Saturday, December 31, 2005

End of 2005 Thoughts

It was a six session week after all. Not something I will do again any time soon, because my schedule between now and departure for student teaching is totally insane. Still, I like the idea of doing something active every day and I don't want to settle for just four workouts per week. The ideal would be five, with a walking tour or some other activity the sixth day and one day of complete rest.

I wonder if all this desire to keep moving is my body trying to make up for twenty plus years of inactivity. There were sporadic bursts here and there, but the last time I did regular physical activity at this frequency was April-August 2004, and before that, 1983.

Weighed myself this morning. 65.0 Kg / 143.3 lbs. Heck of a way to close 2005, eh?

Goals for 2006:
- stay this active
- squat 1.25x body weight
- bench press body weight
- do pull ups, the more the merrier

Thursday, Dec 29, 2005, 8:30pm Day II, Quad Dom

Squats (supersetted with stomach vaccuums)
6 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs Should have been 24 Kgs (50% of max) but I finished this set before I realised that it was only the bar. I was rushing a little because I was working in with someone and I don't like holding other people up.
6 x 37.5 Kg / 82.7 lbs
6 x 47.5 Kg / 104.7 lbs At this point I'm happy. Whatever happens the rest of the workout, the max weight set on squats went well. And although I didn't know it at the time - it didn't occur to me to calculate it till today - that just happens to be 74.9% of body weight. :-)
6 x 42.5 Kg / 93.7 lbs
6 x 40 Kg / 88.2 lbs
12 x 24 Kg / 52.9 lbs

Lunges (supersetted with leg lifts on bench)
6 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
6 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
6 x 30 Kg / 66 lbs
6 x 25 Kg / 55 lbs
6 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
12 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs

Single leg pistols on a counterweight machine. (Supersetted with side curls off the bench).

Gripper (supersetted with 2 minute sideways box jumps)
6 x 7 Kg / 15.4 lbs
6 x 11 Kg / 24.3 lbs
6 x 13.75 Kg / 30.3 lbs Both hands failed at the last rep, which is unusual. Normally on Gripper if there's any failing it happens on the left hand only.
6 x 11.25 Kg / 24.8 lbs
6 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs
Ran out of time again and did not do the last three intervals or the last gripper set. Man-in-charge asked me how come I am frequently running out of time. I think it is because two of the exercises on Quad Day (lunges and assisted pistols) are single leg exercises, so those sets take twice as long to complete.

Friday Dec 30, 2005, 8:40am, Day III: Back

Upright rows (supersetted with stomach vaccuums)
6 x 12.5Kg / 27.6 lbs There is something very psychologically satisfying about warming up with a non-empty bar. In this case, a 10 Kg bar and two 1.25 Kg plates.
6 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
6 x 25 Kg / 55 lbs
6 x 22.5 Kg / 49.6 lbs
6 x 22.5 Kg / 49.6 lbs I thought he was going to tell me to drop another 2.5 Kgs, but guy-in-charge said to stay at this weight.
12 x 12.5 Kg / 27.6 lbs

Lat Pulldowns (supersetted with crunches on floor)
6 x 24 Kg / 52.9 lbs
6 x 38 Kg / 83.8 lbs
6 x 48 Kg / 105.8 lbs
6 x 41 Kg / 90.4 lbs
6 x 39 Kg / 86 lbs
12 x 24 Kg / 52.9 lbs

Seated Rows (supersetted with side curls off the bench)
6 x 25 Kg / 55 lbs
6 x 40 Kg / 88.2 lbs
6 x 50 Kg / 110.2 lbs
6 x 48 Kg / 105.8 lbs
6 x 48 Kg / 105.8 lbs
12 x 25 Kg / 55 lbs

Standing Calf Raises; holding DB overhead (supersetted with 2 minute sideways box jumps)
6 x 4 Kg / 8.8 lbs
6 x 6 Kg / 13.2 lbs
6 x 8 Kg / 17.6 lbs At this point guy-in-charge asks me, "Didn't you do this already this week?" Told him about the six session week and said that I'll be back to four next week.
6 x 6 Kg / 13.2 lbs
6 x 5 Kg / 11 lbs
12 x 4 Kg / 8.8 lbs

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Last Night: Perishability

Perishability is a concept used in the hotel industry. Room nights are perishable; if you don't sell the room night tonight, you never have a chance to sell that room night again. The way I see it, training nights are perishable too.

I wasn't sure if to train last night. I could have used the rest, but I went in for two reasons. First, next week I am back to studying in two places which means my gym time goes back down to four sessions per week (five if I'm lucky). Second, last night's session would be the start of the 6 rep work set microcycle, which is usually the most fun because it's a chance to hit new max weights. After these four sessions the work sets go to 10 reps and the weight drops accordingly - back to the weight I was previously doing for 8 reps.

It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. Here's how it went:

Day I: Chest Triceps Shoulders: Work Sets @ 6 reps

Flat BP
6 x 21.5 Kg / 47.4 lbs
6 x 34 Kg / 75 lbs
5 x 42.5 Kg / 93.7 lbs. Should have been six reps. Not sure if this was a strength issue or a concentration issue.
6 x 32.5 Kg / 71.7 lbs
6 x 32.5 Kg / 71.7 lbs. Looking back on these two sets, I should have not dropped it by that much. It would have made more sense to go back to 34 Kg or 80% of max.
12 x 21.5 Kg / 47.4 lbs

At this point gym co-owner walks by with a half-eaten jelly-filled powdered-sugar-dusted donut. (In Hebrew "sufgania": foods fried in oil are part of the Hanukkah tradition.) He asks me if I want some and I give him the "you have got to be kidding me" look. One of the guys who has finished his workout and is sitting on the pec dec sipping a protein shake, chooses that moment to say that he had one today. Guy-in-charge, who is sitting across from him, somehow manages to look startled, disgusted and angry at the same time. You had to be there. :-) The thing is that I haven't even felt the craving for a sufgania this year. Last year at Hanukkah I had one every time I went into downtown - basically one a day for eight days. This year I look at them and feel nothing. Not even a twinge.

Push Ups (supersetted with leg lifts on bench)
6 x L1
6 x Floor
6 x 1.25 Kg / 2.8 lbs (plate on back) Got to start somewhere.
6 x Floor
6 x Floor
12 x L1

Skull Crushers (supersetted with side curls off the bench)
6 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs
6 x 17.5 Kg / 38.6 lbs
6 x 21.5 Kg / 47.4 lbs. Entirely a matter of concentration. I was feeling weak, but I decided that one missed max for the night is quite enough.
6 x 16.5 Kg / 36.4 lbs
6 x 15 Kg / 33.1 lbs
12 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs

Rotator Cuff Exercise (supersetted with 2 minute sideways box jumps)
6 x 3 Kg / 6.6 lbs
6 x 4 Kg / 8.8 lbs. Right shoulder very unhappy all of a sudden - no idea why. Decided to drop the weight and have guy-in-charge watch that I was doing it correctly. Did the rest of the sets slowly and at a very low weight. Will talk to man-in-charge about this on Thursday night.
6 x 2 Kg / 4.4 lbs
6 x 2 Kg / 4.4 lbs
6 x 2 Kg / 4.4 lbs
12 x 1.5 Kg / 3.3 lbs

Interesting Reading: One of the women at the gym on Tuesday night asked me how often I train. I said that I come in four times per week and if I can come in more frequently I do. She asked me if I enjoy it, and I said yes. She said that she's not at the point yet where she enjoys it. She comes in, she does her program, she knows it is doing good things for her body and she feels better, but it is still something she has to make herself do. On that thought but on a nutrition tangent, I found a blog post by Chris Shugart at T-Nation about about moving between levels. and being patient with other people as they find their level.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Last Night: Deads and Annoyances

At Hebrew U right now, in-between classes. I wish I had brought my camera. It is an amazingly clear day and the view is beautiful. How clear? You can actually see the Dead Sea from Mount Scopus.

Last night: Day IV: Biceps & Hamstrings

Bicep BB Curls (supersetted with standing crunches)
6 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs
6 x 16.5 Kg / 36.4 lbs
7 x 21.5 Kg / 47.4 lbs This set was much harder than I expected and even though I did all 7 reps, the disappointment must have been obvious on my face because the following conversation ensued:
Man-in-charge: Mich, perfectionism is an illness.
Me: But it shouldn't have been that difficult.
He: Why not?
Me: Because 20 Kg wasn't that hard.
He: What's the % difference between 20 and 21.5?
Me: 8%
He: 7.5%.
Me: But that's not a lot... *still not getting it*
He: How much are you going to deadlift today?
Me: 47.5 Kg.
He: Well?
Me: Aha! *I finally get it: on the deads I usually go up in 2.5 Kg increments and 7.5% of 47.5 would be 3.6 Kg*
The rest of the sets went fine, but it took awhile to shake off the negativity, which I think showed up in the next exercise.
7 x 19 Kg / 41.9 lbs
7 x 16.5 Kg / 36.4 lbs
12 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs

BB Hammer Curls (supersetted with leg lifts on bench) The BB looks like a rectangle with two bars in it. More a forearms than biceps exercise, really.
6 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs
6 x 16.5 Kg / 36.4 lbs
4 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs. This was supposed to be 7 reps but the 5th rep would not come up. I'm annoyed again, but at least I don't show it.
7 x 17.5 Kg / 38.6 lbs. Clean and smooth - enough to attempt the same weight again on the next set.
6 x 17.5 Kg / 38.6 lbs. Felt good until I got to the 7th rep. Bar simply would not move.
12 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs

At this point I am happy to be done with the first half of the workout, and my only thought is "stop thinking about it before it screws up your deads!"

Hamstring Curls (supersetted with side curls off the bench)
6 x 8.5 Kg / 18.7 lbs
6 x 13.5 Kg / 29.8 lbs
7 x 17 Kg / 37.5 lbs
7 x 16 Kg / 35.3 lbs
7 x 15 Kg / 33 lbs
12 x 8.5 Kg / 18.7 lbs

Deadlifts (supersetted with 2 minute sideways box jumps)
6 x 24 Kg / 52.9 lbs
6 x 37.5 Kg / 22 lbs
7 x 47.5 Kg / 104.7 lbs
7 x 47.5 Kg / 104.7 lbs (Ok, I'm happy now.)
7 x 40 Kg / 88.2 lbs
12 x 24 Kg / 52.9 lbs
Ran out of time and didn't do the last two 2-minute intervals. Rested a minute instead, did the last set and then ran to the changeroom and changed clothes fast enough to count as a cardio interval.

Interesting reading:

A post about television advertising and children's obesity over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Also see the Becker and Posner blog posts on the same subject.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Last Night: Back

Last night's study session was cancelled due to the holiday, so I got a chance to hit the gym on a Monday night.

I'm putting together a list of cds that I want to buy when I go to the US for student teaching (shipping to Jerusalem is not cheap), and everytime I go to the gym I encounter new music that I like. This time it was a band called Pagan's Mind. Not bad at all. There are four mp3s you can listen to on the band's site - look under Media.

Day III: Back

Upright rows (supersetted with stomach vaccuums)
6 x 10Kg / 22 lbs
6 x 17.5 Kg / 38.6 lbs
7 x 22.5 Kg / 49.6 lbs
7 x 17.5 Kg / 38.6 lbs
7 x 15 Kg / 33 lbs
12 x 10 Kg / 49.6 lbs

Lat Pulldowns (supersetted with crunches on floor)
6 x 23 Kg / 50.7 lbs
6 x 37 Kg / 81.6 lbs
7 x 46 Kg / 101.4 lbs
7 x 40 Kg / 88.2 lbs
7 x 35 Kg / 77.2 lbs
12 x 23 Kg / 50.7 lbs

Seated Rows (supersetted with side curls off the bench)
6 x 24 Kg / 52.9 lbs
6 x 38 Kg / 83.8 lbs
7 x 48 Kg / 105.8 lbs
7 x 42 Kg / 92.6 lbs
7 x 42 Kg / 92.6 lbs
12 x 24 Kg / 52.9 lbs

Standing Calf Raises; holding DB overhead (supersetted with 2 minute sideways box jumps)
6 x 4 Kg / 8.8 lbs
6 x 6 Kg / 13.2 lbs
7 x 7.75 Kg / 17 lbs
7 x 7 Kg / 15.4 lbs
7 x 6 Kg / 13.2 lbs
12 x 4 Kg / 8.8 lbs

Monday, December 26, 2005

Last Night: Quad Dom

My workout log only has a few pages left; it's a little black notebook my sister brought back with her from vacation, and I've looked in stores here for the same notebook with no luck. It's not a big deal, obviously, any notebook will do, but this one was the perfect size and it was sewn rather than stapled/spiral, so it was more durable. What do folks out there use to log their workouts?

Last night's session: Day II: Quad Dom
(Here's the last Day II for comparison.)

Squats (supersetted with stomach vaccuums)
6 x 22.5Kg / 49.6 lbs
6 x 36 Kg / 79.4 lbs
7 x 45 Kg / 99.2 lbs
7 x 42.5 Kg / 93.7 lbs
7 x 42.5 Kg / 93.7 lbs
12 x 22.5 Kg / 49.6 lbs

Man-in-charge pointed out that the last set of each exercise has a different tempo than the first five. The first five are 2-0-1-0 (think of it as a slow waltz, 1-2-3), and the last set is 5-0-1-0, which makes up for the lower weight. He was under the impression that he wrote that on my program somewhere, but it wasn't there. It certainly makes the last set more interesting, especially on squats.

Lunges (supersetted with leg lifts on bench)
6 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
6 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
7 x 25 Kg / 55 lbs
7 x 25 Kg / 55 lbs
7 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
12 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs

Single leg pistols on a counterweight machine which assists the exercise in the same way that a gravitron is used for people who can't yet do pullups. Man-in-charge explained the weight settings to me last night, but I'm not sure I have it correctly so I will ask again next time. It has to do with a % of my weight. Supersetted with side curls off the bench.

Gripper (supersetted with 2 minute sideways box jumps)
6 x 6.25 Kg / 13.8 lbs
6 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs
7 x 12.5 Kg / 27.6 lbs
7 x 11.25 Kg / 24.8 lbs
7 x 11.25 Kg / 24.8 lbs
12 x 6.25 Kg / 13.8 lbs

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Rainy Sunday

Since yesterday afternoon we've had nothing but rain. On the one hand I am happy because the Sea of Galilee needs the water. On the other hand, I feel sorry for all the Christians in Jerusalem who had to make their way to church last night in the downpour. I hope all the Christmas and Hannukah tourists are enjoying their stay here despite the weather.

I have a week of vacation starting today. It's not entirely vacation: my Hebrew U classes are taking place as scheduled, but I have no classes at my other school this week. I'm using it to catch-up and/or get head on my reading and paper-writing.

Met my schoolmate M for lunch today. She is going back to the US after studying in Israel for a year and a half. We had lunch at a restaurant on King George St called Macaroni. I had fusili with tomato sauce, capers, olives and tuna. I haven't had pasta in over a year, and while it was nice for a change, I had to ask them to pack most of it to go. Definitely enough for two meals there.

I looked at my stats today and realised that I am 1.9 lbs away from being able to say "I lost 50 lbs". I also realised I don't much care about saying it. I can't really think of a context in which I'd say it, except perhaps if someone began to lecture me about food and fitness and I'd want to shut them up.

One of my study partners is in Toronto right now attending a wedding. She is going to bring me back a Champion sportsbra, which I can't get here. There are sports bras in Israel, by Triumph and Fila and Speedo and Arena, none of which work for me. Newsflash: you can't work out 4+ times per week while owning a single sportsbra. Well, you can, but it complicates the logistical end of things. As soon as I land in the US for student teaching I'm going to find a store and try on the UnderArmour stuff.

Interesting things out there in cyberspace:

T-Nation has an article series called Lucky 13, where they ask someone 13 questions. The latest one features Alwyn Cosgrove (pronounced Ahl-in, apparently), and his answer to question #7 has some good points about fat loss.

Starting January 1, 2006, Caustic Musings is embarking on an interesting project called the Cheapass Challenge: namely, healthy living on a very strict budget.

Scale & Perspective discovers that she is co-habiting with a large pachyderm.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Rest Periods and Push Ups

During last night's deadlift session I had a talk with man-in-charge about rest periods. The idea is to keep the rest periods between sets to three minutes or less, and those three minutes include the crunches or box jumps or whatever secondary exercise I'm doing. So I tried it this morning when I was doing Chest-Shoulders-Triceps, and it is completely doable and as a bonus, keeps my concentration high.

There was a guy there last night working upper body. He was a big guy, at least 6', and he had rather interesting tatoos on both arms. He had his ipod on the whole time, didn't say a word to anyone, and just worked. I heard someone speak to him in English at one point, and he was wearing jeans, which leads me to guess that he is a tourist (there are two big hotels within walking distance of the gym) who just didn't bring workout clothes with him. Even in jeans you could tell he had decent hamstrings. Definitely not one of those stick-legged-huge-upper-body guys. At one point he was just slumped on the preacher curl bench in exhaustion. To borrow a quote from one of the commenters at CrossFit, he was kicking his own butt, and he wasn't the only one. Another guy was doing a 3/4 squat variation: Down all the way, up 3/4 of the way, repeat, with beautiful form.

This morning I went in early to avoid the Friday busy hours, but the busy hours never materialized. I don't know if people were away because the forecast was for massive rains or because Chanuka starts Sunday and many people take vacation during this time. A couple of people would be away for Christmas Eve, but that doesn't account for the Jewish religious guys. Whatever the reason, a quiet Friday was nice for a change. And since there weren't that many people there, no one complained about the heavy metal music and it was on for most of the workout.

I finally did more than one work set of push-ups on the floor, three sets to be exact. Psychologically it is a huge thing for me to be doing full push-ups again, and this is after the bench press sets are done. Apparently women doing full push-ups are a rare thing, because I got comments from several people. First, an American guy who was just leaving stopped to tell me "nice pushups" (I said "thank you"). Then by the water fountain an older religious gentleman tells me that I work hard and that this is excellent, and proceeds to quote "koach u'gevurah natan bahem" which is a phrase from the Sabbath morning prayer service that translates to "strength and power he placed in them". I love this country :-)

Shabbat Shalom to those observing it, and a Merry Christmas to those celebrating it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Error Handling

During last night's training session I misread the weight I was supposed to be using on the seated rows and ended up using 44 Kg rather than 46 Kg. When i realised the error it was too late to do anything about it. There may have been some silent profanity used. The upside was that the annoyance fueled the best set of calf raises I have ever done, and is probably also responsible for a high level of energy on the box jumps. Still, I think I'd rather have had the rows.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Imagine No Snowstorms

Last night I met the family that will be hosting me (and three of my fellow students) during the month of student teaching. My program director invited us all to dinner at her home. I had all my workout gear with me, hoping that the dinner would end early and I'd make it to the gym, but we were there till 10:00pm and there was no way to walk out earlier without being incredibly rude and ungracious. My future hosts are entitled to get to know the students who will be living with them for a month. So, no gym last night. On the good side, I learned more about the city of Atlanta and about my mentor teacher, whom I will be observing during this visit. Apparently she is a teaching powerhouse. :-)

I'm going to miss my gym. My hosts assure me that there is a good fitness centre close to the school, but when the description is "Oh, they're great; they have every kind of machine you can imagine," I get a little worried. I did some googling and found this place, but I have no idea how close or far they are from where I'll be staying. I think I need to get the zip code of my hosts and do some mapquesting.

My flights will be going through Newark again. Oy. Last year my student teaching was in Maryland, and on the way there we got stuck in Newark due to a massive snowstorm. We ended up having to fly to North Carolina and drive back to Maryland. Here's hoping for no snowstorms this time around.

Monday, December 19, 2005

High and Low

High point of last night's workout: a guy, a real live guy, a real live guy who starts his workout with a slew of very smooth pull-ups, asked me to spot his bench press. I don't think anyone has ever asked me to spot them before. On the other hand, in most gyms there aren't that many people who do exercises that require a spot.

This morning I told a friend about this and how happy it made me and she asked, "Because he was good looking?"
"No," I said, "I mean, yes he was nice looking, but that's not the point. The point is that someone trusted me to get a bar with weight off them if it became necessary."

The low point (or, as it turns out, the not-low-enough point), was ten minutes later. I was doing my last work set of squats and man-in-charge tells me my depth was insufficient on the last two reps. Not enough depth? That has never happened in all the time I've been in the gym. I'm putting it down to a mental lapse. Definitely not happening again.

In response to Liz's question, the new workout pants are Diadora men's long pants. They're a loose cut. I used to do the tights + big t-shirt thing. These days I prefer a looser cut on the pants because that makes it easier to squat and deadlift. I also prefer a form-fitting t-shirt because that makes it easier to spot form breaks. You can't hide unretracted scapulae in a tight t-shirt. :-)

The family that will host me during student teaching month is visiting Jerusalem. Looks like Tuesday night just became "have dinner with future host family" night, which means no gym session on Tuesday.

Last night's session:

Squats (supersetted with stomach vaccuums)
6 x 21.5Kg / 47.4 lbs
6 x 34 Kg / 75 lbs
8 x 42.5 Kg / 93.7 lbs
8 x 40 Kg / 88.2 lbs
8 x 40 Kg / 88.2 lbs
12 x 21.5 Kg / 47.4 lbs

Lunges (supersetted with leg lifts on bench)
6 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
6 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
8 x 22.5 Kg / 49.6 lbs (finally some weight on the bar!)
8 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
8 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
12 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs

Single leg pistols on a counterweight machine, which assists the exercise in the same way that a gravitron is used for people who can't yet do pullups. No weights here as I don't have any idea what they mean. Basically, the lower the number, the more of my own weight I'm supporting and the better the set. I'll worry about numbers when I can do these without the machine. Might take awhile. The sets are supersetted with side curls off the bench.

Gripper (supersetted with 2 minute sideways box jumps)
6 x 6.25 Kg / 13.8 lbs
6 x 9 Kg / 19.8 lbs
8 x 11.25 Kg / 24.8 lbs
8 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs
8 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs
12 x 6.25 Kg / 13.8 lbs
Ran out of time and didn't do the last two jumping intervals as the gym was about to close.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

In Between Classes

Ominous looking yet beautiful clouds over the Old City walls.

Column detail at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

A good op-ed by Charles Krauthammer about how the local Iranian lunatic (aka the President of Iran) has been threatening Israel with anhilation (so what else is new?) and the world is doing nothing (so what else is new?).

Two good articles at Men's Health: first, an article about eating more fish. Second, an article by John Berardi about meal timing, How to Get Thinner by the Minute (who comes up with these titles?), that appeared in the Nov 2005 issue.

Friday, December 16, 2005


The expected reading material wasn't there. The class got an e-mail from the prof the next day saying that the readings had become available at the grad school office at 5:15pm. This didn't help me any as I had checked for them at 2:15pm. From the questions he sent us it looks as though I can source most of the stuff on my own, so I am not too worried. It's an annoyance but a minor one.

I visited one of the sports equipment stores earlier in the week looking for another pair of workout pants. It was a store where I had previously bought sportsbras. For whatever reason, the saleswoman was unbelievably useless and rude. She made me feel like I was taking up her valuable time. Well fine then. I don't force my business on people. The next day, I discovered a large hole in my sneakers. Guess where I did NOT go for new shoes. I ended up going to Sport Li Ve'Lach on King George Street, and I bought a pair of New Balance 472s and a pair of workout pants. They're actually men's, but they are comfortable and the first pair I bought made it through the wash and still looked new. The guy at the store threw in a pair of sports socks for free, and told me that there'll be more pants coming in a week and a half. :D I've finally gotten it through my head that I need to stop using my old workout pants. There's only so much you can pull on a drawstring, and I don't want them dropping to the ground in the middle of a squat set.

Nice solid back workout on Wednesday night: the usual upright rows - lat pulldowns - seated rows trio and then the freestanding calf raises, the first three supersetted with abwork and the latter with box jumps. Last night was biceps and hamstrings, and I was very happy with the deadlifts at the end. I've been coming into the gym late in the evening and staying till the 10:30pm closing. Towards the end of the night there were only two people working out: me, and this guy who has been there since before I joined. Of course we both needed the squat rack at the same time. :-) We talked a little afterwards and he said that he had been finding it difficult to come in more than twice a week due to work demands. His workout last night was shoulders, abs, and squats. And what gorgeous squats they were. I had an excellent view as I was doing the box jumps between deadlift sets, and there are few things as beautiful as a perfectly executed squat.

Twelve hours later (aka this morning) I was back in the gym for Chest-Triceps-Shoulders. Whom do I see as soon as I walk in the door? PerfectSquatGuy from the night before. He had come in to do the boxing class first thing in the morning. We both laugh, and I say that now he can rest on Shabbat with a clear conscience.

This morning's workout was day 1 of the 8 rep microcycle; meaning that the all work sets are done for 8 reps. This is how it went:

Bench Press; supersetted with sets of standing crunches
6 x 20 Kg / 44 lbs
6 x 31.5 Kg / 69.4 lbs
8 x 39 Kg / 86 lbs
8 x 32.5 Kg / 71.7 lbs
8 x 32.5 Kg / 71.7 lbs
12 x 10 Kg / 44 lbs

Push Ups; supersetted with sets of leg lifts off bench.
6 x L2 (L2 means the bar is on the 2nd lowest rung of the squat rack and I am doing push ups against the bar. The goal is to do all these push-up sets on the floor, and then start adding weight plates on my back. L1 means the lowest level, and so on.)
6 x L2
8 x L1
8 x L1
8 x L1
12 x L2

Skull Crushers; supersetted with side curls off bench.
6 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs
6 x 17.5 Kg / 38.6 lbs
7 x 21.5 Kg / 47.4 lbs (This should have been 8 but I failed on the last rep; I was incredibly annoyed at myself. Yes, it is a personal best, but I really really wanted the 8th rep. The funny thing was that ShoulderGuy, who was in charge today, wanted me to drop to 14 Kg for the next two sets. I did mention people are absolute sticklers for form at my gym, no? I was wincing inwardly at this point, because I was hoping not to go below 15Kg - bar and two 2.5Kg plates. But I'm not going to argue, so I loaded up 14 Kg: bar and locks is 10 Kg, two plates of 1.25 Kg each, and two collars which are 750g each. I tighten the locks, and a guy comes by to ask if he can have the 750g collars for his decline bench press sets. Inward wince turns to inward smile. I suggest to ShoulderGuy that I give the guy the collars and do the next sets at 15Kg. Everyone thinks this is a very sensible suggestion, and thus my next two sets are smooth and controlled, and 15 Kg. :-)
8 x 15 Kg / 33 lbs
8 x 15 Kg / 33 lbs
12 x 10 Kg / 22 lbs

Rotator Cuff Exercise; supersetted with 2 minutes of sideways jumps over aerobic step with riser.
6 x 2 Kg / 4.4 lbs
6 x 3 Kg / 6.6 lbs
8 x 4 Kg / 8.8 lbs
8 x 3 Kg / 6.6 lbs Probably could have stayed at 4 Kg for this set, but rotator cuff work is not about pushing weight but about staying healthy to push weight on the bigger exercises.
8 x 2 Kg / 4.4 lbs
12 x 2 Kg / 4.4 lbs

No market today; I stocked up on cottage cheese last night, and I have just enough veggies to get me through Saturday. Two more weeks or so and then the days start getting longer again, thank goodness. Oh, and the amazingly warm and sunny weather we've been enjoying in Jerusalem for the past two weeks or so is finished. It was cold and rainy today, which is fine, because Israel always needs all the rain it can get. Rain or not I'm still planning on doing the municipal walking tour tomorrow morning .

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hakol Ben Oznayim

Finally got to the gym last night and got my leg workout in. I was beginning to suffer withdrawal pains because I hadn't been able to get to the gym since Friday. :-) Still not enough sleep, but as man-in-charge says, "hakol ben oznayim" which is Hebrew for "everything between ears". (Yes, I know it should be ha-oznayim, with a definite article.) In other words, your mental state is what makes the workout. I might put that on a t-shirt.

Everything went well, down to the last 2 minutes of box jumps. Gym was busy; I needed a bench for my abwork and had to work in with one of the guys because every single bench or bench-like thing was taken. I was there until the gym closed, which is a frequent occurence these days.

At university at the moment. Legs are a little sore which is unusual. Have to run and pick up some reading material which one of the profs promised to leave for our class at the office.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Head Above Water

Got home from school at 11:00pm last night. I was working on a presentation for today, which is now done and presented. I should get my mark from the professor by e-mail by the end of the week. No gym last night for obvious reasons.

Glanced up from my books long enough to note the following interesting things going on in the world:

The riots in Sydney, Australia.

The Maye case in Mississippi. Start with that link then click on Main and scroll.

At T-Nation, a new article by Dr. Lowrey about protein intake.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Rest of the Week

I trained Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday morning, and all workouts were good. Wednesday evening I got to the gym after 8pm. I was unsure as to how it would go. 6 hours of sleep three nights in a row, insufficient water, and food was uneven. Nowhere near enough protein, but it was a good veggie day. There was a huge salad for breakfast, and then for lunch the university salad bar had roasted sweet potatos, brussel sprouts and broccoli - yum!

Man-in-charge claims that a bad mental attitude can cost you up to 30% of your strength, so I was going in with the attitude of 'I'll do whatever I can and not worry about I can't'. Note that he doesn't say that a positive mental attitude can add 30% to your strength level. You need the positive attitude to keep what you have.

Man-in-charge wasn't there. Guy-in-charge (aka ShoulderGuy) was. The evening turned out to be one of my best back workouts ever. Upright rows max set was 22.5Kg, lat pulldowns 46Kgs, seated rows 48 Kgs, and freestanding calf raises were done holding a 7 Kg db overhead. The latter exercise is really about balance and concentration. I could do them with more weight if I held onto something. Towards the end, ShoulderGuy asked me if I wanted some heavier music to finish. Did you even have to ask? :-) He put on some heavy metal that turned out to be a band named Sceptic. I've never heard of them, but I googled and found this article, that describes them as "a combination of Swedish death metal with a more technical approach similar to latter day Death. ". Well then. They were very useful to getting through the last fifteen minutes of the workout.

Thursday night's session was also late at night, and can be described as "Toccata and Deadlift in D Minor". Man-in-charge was in, and the gym was near empty. At no time were there more than three people there. This meant that those of us who were there got lots of personal attention. MountainClimberGuy was there. I hadn't see him in a while, and he is looking good. Man-in-charge decided to put on a cd of Bach's Toccatas. He asked me what I thought, and I said it would depend on the results. I am happy to report that deadlifting to Bach is fine, but box jumps to Bach, nope.

I was back in the gym Friday morning. I wanted to get my workout in early because I was planning to head out of Jerusalem and spend the Shabbat with a cousin in Gush Etzion. ShoulderGuy was in charge again. By coming in at 8:30am I avoided most of the Friday insanity. It was Chest-Shoulders-Triceps, and while I was struggling on everything except skull crushers, I put it down to the uneven eating and lack of sleep during the week. I did hit all the weights I wanted to hit - this is the 10 rep microcycle so it is the hardest part of the program. I wasn't happy with my max set on the bench press, but ShoulderGuy said it was clean, and I am taking his word for it.

People are strange part II: One of the older women in the gym comes up to me while I am doing some ab work on the bench.
"I noticed you work out with, um, weights," she says.
"Yes," I say.
"Are you training for something?" she asks
"To find out what my limits are," I say, "How much I can lift"
"I can see it in your arms," pause, "Does it bother you that it is not... aesthtic?" she asks. I shrug, beauty being in the eye of the beholder and all. Besides, my upper arm has been shrinking steadily since August 2004, don't talk to me about aesthtic.
"I don't walk around with my arms flexed," I say
"Can I see?" she asks. Yes, the woman asked me to make a muscle. I couldn't believe it. After some back and forth I agreed, saying that it is a once and only once thing, since normal people don't walk around flexing. She walked away happy, and I was laughing throughout the rest of my abwork as I thought up more responses for future use. ("Aesthtic?!?!? Since when is aesthetic defined as flabby, lady?" was one that came to mind, but that's mean.)

Weekend at my cousin's was good. I slept 12 hours. Ten on Friday night and two on Saturday afternoon. I played with their adorable kids (3.5 years, 2.5 years, and 10 months), and generally had a good time. Too many carbs. I had lots of bread and lots of salad, trying to avoid the phyllo dough pastries and schnitzels, but it's one day and I'll be back on track tomorrow. The bus ride back took longer than expected due to a roadblock and traffic accident on the way, but I'm back in Jerusalem now, blogging from the Noona Cafe on Aza Street.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wednesday Already

I woke up at 5:40am, went to a nearby cafe for breakfast and got a good hour and a half of work done before school. If only the gym opened at 6:00am I could get a workout in before classes. On the other hand, I like doing work early in the morning.

During my semester break in February 2006, I'll be going to North America for student teaching, which means following a mentor teacher around for three weeks and learning from them. I went to Maryland last year, and this year I'll be going to Georgia. Last year my mentor teacher was also my host, which could have been really awkward but fortunately worked out well. This year the mentor and the host are two different people.

As it happens, the daughter of the host family is a schoolmate, and I've been talking to her about the trip. Among my questions: what would be a good present for my hosts, what tourist attractions should I absolutely not miss, and most importantly, how close is the nearest gym. Well, she said that not only is there a great fitness centre with lots of free weights nearby, but her dad goes to said fitness centre every single morning and would be able to give me a ride there. How's that for fortuitous? Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the gym has a squat rack. :-)

No gym Monday because that was my Hebrew U late night, and no gym Tuesday because a visiting school principal took a bunch of us out to dinner to tell us about his school. It was a very interesting evening, and I learned a lot. I don't know if his school is the right one for me (he suggested that we come to dinner even if we weren't sure and just wanted to learn more), but it sounds like a great place. So, no two squat sessions this week. The goal now is just to get all four workout sessions in by Friday afternoon. One down, three to go.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Another One

I was on the bus to the university when I heard about the suicide bombing at the entrance to the shopping mall in Netanya. Five dead, sixty-six wounded, courtesy of an Islamic Jihad creature looking for his 72 virgins in paradise.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

People Are Strange

New bench press personal best for me on Friday: 41.5 Kg or 91.5 lbs for six reps. I am happy because bench press is by far my slowest progress exercise. Another happy gym moment was when I realised I could finally do some full push-ups following my bench press sets. Can't wait till I'm doing these with a weight plate on my back.

I went to sleep at 9:19pm on Friday and woke up Saturday morning at 7:48am. This is slightly over 10 hours, and I needed every minute as I have been averaging under six hours of sleep per night. Not good, but there is nothing I can do about it. My program is intense and I have made it more intense by taking extra courses at the university. Why? Because I like learning, and because this is my last chance for a very long time to study at a university with some generous foundation picking up half the tab.

My mom might be coming to visit from Canada this month. I haven't seen my parents in nearly ten months. Apparently there is a seat sale going on right now for the Toronto-Tel Aviv flights, as this is the between-holidays season.

Over the past couple of weeks I have received comments on my weight loss from various people. My weight has been relatively steady for at least a month, so this is due to the fact that I am no longer wearing my old baggy clothes but rather my new, well-fitting/tight clothes.

First it was one of my teachers from last year. I headed out of school for lunch, and he said:
"Are you going to disappear?"
"No," I said, "I'm just going across the road for lunch,"
"I mean you've lost a lot of weight," he said.
"Thank you for noticing," I said. This is my new standard answer to weight loss comments from people I know AND like. If I don't know you or like you the answer is likely to be much less nice.

Later that day, one of my schoolmates motions me over and whispers:
"You've lost a lot of weight, haven't you?". I laughed and gave a similar response as I did the above teacher. It was sensitive of him to whisper, but really wasn't necessary. With the new clothes the weight loss is in the "obvious" category. And I have no problems discussing how I got there. Who knows, I might get some people off treadmills and into the weight room. I've even created Harris Benedict spreadsheets for two of my classmates this past week.

Then last week I happened to be sitting at the Coffee Mill when one of the women who was in my Jewish Medieval Bible Commentators class last year walks in. I said Hello as she passed by my table, but she didn't recognize me right away. When she did recognize me, she said:
"You've lost like a zillion pounds. How did you do it?" I laughed. (Later on I decided that if I get that comment again, I will answer it with "Actually, it is a gazillion, not a zillion") and said:
"Eating five times a day and working out." She stared at me.
"Working out five times a day?"
"No," I said, "Eating five times a day".
I gave her the address of this blog. I hope she comes by. She seemed very stressed about weight.

People are strange. At the gym, I was asked to translate a program (from English to Hebrew) that one of the guys had brought in. It is a silly program taken from who knows what dumb fitness magazine. It is beyond me why anyone would want to use this program when they have access to a gym owner who has years of experience with real live athletes, has competed in weightlifting, powerlifting and sambo, and who customizes each program based on the client's goals, starting point, and frequency available to train.

I saw the loveliest picture at the gym on Friday. TanktopGuy was doing military presses at the Smith Machine and Shoulder Guy was standing behind him, watching his form. (I need to find a more creative naming system.) ShoulderGuy, whose biceps are impressive even when relaxed, was resting his hands on the top cross bar of the Smith machine. As TanktopGuy pressed the bar, there was a single moment when the two sets of biceps made a perfect picture, one above the other. Even if I had had my camera with me, I would have missed that shot due to the shot delay. In defense of TanktopGuy, I've never seen him use the Smith before. On Fridays the gym is only open from 8am to 3pm, the place is packed, and someone else was using the squat rack for good mornings or some such.

Later on, another guy was doing military presses at the now-free squat rack. I have to do my 2 minute step jumping intervals between my rotator cuff exercise sets, and the only free space is in front of the squat rack. I asked him if my being there bothered him, and eventually we worked it out so that I would do my mini-cardio in between his sets, so that he could have a mostly unobstructed view. The funny thing is that he asked me "Don't you rest?" and I said, pointing at the step, "This is the rest". I've come to the conclusion that the step jumps are a mental exercise rather than a physical one. They are there to show me that I can gut out six two-minute intervals of sideways jumping even when they are supersetted with the last exercise in the training session. Whether that last exercise is rotator cuff work (on chest-triceps day) or deadlifts (on biceps & ham-dominant day).

Last week was a good training week overall. Five sessions: Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I am going to try and do the same thing next week, but no pressure. The goal is four, five is a really nice bonus. The attractive part is that if I do manage five it will mean two squat sessions next week, one Sunday and one Friday.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Tuesday and Wednesday

Tuesday night was Legs. Everything was solid, and the lunges are improving by leaps and bounds. The first time I did the new program I remember being very annoyed with my lunges. Granted, I'm doing them after six sets of squats, but I had hoped for better depth. My thought was "I can't believe I'm so weak that I can't do lunges with no weight." And then the light bulb went on. I wasn't doing them with no weight. I was doing them with the bar, which is 45lbs. I think I may have laughed out loud at myself at that point. Interestingly, even though the form on the lunges was not good on that first set, man-in-charge didn't have me drop the weight. He just said to do them half-way, then three-quarters, then all the way.

Post-renovations, the squat rack is no longer facing the same way, and so I am doing my leg work without a mirror. This means that I can't rely on the visual check to ensure that the bar is centered, or that my stance is even. It was strange at first, but now I can do it without difficulty. Some people turn around and face the mirror behind the rack, but I find it easier to rack my weight going forward, rather than walking backwards and trying to find the correct level to place the bar on.

Yesterday was Back, and the gym was busy. I decided to do my seated rows before my lat pulldowns because the lat pulldown machine had two people already working on it. I was very tired due to a very long day at the university. And when I got home I had to decide between going to a lecture or going to the gym. The gym won out, because I am trying to get five sessions in this week rather than four. Still, when people ask me at the gym how often I workout, I say "Four times a week, five if it works out". My schedule this semester is not set up to allow five times a week, and I am not going to drive myself crazy over it.

Music was great last night. With all due respect to man-in-charge, who I think has a point about silence, sometimes a little of this is just what a woman needs to get her through her workout. And around 10:10pm, after most people had left, ShoulderGuy turned things up a notch by putting on some heavy metal music that made Rammstein sound like Albinoni's Adagio. I have to ask him what it was. Melodious, no, but very useful for getting through those 2 minutes spent jumping over an aerobic step. I made sure to tell the co-owner and the woman at the desk that I liked the music.