Get fit for forty - Day 42 / 92

Triple scoop

It has been a few weeks since my last post so this update will be a triple scoop.  I'll admit I got distracted by Easter initially but shortly after we had a bit of a family emergency and we ended up in the hospital for two weeks.  All good now though!

You are what you eat

The last few weeks really demonstrated how much impact what you put in your mouth can have.  On this three month experiment I am not doing any crazy dieting and I am not being super careful about what I eat.  The whole point is to show that good results are possible without eating six calorie controlled macro balanced meals a day.  I still want to be able to have a scoop of gelato with the kids or a glass of wine with dinner.  But there are limits and I think I may have pushed them a little far over Easter!

Yes, I most certainly over indulged on Easter eggs over the holidays.  What started out as a few eggs after dinner turned into a bit of a splurge over way too many days.  I blame the kids!  Seriously though, that consistent increase in calories makes it incredibly difficult if you have a weight loss goal.  Throw in a few work dinners or lunches and you have a calorie wall that is going to be very difficult to break down with a sufficient volume of exercise.

The gym being closed over the public holidays certainly didn't help.  There lies the danger - when you drastically, even if only temporarily, increase your calorie intake, you only need a further imbalance in your foundation to fall off the wagon (read about the four foundations of health and fitness here).  Now I didn't put on 5kgs in a week but my progress did shift into reverse and it probably took the next two weeks to get back to my pre-Easter starting point.

It isn't all bad news

So whilst diet wise Easter was wobbly and I missed a few sessions because of public holidays, there was still good progress overall.  Many of my major lifts have improved and I am making good progress on some of my other goals (doing a headstand and a muscle up), but the area that I have been quietly and consistently working on has been my flexibility and mobility.

Most nights whilst sitting in front of the TV I'll spend time stretching and holding positions.  It has taken some time but I am finally starting to see some results.  Overall I feel better and I think I am moving better but now I can actually touch and hold my toes!  I can do this both sitting and standing.  Today for a bit of a challenge I tried doing some box jumps.  I've never done these before, but after working my way up I managed to jump 105 cms or 42 inches on my first try.  I was pretty pleased with that!

Back to regular updates from now.  I hoped you enjoyed the update.  

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Conquering the muscle up

Brick by brick

For me there are very few feats of strength more impressive than a muscle up.  For those who don't know, a muscle up is essentially a chin up and a dip added together and can be done on either a bar or rings.

What makes a muscle up so difficult is that not only do you need to be able to do a chin up but you need to be able to bring (practically) your waist to the bar to then be able to move into the dip movement.  Needless to say that foot from your chin to your waist is like Everest!

Achieving a single (yes one!) muscle up is one of my fitness goals on my 92 day get fit for forty campaign (check out day one if you want to see the start of the journey).

You have to start somewhere

That starting point for me seemed very far from my goal!  I am not great at chin ups but I can do them.  I am pretty good at dips so I thought that I would be in with a shot at doing a muscle up.  So on my first attempt, with almost no research or training, I totally failed.  Not even close!  Not to be deterred I tried about 5 more times all with pretty similar results.  Now to be fair this was after my three sets of strict chins ups, but honestly, it was clear I had a long way to go.

It was pretty clear to me that I had two problems:

  1. The raw strength to pull myself up with enough force to get my waist up to the bar
  2. The technique to actually perform the movement smoothly and efficiently 

Quality time on the google machine was required.

The strength work was relatively straightforward and I came up with a plan:

  • Continue to work on my strict chins
  • Add in a session with weighted chins for low reps to build raw strength
  • Add in more mixed suspension work (monkey bars and ladders) to build strength and endurance in my connective tissues, overall back, arm and grip
  • Add in pull ups
  • Add in muscle ups using resistance bands

I already work back Monday (chins), Wednesday (dumbbell rows) and Friday (cable rows and deadlifts).  So it was going to be difficult to add too much more to these sessions but here is how I broke it up:

  • Mixed suspension work added to Monday
  • Pull ups and Muscle ups added to my Tuesday mobility session (Handstand and box jump time!)
  • Weighted chins added to Friday

This is a lot of volume but the extra work I am just going to go by feel on the day.  This was the first week that I started incorporating this work in and I won't lie - I have been sore everyday!

Technique was an interesting one for me.  Essentially, especially in the beginning, "cheating" is a necessary evil.  Using your own body weight through a combination of swinging and kipping to help propel you up over the bar is the only way to progress.  This was a difficult one for me as I am a bit of a technique freak - largely through learning the hard way (unfortunately).  Injuries take you away from training, which ultimately leads to slower progress overall, and secondly, as you get older injuries just take much longer to heal.  So I wasn't really a fan of this until I tried it out for myself.  Now I wasn't successful (at all) and I wasn't much closer than my previous attempts, but it did show me that this was the way forward.  

The breakthrough

As I noted earlier in the post the muscle ups have been a little bit of an experimental process over the past week and a half, but early this week I had a breakthrough - I managed to do a muscle up!

Now I have to concede that I did it with the assistance of the resistance band - the blue one (which is the second strongest!), but I can't tell you the shock I got when I put some of the tips above into practice and found myself dipping off the top of the bar!  What a feeling!

That strangest thing was that in this session I tried a few more times, but I couldn't repeat the initial success.  As you can imagine this was extremely frustrating but I was pretty fatigued by this point so I decided to call it.

Yesterday during my mobility session I hit the muscle ups again with the resistance band (still the blue one).  The lessons of the previous session must have sunk in as I was back up over the bar again.  I managed to do a number of single rep sets (about four I think).  I was really surprised how much it was taking out of me, but I went for one last set and managed to string together three consecutive muscle ups to finish.  I rounded the session off with some pull ups, handstands, box jumps and laps with the sled (weighted with 65 kgs).

So I am feeling pretty good about the progress.  I am still a long way from being able to do a muscle up with no assistance but it feels totally achievable now.

I hope you enjoyed the update! 

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Get fit for forty - Day 21 / 92

Back on track

After an indifferent result last week I am back on track!  It's interesting what only a few small changes can make.  The difference between the week gone and the week previous were one extra workout session and a bit more attention to what I put in my mouth!  Food wise I didn't do anything dramatic, it was probably the difference between over doing it on just a few meals in the week.

For the first time in a while I managed to string together five sessions of training this week: my regular three weight sessions, a game of touch and a mixed gym session where I practiced hand stands, muscle ups, did sprints on the ergo (rowing machine) and laps using the weighted sled.  The hand stands are going pretty well and I am going to do some more work this week on building up to doing them without the wall - mostly on how to safely roll out.  More on this in another post I think!

Muscle ups are another story.  They are hard!  I am going to do some more mixed suspension/hanging work this week and introduce some pull up variations into my routine.  I think that one of my issues is just the raw strength required for the initial movement up.  So working on my strict chin ups with some weight is going to be required.  Spreading this extra work over a few sessions in the week is going to be necessary to cover the volume and get enough recovery time.  Technique wise I am going to try (today) using one of the heavy bands to practice the kipping motion to help get over the bar and into the dip.  I experimented with this last week and I think it could work with a stronger band.  Time will tell!  If I can make some progress I'll document some of these tips in a future post.

My mobility work is coming along.  I probably haven't been focussing on this as much as I should be but I am going to make a concerted effort this week to be more consistent with my stretching.  I think I have managed to get my fingers just past my toes - it may only be 1 cm but it is progress!

Tale of the tape

As you can see from the table it was a good week this week - over .5kgs lost!  Body fat is teasing breaking into the 15s and muscle now has a four handle!  I also grabbed the measuring tape and my waist has dropped a good inch.  Not bad for a few weeks work and definitely on track for my 92 day goals.

I hope you are enjoying my journey so far!  Posts have been a little sloppy this past week but I promise to drop a few more this week plus a little extra!

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