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Damn, Thought I Was Holding My Own

Last night I got in a decent workout at a gym I don't go to very often. It's a nice change of pace and I have fewer interruptions. My hour+ consisted of some leg tri-sets and a few back movements. But what I did is neither here nor there.

After putting together my post-workout shake (creatine, BCAA, Vitargo, whey protein - the usual), I was walking through the gym and heard my name called. Turns out an old friend from my competitive cycling days had recently joined the gym. We hadn't seen each other in at least a decade, and had a nice chat about our shared cycling days, getting older, etc. But here's why I'm talking about this:  he said when he initially saw me he thought it was me, but then said to himself: "nah, it can't be John, his calves aren't big enough."

Damn, I thought my calves were still pretty good, even now at 62 years old.

Here's my calves less than two weeks ago, on the ride home after a workout at CrossFit Green Bay. I was sipping my post-workout shake containing fast-acting carbs in the form of either Vitargo, Build or Real Food.


Spring Cycling, Quick Post-Workout Shake

Tonight was my first road ride of the spring. Yes, oudoors on the roads of central Wisconsin, on my veteran Lemond bike. I only got in 90 minutes, and felt like it took the first 20 to loosen my right hamstring and get it operating properly, but all in all, the ride was a success (live Rolling Stones in my ears helping me up gentle hills). The sun was shining and temps were still decently warm. Getting on the bike seemed the right choice, rather than another drive to the gym. 

On the bike I drank water with a small amount of BCAA in the bottle. Nothing special, no added food for only 90 minutes.

simple: high-glycemic carbs, BCAA, proteinOnce home, I was pretty hungry, and wanted a recovery shake, knowing it would be a while before I ate. Optimally, I'd add some type of powdered carb source to a blender (Vitargo, Real Food, Carbolyze, Build), but in the kitchen I spotted two small bananas that were getting pretty soft. Not being a fan of throwing away food (there are already enough frozen bananas in the freezer), I dropped them into the Blendtec. A dose of BCAA and two scoops of protein, and voila, in only a minute or so, I was tossing back a useful and tasty recovery shake.

Don't exercise without putting nutrients into your system after your workout. This is the crucial time for helping your body, your entire system of muscles and organs, to recover and adapt and react to your workout (whether strength training or metabolic, it doesn't matter). Assuming you want to get stronger and fitter and healthier, don't workout without fuel. It's a critical part of the equation, no matter your goal. 

Another time I'll discuss pre-and intra-workout nutrition. As spring comes to the midwest and people begin running and cycling outdoors, ramp up your nutrition game!



Gym Passion (or, Where Many of Us Feel Very Comfortable)

Today I enjoyed a sweet workout at my favorite old-school training facility, Ford's Gym in Madison, Wisconsin. I've written about Ford's before, I've periodically worked out there for two decades (maybe more - I competed in their Backyard powerlifting event at the old location long ago), and always love the experience. I walked in and was enthusiasitically greeted by Sam Masino, one of their top trainers, who somehow remembers me from visit to visit. Frankly, I like that.

Energy was palpable this morning at Ford's. One guy was squatting, getting into the mid-400s. Next to him was a guy snatching, moving 155# like it was a PVC pipe. At the same time someone was climbing the tall rope in the middle of the boxing ring (yeah, a full size, pro boxing ring), with a 25# plate hanging from a hip belt. Oh, did I mention he was climbing with his arms only? While all this was going on, Sam and another trainer were putting ten female powerlifters through a group leg workout! They were doing extensions, curls, front squats, and partial back squats. Combined with a half dozen other members scattered around, the gym was rockin' and loud and shaking with energy. Everyone was yelling back and forth and encouraging lifts and banging fists. part of the dumbell rack at Ford's. Real weights!

Here's my point:  I feel good in Ford's Gym; but why? Hell, I'm comfortable in any workout place, any gym, but Ford's is special to me. I found myself wondering about this, thinking about my 40+ years working out, and remembering gyms of my past. They are places where I'm most comfortable, and feel very much like myself.

There are gyms I've used for years. On the other hand I've been in a hell of a lot of gyms around the country for one or two workouts. And I've liked all of them. Gyms have personality, they have a vibe, often brought about by staff and members, sometimes with an added kick from an interesting location or unusual equipment. I remember a second-floor gym in Dubuque, Iowa I used to go to in the 1990's when I traveled there often for business meetings. It was small and laid-out in a funny L shape, but the people were agreeable, the equipment was heavy and well-used. Frankly, it smelled like a gym and I loved it.

Joe's Gym in Marquette, Michigan is another old-timer. When I first began using it in the 1970s it was a pit; tiny, densely packed with equipment, and frankly, filthy. But I was young and it was fun. In the last couple of decades it's changed hands, been hugely improved, remains tightly filled with stuff, but damn, it's a competitive bodybuilder's environment and difficult not to get a good workout in.

For years I traveled to Austin, Texas a couple of times a year, and I've been to many gyms there. Gold's and World dozens of times, but I fondly remember a gym called Hyde Park. It was old, contained lots of funky equipment, and I remember didn't have music playing! I asked why, and was told the owner didn't like it, felt the music distracted lifters. I wonder what he thinks today?

There was an old bodybuilding gym in New York City I've worked out in a few times, but it's been 20 years and for all I know it's gone. Leroy Colbert, a Mr. Universe winner and at the time known for the largest arms ever in bodybuilding, owned or famously worked at this gym. He was there, always smiling, each time I showed up.

Of course I've been to the Mecca, Gold's Gym in Venice, California, and yeah, I felt damn comfortable there. In my three or four workouts I used plenty of old equipment in the back, and one night even had a past Mr. California ask to work in with me (wish I could remember his name, but it's a long time ago). 

I've read Robbie Robinson talk about why he competed for so many years, and worked out so hard and remained in competitive shape for so long (he's probably still in great shape). He said he loved the sound of the gym, the clanging of the weights, the verbal encouragement back and forth between lifters. Yeah, that clanging of the weight - I love it myself. Robinson didn't want to let it go.

Last week in their Road to the Arnold podcast series, Guy Cisterino talked about the same passion for the gym environment. Guy feels most at home in a gym, likes it so much he doesn't want to leave, and unless his trainers (Charles Glass and Chris Aceto) tell him to cut down on volume, he'll just about over-train from sheer joy and pleasure. Man, I so understand and share that feeling. I very much enjoyed Cisterino on the podcast. He spills over with passion and shoot straight with his opinions. Guy Cisterino

Let's not forget the crucial role training partners play in making a gym great. For years I worked out in a community fitness center that wasn't really appropriate, but it was five minutes from work, and I had a phenomenal training partner. Gary Reichert is a world-class competitive powerlifter, and our daily sessions were a wonderful mix of "what should we invent today" to serious, hardcore powerlifting sessions. Gary and I could workout together anywhere, any kind of facility, and make useful and fun training out of it.

Yup, give me some clanging iron weights and I'm happy!

@guycisterino, #guycisterino, #roadtothearnold, @arnoldsportsfestival, #robbierobinson, #leroycolbert, @fordsgym, #fordsgym, 


Macronutrient Portions are More Important than Food Quality (most of the time)

Sure, I got your attention now, don't I? 

In the general scheme of nutrition and life, of course eating quality food is the best route for health and fitness and overall life. When I'm able to afford and easily find organic produce, I buy it if the price is logical. Nearly all the meat I consume is truly organic (I know the farmer very well). Sometimes my eggs are free-range; most of the time they are organic.

But within the framework of my total calories, and the general macro-nutrient ratios I've set for myself, goals can be achieved with what may appear to be a wide variance. Last night, for example, my dinner was a bowl of Triscuit crackers and a big protein shake. Circumstances dictated this; I know it's odd and believe me, in my life it's unusual. My CrossFit workout was late afternoon, I had a post-workout shake of protein - Carbolyze - BCAA - creatine. My usual. The crackers and additional shake were 90 minutes later.

Of course I wouldn't, and don't, eat like this very often at all. But in the context of the day, following my breakfast of two Rx Bars, two meals of vegetables and ground beef, and a shake (protein - strawberries - MCT oil), I was well within a logical calorie count. My protein reached my 200 gram goal, I had four cups of vegetables. Believe me, the crackers didn't hurt me. Under the circumstances, they worked.

Body composition is always on my short list of considerations, alongside fitness and strength and wellness. I don't let any one aspect get in the way of the others, frankly. In the right situation, even Captain Crunch can provide invaluable carbohydrate calories!

I know and respect a nutrition coach, Mike Doehla (StrongerU), who's been using Captain Crunch cereal (and broccoli) as his sole carb sources for weeks. He's cutting a bit of bodyfat, but primarily using himself as a living lesson for his clients that hitting their macro's (assigned by himself or one of his coaches), for most people, most of the time, is more important than just what the food is. If body composition is the primary consideration. 

A couple of weeks ago, while staying in a hotel on an out-of-state trip, I enjoyed a lengthy, and productive leg workout at a nice gym. Squats, leg presses, extensions, curls - lots of sets, lots of reps, and a decent load. I'd been driving for ten hours and slept the night before in my vehicle in a truck stop, so my lower body was ready for this bodybuilding-style session.

Afterwards, I enjoyed two of the cooler full of meals I took with me (two cups of mixed vegetables + 8 ounces of meat in each), some red wine and a big bowl of Captain Crunch! I'd not had that cereal for decades, but thought it would be a fun and somehow appropriate post-workout meal. It was, I enjoyed it, and look what happened with all those high-glycemic carbs in my system.


Mind Over Matter

I got mad at myself during a workout a while back. Afterwards, the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became.

This was at Crossfit Green Bay. The three-round WOD consisted of three movements, and it was typically tough. The harder I pushed myself the rougher the workout became. Same as it always is.

15 power cleans were in each round (the weight doesn’t matter - it became heavy enough). I’d broken the first two sets into 9 and 6 reps, momentarily dropping the bar, catching a couple of wheezy breaths, then hitting it. Even while I was doing this, I knew I really wasn’t giving my all. I thought I needed those few seconds of rest. Not really.

One of the coaches parked himself in front of me during the final set of cleans and yelled “do this unbroken!” And I did. Sure, it hurt and was tough and all that, but I did it.

That’s why I’m angry with myself. Why do I so often “pace” myself during metabolic workouts? If a coach I respect yells at me, or encourages me (sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference), I go for it. Often I find myself performing at a level I didn’t think possible. 

I know it’s all in my head, but I’d think that after 45 years of weight-training and competitive sports, and a half dozen years of CrossFit, I’d be able to throw the switch. Some days I can, some I seemingly cannot.

Solution: Study. Learn from the best. Currently on my bed-side table are copies of Mark Divine’s Kokoro Yoga - Develop the Spirit of a Warrior - the SealFit Way, and How Bad Do You Want It? - Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle by Matt Fitzgerald.

Divine is a legendary trainer of the mind and body. A well-read copy of his Unbeatable Mind has a home on our bookshelves. My wife Anne (also a CrossFit athlete) eagerly read How Bad Do You Want It? and reports great things about Fitzgerald’s message and philosophy and writing. 

I’m diving in. 

@MarkDivine, @Mattfitwriter, @stmartinspress, @velopress, @davetrendler