My Workout 5/7/19

Being out of shape can mean so many different things. This weekend I did a 20 mile bike “race”. It was fairly easy. I didn’t go fast, but I was able to keep a reasonable pace despite only training for it in the week leading up to it. I was “out of shape” for that race. One thing that I have noticed is that my cardio ability takes a big hit once I stop training. As far as strength goes (NOT work capacity), it can stay, in my experience, for weeks to almost a month with little or no training. Not so with cardio. The moment I stop training, my ability begins to decline quickly.

Anyway, I say that to say that my goals have changed a little bit. As far as the gym goes, I am mostly focusing on my upper body work capacity. This means a good deal of volume. For my lower body, I plan on doing steady state cardio interspersed with some HIIT. At the moment, I am not interested in growing my legs at all, so I feel comfortable backing off training them with weights for a little bit. For me, during the summer and fall, participating in 5k’s, going on long walks and hikes, and bike races are much more exciting!

So for my workout today I am getting my body revved up for some increased volume. I am starting out with 3 sets of each exercise, and hopefully over the next month or two will bump that up to about six sets. I use the Strong App to track my workouts. It is great because I can track everything as I go, and there is an awesome rest timer so I can be pretty exact on seeing how I am (or am not) improving that week/session. Below is a screen shot of my workout minus the 3 sets of machine back extensions with 250 lbs.

I have been inconsistent and training with a much lower volume lately. So since my goal is increasing my work capacity, I am mostly getting a feel for the set and rep schemes that will be the best for building off of. I will probably keep my bench weight the same and go for 3×8 and then up my rep numbers for the lat pull-down. I’ll also probably start the next sets of rows with 115 lbs.

Until next time…

Kitchen Light Fixture Installation

As I have pointed out in the past, as an amateur DIY’er, even the simplest project has these little unknown difficulties that pop up. Interestingly enough, the more difficult the project, the more rewarding it is when it’s done! So while my latest project of replacing the kitchen light had a lot of little things pop up, I am very pleased with the finished product.

The old light in our kitchen was one of those (in my opinion) hideous fluorescent light fixtures. My wife and I decided that a new set of lighting in the kitchen would help improve the space. Now begins the colorful journey!

The old (and intolerable) fluorescent light set.

So…the easy part first. Taking off the cover and taking out the bulbs was a piece of cake. Took no longer than a couple minutes. Next, I had to unscrew the connections and take down the frame(?). This was a little tougher and I needed some help from my wife. Nonetheless, the light came down easily. But…

…A few unfortunate surprises. The mounting screws left holes on either side of the cord entry, behind the mount was not painted during a remodel, and the cords were pulled through a small whole in the ceiling. 😦

A less than ideal situation for hanging a new light…

So this means that 1) I have to plug the holes in the ceiling 2) Paint the ceiling, and (the BIG ONE) 3) I have to create a bigger hole, and install an “old work” ceiling box.

The surprisingly easily installed old work ceiling box.

Plugging the holes in the ceiling was easy enough. I just got some putty and a little mesh to help hold the putty in place. I let it dry and sanded it down. Installing the box was a little more complicated. First I had to cut a new hole in the ceiling with a hand saw (being careful not to cut into any studs), and then I had to install the box. After that was done, installing the actual light was simple enough. After it was up, because of a busy couple weeks, I didn’t get around to the second round of sanding and painting until later. But better late than never.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the end product! This being one of the more complicated projects I have done, I am happy to have added a few DIY skills in my skill set. Well, that was my latest journey in DIY’ing. Until next time…

My One-Month Experience with Meditation

I have “known about” meditation for a number of years. My introduction probably started with reading books by Thich Nhat Hanh when I was in college 10 years ago. I never had a serious meditation practice though. I would attend a yoga class here or there and try following my breathing here and there, but never consistently. “Consistency is key” really rings true in my experience as within just one month of a 5-20 minute daily meditation practice, I have noticed some real benefits.

I Can Re-Center More Easily

The biggest and most impressive benefit I have noticed is “coming back to myself” quicker when confronted with a difficult situation, thought, or feeling. It is almost as if I can feel myself being pulled out of relative mindfulness, and it is easier to get back into it. I work as a middle school teacher so there are literally hundreds of moments of distraction in any given day. I am noticing that although I may still feel nervous, anxious, angry, etc., it is easier for me to notice and (depending on the weight of the situation) pull myself out of it by using a meditation anchor (breath, quotes/mantras, feeling the inner body).

I Look Forward to My Meditation Practice

This was quite unexpected at first but makes complete sense. I guess on a deeper level I can see the benefits in my life and don’t want to miss an opportunity to deepen my practice. I often find myself getting excited thinking about my 5-20 minutes of meditation like you would get excited about a concert or a nice dinner.

Meditation has Deepened other Areas of my Life

I began to notice rather quickly that I had more energy and willpower in other areas of my life (such as working out consistently and staying on top of my nutrition). Perhaps it is a positive feedback loop, but I began to make beneficial choices with relative ease (of course knowing what changes to make is a key part of that).

How I have been Meditating

My main practice is centered around guided meditations. I find body scans and following breathing to be the most beneficial. I have been using a number of apps this month, but my favorite has become the “Calm” app. Although the meditations often discuss ideas and content at the end, they always begin with some form of centering meditation. As I said earlier, most are 5-20 minutes long and I do them each night before bed (which doubles as a great way to wind down after the day).

Well, that has been my experience thus far with meditating consistently for one month. I look forward to talking more about my experience after 3, 6, and 12 months as well! Until next time…

My Workout Today 4/23/19

I try to change up my workouts intermittently. I have been focusing less on strength and more on my conditioning. This means higher rep circuit-like training. I have seen some pretty good success with it! My resting heart rate has dropped about 8 bpm (and my hrv has improved similarly) since starting this training block about a month ago. I also have been trying to find ways to incorporate a variety of fitness parameters into my workouts.

For the next month, I will be breaking my workouts into a strength component (20 mins), followed by an SARQ component (5-10 min), and then an endurance component (10 min). I’ll break down the specifics of each.

  • The strength component for me can include anything weight-bearing. I will likely keep my reps between 6 and 20 for any exercises I do. Depending on the day and how I am feeling, I might do heavier compound movements (squat, deadlift, bench), or I may do lighter, high-rep isolation work (leg press, leg extensions, lat pulldown, etc.)
  • The SARQ component is a new addition to my training program. I have done SARQ exercise with good results every time I decide to do it, but I have been very inconsistent. SARQ stands for Speed, Agility, Reactivity, and Quickness. For me this looks like agility ladder or cone drills, boxing on a heavy bag, using a reaction ball, or even playing some basketball. These types of movements encourage your body to maintain and build your ability to move multi-laterally quickly. And I think they are the most fun!
  • The endurance component consists of any cardio movement (treadmill, elliptical, etc.) done at my Maffetone (180 – age) HR for at least ten minutes. This type of training will ensure that you keep your endurance up.

So, today I did a workout consisting of these movements. I didn’t aim for any specific reps, just gently challenged myself.

  • Squats. I used 225 lbs and did 6 reps, 5 reps, and then 3 reps. It has been a while since I have squatted so I expected it to be a little more challenging.
  • Bench. I used 185 lbs for a set of 8, and then a pause-rep set of 4.
  • Heavy Bag. Didn’t take any specific measurements, but I would estimate I did about 3 rounds for a total time of around 5 minutes.
  • Incline Walking. After all of that intense work, you can guess that my heart rate was high. So today, walking at a 3.0 incline at a speed of about 2.0-3.0 mph kept me slightly below my target heart rate. I walked for 10 minutes.

Well, that was my workout today. Hopefully you found something interesting that you might be able to use! Until next time…

Quick Project…Floating Shelves!

Our living room is nice, with nice pieces of furniture, but we have a large unoccupied wall space. So my wife and I decided to hang up some floating shelves.

Floating shelf materials. I think the company forgot to ship the set of screws they said came with it, so I used my 3 inch construction screws that I used to put in the pegboard.

The process was fairly simple:

  • Find the wall studs
  • Level the brackets and screw the holders into the studs
  • Slide in the wood slats
  • Voila!
Floating shelves! With some awesome cheap fake plants we got from Target!

I like little projects like this because it is a project that can take 20 minutes to install, but add a lot to the room (kind of like my pegboard project seen below).

One of my first projects…a pegboard on the outside of my kitchen to hold some pots, pans, and utensils that were clogging up the cabinets.

Plus they look great with the new chandelier and some fake plants from Target that we couldn’t resist buying.

Do you have floating shelves in your space? What do you use them for? until next time…

My Workout 3/24/19

Sundays are usually a pretty chill day in my house. Laundry, naps, church, and generally relaxing things. My wife recently joined Orange Theory Fitness so she had a class at 7am. Pretty early for a Sunday 😉

Since she was going to be at the gym I figured I would move my workout (normally to be done on Monday or Tuesday) to today. I actually like exercising earlier in the day because it helps set the tone for making sure my nutrition and other things are on point to support training.

I am in the second week of a high end strength block, but have been missing the increased energy that comes from doing higher rep work, so I decided to do the main heavy lifts followed by some accessory work. My workout consisted of…

  • 2 sets of 3 reps @ 140 lbs of Overhead Press. I intended to do a 3×3 this session, but felt my form breaking a little so I backed off.
  • 2 sets of 3 reps @ 230 lbs of Barbell Row. I’m trying to keep my row and bench at the same weight. I definitely could have done 3×3, but my bench felt heavy last session so I held back again.
  • Dumbbell Overhead Press. I did 3 sets of 8 reps with 40 lb dumbbells. I could have gone harder, but I knew my main heavy lifts already provided that overloading stimulus so I didn’t want to push any farther.
  • Seated Row. Seated row is one of my favorite exercises and I can really feel it in my lats. 3 sets of 8 with 130 lbs.
  • Converging Shoulder Press with 3 sets of 15 with 60 lbs. This was a “burnout” exercise, and by the last few reps of the last set I felt a nice burn in my traps.
  • Bicep Curls with 3 sets of 15 with 40 lbs. Just like the converging overhead press, I felt a nice burn at the end.

I usually don’t do quite this much volume when I am in a strength block, but I missed the volume so I just went for it. I guess my next workout will show if that will hinder my progress.

Well, that was my workout today! Until next time…

New Chandelier (and why I do little projects like this)

As I learn more and more about money, one of the essentials always comes back to the forefront. The idea of an asset as opposed to a liability. I just put up a new chandelier in my living room. Projects like these are always a mixture of excitement, disappointment, and eventually great satisfaction. As with any new project, the first time is hard. But not in an oppressive way, just in a matter-of-fact kind of way. Something you learn to absorb as part of the process.

My old chandelier (which I truly hated)…
The new chandelier…which I love!

As with most projects, this seemingly simple task had a lot of little frustrations built in. Nothing major though. And now, next time I want to change a chandelier, I will know exactly what to do and what not to do.

Whenever I spend money I ask myself if the purchase is going to provide any returns or if it will end up taking money from me in the long run. Something like putting up a new chandelier can be a little change that could increase the resale value of my home. So I go for it!

I look forward to doing a lot more little projects like this because, as I said before, the process is very satisfying.

The next time you make a purchase, ask yourself, “is this a liability or an asset?”, and in no time making intelligent purchases will come as second nature. Until next time…