Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Built to Last

C and I getting ready for our new routine.

Built to Last - a book that applies not only to corporations, but to anything worth building.

Built to Last

Anything that is not “built to last” will eventually fail. I’m about 30 pages shy of finishing the book Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras for a seminar class in cost accounting. The book details a six year study of eighteen corporations that the authors have deemed “visionary companies” They rigorously compared each company to a comparison company in the same field. The comparison companies selected were also successful, just not to the same degree as the visionary companies. The authors sought to ascertain what ideologies, traits, and practices were exhibited in the visionary companies alone. What ideals made (and continue to make) them timeless and stoic in an ever-changing business environment?

In the preface, Collins and Porras offer that the operating principles found in the visionary companies should not only be applied to the management of corporations, but to the personal lives of their readers. I wholeheartedly agree.

When it comes to the maintenance of a fit and healthy lifestyle there are those who seem to lead such a life effortlessly. For many though, it requires a concerted, even forced, effort where success is achieved in spurts without a feeling of sustainability.

In reading Built to Last I began to relate the business principles presented to my own attitudes about fitness and nutrition. Adhering not just on paper, but in action, to your core ideology is the essential basis of sustainability. Your core values, your personal acknowledgements are meant to get at the gut of who you are and stand the test of time and change. Mine are:

1) I am better at everything else in my life when I am training.

2) I am what I eat.

From your gut-level values stem your core principles, the guidelines with which you apply your core values to life, day in and day out.

My primary operating principle is:

To have time to work out no matter what else is going on. There is no time constraint or excuse to the contrary.

Fall quarter is less than two weeks old and I am already stretched thin. My class load is the most demanding, in terms of time commitments, since I began college. My time deficit is substantial. Nightly unwind time has already hit the chopping block, posts to my blog will be very sporadic, and I’m already shaving down to six hours of sleep to make it work. If I gave up working out I could gain a much needed six to eight hours a week to allot to other demands. Yet I don’t even view that as an option. The times in my life that I have given up regular training I have floundered. Built to Last lends clarity as to why. A fish without water cannot swim. Likewise, a corporation breaking from its core values will stumble, just as a Figure Mommy breaking from hers will.

We all have individual values beyond those of society’s accepted moral and ethical behaviors. We all have something that makes us tick, makes our hearts smile. Mine happens to be the endorphin rush, the stress relief, and the tangible reward of new muscle built from hard work and discipline that, to me, defines bodybuilding.

For a corporation, a clock must be built that can tick on, not missing a beat, through changes in leadership. For a person, a clock must be built that can tick on, not missing a beat, through changes in life.

What are your core values? Do you hold true to them?

This quarter has already thrown me curveballs. My son caught a cold and couldn’t start preschool when I started classes. My mom saved me there. I hurt my right heel, although I’m not sure how. It has been tender to any pressure for five days now, a bone bruise I’m guessing. If it doesn’t go away within a week I’ll go see a doctor about it, in the meantime I’ve canceled cardio to not aggravate it. I still get in and do my weights. I lessen rest time and focus on super-setting and giant sets. These tactics can get your heart rate up and sweat flowing. You don’t have to have traditional cardio to get your NO2 max up or burn fat. All things are adaptable…when you have core values to guide you.

Today’s 55 minute Chest & Triceps Training Session

Warm-up: Don “weighted vest” aka 4-year-old child in piggyback stance and proceed to jog from commuter lot to preschool entrance.

Chest and Triceps:

4 sets bench press maxing out at 100 lbs for 7 reps

Giant Set (repeated 4 times): dumbbell kickbacks 10-12 reps, dumbbell flies 10-12 reps, weighted bench dips 10-12 reps, push-ups to failure.

Super Set: (repeated 4 times: Barbell skull crushers 10-12 reps s/s with dumbbell incline bench chest press 6-8 reps.

Triceps Polish: One-armed dumbbell overhead triceps extensions to failure alternating arms for 3 sets.

Cardio: 2 laps...realized it was aggravating heel (still, ugh) and off to the showers

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Keeps You Motivated?

I had some friends ask me about getting some diet advice recently. It led me to reflect and realize that I haven’t been eating well at all lately. At first it’s just a weekend of baked goods and barbecuing. Then it’s a few days with not much protein, and then all of a sudden you’re only eating three meals a day instead of the usual five or six. At first it’s fun to eat whatever you want, but then you realize why you’re not feeling your best: improper fueling.

The three big taboos of food land (in my opinion) are:

1)Not eating enough protein. If you’re going to turn body fat into lean muscle you need adequate protein to do it, weight training alone won’t complete the job. The rule of thumb is 1 -1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. I weigh 140lbs so that dictates 140-210 grams of protein daily. You should ALWAYS know what your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is. That’s how many calories you would burn in a day if you stayed in bed and didn't move an inch all day. My BMR, for example, is 1,439 calories. Add calories to your BMR to reflect your activities throughout the day. While training for The Emerald Cup my workouts burned 800-1,100 additional calories most days. If you’re looking to lose, maintain, or even gain weight you want to eat fewer, the same, or more calories than you burn. That being said, 1 gram of protein is 4 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrates is 4 calories, and 1 gram of fat is 9 calories. So if you plan to eat 140 grams of protein in a day that will use up 560 calories of your total calorie “budget.” When I’m looking to lose I aim for 1,800 calories daily. The rest you make up with carbs and healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated).

Calculate your BMR here: http://health.discovery.com/centers/heart/basal/basal.html

2)Not eating often enough. Eating 5-6 times a day better supports your metabolism, prevents you from feeling totally ravenous when you do eat, and maintains your blood sugar at a more even level throughout the day to prevent an energy crash.

3)Justifying the crappy food splurges as ”I deserve it because...” Yes, when you’ve been getting to the gym daily and watching your diet it is easy to convince yourself that you deserve a donut, or chips, or a cheeseburger or whatever your weakness is, but how is going against your goal a reward? If you feel the need to reward yourself after behaving for a month buy yourself a cute new piece of gym gear. Alternatively, you might think “I can get away with it.” Yes, you can get away with the occasional food splurges, but mentally utter that thought pattern too often and lo and behold, you’re not getting away with it anymore, it’s getting away with your skinny jeans ;)

I’ve been committing all three food land taboos lately. To start getting back on track I went out and stocked up on some of my staple proteins: lean ground turkey, Isernio’s chicken sausage, water-packed tuna, and tilapia. For an on the go snack I like to carry raw almonds and sliced strawberries.

My favorite Tupperware packing recipe is pictured above. It’s an easy batch recipe; one package of the turkey will net you 4 meals. I like to buy the frozen microwave steamer bags of rice at Trader Joe’s. Each bag is 2 cups and thus perfect to get divided and used up in this recipe, plus, no dishes ;)

1 serving:

5 oz. Jennie-O Taco-Seasoned Lean Ground Turkey
½ cup rice
½ cup diced tomato
1 cup mixed greens
1 T salsa
1 big squeeze lime juice

Stats: 354 cals 29 g protein 12 g fat 33 g carbs

It’s a splurge, albeit a healthy fat packing one, but I added ¼ cup diced avocado this batch which adds 60 cals 1 g protein 5.5 g fat and 3 g carbs.

Dependent on if I’m on a 5 or 6 meal split I like to make each meal 250-350 cals with protein allotted evenly and carbs stacked earlier in the day.

Today was rest day aka cardio only day (60 minutes on an elliptical) so I thought I’d post yesterday’s workout. Normally, I’m my own motivator, but yesterday I wasn’t. Trying to justify not going I had told my son I wasn’t feeling that good to which he replied, “We should go to the gym.” He was right and I’m glad I listened. I was never fully in the mood, but I know I would have felt worse had I skipped it

The “I don’t wanna workout I’m grumpy, tired, and the little voice in my head saying I won’t feel better until I do workout isn’t loud enough, but my kiddo’s voice is” legs and core workout ;)

I find that when I’m headed into the gym with a bad attitude and in stressed / tired / grumpy mode the best thing to do is to hit it hard.

I’m anti-cardio lately so when feasible I try to integrate cardio into my weights so as to justify avoidance of the elliptical, stepmill, etc. Running up and down real stairs will take your breath away and make you sweat much more quickly than a stepmill will anyways.

1)Run the Stairs
20 flights up 20 flights down

2)Parallel Squat in a Rack
Set 1: 95 lbs x 8 reps
Set 2: 115 lbs x 8 reps
Set 3: 135 lbs x 8 reps
Set 4: 135 lbs x 8 reps

3)Walking Barbell Lunges (these are equal parts cardio and weight training)
Set 1: 40 lbs x 30 reps
Set 2: 40 lbs x 30 reps
Set 3: 40 lbs x 30 reps
Set 4: 40 lbs x 30 reps

4)Machine Kickbacks (I prefer the cable kickback, but there are no straps for it at Gold’s right now)
Set 1: 40 lbs x 16 reps each leg
Set 2: 40 lbs x 12 reps each leg
Set 3: 40 lbs x 12 reps each leg
Set 4: 40 lbs x 12 reps each leg

5)Decline Bench Dumbbell Crunches

5 sets x 20 reps x 10 lbs

6)Run the Stairs Again ;)
20 flights up 20 flights down

7)Abs Giant Set
Shoulder Crunches 15 reps R 15 reps L, Vertical Leg Reverse Crunches 20 reps, Mini Crunches 20 reps
Repeat Giant Set 3X with no rest in between.

8)Last Round Abs

3 Sets Medicine Ball (10 lb) Side Twists x 30 reps superset with 3 Planks (45 sec hold)

What keeps you motivated?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Make em’ Hurt

Make em’ Hurt

My biceps are my best muscles. Weird statement to make? Eh, maybe, but I like to know my strengths and weaknesses. I call them my best muscles because they are my most visible muscles. I try to hit biceps 2x week, but my biceps routine has been pretty stale for a while. I used to just curl a 40 or 50 lb barbell both seated on a bench and standing and do dumbbell hammer curls. A few months back I took up with curling an Olympic barbell instead, it is over 7’ long so the need to stabilize it makes the muscles work harder. I usually just do the bar (45 lbs) so that I can go high rep (15-20/set), but my current heavy record for Olympic Barbell Curls is 65 lbs for 5 reps. I’m also a big fan of the hammer grip rope curl which is essentially a triceps rope pull-down flipped 180 degrees as a pull-up to hit the biceps instead. I love those last two exercises, but I know my body has come to expect them and that I need something new to keep my muscles guessing and adapting.

Today I added in a tip from IFBB Figure Pro Mona Muresan that I read in the current issue of Muscle & Fitness Hers. I have sporadically tried and then run and hid from standing high cable curls. I have to set the weight low and even then I feel like my form is off and I’m not doing them right, so I promptly quit. Mona, however, does a one-armed version which I tried today. You grab the side of the cable station with your resting arm to stabilize yourself and then focus on your working arm. By doing them this way you're able to carefully control the movement to ensure proper form. I did these only a few hours ago to polish off my biceps and they already have a quiet ache. My biceps do not normally experience muscle soreness, so this move is getting a big thumbs up from me. Here's hoping it hurts to hold up my blow-dryer tomorrow! =)

Today’s Biceps & Triceps Session:

1)Elliptical for 15 min to warm-up.

2)BT Superset 1, warming up the muscles:

Set 1: 15 reps Olympic Barbell Curls (45 lbs), 12 reps Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extensions (20 lbs)
Set 2: 15 reps Olympic Barbell Curls (45 lbs), 12 reps Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extensions (20 lbs)
Set 3: 15 reps Olympic Barbell Curls (45 lbs), 12 reps Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extensions (20 lbs)
Set 4: 15 reps Olympic Barbell Curls (45 lbs), 12 reps Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extensions (20 lbs)

3)BT Superset 2, make em’ work:

Set 1: 8 reps each arm (full set, then switch) Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curls (25 lbs), 16 reps Triceps Bodyweight Bench Dips (body weight ~ 140 lbs)
Set 2: 8 reps each arm (full set, then switch) Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curls (25 lbs), 18 reps Triceps Bodyweight Bench Dips (body weight ~ 140 lbs)
Set 3: 8 reps each arm (full set, then switch) Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curls (25 lbs), 16 reps Triceps Bodyweight Bench Dips (body weight ~ 140 lbs)
Set 4: 8 reps each arm (full set, then switch) Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curls (25 lbs), 16 reps Triceps Bodyweight Bench Dips ( body weight ~ 140 lbs)

4)BT Superset 3, cable station:

Set 1:
10 reps Hammer Grip Rope Curls (50 lbs), 10 reps Triceps Rope Pushdowns (60 lbs)

Set 2: 10 reps Hammer Grip Rope Curls (45 lbs), 10 reps Triceps Rope Pushdowns (60 lbs)

Set 3:
12 reps Hammer Grip Rope Curls (40 lbs), 12 reps Triceps Rope Pushdowns (60 lbs)

Set 4:
12 reps Hammer Grip Rope Curls (40 lbs), 12 reps Triceps Rope Pushdowns (60 lbs)

5)Polishing off my Biceps:

Set 1: 12 reps each arm Standing One-Arm High Cable Curls (20 lbs)

Set 2: 12 reps each arm Standing One-Arm High Cable Curls (20 lbs)

Set 3: 8 reps each arm Standing One-Arm High Cable Curls (30 lbs)

Set 4:
8 reps each arm Standing One-Arm High Cable Curls (30 lbs)

Set 5: 12 reps each arm Standing One-Arm High Cable Curls (20 lbs)

6)Polishing off my Triceps:

1 Set 12 Dips on the Assisted Pull-up Machine with a 60 lb offset

3 sets Dumbbell Single Arm Overhead Triceps Extensions to Failure (10 lbs), failed between 6-10 reps each arm, decreasing with each set

7)Stepmill…5 min and then remembered I’m not on a lean out right now so I decided to be done and nix the cardio =)

My biceps may be my best muscles, but my right one takes the prize. Symmetry is important in bodybuilding and if I flex my right bicep pops up noticeably higher than my left one. I don’t think the inequality has anything to do with what I do in the gym as I work them equally there. My theories are kind of humorous. Just this week I’ve started wearing my iPod armband on my forearm for biceps day as I’m concerned that the tightness of it on my left bicep is restricting the muscle when I’m working it.

The second theory is my flexing habit. Since I took up with this blog adventure I’ve had many random conversations where I happen to mention that I’m into bodybuilding. Outside the gym in street clothes I really don’t look the part. I weigh 140 lbs and have noticeably big arms for my body, but I’m a size 4, relatively tiny in the scheme of the world. This always leaves me wondering if people think I’m a big dreamer when I mention being into bodybuilding, so I always tend to follow up the statement with a quickie right bicep flex. It pops up and that’s when people tend to react. It’s entertaining. As anyone who has practiced posing for a competition will tell you, posing is a workout in itself, so I wonder if always popping my right has caused it to be bigger than my left. Those are my two silly theories; the third and most reasonable one is simply that I’m right-handed ;)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Leg Day aka Lunge Love!

Leg Day! =)

Leg day is one of my favorites. The flaw with it though is that if your energy isn’t there it can be pretty tough to get through, especially squats. Yesterday I was feeling pretty weak so the result was Smith Machine squats to the floor, but only 4 sets and never more than 35s on the machine (putting the weight at about 90 lbs). By contrast when I go into leg day feeling strong you might catch me at the rack doing a set of parallel squats as high as 165-170 lbs.

When I do legs I like to have at least one, preferably all three of the big compound leg exercises involved: squats, leg presses, and lunges. Many people will point out that the dead lift should be included in the big compound leg move list. I didn’t list it because I largely avoid them as they make my lower back tighter than I’m comfortable with. Then I round it out with more targeted moves such as hamstring curls, leg extensions, hip adductors, hip abductors, cable kickbacks, standing unilateral leg presses, single leg squats, dumbbell step-ups, stiff-legged dead lifts, good mornings, etc.

Lately without a strict gym goal to guide me I make up my workouts as go along. Yesterday worked out to be:

1)Smith Machine Squats

Set 1: 70 lbs x 10 reps
Set 2: 70 lbs x 10 reps
Set 3: 90 lbs x 8 reps
Set 4: 90 lbs x 8 reps

2)Leg Press

Set 1: 135 lbs x 20 reps
Set 2: 135 lbs x 25 reps
Set 3: 225 lbs x 12 reps
Set 4: 225 lbs x 12 reps
Set 5: 225 lbs x 12 reps

3)Walking Barbell Lunges
5 sets x 30 reps x 40 lbs on my back. The key here is finding a long straight place to walk out your 30 reps.

4)Leg Extensions (works your quads)
Set 1: 60 lbs x 12 reps
Set 2: 60 lbs x 12 reps
Set 3: 60 lbs x 10 reps
Set 4: 50 lbs x 12 reps

5)Prone Hamstring Curls

Set 1: 50 lbs x 20 reps
Set 2: 50 lbs x 20 reps
Set 3: 50 lbs x 16 reps
Set 4: 40 lbs x 20 reps

6)Stretching! I’m usually bad about stretching, but if I don’t make time for it on leg day I regret it pretty seriously the next two days. My hamstrings get especially tight so I focus my stretching on them.

If you’re brand new to weights and wanted to try a similar workout I’d recommend squatting to parallel with your bodyweight only, or perhaps one of the preloaded 20 lb barbells across your shoulders to get comfortable with the move. You can also place a bunch under your butt and practice squatting low enough to touch it without letting your knees go over your toes. For the leg press you would want to start out with the sled alone (most weigh about 45 lbs) and then add weight as you became comfortable with the movement. Walking lunges are known to be very hard. It has taken me a long time to work up to the rep counts and weight I currently use. Starting out with bodyweight only is smart. You want to focus on your form, making sure your knee doesn’t go over your toe, you don’t wobble on your ankle, but that you still feel a deep stretch in the movement. I’ve been stuck on the 40 lb barbell for forever. I occasionally grab the 50, but that tends to result in a lower rep count per set and I prefer to up my reps rather than up my weight with lunges. It’s a muscle group I’d rather tone and tighten as opposed to expand muscularity on, thus the lean towards high rep vs. high weight. The prone hamstring curl and leg extensions are machines and thus pretty straightforward to approach.

The leg workout detailed above hits the full legs and glutes with the compound exercises and then focuses in more detail on the quads and hamstrings. I hit legs twice a week and always include a handful of glutes focused exercises (such as cable kickbacks) on at least one day.

Squatting to the floor is an advanced move. Parallel is what you want to begin with if you're new to weights, but here's how I like to squat these days. This movie was made about a month ago and has been waiting for a blog entry!