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Fitness « The Word

The Word with Rev. C. Bennett hoffman


Going Grok*


Picking Up Where I Left Off

I admit things didn't go quite as well as I'd planned. After my Becoming Leonidas 30-day trial, I intended to keep up a regular workout schedule. That didn't exactly happen.

I have my excuses, foremost among them a lack of reliable transportation. As you know excuses are worth their weight in gold: approximately $0.  As part of planning my goals for 2010, I realized that my reasons for letting my workouts slip were pretty lame. So, I made getting in shape an official goal and started hitting the gym again.

What makes it an "official goal" as opposed to "some bullshit I said"? Metrics. Specifically in this case, I want to get in "really good shape" which I've defined as gaining 10+ lbs. of muscle and getting to 6% body fat. I apologize for all of the "quotation marks".

The good news: getting back to the gym has felt very natural to me. I started by running a routine very similar to the one I used last August and feel like I've made some good progress in the last two weeks. Exercise has never really been the problem for me though, so I need to address my diet.

Who the Hell is this Grok Guy Anyway?

Grok is the avatar of primal man over at Mark's Daily Apple, a site built around the idea that modern life has become unsuitable for primitive man. Of specific interest to me is the notion that many modern health issues, from the prevalence of cancer to the overabundance of abdominal fat, can in meaningful ways be linked to an agricultural, grain-based diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

I've been reading and researching the ideas of the paleo diet for a few months and most of its major assertions seem highly plausible. More importantly though, I just think it's cool. As someone who doesn't like most vegetables, that's a huge benefit when it comes to radically re-engineering my diet. And I do mean radically; I love grains and dairy.

The Virtues of Gradualism

Since this will be such a big change for me, I don't intend to do things all at once. Instead I want to make a series of smaller but decisive shifts in both diet and exercise. While I still like my exercise routine, it has most certainly become routine. That's dangerous because it can cause over-training.

I also become dependent on having certain equipment available and, as I learned last fall, it's easy to make excuses when you have to go somewhere specific to work out. To that end, I want a more integrated and varied approach to exercise, mostly modeled on the paleo/primal and Crossfit frameworks.

For diet, I'm going to follow a 3-phase plan:

  • Addition
    Add good foods to my diet that I currently lack. Most notably this includes things green and/or leafy but lacking in psychoactive compounds. While I might be able to pull this off in a week, I'm going to give it up to a month to really take hold.
  • Transition
    Begin to get more calories from meat and vegetables and less from grains and other simple carbohydrates. Begin buying foods from local sources if possible to avoid issues with nutrient density in products from larger agricultural companies. This stage will last anywhere from 1 to 3 months.
  • Elimination
    Cease all regular consumption of grain and dairy products. This will probably take another 1 to 2 months.

So if I start in earnest on 2/15, I should become a caveman sometime this summer.

A Final Caveat

The most important goals are fitness and overall health. While primal man may have evolved to eat a certain diet and perform certain types of physical activity, I am a modern man and will take advantage of the benefits that affords. Skepticism is healthy and I always support research instead of accepting things on faith. I'm not opposed to using supplements, modern medicine, or other synthetic compounds as long as I've done the work to understand how they might impact my health.

Like in anything, take the good and leave the bad behind. Looks like Mark agrees. That's another thing I like about this paleo-diet trend, the people don't seem like zealots.


Becoming Leonidas – Day 30

My 30 day high intensity training trial has officially ended. Of course, that doesn't mean that I'm through with exercise or watching my diet. I really should have called the trial as a whole "Becoming Leonidas, Part 1" because I still have two months until Halloween and lots left to do. Although it got difficult at times and I could have performed better, I feel very satisfied with the results I've achieved. I'll go over what I did well and what I need to improve upon before posting my last two workouts.

The Good

First of all, I'm stronger. I feel much stronger and I look like I've gotten bigger. I think The workout numbers back this up pretty well. Using a one rep max calculator as a crude metric, my leg press improved ~20% (309 lbs. to 372 lbs.), my pullover improved ~45% (64 lbs. to 93 lbs.), my pec-dec improved ~22% (147 lbs. to 180 lbs.), and most of my other results were similar.

I experience a compulsion to workout. I've heard it said often that exercise is addictive and there's probably a grain of truth there. However the word "addictive" seems out of place, in the way that it wouldn't sit right to say that sleep is addictive. I now have a better appreciation of how much physical activity adds to my health, energy, and sense of well being. Most importantly, the habit has integrated itself into my life and sustaining it should prove straightforward.

Despite a number of shortcomings with my diet plan (discussed below), I had a good deal of success. Most notably, I've ceased any habitual consumption of soft drinks and have studiously avoided most things that one would consider junk food (chips, cookies, etc.). Except on Saturdays of course, that's my day off ;-) .

The Bad

Even though my diet improved markedly, I didn't stick to the course I set out at the beginning. I kept it up at first because I took the time to make a bunch of food beforehand and that made it easy to take lunch (and sometimes dinner) to work. When my initial supply ran out though, I just didn't buy and cook more food. This particular diet wasn't the problem: I failed because I eat out for the vast majority of my meals. In order to succeed with dietary change, I need to first begin preparing my own food.

To that end I've started ordering food from Amazon Fresh, a grocery delivery service. While eating a healthy diet remains critical, I need to focus first on streamlining the process and making food preparation a sustainable part of my life. By using Amazon Fresh, I can save a lot of time that I would normally spend shopping and traveling to/from the store.

If I automate getting food to my house, then that just leaves cooking it. My next 30 day trial should help out with that part... more to come soon.

The... Ugly?

I haven't yet gone and had my vitals remeasured. I bought a scale that supposedly measures my body-fat % today and expected some variance from the reading taken by a personal trainer at the beginning of the trial. He measured 16% body-fat. I've gotten noticeably slimmer, but the scale insists that I'm at 24.5% body-fat. That would mean ~137 lbs. of lean mass and ~45 lbs. of fat which is just plain wrong.

So it looks like I'll need to setup a meeting with a personal trainer and re-run the tests after all. Even though the primary objectives of the trial were to setup a sustainable exercise and diet routine; even though I didn't stick to the plan perfectly, I'd like to see how I stacked up to Mr. Ferriss in the end.

The last two workouts follow. As of this writing, I weigh 183.2 lbs. for a gain of 3.4 lbs. in 4 weeks.

Workout #7

I weighed in after the workout at 181.0 lbs. for a total gain of 1.2 lbs. over the course of the trial. This was my first workout after being sick for a few days. I hoped that most of my weight loss was due to dehydration, however it looks like that's not the case as I only gained back another 1.4 lbs. by the last workout.

Exercise Weight Reps
Pullover 70# 7
Bent row 115# 7
Leg press 290# 7
Pec-dec 145# 7
Leg curl 150# 7
Rev. barbell curl 55# 5
Weighted dips 30# 6
Calf raises 150# 9
Forward bend 40# 8
Sit ups, inclined 30# 14
Side bend, right 40# 6
Side bend, left 40# 6

Workout #8

I weighed in after the workout at 182.4 lbs, for a gain of 2.6 lbs. over the course of the trial.

Exercise Weight Reps
Pullover 75# 8
Bent row 125# 6
Leg press 310# 7
Pec-dec 155# 6
Leg curl 155# 8
Rev. barbell curl 55# 6
Weighted dips 35# 4
Calf raises 170# 9
Forward bend 45# 8
Sit ups, inclined 30# 20
Side bend, right 40# 7
Side bend, left 40# 7