, at author@saintmarksbody.com .

I particularly liked the part where I got to select a user name for the site.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Wow. Great post on "counting your reps to build muscle" at Testosterone Nation by way of Theory to Practice. I put it into practice today, with 5 exercises.

The idea is, do 25 reps of a weight appropriate for 6 reps to failure. Split up any way you want, putting in rest periods with the idea of getting 25 reps as quickly as possible.
  • Bench press: 24 reps (could not get the last one, no way) in about 13 minutes at bodyweight (145#)
  • T-bar rows: 25 @ 55# in 3 sets. Need more weight.
  • Dips: 25 @ body+25# in 6-7 sets
  • Mil. press: 25 @ 60# in 5-6 sets
  • Cable flys: 25 @ 30# each hand in 4-5 sets

40 minutes total time, and the upper body is wiped. I'll be doing more of these. Jeff came in as I was finishing, and he did 25 reps IN ALTERNATING EXERCISES so as to not waste any time. Ugh!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In Praise of the Egg Sangwich

That's right, "sangwich". That's the way Grandpa said it, that's the way America says it, and it's worked out pretty well so far.

The egg sangwich. A divine expression of the holy trinity of protein: meat, egg, cheese. But it is not a sangwich without an affront to Paleo man, the bread. I submit that it is a necessary evil. A high protein/fiber english muffin will purge this sin, and more too.

Butter and grill thy muffin. In the same pan, fry an egg... or two. Break the yolks and pepper them with a resolute hand. For meat, any pork product will do: bacon broken in two and maybe woven into a square; ham, sausage deftly split. Stack meat on egg and seal with cheese. Cheddar, or gouda if the bread is dark enough. Lay it atop, when it melts it will hold the meat together in a warm cheddary matrix.

How much do I love the egg sangwich? It is the only egg-based food I do not drown in tabasco. Ketchup is the ideal: lubricant and sealant both.

And now, a haiku.

O, thou egg sangwich!
A ham and egg alchemy:
Ketchup, butter, grease.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Teddy Roosevelt and Batman End the Russo-Japanese War

Everyone in my house was very excited about the presidential inauguration. My 4 year old son particularly wanted to know about all the President's vehicles; my 6 year old daughter dressed up in red white and blue and had me drag the flag out of the closet so we could all pledge allegiance.

Over dinner, my son asked if the President could "see everyone". I explained that no, that's Santa Claus, and if the President did see everyone it would violate of the 4th amendment.

If you were my kid, this is the bedtime story you would have heard last night. I told it on the fly and this is my best stab at remembering what I said.

"Our craziest president ever was named Theodore Roosevelt, but everyone called him Teddy. He was sick and weak as a kid, but he decided to work out and get stronger. He learned to wrestle and took long walks outside. Later, when he was President, he even learned Judo.

When grew up, he became a cowboy. He liked to hunt dangerous animals, too, like lions and tigers and bears. Once he was hunting and his friends tied up a baby bear for him to shoot. Teddy wouldn't do it, and that's why we call little stuffed bears Teddy bears.

"Later he joined the army. His soldiers were on horses, and they had to charge up a big hill where the guys from the other side were. Teddy led them straight up the hill, which probably looked a little silly because he had big round glasses and a bristly mustache and a big floppy hat. Anyway, they won. After that he was governor of... New York! So what city did he live in? That's right, Albany, right down the street.

"He did such a good job that he was Vice President, like Joe Biden. But the President... died, and Teddy had to be President. He got a big prize for making the Russians and the Japanese stop fighting, and he had the Panama Canal dug. The best thing he did was to set aside a lot of land and make laws that no one could cut down the trees or pollute the water. One of those places is where we go camping sometimes.

"He also liked to say 'Bully!' a lot."

My son interrupted. "Daddy, what about Batman?"

"Roosevelt lived years before Batman. They never met."

"Daddy, can't you just pretend?"

..."Well, OK."

Once upon a time, President Roosevelt was doing pushups in the White House when the Batcopter landed on the lawn.

"What is this confounded machinery?" Teddy shouted. "I say, you there! What is the meaning of this, Sir?"

"I'm Batman, Mr. President. I've come from the future to help you."


So Teddy climbed into the Batcopter (edit: technically, this would have made the Batcopter become Marine One) and they flew over the ocean, to Vladivostok. The Russian army was surrounded by the Japanese army, and they wouldn't stop fighting. Sometimes they tried to sit down and talk about it, but someone's chair always blew up. Then they would blame each other and start fighting again.

Teddy sifted through the rubble of destroyed chairs and found something. "See here, what's this, some sort of Faro card?"

"It's a Joker card, Mr. President," Batman said, "That means the Joker must have traveled back in time. He's the one that's keeping this war going. We have to find him."


They heard laughing coming from a cave, so they went to check it out. Batman wanted to be careful, but Teddy rushed right in!

"Tally-ho!", the President cried.

"Hahahaaa!" It was the Joker! "Now I'll capture Theodore Roosevelt! Get him, Henchmen!"

But what the henchmen didn't know was that the President was a Judo expert!

"Unhand me, you rounders! Hi-YAAAAAH!" He threw one, and then the other. He knocked them out!

By the time Batman got there only the Joker was left. Batman shot a batrope at him and tied him up.

"Curses!" the Joker said, "the joke's on me!"

"Bully!" said the President.

Batman stuffed the Joker into the back of the batcopter. The President made the Russians and the Japanese sit down to talk, and they agreed to stop fighting.

Then, out of nowhere, the King of Sweden appeared! He gave Teddy a big gold medal.

"Well done, Mr. President!" the King said, "Congratulations on ending the Russo-Japanese War!"

"Bully! Thank you, your Majesty!" The King put the medal on Teddy and he got into the Batcopter with Batman. They flew back to the White House and landed.

Batman and Teddy shook hands and Batman took the Joker back to Gotham City in a time machine, where he turned him over to Commissioner Gordon and the joker went to jail.

The end.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sample Speed/ Plyo Workout

Jeff covered our mutual workout today pretty well- so here's mine from yesterday, which I think was a good example of a speed/power workout:

Warmup- track run, 3 laps

Boxing+ "rest" period. 5 rounds at the heavy bag @ 3 minutes. I got to rest between rounds... for as long as I could hold a plank position. By the 4th intermission this was only 30 seconds.

Box Jumps: one minute on, one minute off, two foot box. 3 rounds.

Sprints: sprint lap, walk lap, x3.

If I'd had more time I would have put dumbell snatches or kettlebell cleans into the mix. This workout feels great, works the whole body, doesn't leave you sore, and builds explosive muscle.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

About My New Profile Picture

Doctor Strange is my favorite superhero.

"Order of the Stick" is one of my favorite webcomics.

Emjay once referred to me as a Powerpoint master. I corrected her; "Dear, I am a powerpoint Grandmaster."

As the Immortal Stan Lee would put it, 'nuff said.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I can touch my toes!

I've been trying not to let the core muscles go too soft whilst rehabbing the back. Today's workout:

Clean and jerk: 55# and 95# ... just to remind myself what the bar feels like
35# kettlebell: descending sets from 8 reps each side: swings,
descending sets from 8 reps each side: clean and press.
descending sets from 5 reps each side: windmills

some incline situps and back extension thingies, then a few minutes of various punishing planks. I did one in a "Jack LaLanne Pushup" position, hands straight out and resting on a BOSU ball. Managed about 20 seconds there. Got 30 seconds on the "Normal Person Puship" position plank, then more inclines. Did 3 minutes unchecked destruction on the heavy bag to close things out.

And at the end, I realized when I reached for the towel I'd dropped - I can touch my toes again!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Oh my aching back!

Long time no post! Well, I got a few workouts in at the JCC over the break.. but hurt myself on one of them. I think I had improper form putting the bar down after a fast clean&jerk set (5x115#) and strained a muscle. It's been getting better slowly, and I've been working around it.

Yesterday's workout would suggest I have no back problem at all... but I am being very careful on form and trying hard to keep the other muscles in shape for best recovery.

kettlebell: 35#
swings, 8 sets descending reps (8,7,6...) each hand
clean& press, 6 sets descending reps
windmills& pistol squats (not many due to back)

dumbell snatches: 4x60# each hand, 2x65# each hand (back only hurts if I bend and do it wrong)

pullups alternating with machine shoulder presses: went alactic, and back and forth between stations. Got up to 5 pullups with 35# on the belt.

Over the holiday break I was not working out so much as usual, so I ate a lot less. I ended up losing a few pounds and am now at 146 (145# right after a workout) I had the fat checked but it is only 8.2%, which is where I was right before Christmas. So I lost muscle and fat in equal proportion... but the good news is I have fewer pounds of fat than ever, and as I ramp back the eating & training I should preferentially build muscle.