February Check-In

Doran | February 18th, 2014 - 1:22 am

I haven’t really had any real-time updates since putting out my 2014 Fitness Goals in mid-January.  Here we are a month later, and I have to say, I’m in a little bit of a weird place.  I’m still enjoying lifting hard and working out.  But progress has plateaued a little bit.  I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in my life  In the past decade or so, I’ve never really tried to break through this current level of strength with a sustained weight program.  So I find my motivation waning just a little bit.  This is rare for me; having the discipline to keep training consistently is one of my strengths, and the only way you can finish an Ironman in a decent time.   This goal of getting bigger and stronger does not seem to have the same motivation for me as triathlon.  I’m not sure if it’s because I like competing (triathlon) or what, because they both boil down to setting goals (beating times or putting up heavy weight) and working hard to achieve them.

Fitness / Workouts

Hitting some abs with suspension system.

Hitting some abs with suspension system. Gloves are more for the low temps in the garage, its cold out there!

I’m lifting three or four times a week right now, and generally doing upper body or lower body days with core almost every session and sometimes on it’s own between lifting days.  A typical leg day will be 5-8 sets of deadlifts (barbell and sometimes mixing in trap/hex bar) followed by bulgarian split squats or walking lunges.  Then usually some calf raises and maybe hamstring curls or leg extensions.  Often I finish it up by just carrying heavy weight (farmer’s carry).  Upper days are usually a combination of pushing (bench press, shoulder press) and pulling exercises (rows, etc) and usually include pull-ups.  Somewhat surprisingly, I’m only running about once and maybe twice a week.  I haven’t biked or swam since November, so my cardio fitness is at an all-time low. It’s also weird to only workout 3-5 times a week instead of basically every day and sometimes twice.  It is nice to have more time doing other things.

Diet

Still eating a lot of delicious meat.

Still eating a lot of delicious meat.

Since I’m in “weight gain” mode, I’m trying to eat more than usual, and make sure I get a lot of protein.  However, I’m really lax with quality, meaning I’m eating a lot of carbs and junk food.  This is really uncharacteristic and I’ haven’t had a sustained period (3-4 months now) of unrestricted food intake since undergrad.  For instance, last night, for some reason I invented a new way to get fat, by adding dark chocolate pieces to the biscuits we had with dinner to form my own chocolate croissant.  What?  Who am I?  For most of the past five years I wouldn’t have even had one of the biscuits.  And now I jam three down my face with dinner and another one covered in chocolate for dessert?  I’m borderline grossing myself out just thinking about it.  As you’d expect, this kind of behavior has lead to weight gain.  I’m now at 162, which I think is tied for the most I’ve ever weighed in my life.  Soon we’ll be breaking into new territory.

Garage Gym

This is the real exciting part of this update.  I’ve picked up a few new items since the initial install.  Will let the pictures do the talking, but I’ve added the following:

  • TRX Style Suspension System (Seen above, a Christmas Present from the Pennsylvania Reisers!)
  • SKLZ Core Pushup  (Another Christmas Present, thanks Georgia Reisers!)SKLZ Pushup
  • Mirrors ($40 on Craigslist)
  • Trap / Hex Bar (Love this for deadlifts, traps, and farmer’s carry)
  • Bar Holder (hand crafted by yours truly, a few progress photos included)
  • Cannonball Grips for pull-ups
  • Lifting Straps and Chalk

Of course, I still want bumper plates and maybe a new bar.  But I have the basics to get strong, and no excuses if I don’t.

You can see the mirrors and cannonball grips.

You can see the mirrors and cannonball grips.

Loving the trap bar for a number of exercises

Loving the trap bar for a number of exercises

Some gear I picked up from Rogue Fitness

Some gear I picked up from Rogue Fitness

Construction of the custom bar holder

Construction of the custom bar holder

The finished product, not bad for me, not exactly mr. fix-it.

The finished product, not bad for me, not exactly mr. fix-it.

 

2014 Fitness Goals

Doran | January 14th, 2014 - 2:40 pm

Back in November I wrote about the Off-Season Dilemma and how each year I after a few weeks off I start to get anxious and ready to begin planning and training for 2014 goals.  This year was particularly difficult because I have been thinking more and more that my life as a serious triathlete was coming to an end.  As the holidays came and went, this feeling was confirmed.  For a variety of reasons, I don’t think I will race even one triathlon in 2014.  Of course, never say never, but my life and fitness goals have shifted away from triathlon.  In my “Well.. this is 30 post I talked about exercising for general fitness and lasting health, and combine that with the fact that continuing to improve in triathlon takes a HUGE lifestyle commitment I’m just not willing to make… and I’m basically retired from the sport.  I’m not willing to spend time on the bike instead of with CJ, wake up at 5am every morning to train then go to work and maybe workout again afterwards.  I want to enjoy a cupcake when it’s someone’s birthday at work or not get stressed when CJ wants to go get fro-yo in the summer.  All of these sacrifices I did not mind making, and I enjoyed the results I’ve achieved in triathlon.  But after 7 years in the sport they are getting old, and I am too.  So of course I will still follow the pro triathlon circuit closely, and still consider myself a triathlete… but I just won’t be running, biking, and swimming every day.  On top of all these feelings, we have a busy summer coming up. For starters, we have several friends getting married this year, meaning we have five weddings between April and July, including Jim at Carnivore Diary and Conor.   I am so excited for each and every one of the couples, and I can’t wait to experience their big day.  I don’t want the guilt of not training that day or spending a night eating cake, drinking, and dancing with my best friends to ruin those weekends for me.  So I hope this shift away from the sport also helps me be a better friend and gives me more time to support those guys and girls leading up to their weddings.  It also frees up more time and energy to grow in other areas.  I’m still very ambitious in my career, and you have to put in the time to gain the experience necessary for advancement.  I can also enjoy outdoors and fitness more with CJ.  She really loves hiking and kayaking and unfortunately I haven’t done the best job at making this happen the past few years.  So this is the time!

She loves to kayak, this one

She loves to kayak, this one

With that said, I still crave challenges in all areas of my life.  So what WILL I be doing in 2014?  Well, I’ve sort of already started beefing up pretty seriously (for me).  I’m tipping the scales at close to 160lb for the first time since 2006, and gaining a lot of size and strength fairly quickly.  The garage gym is fully functional and I continue to add small pieces to help make it a complete setup.  My goal is to bulk up to at least 165 by spring, knowing full well that a little extra fat might come along with that muscle gain.  Then as spring and summer comes, I will focus on keeping the strength and size gains while leaning out a little to support…. Running a fast 5k.  I know gaining weight and running a fast 5k are somewhat contradictory goals, but I think I have so much room for improvement in each area that I can still run fast while lugging around some extra weight.  Hopefully a lot of that will be leg strength anyway.  Throughout 2014 I’m going to be doing a combination of running, traditional strength training, and some functional / cross-fit-esque (whatever you want to call the current fitness trends) work.   Overall my goal is to be fit for whatever life throws at me, whether that be lifting a car off a small child, jumping into a 5k race, looking good at the beach, or helping a buddy move something heavy.  Obviously this is all kind of an idea rather than hard and fast benchmarks, so I’ll try to set some specific goals.

Before setting measurable goals for 2014, I decided to max out at the gym this weekend.  I really surprised myself, since I haven’t really been training for maximum lifts yet, mostly doing sets of 8-12 to get back in the swing of strength training.  On Saturday January 12th, I weighed in at 158lbs and bench pressed 235lb (equals my all time max) and squatted 245lb.  On the squats, I did get 265lb up, but did not go down to parallel, so I didn’t count it.  I don’t recall if I’ve ever really maxed out on squats, there’s no record in my training log… but I do know I’ve always had really weak legs.  From my past few 5k’s, I know that I’m in roughly 19:00 shape (while basically being out of shape).  So in hopes of a noticeable “transformation” here is a “before” picture (which is really a 2-months in picture).

"Before" Picture - Front

“Before” Picture – Front

I know you ladies like the back view

I know you ladies like the back view

With these current benchmarks, I have the following goals (with target completion date of Aug 1):

  • Weigh a lean and mean 165lbs (sort of like Honeymoon Fit but bigger)
    • That’s another 7lbs of weight, but since I’m not exactly lean right now it is probably closer to 10lbs of muscle. 
    • This will be very difficult, especially since I’ve already gained 6-8lbs of muscle in the past few months.
  • Bench Press 150% of my body weight (250lb) and squat 200% of my body weight (330)
    • Maybe a combined goal of 580 is better, bc I am close on the bench but have a long way to go on the squat.
    • 265 and 315 might be more realistic given I am currently at 235 and 245… but we’ll see.  I expect to see big gains on squat
  • Sub 18:00 5k time, with 17:30 the goal
    • I’ve been running 19:00 without much training or speed work.  So hopefully with a little focus I get can down to 17:30… that’s 5:38 minutes per mile for those of you keeping track at home
  • Spent more time outdoors with CJ
  • Enjoy more time with friends than the past few summers, particularly at upcoming bachelor parties and weddings
You never know when you might have to do pushups with a child on your back.. But I will be ready

You never know when you might have to do pushups with a child on your back.. But I will be ready

 

The Garage Gym

Doran | December 4th, 2013 - 1:57 pm
Packed it all up in the Rav4 - love this vehicle

Packed it all up in the Rav4 – love this vehicle

While I’m still dealing with the Off-Season Dilemma and trying to sort out my athletic goals and objectives for 2014, I have been working on a little side project.  We’ve been in our new house for about 8 months now and it’s definitely home.  We have completed all the major furniture purchases and little touches to make it ours.   But we were missing one little thing… a garage to match.  Sure I had my bikes hung up and some stuff stored on shelves, but there was potential for so much more.  A garage gym!  So the weekend before Thanksgiving I made it up to my parents place to grab a squat rack, bench, and weights that used to be in my dining room (yes, dining room) in college.  All this equipment was just sitting in my parent’s basement and I can now finally give it a home.

So I began to set up a little home gym, with the full support of CJ (THANK YOU), and some very excited guys in the neighborhood who will be enjoying their free membership.  The plan is that we will add some additional items over time, sandbag, ropes, mirrors, sled, etc., in order to be a really complete facility for strength training.  The gym was an easy sell for CJ, because it means I can workout, but also be home more (and because no matter what, she is always supportive of my crazy ideas).  It saves time the time, gas, hassle, and expense of going to the gym.  So I promptly quit my YMCA membership (no swimming for me in the near future, unless I venture into the pond behind the house) and now workout exclusively in the garage.

Stall MatBefore I could call it a home gym, I did have to make several additions/modification to the garage.  First, I significantly upgraded the existing single garage light bulb with a huge compact fluorescent light (Utilitech 65-watt Outdoor CFL – 3900 lumens, equivalent to a 300w conventional bulb).   Then, I purchased an LED tube light, wired it to an old cord/switch/plug I had laying around, and mounted it above the weight rack.  So that takes care of the lighting, but what about the floor?  Well after an extensive amount of thought and research on meat-head websites, I gathered that rubber horse stall mats were the best choice for home-gym flooring.  They are intended for horse stalls and are basically 6’x4’ mats made of 3/8” thick rubber, and weighing about 100 lbs EACH.  I patiently waited for Black Friday before making the trip to Tractor Supply Store and what do you know, they were on sale!  I picked up 4 mats for under $140 total and boom, I have perfect flooring.  I arrange the layout such that I have room for 2-3 people to be working out at once, and a cutout for where weights can sit on the floor and where the trash can usually sits.  I had to cut one mat in half with a utility knife, which was a bit of a process but overall pretty straight forward.  The only other items purchased to this point was a rolling weight rack and dipping belt (to add weights for dips and pullups) from Dick’s Sporting Goods.  So thus far I am about $350 in and have a fully functioning weight room in my garage.  Of course, I was lucky to have picked up that weight rack and weights (used) about 10 years ago for an incredible deal.

Lighting

With all this, I’m now definitely leaning towards NOT being serious about triathlon this year and maybe just staying all around healthy and fit.  However, a small part of me is still tugging me towards triathlon, saying this year is my last chance to be really good… but that voice sounds awfully familiar to the one I heard last year.  So maybe it’s time to enjoy the gym and take a season off… or maybe not.

Without further ado, below are a few pics of the finished product.  My dream garage… weights on one side bikes on the other.  And oh yeah, we can still fit a car in there.  CJ’s of course.  Going out to a freezing cold car all winter is a small price to pay for a home gym!

Garage Gym Before After

Adding the weights also forced us to really organize our garage storage/bikes

2013-11-30 12.56.13

The “Strength” side of the garage

The "Endurance/Biking" side of the garage

The “Endurance/Biking” side of the garage

For anyone wondering what to get me for Christmas… my list is below

The Off-Season Dilemma

Doran | November 30th, 2013 - 11:25 pm

Every off-season starts the same way for me.  I’m writing about it because I think it’s pretty common and many of you feel the same way.  The first few weeks are characterized by denial.  Yes, the season is over and yes I know I should be resting and take some time off of training. But I have so much fitness from the season and pent-up energy that I can’t help but go on a few more hard rides or runs to just enjoy going fast.  The next few weeks I finally accept it’s time for a break, but end up being grumpy the whole time, because I don’t get those exercise induced endorphins that even out my mood.  Side note: I really, REALLY don’t do well without daily exercise.  Anyway, for the next month I’m usually content to lift weights and get into some unstructured riding and running.  This year has been no different.  After a week or two with very few workouts, November has been a mix of some good long Saturday group rides, a few runs (including the Riverfront 5k), and lifting at least twice a week.  In fact, I’m up to 158 lbs; up about 8-10 pounds from triathlon season (probably half muscle, half fat).  Just recently stepping on a scale for the first time in a month, I couldn’t believe I’d gained that much weight so quickly.   This is about as big as I was when bulking up for the wedding/honeymoon a few years ago.  The Pull Up Challenge really has had a huge impact on my upper body size and strength. Anyway, for the past few weeks I’ve been debating the following three options.  I’ve given myself to December 1 to decide and begin training in earnest.  Now that December is upon us, I’m targeting a December 15th decision.  What’s an endurance athlete to do????

 

New Goal?  Not sure if this is necessarily for me.

New Goal? Not sure if this is necessarily for me.

Lift / Gain Size & Strength

Of course, if I followed my own advice in my Turning 30 post, I would choose this option.  It’s probably time to tone down my triathlon obsession and stay generally fit.  Ideally I’d add some muscle and all around athleticism with lifting and cross-fit type training, while still enjoying swimming, biking, and running more casually.  This would allow more time for work and family commitments, and who knows, maybe I could actually expand my horizons and find some culture with all this extra energy (…. nahhhh).

 

 

Run a Marathon

Somewhat surprisingly, I have never run an open marathon.  I’ve plodded to a few four hour and some change marathons to complete Ironman.  But that was NOT running a marathon.  Heck, that wasn’t even running.  It was surviving.  So the idea of training up specifically for a marathon is pretty appealing.  It’s a new challenge, and something I think I could be decent at.  If I took it seriously, I could probably go somewhere around 3:10 or 3:20 by this spring.  I like the idea of a new challenge, and a new personal  best, while still staying in the area of endurance sports; playing into my strengths and interests.  Another advantage is the training is not as all-consuming as triathlon.  However, there are a few major drawbacks, the biggest of which is it will probably make me even skinnier – it would be counterproductive in terms of lifting and getting more athletic.  Running is also hard on the joints, and doing long runs all winter isn’t exactly my idea of a good time (though I do have all the gear for it, so I can’t complain).

Run a marathon?  Maybe a good option.

Run a marathon? Maybe a good option.

Prepare for 2014 Triathlon Season

After eight years in the sport, I am under no false illusions; making gains in triathlon is very difficult.  I am as close to maximizing my physiology as I can probably get while still having a job and wife.  However, I did see some improvement this past year, and I still love to run, bike, and swim.  But do I really want to be killing myself every morning at 5am in the pool or on the bike, to basically get the same results of the past year or two?

Prepping for a 2014 marathon or triathlon season will involve some cold weather training...

Prepping for a 2014 marathon or triathlon season will involve some cold weather training…

Those are my thoughts, so what do you guys think?  Get big, run lots, or stay the triathlon course?

Fall Fitness Check In

Doran | November 11th, 2013 - 10:18 pm

It’s been a little while since I’ve checked in with anything remotely related to endurance sports (I wouldn’t count the activities in Fall Fun as a sport), so I thought I’d share a little with what I’ve been up to.  I’m planning on longer post on my usual off-season conundrum, but for now I’ll just give you the update.

After my last two triathlons of the season in early September, I sort of eased into the off-season.  I didn’t care about taking a zero day here or there, and just exercised for fun.  I was really fit on the bike, so in the last few weeks of September and early October, enjoyed sniping some KOM’s on Strava.  That was fun for awhile, I definitely let the area’s cyclists know who I was.  But holding onto that fitness is a lost cause, and by mid-October, I had basically gone a month very little running and no swimming whatsoever.  I learned pretty quickly that not working out regularly makes me a grumpy, unhappy person.  I had a few busy weeks in early October with only one or two workouts and it was not a fun time.  I needed a new physical challenge, but something that still kept in mind it was the “off-season” and technically my body and mind needed to rest from all the early mornings and hard sessions of the past 6-8 months.  Enter The Chin-Up Project.

T-Nation... not a website usually frequented by triathletes

T-Nation… not a website usually frequented by triathletes

What in the world is a 150 lb endurance athlete like me doing on T-Nation, a popular website for massive body builders and power lifters?  Good question.  Since living with Jim, better known as “The Carnivore” for his work on CarnivoreDiary.com, every once in awhile I’ll casually peruse T-Nation.  If you visit his blog, you’ll get the idea that the Carnivore is like a walking experiment in fitness, diet, and lifting.  Anyway, the Carnivore was just starting a little pull up challenge of his own, so I decided to do one too. I love lifting in the off-season, so this was something new to shift focus from endurance sports, while building muscle and gaining new strengths.  The program roughly breaks down into two phases.

Carnivore Diary.  If you don't know, now you know.

Carnivore Diary. If you don’t know, now you know.

I just finished Phase 1, which is basically four weeks of bodyweight pull ups and chin ups, with several sets spread throughout the day.  This phase is all about volume.  Saturday is a “Challenge Day” when you see how many you can do in 5:00 minutes and Sunday is a rest day. My total reps over the first four weeks?

  • Week 1 – 140 total and 40 in 5:00
  • Week 2 – 195 total and 45 in 5:00
  • Week 3 – 240 total and 50 in 5:00
  • Week 4 – 292 total and 52 in 5:00
I set up a little chin-up bar upstairs in the house. Usually hit a few in the morning.

I set up a little chin-up bar upstairs in the house. Usually hit a few in the morning.

In the past month I’ve gained a noticeable amount of upper body size and strength.  I’ve been surprised that the pull ups/chin ups (along with a little lifting) have really affected not just my back and biceps but also chest and abs.  Don’t worry, I wont be entering any body building competitions anytime soon.  Still skinny and soft for the most part.  As you can see in the article, my next four weeks are geared toward strength, and will involve much fewer chin-ups but they will all be weighted at my six-rep max.  I expect this will have an even more noticeable impact on my upper body size and strength.

In addition to the Chin-Up Project, I’ve also been casually exercising for fun. Nothing serious. A few short runs and 2 lifts per week.  All my Strava KOM’s in late September had an unintended benefit.  After I stole all their KOM’s, a really fast group of local cyclists reached out to me to join their group ride.  So for the past two weekend’s they’ve been paying me back by putting me on the pain cave.  Each Saturday we went about 55 miles at 21-22mph average speed.  I usually stay towards the back of the group and just hang on for dear life.  These guys are serious cyclist and hopefully I can begin to ride at their level after a few of these Saturday sessions.

Riding some beautiful back-country roads

Riding some beautiful back-country roads

We stopped to pay our respects on Veteren's Day Weekend ride.

We stopped to pay our respects on Veteran’s Day Weekend ride.

So for now, I am trying to embrace the lack of structure and flexibility that the off-season provides, but soon I’ll be looking for my next challenge.  Any ideas?