Thursday, December 24, 2009

I'm Not Fat, I'm Festively Plump

After the holidays, I'll have to come up with a better excuse as to why I look and feel like a roley-poley because there's nothing "festive" about the offseason weight gain. Workouts have been going pretty well, but I honestly can't say I've been making all that much progress in my 5x5's. Lately I seem to be distracted and unable to focus on much of anything. This whole year has been kinda tough on me in a lot of ways, and it all seems to be rearing it's ugly head now. It's been taking a lot of energy for me to get my head into my workouts. It's like, I'm motivated to train and look forward to going to the gym, but it's so draining to get myself completely entrenched in the workout like I'm typically able to do. For whatever reason, I feel like something is missing, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

Sometimes I think I'm bored and need a change of pace, and I consider making a drastic move to somewhere warm...I mean, hell, technically I could find work in my field just about anywhere. Sometimes I wonder if I'm burnt out already with my job and need an entire career change, but I know that's not it because I still enjoy going to work (even though I get stressed and frustrated sometimes). Unfortunately, this whole void-thing is something I've become fixated on figuring out, and it's become pretty consuming and draining, and of course, is taking away from my workouts. Last offseason, I had this incredible fire to make a good first impression as a bodybuilder. Now that I've done that, I guess I feel lost as far as being goal-oriented. I mean, I should be able to put on enough muscle to make me a middleweight next year, but the reality of the situation is that I'll be a very small middleweight. And it certainly won't be enough to make me any kind of standout bodybuilder (not that I'm assuming I'll ever be a standout athlete, but what's the point of doing this if you don't have some sort of big end goal, right?). Hell, I worry if it'll even be enough to make any noticible difference in my physique. I know this sport is a marathon, and it takes time (translation: years) to build the look I want, so I have to be patient. But it's so hard sometimes to stay focused and fired up in the moment when the end goal seems so far away and just plain out of reach.

Well, looks like I've just played my own counselor role and sort of figured out what part of that missing link is. Now, if only I can figure out how to fill it (and I don't mean with cashews)....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Check Your Ego at the Door, Sucka

This time last year, I was posting here all the time and felt like I had so much good stuff to say (relatively speaking, I guess). But since Nationals, it's like pulling teeth for me to put anything together for a semi-decent post. Even though my offseason diet is on track, not having a set training program in place has really fucked with my head. I've had some anxiety about going back to the 5x5's this week because I know that I can't just pick up where I left off 8 months ago in terms of the weight I was using, especially not for squats and deads. I need to redevelop proper technique and build things back up again, and that's going to require a bit of humility. After a lot of thought and switching things around for the past couple of weeks, here's the split I have finally put together for myself:

Sunday: Quads
Monday: Delts/Chest (emphasis on delts)
Tuesday: Cardio/abs
Wednesday: Back
Thursday: Hams
Friday: Cardio/abs
Saturday: Arms

I never really liked combining body parts (other than arms, that is), but I'd tossed around the idea of doing that for a while so that I could give myself two days off from training each week. I figured that, since delts are easily my best body part and are very easy for me to hammer away at, I would pair them with chest...since I need to start being more careful with my chest training to preserve this several-thousand dollar investment I have in it. I'll still do standing bb presses for my shoulder 5x5 exercise, but I'll toss out the incline bb press 5x5 for chest and only do two exercises of 3 or 4 sets each at max intensity--just enough to stimulate the muscle but not damage the twins.

So, I'm writing this on the heels of one of the best back workouts I've had in a while. I've been doing my PT exercises religiously for the past two weeks, and I am noticing some slow improvements coming along. I keep telling myself that I have to be consistent and patient, and the injury will heal. Plus, I go back to get worked on again this Saturday. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, tonight's workout....started out with dead lifts. I didn't put up anything impressive, but I listened to my body and didn't push my luck. I let the correct muscles work to move the weight up instead of trying to get it up with brute force. We followed with close grip pull downs and then wide grip pull downs. Again, I pulled back on the weight in an attempt to re-learn how to feel that connection and burn in my lats. I need a wider back, and this is the only way it's gonna happen. We followed with three sets of heavy t-bar rows then three sets of 1-arm db rows, and finished with a little FST-7 on the assisted pull-up machine for shits and giggles. I can already feel how fried my back is. I got that taxed nervous system fatigue going on right now, and I love it. Last night and tonight, I really began to feel like my strength is coming back, so I'm hoping and praying that my body and head are ready to settle in to some big training in the months ahead.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Elephant in the Room

Or rather, in my case, on the treadmill. Since part of my offseason cardio now includes two 30-minute HIIT sessions post-workout, I have decided to try to go back to my running days in an attempt to rekindle some sense of athleticism. Ironically, I used to be a fairly decent runner, both in endurance and speed. By no means was I Flo-Jo or Prefontaine, but I would consider myself an above-average runner. That's not exactly the case nowadays. I literally sound like an elephant on the treadmill during my minute-long sprints (and I use the word 'sprint' very judiciously, as I'm not exactly moving all the fast despite that my body thinks otherwise). Yes, I am "That Person" that everyone dreads when they get on the treadmill. I will say, though, those workouts definitely spark my metabolism because I'm freaking starving when I'm done with them.

My workouts continue to be pretty good. I still feel like I'm working on building my strength back up, though. That could also be becasue I'm still feeling really scattered in my workouts, with no real way to track progress yet. So, I finally took initiative today and printed out a new template for 5x5's and will go back to old faithful until we devise a new plan for me. I'm going to have to be careful with squats and deadlifts, since I've fallen into the bad habit of compensating for my injury. My plan is to use my warm up sets to really focus on re-establishing good technique. I know this will mean I'll have to pull back on my weights altogether for those exercises, but it'll ultimately be worth it. I was able to solidfy the techniques earlier in my offseason last year, and it made a world of difference. It wasn't until close to the end of the offseason, when my injury reached its worse, that progress came to a screeching halt (probably due, in part, to the deterioration of my form on those exercises).

One thing I love about this sport is that every year I seem to learn new things about my body and what works best and what things I need to avoid. No matter how long I've been doing this or how well I think I know myself, I always manage to learn something new. I probably couldn't see it 6 months ago, but I'm sure that a good percentage of why I stopped making good progress towards the end was due to a breakdown in my lifting form because of my injury. And that only motivates me even more to do exactly what Mike tells me to do and make rehabbing my ham/glute a priority...because I really can't wait to get back to squatting and deadlifting for real. Not being able to train the way I want to certainly made me realize that I do this sport because I genuinely love to train hard...looking great on stage and having fun competing are fringe benefits.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Making Some Adjustments

Yesterday, I made the trip down to Long Island to see a doctor about my hamstring/glute issue, and I feel like I've made more progress in that one visit than I did in the several months I wasted earlier this year trying to figure out what the problem was. Mike gave me more feedback than I've received from anything or anyone else during this whole process. It seems that I have multiple injuries going on there...he seems to believe that I do have a pulled hamstring, and the numbness I'm feeling is typical of sciatica. He also mentioned that my spine has very little mobility and the left side of my lower back is in constant spasm, probably from the hamstring pull and sciatica. He ran me through some basic movement tests, discovered that I can't even squat correctly with no weight, and then did some work on me. I won't even begin to try to explain what he did because I would fail miserably at giving it any justice. Then he ran me through a series of exercises and stretches that I need to do every other day by myself. They weren't painful, per se, but they were definitely uncomfortable.

I was supposed to go meet up with one of my girlfriends afterwards and train at her gym in the Bronx, but she had to cancel because of a family emergency. So I figured, what the hell, I'm about 15 minutes away from Bev's, I'll go train there and wound up getting in a great arm workout.

Today marks the official beginning of my offseason, as I've been given a diet/cardio plan and started it today. I got things going with a decent quad workout this morning. Of course, I wanted to start out with heavy squats, but I figured it would ultimately be in my best interest to pull back on the weight and fix my technique, since I've gotten into the bad habit of favoring my left leg (which makes for a rather comical range of motion for anyone who knows proper squatting technique). I did 3 sets at 155 and started to really lose my form again towards the end of the third set, so I dropped the weight down to 135 to make sure I got 10 clean reps. Then I went over to the leg press and got to work. At this point, I was hoping to have a more structed training program in place to start along with my offseason plan, but I still haven't been able to put one together. I wind up just going in the gym and hammering away on whatever body part is on the menu with the only goal being to make myself sore as hell. This often includes drop sets, supersets, random rest-pause sets, and some one-and-a-half rep sets...and in my world, that's just too scattered, and I don't feel like it allows me to track my strength gains or overall progess. Hopefully by the end of this week, I'll have put together something a little more structured.