Welcome to Cycle V! -------------------------------------------- Last Cycle was mostly spent rehabbing my right knee and then making adjustments to the new reality of having a degenerative meniscus and the beginnings of osteoarthritis, diagnosed in my right knee with an MRI, but almost certainly at play in my left knee as well. I found out in Week Eight that I won't need surgery for the time being, so I'm free to focus on making consistent gains for the first time since Cycle II. Anaerobic My lifting goals for this cycle are very simple: 1.) I will do the six main lifts 3 x 5 every workout. 2.) I will add one pound each workout to the lower body lifts--squats and SLDLs. 3.) I will add a half pound each workout to the upper body lifts, OH Press, Bench Press, Pulldowns, and Pendlay Row. 4.) Each Monday will repeat Friday's load, except for the Squats, which will continue to add one pound each and every workout until my old PR of 275 is reached, after which it too will repeat Friday's load on the following Monday. So the basic scheme is: Monday = 3 x 5 x prior Friday's poundage Wednesday = 3 x 5 x Monday's poundage + 1 lbs / 0.5 lbs Friday = 3 x 5 x Wednesday's poundage + 1 lbs / 0.5 lbs 5.) I still have a mildly sprained left thumb that bothers me if I go beyond two reps on the Bench Press. So I will do the Bench Press at 3 x 2 until my thumb is healed. I will start at 225 lbs, then load one pound per workout, including Monday, as with the Squat, until: (a), it projects, at 95%, to a 260-pound 1RM, which is my old PR, by the end of the cycle. Hopefully my thumb will be healed by this time, and I can revert to a 3x5 protocol; (b), the higher loads begin to bother my thumb, at which point I will keep the loads constant until my thumb is healed; or (c), my thumb heals up before the end of the cycle, or before reaching a projected 260-pound 1RM, at which point I will revert to a 3 x 5 protocol. Aerobic My running days are probably over, although I may attempt a short run once in a while to see how it goes. It would be nice to maintain some plantar stimulation. Otherwise, my aerobic exercise will be some combination of cycling, rowing, and street striding. I don't have any set goals other than improving overall cardio-vascular fitness, getting my blood pressure down, and dropping some weight. ---------------Week 1: Cycle V--------------- Sunday - 08.16 PM Yardwork Monday - 08.17 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles . PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 215 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 128 SLDL: 2/3/2 x 265 BP: 2 x 227, 2 x 2 x 215 N PD: 3 x 5 x 181 P RW: 3 x 5 x 158 Squat felt a little easy last week, so I bumped it up to 215, which still felt a little easy. I guess I'm recovering my squat strength, and getting back up close to my (projected) PR of 275. Should be able to get it by the end of this cycle. I tried to think a little more about my friend's critique of my squat technique (detailed at end of last cycle's log), mostly in terms of looking up at a 45% angle, to prevent me from leaning forward as much, but also in terms of getting the bar even lower. I didn't have much time to experiment, but I think if I can scrunch up my shoulders even more, I should be able to lower the bar a bit and still have it be secure. When I tried to lower the bar with my hands in their normal spot, it didn't feel quite secure enough. Unfortunately, the bolts I use to rack the bar are already a bit in the way, so if I move my hands inward, it will have to be by several inches to clear the bolts. A good test of shoulder mobility I guess. I'll try to leave time to experiment on Wednesday. The overhead press is feeling pretty good and could probably be a little heavier, but I'm liking it somewhat easy. I'm really trying to get all six lifts to be about the same effort level, which is just moderate intensity, and let the high-frequency, full-body approach work its magic through simple consistency. My lower back was a little stiff from all the weed-wacking, hedge-trimming, pool-maintenance, and so on, I did on Sunday. The yard had become a mess because I never seemed to have the time or energy to get to it since the shingles outbreak. Over the last several days, however, my energy levels finally seem to be returning to normal, and the hacking cough is finally dissipating, I think. So it felt good to get some stuff done. But with the back stiffness, I didn't want to risk anything, so I kept the SLDL load to 265, and only did 2-3 reps each set. After the sacroiliac issue last winter, I'm super paranoid about deadlift injuries, and with the simplified 3x5 plan, I no longer feel any pressure to accomplish anything on any given workout for any particular lift. The important thing is just to get something in, and then wait to push it when everything--muscles, motivation, energy--is 100%. I probably should've just done 225-245 at five reps--would've been more productive and less risky. The Bench Press plan is to just do sets of two reps until my sprained thumb feels better, but it strained a bit with a load of 227, so I brought it down to 215, and that felt a lot better. Maybe I should bring it down even further and try to get in five reps, like everything else? The upper body pulls felt pretty good. I've begun to micro-load the pulldown now too. Tuesday - 08.18 AM Bike commuting. One mile. PM Cycling 11 miles, slight drizzle, to Marshall Bridge, over, to Franklin Bridge, then cut to UofM bus route home. My legs felt pretty good, and I was able to push the pace a bit throughout the ride. Nice. No niggles whatsoever from the knees. Wednesday - 08.19 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 220 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 128.5 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 266 BP: 5 x 195, 2 x 5 x 205 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 165 P RW: 2 x 5 x 158.5, 5 x 145 I bumped up the squat five pounds, and that felt pretty close to my limits. I could probably go 5-10 pounds heavier, but I think it will be better to build up to it in microloading increments. I experimented with hand position, and moved my hands in about 5-6 inches, to really scrunch up my traps. My hands were just inside the powerlifting knurling marks, with the pinky almost on them, like this still (also around minute 7 or so): Whereas before my hands were just outside of the marks, with the thumb almost on them. The bar did indeed feel more secure this way, although I wasn't able to lower it anymore without leaving the crease of the traps and delts. The bar felt a little bit more difficult to balance horizontally with a narrower grip, but I think it should be alright. So a good indication of improved shoulder mobility. I remember when I first got the shorty bars it was hard just to get the hands inside the sleeves. Now each hand is a good 6-7 inches inside of them. I wonder if this greater mobility has helped alleviate the shoulder issue I used to have with the bench press too. The press continues to feel pretty solid with the return to a Tall Kneeling stance, but I'm in no hurry to raise the weight. Still, getting the Squat and Press loads up continues to be my primary lifting goal. My glutes still felt a little tight on the SLDL, probably from the cycling, so I sat on a baseball for a bit to massage the piriformis and whatever else needed loosening. I brought the weight down 7-8 pounds, back down to 265, in order to make the lift a little less taxing and more in line with the effort level on the other lifts. I sometimes wonder if I should try conventional deadlifts to see how my knees handle them, but I'm still taking a no-risk approach for the time being. I'm also being super careful to maintain neutral spine. With SLDL, it seems like it's easier to round if you're not careful. Since it's hard to do max loads on the SLDL anyway, it's more of an assistance exercise, so best to keep the loads nice and doable with impeccable form. I brought the bench press up to 205, which projects to a 1RM of 241, just twenty pounds lower than my true 1RM, and my sprained left thumb seemed OK with it. I concentrated on getting the bar to sit on the outside of my palms, away from the thumb area, with meant bringing my elbows out a bit, towards more of a bodybuilding placement, but my shoulders seemed OK with it. I'll try to maintain this grip until my thumb is fully healed. I think I've irritated the old repaired tendon that controls the thumb's distal phalange, which was cut clean in half when a plate of glass fell on top of me 30 years ago. So that, together with my age, may make the sprain take a while to heal up fully. I bumped up the weight on the Close-grip Neutral Pulldowns, now that I'm doing them five reps instead of eight. That felt awesome. The P Rows also felt great but I couldn't get the last rep of the second set all the way up without cheating, so I reduced the weight on the last set in order to maintain good form. I don't know if it's because I've become more meticulous about form and breathing, but this workout really knocked me out. Really at the limits of my work capacity. I also took longer-than-normal breaks, so that I could really focus on perfect form, and perhaps this also made the lifts more difficult, as the only the targeted muscles were worked. Maybe it's the fact that the squat and bench are back close to full force. I dunno, but this program (3 x 5 x 6 lifts) is really working for me. Thursday - 08.20 AM/PM Two miles bike commute. I dunno why, but I blew off my bike ride. The weather was perfect, and my legs felt good. Friday - 08.21 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 221 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 129 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 266 BP: 5 x 195, 2 x 5 x 193.5 N PD: 3 x 5 x 181 P RW: 5 x 159, 2 x 5 x 145 I decided that, at least while I'm waiting for my left thumb to fully heal, I mis' well go back to the Iron Ratios idea of having the Bench Press equal one and a half times my Overhead Press, so I brought it down to 193.5. Besides, it's nice having one easier lift. The first three in particular really kick my butt. I also had to bring the P Row down, as my upper back was too taxed by the end of the workout to do more than one set with good form. I think next week I'll make it 149, and the Pulldowns 179, so that the Press, Row, and Pulldown all use the same set of micro plates. I'm liking the Easy Strength/Wendler idea of not being afraid to make things easier if need be. Instead of viewing the workout as a series of six lifts, I'm trying more to see it as a complete workout, and finding loads that make the whole workout flow and doable. Although, of course, I still give priority to the first three lifts--Squat, Press, Deadlift. The Bench, Pulldown, and Row are somewhat secondary for me. I'm also toying with the idea of adding one set apiece to the Squat and Overhead Press, to increase their volume and make them the primary drivers of progress, as I did in Cycle II. But for the moment, I really like the simplicity of doing everything 3 x 5. Still, based on current projections and rates of increase, I'll break my Squat and Press PRs towards the end of this cycle, whereas I won't reach new PRs on the Bench Press and Deadlift until the beginning of next year (the lifts are in the order of Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Pulldown, Row): Saturday - 08.22 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Late AM-Noon 25.5 miles bike ride, quite windy and cloudy, Minnehaha Creek to Bryant Ave to Midtown Greenway to UofM Bus route. I got lost and added some miles, then didn't realize the bike path around Lake Harriet is a one-way, so I aborted and just rode up Bryant Ave, which is bike-friendly, then got on the Greenway, which is a beautiful rail-to-trail path set below street-level cutting East-West right through Minneapolis. My knees held up well, although I had to put the saddle a little higher when my knee caps started to feel sore towards the end. Lots of traveling flashbacks, and a feeling of bliss to cover so much distance so easily. The section along Minnehaha Creek was particularly nice. I tried out my Nashbar Sandals for the first time, and they seemed good, but I don't know why they had to make the soles so thick. Still, felt good to have the air flow over my feet. So, I'm back on the aerobic train. Feels great! I think I'll try to do one hour twice during the week and two to three hours on the weekend. This is the first time I've gone for more than 30-40 aerobic minutes, besides some longer walks, for almost two years, since the end of November 2013. Such a different high from lifting. And I just love how easy cycling is compared to running. It took me a year to build up to a two-hour run. After just a few weeks, I can cycle two hours quite easily. Plus, there's no weight/conditioning Catch 22 with cycling. You can still get in some quality work while overweight. Hopefully the pounds will start to melt off now. I guess I'm shooting for 215 as the immediate goal. That's about 30 pounds to lose. If I hadn't blown off Thursday's ride, I'd be 6 for 6 on the weekly workouts, the first time that's happened in a long time. Next week. One thing: my Garmin Forerunner 205's battery seems to have developed a memory after sitting in disuse for almost two years. After two hours it indicated that the battery was low, even though I had charged it right before the ride. The battery held for the last 3-4 miles however. It's nice to have a GPS device for new routes. I wonder if it's worth investing in the Garmin Edge 200. ---------------Week 2: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: I'm getting bolder with the "easy strength" approach. I've taken the SLDL and Rows down a bit, and the Bench way down, but that's mostly due to my sore thumb. I want the workouts to be mentally easy, to approach the bar with a workaday attitude, knowing everything is doable at a moderate intensity level. Then just let sheer consistency perform its magic on the high frequency, full-body workouts. Sunday - 08.23 AM/Noon. Bike commuting. Two miles. Put on my Merrell Bare Access shoes again. I liked the thinner soles a lot compared to the thick soles of the Nashbar sandals. The latter might be my first miss as I update my cycling gear. PM More yardwork, finishing the yard restoration after three months of blowing things off due to shingles, meniscus tissue issues, a prolonged hacking cough and general fatigue. Feels good to be back in the game, and feels even better to be done with the accumulated tasks. I have to admit though, I do like weed-wacking the overgrown underbrush. Monday - 08.24 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 222 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 129 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 125 BP: 5 x 175 Physically, I felt fine, although my right hammie and lower back were still a little tight from the cycling and yardwork over the weekend. I really need to re-establish my stretching/massaging routine. Mentally, I just wasn't into it. My mind was already on the next day's bike ride and all the gear updates I've been going through. So I just made sure to get in my two 'essential' lifts, the Squat and the Press. I did light SLDLs just to prime the sore hamstring and lower back for Wednesday's workout. Maybe with the 3x5 plan there will always be about one workout per week where I want to go easy, I dunno, but it's probably just a transitional problem as I re-establish the aerobic portion of my routine. In any case, squats and press both felt good, even though I wasn't into it. After the workout I went to REI and got a bike gps, the Garmin Edge 200. The battery on my old Garmin Forerunner 205 only seems to last two hours or so. I also got turn signals for my bike, and a handle bar mirror. My new split-crotch saddle should be showing up at my LBS later this week, and I'm getting some higher quality bike shorts too. Tuesday - 08.25 AM Bike commuting. One mile. PM Cycling 7.95 miles. Office to home to bike shop to pick up new saddle, to son's day care, to daughter's school, and home again. New saddle felt worse with just normal shorts on, but there was less pressure on the privates with the split-crotch design. Wednesday - 08.26 AM Bike commuting. One mile. New saddle felt pretty good with bike shorts on. I think I need to tilt it a little forward though. 1.6 miles bringing shoes to daughter's school. PM Bike commuting. One mile. Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 223 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 129.5 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 246 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 164 P RW: 5 x 159, 2 x 5 x 146 Squat and Overhead Press continue to feel easier, but instead of bumping up the weight, I might try adding an extra set. I'm liking the idea of lighter weights and more volume, then building up from there. I've had this idea for a cycle or two, ever since reading Nuckols' advocacy of more of a volume approach, or building greater work capacity. Or maybe I first got the idea from Powerlifting to Win. In any case, that might be this cycle's experiment, in addition to reducing all sets to five reps, no more or less. I tried conventional deadlifts, but they almost felt weird, so I went back to SLDLs. I had reduced the load, to 1.1 times my squat load, and that felt good. Less taxing, and I was able to do them touch-n-go instead of longer pauses to reset. So more of an assistance approach. In fact, all my lifts following the squat and overhead press are sort of becoming assistance. Just a week ago I was adamant about making all the lifts about equal intensity, but I find myself naturally gravitating towards making the first two lifts harder, and the following lifts easier. It's just really hard to give each lift its due, day in and day out. I also reduced the P Row weight, so that I could do them with good form, no matter how tired or demotivated I am at the end of the workout. Thursday - 08.27 AM Bike commuting. One mile. PM Cycling 7.5 miles. Office to home to son's day care to daughter's school, and home again. I had a nice 15-mile ride planned out, but then I got obsessed with something at the end of the workday, and the day prior my son expressed disappointment when I picked him up by car, instead of by bicycle as I had on Tuesday, so I just did that again. The new saddle felt pretty good, but I will still experiment a bit with the angle. We passed by the State Fair on the way to my daughter's school. All my son talks about is the boat ride there. I ordered a "Trail-Gator" (http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0016QT0OE?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00) so that I can park my daughter's bike down by her school before getting my son. Then when I return to pick her up, she can ride home on her bike while my son remains in the child seat on my back rack. Friday - 08.28 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Two miles. PM One mile. Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 225 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 130 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 247 S PD: 3 x 5 x 180 P RW: 3 x 5 x 150 CG BP: 3 x 3 x 195 Everything felt pretty solid and I was able to reduce the rest intervals a bit. I was rushed for time, but seems like a good thing to do most days, if possible. I was going to blow off the Bench Press, but I finished more quickly than anticipated, so I gave them a try. I felt a little strain in my sore left thumb on the first set, so I stopped it at three reps then brought my hands in for the second set, about halfway between the powerlifting knurl marks and the unknurled center. I reasoned that the more I could angle my hands inward, the more the weight would load on the outside of my palms. The second set felt better, so I brought my hands in even more for the third set, with my thumbs right at the unknurled center. That felt great. So I guess I'll be doing Close-grip Bench Press for a while. I'm surprised I haven't thought of this before. It really takes all the pressure off the thumb area. And now the reduced bench press loads, pegged to the overhead press loads at 3:2, don't feel so ridiculously easy either, since the Close-grip Bench Press is supposed to be 90% of the conventional Bench Press anyway (https://www.t-nation.com/training/know-your-ratios-destroy-weaknesses). Funny, now the Bench Press to OH Press relationship parallels the relationship of the SLDL to the Squat more, as the former become more like assistance lifts. Saturday - 08.29 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Mid-AM Cycling 25.9 miles, beautiful, somewhat overcast weather turning to sunny. A huge loop from my office to River to Midtown Greenway to Cedar Lake Trail, turnaround at 169, to downtown Mpls to U of M bus route home. Wow, I love these rails to trails. I was able to ride on a dedicated bike path almost the whole way, across Minneapolis and through one first-tier suburb to the border of another, and back again, just stopping once in a while for cross traffic. Knees held up well and I didn't begin to feel tired until around 22 miles. I was even able to keep pace with a bunch of racers for a while. It's always fun to frustrate them with a clunky mountain bike with hideous reflective tape stripes all over it. I tried out my new minimalist padding Louis Garneau shorts and they worked fine, and my new split-crotch Romin Expert Gel saddle looks like a keeper. Almost no pressure on the privates. Next time out though, I'll try angling the saddle a bit. I'll also try the Pearl Izumi shorts with greater padding to see how they compare to the newer Garneaus on the new saddle. I also enjoyed my new Garmin Edge 200, especially the altitude reading, which showed me gaining elevation almost the whole way, despite going in a loop. Interesting. Afterwards I took the kids to the State Fair while my wife worked. I did the whole thing barefoot except the two bathrooms stops, spilled food and all. Felt good, but afterwards my right knee swelled up a bit and the next day (Sunday morning) it's a bit stiff. Crap. I think it's from the slow shuffling pushing our tandem stroller over four hours' time, but it's hard to be sure it wasn't the cycling too. Have to monitor it this week, but it would be hard to deal with a set-back at this point when everything is going so well again and I feel like I'm starting to harvest the seeds of consistency once more. ---------------Week 3: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: Sunday - 08.30 Monday - 08.31 PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 226 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 130 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 249 N PD: 3 x 5 x 180 CG BP: 3/4/5 x 195 P RW: 3 x 5 x 150 Great workout. Everything felt solid, not too easy, not too hard. I was a little worried at the outset, because my right knee was still a little stiff and swollen from Saturday's outing, but it wasn't painful and it seemed fine on the Squats and Deadlifts. On the Deadlifts, I tried lifting slightly bow-legged to relieve any pressure on the medial meniscus, and this seemed to help. The Close-grip Bench Press still feels a little awkward at first, balance-wise but I'm starting to trust it more and more, and I don't feel any strain at all in my left thumb. In some ways, this is a more natural bench press, since any athletic push movement would have the hands placed at about shoulder-width. In fact, now five of my lifts have the same hand placement at about 17-19 inches wide (between thumbs). I may just keep doing bench presses this way even after my left thumb has healed, and just test 1RMs with a wider grip once in a while, same as I might test conventional deadlift singles once in a while, just to see where I'm at on the powerlifting meter. In some ways, subbing the SLDL and CG BP for conventional Deadlifts and Bench Press moves my routine into more of a pure strength routine, and less of a powerlifting, maximize-the-load approach. I also experimented with the order a bit, moving the Bench Press to after the Pulldowns instead of before. This gives my upper back a little time to recover after the Pulldowns before I hit the P Rows, so I can give the latter a better effort. Now all the lifts are ordered more or less according to importance, Starting with a low and a high push, then a low and a high pull, then middle push and pull. Anyway, really loving the ultra simple programming these days. Tuesday - 09.01 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling 10.5 miles, Franklin to Stone Arch Bridge to UM bus route. I tried a shorter, cautious distance to test out my somewhat swollen right knee. It held up fine, in fact, the ride felt somewhat therapeutic, which lends support to the idea that the swelling is more due to being on my feet all afternoon at the State Fair last Saturday than the nearly 26-mile bike ride earlier that morning. This would be a better route except they're still repairing the mudslide that happened early summer 2014, which covered part of the River Road, so you have to leave the river and use a bike lane on a busy road up above to avoid that section. Once it's fixed, this part of the river bike path system north of Franklin will be a regular route staple. The part of the river that serves as a border for Minneapolis and St. Paul has lots of bluffs. Further south, you're mostly up on the bluff, but on this part, you get to come down to close to the river's banks. Ordered the Ergon PC2 barefoot pedals. I'm getting the urge to try barefoot cycling. Tried the Sugoi cycling shorts but it felt like I had taken a crap in my pants. Way too much padding. So I guess there's no use running from it: I'm a minimalist in almost every facet of fitness. Wednesday - 09.02 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 227 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 130.5 SLDL: 5 x 175, 1 x 215 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 165 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 196 P RW: 3 x 5 x 150.5 My right butt cheek felt a little niggle right where I had the sacro-illiac issue last winter, so bailed on the SLDLs at 215. Besides, my right medial meniscus was a little painful on the SLDLs too, and the right knee in general is still a bit swollen and stiff. I think the hierarchy of exercises that irritate my knee, from most to least, is running>walking>deadlifts>cycling>squats>rowing>swimming. I've given up running and don't like walking for exercise unless it's hiking in the woods, so the next thing to give up would be deadlifts if I can't manage this swelling. It would be terrible if I had to move further left into cycling or squats. Otherwise, good workout. Didn't really feel like it at the start, but I felt great by the end. Really felt it in my upper back, and it's great to be benching in earnest these days. It was tempting to do a little pump work at the end with some assistance exercises, but nah, I hit the shower. Thursday - 09.03 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling 13.21 miles, office to Ford Parkway bridge to Franklin bridge, up East River Road to UofM bus/bike route home. Got in a little more hill work at the end. Knees felt fine until a few hours afterwards, when the right knee stiffened up a bit. No pain though, so I'll keep doing this to see if the knee adapts eventually. Tried angling the saddle down, felt even better, no pressure whatsoever on the privates, but I did slip forward once in a while. So I'll try a compromise next outing, between this angle and completely flat. Friday - 09.04 Late AM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 228 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 131 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 251 S PD: 3 x 5 x 181 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 196.5 P RW: 3 x 5 x 151 Really didn't feel like it, and didn't even feel that good after I had finished, but I'm glad I got the workout in. Pretty solid. On the Squats, I think I might start adding two pounds a week instead of three. They still feel very doable, but it might be a good idea to slow down the microloading a bit just to make sure I'm not overdoing it, and stick to the "Easy Strength" approach. It just means I'll get to my old PR a week or so later, but still within this cycle. The Press felt very solid. It's getting easier, which is a good thing. I'll stick with the pound-per-week loading for a while yet. On the Deadlifts, I found myself going conventional. I looked down and saw how much my knees were bent, then I checked my back, and realized it was in a conventional deadlift position. So I went with it. I don't know if I was instinctively protecting my knee or my lower back or my hammies, but everything felt fine while doing the deadlift sets, so perhaps I'll go back to conventional, at least for a while? It would be nice if I could chase PRs again, especially with me closing in on my old Squat and Press PRs this cycle. I may begin bringing up the Deadlift to Squat ratio then, from 1.1 times the Squat, to 1.25 times the Squat, or the 5:4 Iron Ratio. If I add .01 percent per week, then it will take 15 weeks to restore that ratio. On the Close-grip Bench Press, I took my hands out an inch on either side, to about 19 inches width. This seemed to help the stability without irritating my thumb. So I don't know if this is really a close-grip bench press. Maybe it's just closer-gripped version of a medium-grip bench press. Cycling. 1.55 miles with my bored daughter looking for a playmate. The Ergon pedals came. Look promising. Saturday - 09.05 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 11.04 miles, Office to Ford Parkway Bridge to Franklin to UofM bus route home. The new Ergon PC-2 pedals were very comfortable. It felt great to be barefoot and feel the breeze cool my feet. I really hate having hot feet, which is the main reason I've been a casual barefooter most of my adult life. Got some looks at my feet. I kinda missed that. PM My four-and-a-half-year-old son and I rode our bikes barefoot for almost a mile in the afternoon. He still has a little trouble steering, but otherwise, he's good-to-go without training wheels. Then his sister, almost four years older, asked to have her training wheels removed. So hopefully today we can get her going. She can already ride, she just needs that initial confidence. And so the romance of cycling is reborn, while the running dies a quiet death. ---------------Week 4: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: I've started making the Monday squat load the same as the prior Friday's, just like the other lifts, so from now on, the squat load will be increasing at two pounds per week instead of three. I've also begun increasing the deadlift to squat ratio, .01 every week, from 1.1 to 1.11 this week. Eventually, a little before the year is over, it will be 1.25, or 5:4 deadlift to squat, if my knees can take it. The Bench Press to Overhead Press ratio remains steady at 3:2, with the OHP adding one pound per week. The upper body pulls will also begin adding one pound per week, but aren't pegged to any specific ratios. Sunday - 09.06 PM A few miles riding around barefoot with my son. The kid can even go up hills now. Monday - 09.07 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Late AM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 228 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 131 DL: 3 x 5 x 251 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 196.5 N PD: 3 x 5 x 181 P RW: 3 x 5 x 151 Solid workout, some lifts are starting to feel easier, so perhaps the strength gains are beginning to outpace the microloading, which is a good thing, I think. I found myself doing Stiff-legged Deadlifts during one of the warm-up sets. But then did conventional deadlifts the rest of the sets. Hmnn, maybe I'll just switch back and forth as the mood hits me? I moved my hands out an inch on either side on the presses, to the same spot I grip on the Close-grip Bench Press. I think this may have felt better, and perhaps affords slightly better leverages. PM Lots of barefoot walking at the State Fair, pushing a tandem stroller. The right knee swelled up a bit, but no pain. Tuesday - 09.08 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Right knee is quite stiff from State Fair shuffling. Might have to bail on the ride later . . . Wednesday - 09.09 PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 229 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 131.5 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 254 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 166 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 197.5 P RW: 3 x 5 x 151.5 My right knee was still a little stiff and sore from Monday's State Fair shuffle, but felt a lot better than on Tuesday. I thought about just doing upper body stuff, but gave the squat a try and the knee loosened up after a few warm-up sets, and the worksets felt fine, although I don't know if I always achieved sufficient depth. I'm thinking I may have to do four squat sets, and just do three reps on the first set, as it still feels like I'm warming up on the first workset sometimes. I found myself doing the Stiff-legged Deadlift instead of Conventional. I'm back to thinking that the Conventional Deadlift places more stress on the knee. So I dunno. Maybe I'll just keep switching between the two randomly, based on feel. Or maybe I'll schedule in Conventional Deadlifts for one day a week. My belt felt a little loose so I brought it in a notch. The belly appears to be reducing, but I haven't seen any weight loss on the scale, so the weight is being redistributed, hopefully from fat to muscle . . . Thursday - 09.10 AM Bike Commuting One mile. Cycling 11.1 miles, Office to Ford Parkway Bridge to Franklin Bridge to UofM bus route home. Knee felt fine during the ride, but stiffened up a bit afterwards. Nonetheless, I feel like I managed the state fair flare-up pretty well, which gives me more confidence going forward. I think I can learn to manage this thing and still get in a fair amount of aerobic and anaerobic activity. Hopefully it feels good enough on Saturday for a two-hour ride. I really like those little adventures, and I have a couple of nice ones mapped out in St. Paul. Friday - 09.11 AM/PM Bike Commuting Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 3/5/5/2 x 230 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 132 SLDL: 5 x 215/253 CG BP: 5 x 198 S PD: 4/4/4 x 182 Crappy workout. Felt fine, well-fueled and rested, but for some reason I lost motivation after the Presses, and my lower back felt a little funny, so I didn't push the Deadlifts and blew off the Rows. Still, glad I got something in. But maybe it's time to think about programming in one easier day per week? I'll see how the next week or two go, see if I'm reaching a saturation point. I tried to implement my idea of doing squats 3/5/5/5, but on the last set I completely lost concentration and just did two reps. I'll try it again next week and see how it goes. One tweak I discovered is to keep the bar a little closer to my face, almost hitting it, on the ascent of the overhead press. I think this reduced the moment arm, and seemed to give me slightly better leverage. Belt felt a little tight. I guess my wife was right, but I'll try it again on Monday before I revert to the old notch position. Saturday - 09.12 PM Maybe a few miles biking around with my son. Right knee felt a little sore from cleaning and organizing earlier in the day. ---------------Week 5: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: I'll try to implement the 3/5/5/5 scheme for Squats, and do SLDLs on Monday and Friday, but conventional DLs on Wednesdays. The SLDL will continue to be pegged to the Squat at an 1.1:1 ratio, but the conventional Deadlift will increase its percentage of the Squat by .01 percent each week, until it's 1.25 times the Squat by middle of December. This week it's 1.12:1. Otherwise, everything stays the same with only the microloads increasing little by little. Sunday - 09.13 AM Bike commuting One mile. Cycling 13.19 miles, office to Ford Parkway bridge to Franklin bridge, up East River Road to UofM bus/bike route home. Knees felt a little stiff afterwards, but overall, they're feeling better every day. The feel almost normal now, so I think I've successfully managed the state fair flare-up. If this keeps up, I'll probably go for a longer ride this Saturday. Monday - 09.14 AM Bike commuting Two miles. Noon Lifting SQ: 3/5/5/5 x 230 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 132 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 253 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 198 N PD: 3 x 5 x 182 P RW: 3 x 5 x 152 Great workout, every thing felt solid and I ended with a good pump. Felt especially strong on the pulldowns for some reason. Belt didn't feel too tight again. I'm allowing my knees to go a bit wider on the squats and this seems to help them. Actually, my right knee is feeling close to normal for the first time in over three months. Every day it's a little bit better. I'm also doing some of the squat sets a little more explosively as I gain more confidence in the knee. Later I walked to pick up my daughter with my son riding his bike. Less than a mile, but my knee felt ok with it, so wondering if I'll be able to run on it a bit at some point. Maybe just a mile down on the junior high school's sandy gravel track for some plantar stimulation. Tuesday - 09.15 AM Bike commuting One mile. PM Cycling. 22.38 miles, Office to Summit to Shepard Road to Crosby Lake Regional Trail to W River Road to UofM bus route home. It was a beautiful summer day, so I thought I should take advantage of it and go for a two-hour ride instead of one. Plus my knee had been feeling pretty good so I wanted to test its recovery ability after a longer ride, to see if it still stiffened up like it had been in August. After getting down to the river, I rode up Summit Avenue, a big boulevard with regal houses on it, connecting the river to the capital four miles away. It had bike lanes but I still felt a little unsafe off my usual bike paths. After the long ascent, I then descended to riverside, and followed the Mississippi upriver along Shepard Road and then the Crosby Lake regional trail. This trail takes you into a wooded flood plain for many miles. The asphalt trail is pretty worn in some spots. I remember running on it two years ago and it was a challenge. Then I ascended up to the river road again, now up on a bluff, at the Hidden Falls Park entrance/exit. The road up is quite steep here, and for some reason I couldn't shift down into my granny gear until I had stopped. I could've powered up in my middle gear, but I didn't want to put that much pressure on my knee(s), so I walked the last 200 feet or so. Once I re-emerged on the river road, I followed my customary route of crossing over to the West Bank at Ford Parkway Bridge, and then back again on Franklin Bridge to connect with the UofM bus route on home. This is a pretty good route, and should become a standard two-hour option. Afterwards my knees felt pretty good, no post-ride soreness, so that was a further confidence-builder. Now I'm really entertaining the possibility of running once in a while, but I'm going to wait until my right knee feels completely normal. In the evening I rode another two and a half miles or so with my kids down at the park. Sure enough, my daughter proved to me that she could ride without training wheels, and she rode well. I guess it took her younger brother showing her up for her to motivate. So having to switch from running to cycling has brought the unexpected windfall of allowing my to recreate more with my kids. It probably would've been several more years before we could run together, but we can cycle together right now. Wednesday - 09.16 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 231 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 132.5 DL: 3 x 5 x 259 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 199 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 167 P RW: 3 x 5 x 152.5 Good workout. My right knee felt a little sore after my second set of Conventional or Olympic Deadlifts, but it didn't last. I took off the belt for my third set of deadlifts, and I felt like some of my stabilizer muscles had atrophied, so I dunno, maybe I'll stop using a belt on deadlifts at least. The belt also gets a pinched a bit in the initial position of the Olympic Deadlift. Thursday - 09.17 AM Bike commuting. One mile. PM Cycling. 11.13 miles, Office to Ford Parkway Bridge to Franklin Bridge to UofM bus route home. It will be nice when they finish repairing the mud slide damage so that I can extend this route a little further up the West Bank. Then it will be a very good weekday, one-hour ride. Steady rain for the first 30-40 minutes then it cleared up for the home stretch. It felt good to cycle in the rain and I didn't have any trouble maintaining traction between my feet and the Ergon PC-2 pedals. So much better to be barefoot in the rain than in soggy shoes. My knee had stiffened up a bit during the day, without pain, apparently from the Olympic Deadlifts the day prior, so I may have to rule out Olympic Deadlifts afterall. I'll give them a another try next Wednesday, after my right knee has had a whole week to continue getting better while doing the activities that seem to have proven kosher, and if it acts up again then, I'll know that my threshold is between Deadlifts and Cycling on the degenerative meniscus tissue issue cline of inflammation: Running>Walking>Standing>Deadlifts>Cycling>Squats>Rowing>Swimming. Friday - 09.18 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Thinking a little bit about taking the Iron Ratio seriously again. I've already pegged the Bench Press to the OH Press at a 3:2 ratio. I think I might try to accelerate the rate of increase for the Squat so that it can align more quickly with the Press at its prescribed 2:1 ratio. I may go back to adding a pound to the squat's five-rep load each workout. Meanwhile, I may reduce the Press's rate of increase to a half pound per week. This would make the Iron Ratio achievable by the end of the year, provided I could maintain the Squat pace of increase. Don't know what to do about Deadlifts though. If my knees can take them, they will fall into the Iron Ratio at the same time as the Squats do, provided I can slowly bring them in line with Squats at a 5:4 ratio in the meantime. If the knees can't take it, I will have to be content with SLDLs, and an truncated Iron Ratio of 2:3:4, without the 5. In any case, the move would be towards an even more Squat-centric approach, probably with four sets to start each workout, and effectively rendering the other five lifts secondary or assistance. In essence, I'm placing my faith in Rippetoe and others' conclusion that bringing the squat up will bring up the other lifts more than vice versa. The carryover is asymmetrical, in other words, and should be reflected in my programming. Once the Iron Ratio is achieved, however, I would then peg everything to the OH Press, and work to bring that up at a greater rate of increase, if possible. The goal would be to achieve 1RMs of 200, 300, and 400 for the Press, Bench, and Squat, respectively, sometime next year. Noon 1.32 miles, dropping some forms off at my daughter's school on the way home. PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 234 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 132.5 DL: 3 x 5 x 257 S PD: 3 x 5 x 183 MG BP: 3 x 5 x 199 P RW: 3 x 5 x 153 Well, I went ahead an increased the Squat by three pounds to bring it up to a projected 1RM of 275, my old PR. I didn't bother to test the single, but I feel pretty confident I could do it, maybe even 300 if my life depended on it, because the five-rep sets were hard but very doable. From now on, I'll increase the 5RM Squat load by one pound per workout until I can no long maintain the pace. It would be great if I could keep it up through the rest of the year, then my 5RM will be 280 by the end of the year, and the Press 140, or exactly half, which is the prescribed Iron Ratio. My knees felt fine for the SLDL, but I'll still give the Olympic Deadlift one or two more chances before I bail on them. I'm pretty sure they irritated my right knee after Wednesday's workout though. Mentally, the workout flowed well thinking that the Squat sets were the priority, and everything else was frosting on the cake. With a slower rate of increase for the Presses, I'll be able to focus a little more on the upper body pulls and all of the non-Squat lifts should feel easier over time. I don't know how long I'll stick with this, but for now, I like having one lift be the focus. Really hit the Squats hard and then coast a bit through the rest of the workout. It's just hard to give every lift equal attention and effort, although once I hit the Iron Ratio, that's what I'll probably go back to. Still not sure if I will do the Squats three or four sets though. I think four would be ideal if I can muster the mental energy and maintain focus. Since the SLDLs are pegged to the Squat load, they will be going up at a pretty good clip too. And I'll continue increasing the upper body pulls one pound a week for as long as I'm able. Meanwhile, the Press will only increase at a half pound a week, with the Bench tied to that at a 3:2 ratio, so by the end of the year I should have more structural balance, with a much stronger back. Saturday - 09.19 AM Bike Commuting Three miles, forgot my phone at home. Cycling 24.25 miles. I rode the beautiful trail following Minnehaha Creek again, from Minnehaha Falls Park by the river west to the Minneapolis lake chain, then north along the lakes--Harriet, Calhoun, Lake of the Isles--then connected to the Cedar Trail to downtown Minneapolis, across the river on the Stone Arch Bridge, and then home along the UofM bus route. There was a Gophers game going on so lots of college kids getting drunk as I passed behind the Stadium. There was a possible 8-mile extension going further north past the lake chain, still on dedicated bike paths, but I decided to play it safe and keep the ride to around two hours. Cycling is interesting in that you pass through smaller fitness worlds of walkers and runners while making your larger circuit. The trick is to string these worlds together in the most bike-friendly fashion. Luckily, city planners have already done a lot of the work for me. Just wish they mark some of the trails a little better. Once again, I made a wrong turn and had to double back a quarter mile at one point. Later my knee felt fine, just slightly stiffer, so that was a confidence-builder. And when I first got home I didn't feel tired at all, but my upper back muscles, shoulder and triceps still get fatigued from longer rides. Hard to believe I used to do this eight hours a day when I was traveling. This week, because I rode last Sunday instead of last Saturday, I logged 86 miles, which is still less than my average daily total when I was traveling. Still, felt like an accomplishment. I got my first barefoot cycling comments, nothing unusual though. First was "aren't your feet cold?" as I waited for a light as the Minnehaha Creek trail crossed a street, then "nice shoes," as a dozen middle-aged guys in full racing gear passed me on the Cedar Trail. I then followed the group at their pace for a mile or two, just for fun, before I dropped back to my pace. As I gain confidence in my knee, and it continues to get better, almost normal now, I might start pushing the pace on some of the shorter rides, or for some sections, just to build up stamina. Still on the fence about whether I like the less padded tri shorts, or the regular cycling shorts. I like the tri shorts because they have less padding and thus put almost no pressure on the sensitive areas, but it would be nice if they had a little more padding for the 'sit bones.' With the cycling shorts, the padding for the sit bones is perfect, but the extra padding under the sensitive areas does put a little pressure there. Ideally, I could buy shorts that mix the two styles of padding, but I may try simply removing the padding under the sensitive areas in my cycling shorts. So anyway, it feels great that I'm learning how to manage this knee issue. I just have to figure out the deadlifts and whether or not I can do Olympic Deadlifts once in a while, and then I think I'll be all set. I may try running a bit, but at this point, I don't want to mess with success. I know that running will aggravate the knees more, and I don't know if I see anything to be gained from running sporadically. Maybe I could do sprints or hills though. Later I changed tires on my son's bike. I bought a repair rack that I can attach to my power rack so I can work on bicycles in my garage gym. It was hard to get the small 12.5 inche tire off and on the rim. ---------------Week 6: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: I'm going to go ahead with the Squatcentration. Squats will go up a pound per workout for as long as I'm able. The Presses will only go up a half pound per week until the Squat catches up to the Press at a 2:1 ratio. The Bench Press continues to tied to the Press at a 3:2 ratio. The upper body pulls will continue to go up a pound a week, and slightly more emphasis will be given to getting my pulldown closer to my body weight so that I can finally do proper pullups. The SLDL continues to be tied to the Squat load a 1.1:1, and I will attempt to do the Olympic Deadlift on Wednesday once again and see if it aggravates my right knee, which is feeling 95% these days. If my knees can tolerate Olympic Deadlifts, then I will continue to increase the ratio of Oly DLs to Squat until it's 5:4 by the end of the year. If it aggravates my knee or if the knee feels stiffer than usual after the workout, I will abandon Oly DLs and stick with SLDLs, still pegged to the Squat increases. It's still tempting to add assistance, or some variation, especially to the Presses, now that they will be progressing at an artificially slow rate. It might be nice, for example, to sub in dumbbell presses on Wednesday. But I think I will finish out this Cycle with the simple 3 x 5 x 6 lift protocol before I make any changes. I'm beginning to realize that for me, there may be no set program, even for an eight-week cycle. It seems like it's more a process of continuous tweaks based on daily or weekly feedback and/or learning new concepts. But reading about proper programming has served as a valuable guide in making my more subjective tweaks. On Friday's workout, I did two warm-up reps at 215, instead of doing my last warm-up reps at 175 as I usually do. This helped me get in five reps on the first workset at 234. So the problem was not doing warm-up reps close enough to the target load. Hopefully, now it will be easier to hit five reps on the first workset every time. Maybe the idea is to do the last warm-up reps at about 90% of the workset load. I've never been systematic about warm-up reps though. I usually just do a few reps at each major plate increment going up. Sunday - 09.20 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Monday - 09.21 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. PM SQ: 4 x 5 x 235 N PD: 4 x 5 x 183 DL: 3 x 5 x 259 P RW: 5 x 153 Felt like crap and only had 40 minutes, so I dropped the Presses. Felt pretty good afterwards, though, as usual. It's not very satisfying, but I broke through a new (projected) 1RM PR on the Squat--276. It was tempting to test my real 1RM, but I think I'll wait until the end of the cycle. Nonetheless, I put in the safety bolts because I was feeling pretty fatigued by the fourth or fifth rep of each set. Felt like it was possible for my energy to fail me. Indeed, the sets felt pretty hard, really took a fair amount of concentration, so I'm leaving the 'easy strength' approach behind temporarily. I seriously doubt I'll be able to add one pound to each workout for the rest of the year, but I'll give it a go. I think I decided to also boost the Pulldowns from three to four sets, and try to get to bodyweight pullups by the end of the year. A lot of that goal will depend on my ability to lose some weight. The SLDLs felt pretty good, but by the time I got to my Rows, I felt a little nauseous, so I quit after one set. So it's kind of like the Squat, Pulldown, and SLDL are my three main lifts now, and Presses and Rows are assistance, until I reach the Iron Ratio. I did miss the presses after the workout though, felt like something was missing in my post-workout recovery. Funny, the tendons in the top of my right foot felt a little sore while I was squatting. I've never felt stress there before. I guess squats work the lower leg pretty well too, just never noticed it before. Tuesday - 09.22 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 16.43 miles. Office to River to Highway 5 Bridge, Fort Snelling trail to Minnehaha Falls to Franklin Bridge to UofM bus route home. Tried listening to music with my phone, but had to stop several times to mess with it. I wonder if I should get a handbar mount. Knees continue to tolerate cycling better and better. Barefoot cycling feels very natural now. Cycling shorts with more padding seem to be winning out over Tri shorts with less padding. Wednesday - 09.23 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. PM SQ: 3 x 5 x 236 Spent too much time mounting a Loud Bicycle horn on my bike (http://www.loudbicycle.com). It has anti-theft bolts that, together with the tight space, made it take way too long to affix to the frame. But the thing really works; it's really loud. Next time someone cuts me off . . . I also mounted a bluetooth speaker (http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B008VMT2HQ?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00) on my handlebar bag. Wow, really great sound from such a small box. Plus it's supposed to be weather proof. I'll find out for sure today because I'm going to pedal 17-18 miles in drizzle to a bike shop that has straightened out the bent crank gear of the knock-off Street Strider. The Chinese company I bought it from has completely blown me off about replacing the damaged gear, but after hunting around a bit, I found a place that could straighten it. Anyway, with the monkeying around, I didn't have much time for my workout, so I just got in the squats, and only three sets. Still, felt pretty solid, and lighter than on Monday, which is a good sign. It sucks to miss another full workout while I'm on this good roll. Hopefully I can blast it on Friday. I got an immediate pump as soon as my warm-up sets had decent resistance. Seems like my body is primed for some sweet gainz, as the kids say nowadays. Thursday - 09.24 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 19 miles to the Bike King in Inner Groove Heights, then 16.4 miles home. So a little more than 35 miles total. On Tuesday I found someone in Inner Groove Heights who services Street Striders, on recommendation from Erik's Bike, the LBS I usually go to in Roseville, the first-tier suburb north of my neighborhood. On Wednesday I drove there to drop off the bent crank sprocket. The owner, Kip, called later and said the replacement would be $40 but that he could bend it back to true. Hmmn, the guy at Erik's said it's no use trying to bend it back when I asked them about it. Of course, if I were in the middle of Africa with this problem, I would've tried to bend it back myself since that would've been the only option. I guess I still had the mentality that the guys I bought it from should replace it, so I was thinking about replacements, not simply bending it back. So anyway, Kip bent it back using a tandem bike to mount it in and then pounded it with a rubber mallet using some gizmo to help guide him. It's only a 25-minute drive, maybe less, but since Thursday is my cycling day, I decided to bike there to pick it up. It would be about three hours round-trip, but minus the round-trip car time, it would only be a little over two extra hours travel time, and I wanted to bike an hour anyway, so I just swapped the weekend's two-hour ride for one of my weekday one-hour rides and every thing came out even--practically speaking, it wouldn't take any extra time to bike instead of drive. And I had an excuse for a new adventure. I was also a little anxious to see how my fully set-up bike, with turn signals, a horn, and speakers, would operate. It was drizzling on and off as I set off with some dancehall reggae blasting. I started off by riding down the Mississippi River Road on my usual path. After a few miles, however, my Garmin started going batty, losing the satellite then adding 10 miles when it reconnected, so my average speed was over 30mph. Crap, I wonder if I should return it, or if this area is kind of a blind spot for GPS. Anyway, from the East River Road, I crossed over to the Fort Snelling area, then crossed another bridge almost a mile long over the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, and found myself in unfamiliar territory south of the Mississippi. There's really never been any reason to come down this way, even though it's not that far away. From there I continued on a nice bike path, got expansive views of the Minnesota River Valley, but then missed my turnoff by a half-mile and so had to double back to the point from which the bike shop was a straight shot east along a county road. So I rode that for about six miles. At least half of it didn't have a bike lane, but there was a 3-4 foot asphalt shoulder marked off with a solid white line before the gravel shoulder and the traffic was sparse and courteous. It was a hilly ride, up and down. Probably the most taxing cycling I've done so far since getting back into it this summer. It's amazing how quickly the Cities become semi-rural. At the Bike King bike shop, Kip told me one of his employees would've been happy to see me cycling barefoot, as he's a barefooter himself. I told him how I used to be a barefoot runner, etc. Before leaving the area I stopped by a Chinese restaurant for some refueling. Doh, they don't take credit cards and I only had five dollars in cash on me. I promised I would send him another five when I got home. Then I took a different route home, a little shorter but through Downtown St. Paul. I descended east down to the flood plain and then followed a bike path built on top of a levee protecting South St. Paul's stockyards from flooding. There my speakers started going batty, fading in and out every measure or so. I tried to disconnect the Bluetooth connection and replace it with a 1/4-ince cord, but that didn't work for some reason. So I rode the last ten miles without sound. Too bad, that TDK box really kicks out great sound, and it's much more enjoyable riding with speakers than earbuds. After 5-6 miles I left the bike path for a busy street, but got a decent bike lane. Lots of trucks in this area, but before I knew it I was ascending towards downtown and crossing the Mississippi again. This was the first time I had really mixed it up with traffic, and I had forgotten my helmet. I made it through downtown without having to use my horn, and kept pace with the cars, and made all but the last lights before crossing the freeway. From there it was smooth sailing all the way home on Como Avenue, which has a pretty good bike lane. Once home, I felt tired but not too bad, and my knees held up great, so I celebrated with an IPA, even though it was only two in the afternoon, and set to mounting the crank sprocket on the Street Strider and finishing the set-up. Didn't quite finish though, as I had to run a few errands before picking up the kids. Should be fun on the weekend for everyone to test it out finally. Anyway, it was a great outing and I spent the rest of the day experiencing traveling flashbacks. Cycling is amazing. Little by little, you can even cross continents. Today, my city got a little smaller. And I got some ideas for some new routes next time I'm out for a longer ride. Friday - 09.25 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. PM SQ: 3 x 5 x 237 TK OHP: 2/3/5 x 132.5 DL: 5 x 267 MG BP: 3/5/5 x 199 S PD: 3 x 5 x 184 P RW: 3 x 5 x 154 Once again, a little short on time, and I really didn't feel like it. But on the last Squat warm-up set, at 215, I felt everything start to prime, and I ended up wishing I had a little more time to work out. It was one of those days when you should push it a bit and make use of the extra energy. The Squat worksets felt really solid, almost easy, and that was a relief. I was wondering if my body could adapt to the greater rate of incremental increase, but it seems to be keeping pace just fine. So a pound per workout is a good dosage for the time being. Now there's a bit of suspense as to when it will get to be too much. Next week? Two months? Next year sometime? It's fun to make up these little training games. Lifting is inherently boring in a lot of ways, so it helps to keep things interesting. I guess as long as the Squats are feeling solid, there's no need to add a fourth set, but it might be a good idea from time to time anyway, in keeping with the Rippetoean idea that Squats drive gains in all the main lifts. The Overhead Press felt a little heavy after a week off, and I could feel my shoulders weren't primed enough on the first set, so I decided to just make this workout's presses a primer for next week's, and so just built up to one complete workset on the third set. Should be good to go on Monday. I felt a little soreness in both knees on my last Oly DL warm-up set at 215. I considered reverting to SLDLs, but went ahead with the 267 workset anyway, not wanting to disappoint Abide. The workset felt fine. I decided to quit while I was ahead, however, because I was still a little sore from Thursday's long bike ride, and I was running out of time and wanted to make sure I got in a complete set of Bench Press sets at least once this week. Then it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to try doing one set of Oly DLs and then two sets of SLDLs at reduced weight. Might be a good mix and would limit the stress to my knees to one set each workout. Didn't try it due to time limitations, but I might try that on Monday. The Bench Press also needed one lower-rep set at full load to properly prime the beef, but then the next two worksets were solid. The Pulldowns are starting to get harder, so I might have to slow the rate of increase in a week or two. The Rows felt solid. Then just as I was putting away the last plates, my wife said she could pick up the kids. I thought about going back and doing the two sets of SLDLs, and maybe some assistance, but decided to call it a day and get going on the steaks. We have a ritual of eating steaks every Friday, going strong now for almost 11 years. Earlier in the day I looked into cyclometers. I wasn't happy with the way my Garmin Edge 200 went batty on Thursday's ride, and Kip at Bike King had suggested just getting a stand-alone cyclometer when I mentioned the problem to him. I used a cyclometer when I was traveling by bike more than 20 years ago. Back then, of course, satellites weren't yet available for private use. Funny this hadn't occurred to me. I just assumed GPS was the way to go, but that was probably just a carryover of habit from my running days, where GPS is really the only way to go. So I looked into it a bit and after about 15 minutes ordered a Ciclosport CM 4.41 A Computer. This was a relatively quick consumer decision for me, but I was doing it from my cellphone and I hate the tiny screen and keyboard for doing this kind of stuff. The CM 4.41 A has way more features than I'll need, but it's still a lot cheaper than the Garmin Edge 200, so I'll still save some money by making the swap. I won't have to worry about losing a satellite connection again, and it will be cool from time to time to look in on things like altitude gain and gradient. Especially if we ever make our move to the mountains. REI has a good return policy, and the Garmin is genuinely defective, so it should be easy to unload it. Edit: Oh crap, looking into things on my computer, looks like Ciclocomputer isn't a very reliable company. Oh well, the people I bought it from, chainreactioncycles, have a good return policy. Saturday - 09.26 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. ---------------Week 7: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: I'm going to try doing Oly DLs for my first deadlift set, and then two sets of SLDLs after that. Otherwise, nothing has changed. The Presses are a half-pound heavier, the Squat will continue to increase a pound per workout, and the Deadlifts are pegged to the Squat at 1.14 for the Oly DL and 1.1 for the SLDL. The Oly DL:Squat ratio will continue to increase .01% per week until it's 1.25:1, but the SLDL to Squat ratio will remain constant at 1.1:1. Overall, the Squat, Deadlift and to a lesser extent Pulldowns are the points of emphasis, the Presses will be de-emphasized until the lower body lifts catch up, according to the Iron Ratio, and the Rows should continue to come up as the Deadlift and Pulldowns get stronger. Sunday - 09.27 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 11.13 miles, Office to Ford Parkway Bridge to Franklin Bridge to UofM bus route home. A couple of middle-aged cyclists in full racing gear passed me up, but then couldn't maintain the pace so I tried to put some distance between us so I we wouldn't be playing that game repeatedly, and found myself pedaling at a tempo pace most of the way. Felt good. Will have to do this at least once a week. Might have to get some proper road tires for my mountain bike if I develop an interest in speed. Monday - 09.28 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. PM Lifting. SQ: 5/5/5/5 x 238 TK OHP: 2/5/5 x 133 Oly DL: 2 x 271 SLDL: 4/5/5 x 262 MG BP: 2 x 200 CG BP 4?/5/5 x 200 N PD: 5/5/5 x 184 P RW: 5/5/5 x 154 Really didn't feel like it, but the squat was very solid and I was able to do them with slightly greater velocity and yet still maintain good form. Really felt pretty good coming out of the hole most reps. New projected 1RM of 280. A hollow victory though, without actually completing the single. I balked on the first set of OHPs, but then the second two sets went up with fast, powerful reps. On the Oly DLs, my right medial meniscus complained, so I switched to SLDLs without completing the set. Maybe Oly DLs will be a day-to-day decision, but the SLDLs always feel good. I tried a slightly wider grip on the Bench Press, maybe 23-24 inches wide, but my left thumb let me know it wasn't quite ready to resume all its duties, so I went back to a Close-grip Bench, index fingers right on the beginning of the knurling, about 17 inches apart, and that felt good. The pulldowns felt really good again, and I could feel my whole body tighten up well from the tall kneeling position. I might be ready to try a few pullups soon, I'm almost pulling myself up on the last rep or two. The P Rows, as always, were a great finisher. I considered throwing in a set of knee tucks and back extensions too, but my lower back felt a little fatigued still from the combination of getting back into cycling and the squatcentration. But I think it will be a good idea at some point, to do a little more 'core' work, in order to make sure the power transmission during the squats is efficient and also, of course, to prevent injury. Tuesday - 09.29 AM Bike commuting. One mile. I put on new road tires Monday night, the Specialized Nimbus Armadillo, which I bought from my LBS earlier in the day. Opps, forgot to reattach my brake cables! Musta been distracted by my son. I didn't realize it until I was coming down a small hill. Had to put my right foot down. My sole got hot, but no abrasive damage. I guess I still have some plantar toughness from my running days. So the worst case scenario for barefoot cycling that a few people have warned me about--having my brakes go out and having to use my feet too brake--turned out to be easily surmounted. And in less stupid circumstances, the chances of having both brake cables break or malfunction are practically zero. I've only had a brake cable break once before, coming down a long descent in Turkey. I managed to continue safely with one cable until I could repair the other at night, camping out on a gas station's lawn. Cycling. 15.32 miles. Office to East River Road to Ford Parkway to West River Road to Stone Arch Bridge to UofM bus route home. This distance is getting easier, feels like my 11-mile route used to. So the cycling is settling in. I might make this my standard weekday route and then work on getting the speed up once in a while on the relatively uninterrupted sections. It will be even nicer once they repair the mudslide and open up a closed section of the river road. As it is, I have to ride in the bike lane of a busy road for a half mile or so before descending back down to the river. I was looking for an opportunity to use my horn, but everyone behaved themselves. I could feel a lot less rolling resistance with the new road tires, but the ride was also very stiff and jarring at times. Somehow my rear derailleur developed a squeak on the last two sprockets while changing the tires. My speaker's bass also rattled from time to time while I cranked my Missy Elliot Pandora station. Otherwise, beautiful sunny fall day. Wednesday - 09.30 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. SQ: 5/5/5/5 x 239 TK OHP: 3/3/5 x 133 SLDL: 3/5/5 x 265 CG BP: 3 x 175 CG PD: 5/5/5 x 170 Squats felt solid, I can really feel the form these days. I did them semi-paused. I think I can feel myself getting stronger than the microloading pace, but even if so, it's probably best to take it slow. A pound per workout will get me to where I want to be soon enough. Still balking a bit on the Press. Maybe with the static loads and super small increases I'm losing motivation? I still think it's best to see if I can get my squats to "catch up" before the end of the year though. At a ratio of 1:2, if my Press 5RM is 133, then my Squat 5RM should be 266. So still a twenty-seven-pound difference between where they are now--239--and where they should be. Nine more weeks if I hold the Press static, another month or so on top of that if I allow half/pound per week increases, which I kinda need to do in order to maintain my perhaps antiquated, 20th-century faith in progress. On the SLDLs, I felt a little niggle in my right lower back, but I felt it on the eccentric portion, so I went ahead and did three worksets anyway. I usually do these paused but this time I did them touch-n-go. It's kind of nice to vary the tempo a bit on the big lifts, I'm finding. The SLDLs are becoming an essential assistance lift to the squat; you could get pretty strong just doing Squats and SLDLs. If I'm pressed for time, I should just get those two in. If I have time for one more lift, it's a toss up between the Press and Pulldown. On the Bench Press warm-up sets, I felt a sort of muffled creakiness in my shoulders. I probably could've done the worksets OK, but since the BP is pretty static as well, I bailed. It would be pretty hard for me to fall behind on the Bench Press. It's still by far my strongest lift according to the Iron Ratio. If the creakiness continues, I might have to consider only benching twice a week. On the Close-grip Pulldowns I felt something in the erector spinae. Strange, I've never had any issues with pulldowns. I finished the worksets but then skipped the rows. I finally installed an extra pulley on my pulldown post, so that the cable is straight up and down. It had been pulling the load up at a slight angle, creating friction on the post, because I removed the pulley that suspends between the high and low cables, and halves the load. I've been meaning to do this for a long time. Had to grind out a bit more hole on the top post. Overall, just wasn't a good workout, my body felt wooden once I finished the squats. I probably needed to warm-up more. Oh well, I got the squats in, that's the main thing. Thursday - 10.01 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Getting colder, second morning I've put on my Icebreaker jacket. Cycling. 15.32 miles. Office to East River Road to Ford Parkway to West River Road to Stone Arch Bridge to UofM bus route home. Didn't use my Garmin, just copied the distance from Tuesday. Today I'm going to mount a Bontrager cycling computer, the kind that uses the wheel instead of GPS to calculate speed and distance, and then compare it with the Garmin on tomorrow's ride. I like the Bontrager because it has an altimeter too. Kind of useless here in the relatively flat Twin Cities, but could be fun when I start going on longer rides. It also has a cadence sensor and a heart rate monitor, which I doubt I'll use, unless I have a change of heart about data-driven workouts. If I like the Bontrager, I'll return the Garmin. I was really disappointed that it fizzled in the drizzle last week. Friday - 10.02 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Put on my sweat pants for the first time. Feets felt a little chilly. Thought about a winter challenge for BFC, but it doesn't really make sense. Lifting. SQ: 5/5/5/5 x 240 TK OHP: 2/3/4/5 x 120 SLDL: 5/5/5 x 265 CG BP: 5/5/5 x 180 S PD: 5/5/5 x 185 P RW: 5/5/5 x 155 Well, thought I'd try out the Iron Ratio prematurely. I noticed that the Squat 5RM had reached the nice round number of 240. Instead of waiting for my Squat to catch up to my Press, I brought my Press 5RM down to my current Squat level, which made it a nice round 120. And then the Bench Press sits in between at 180. It seem to make sense during this phase of squatcentration, to put full energy into the Squats, and make the Presses a little easier, so that I can get through the workouts in one piece. I've been feeling a little sluggish lately, and the Deadlifts also take a lot out of me. This way I may also be able to devote a little more attention to the Pulldowns, hopefully transitioning to Pullups in the not-too-distant future. Still, the OH Press felt surprisingly heavy, despite taking it down 13 pounds. Hopefully it's just a one-off occurrence. I'll give this a try all next week to see how it goes, and if it feels right, this will probably be the plan for Cycle VI. Keep working on the Squat, adding one pound per workout to it, while the OH Press and Bench Press come up at 2 and 3 ratios to the Squat's 4. When I get back close to this week's programmed OH Press load--133, or a 265-270 Squat--I'll probably upend the driver and make it the Press instead of the Squat, adding one pound a week to the Press, one and half pounds to the Bench, and two pounds to Squat. When I can no longer add one pound a week to the Press, I'll slow the rate of increase, but maintain the Iron Ratio. I think the Press will be the hardest lift to improve on once I'm back close to my old 1RM PR of 160, so it will make sense to peg everything to that once I achieve the Iron Ratio. Am I taking the numbers too seriously? Probably, but based on my intuitions and experience, I think the "structural balance" dictated by the Iron Ratio will work well for me. It means getting my posterior chain strong first, through squats and deadlifts, then using that as a base or platform for my upper body lifts. Saturday - 10.03 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 30.21 miles. Tried the route I came up with after my trip last week to the bike shop. I had noticed a regional trail going back towards downtown St. Paul on the other side of the river after I had crossed over the mile-long Mendota Bridge. So I thought it would be neat to connect that to the other parts of the river bike paths I had already pedaled. Sure enough, it was a beautiful trip, the new section was mostly forested and about a third overall passed through forest along the flood plain. There were also multiple fantastic views of the two downtowns along the river from different vantage points. Very pleasant for an urban trail. I will probably do this again next weekend when the fall colors are peaking. I biked it late morning, when it was still a bit chilly out, in t-shirt, cycling shorts and bare feet. One attractive female cyclist asked me if I wasn't freezing. I said "no, just a hot-blooded Swede I guess." She then exclaimed the obligatory "you're crazy" as I followed her round butt slowly pulling away in full racing gear. Congratulations city planners, you've really done a good job along the river. ---------------Week 8: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: Well, slight change in plans. I think I'm going to jump right in and peg the Iron Ratio to the OH Press, and add one pound a week to it, one and a half pounds to the Bench Press, and two pounds a week to the Squat. After hitting a 5RM Squat of 240, it might be good to slow progress a little bit. Nonetheless, I'm going to start off at a 5RM OHP of 122, which means a 5RM Squat of 244, so that I can finish the year with a Squat 1RM of 315, if I can maintain the pace. This way, I won't hit my Bench Press 1RM PR again until sometime next spring, but I think getting strong on the Squats first, then OH Press, is the right thing to do. Sunday - 10.04 1 mile or so--cycled up to the grocery store with my son. Monday - 10.05 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. SQ: 5/5/5 x 244 TK OHP: 5/5/5 x 122 SLDL: 5/5/5 x 268 S PD: 4/5/4 x 185 P RW: 5/5/5 x 155 CG BP: 5/5/5 x 183 I was a little worried about bumping up the Squat load by four pounds, but they felt solid, my form close to automatic. I only did three sets because I'm wondering if the four sets isn't sometimes a little too much for my knees, although they haven't felt really aggravated by the Squats yet. Just try to keep everything manageable. Weeks of consistent lifting now and I don't want to blow it. TK OH Press once again felt surprisingly heavy, the same as 133 a week ago. The SLDLs are getting more automatic, form-wise, but I sometimes wonder if I should bring the load down to a one-to-one correspondence with the Squat, instead of 1.1 to 1. Just a little worried about the strain on my back, although everything has felt fine. Definitely the hardest part of the workout now, after the SLDLs I start to relax a bit. Nonetheless, the Pulldown loads are starting to make it hard to finish the sets. I'll either have to slow the rate of increase, or do drop sets or slow, eccentric pullups or maybe something else to spur greater progress. Maybe even move them to the front of the workout when I'm freshest? Rows felt fine and Bench Press too. I'm making use of the lower Bench load to really try to hone my form and grip. Felt good to do the Bench at the end of the workout for some reason. Mentally, I really like the idea that the main lifts are now more or less in structural balance, load-wise, and everything can now come up together at the same rate. Conceptually very satisfying and I think also from a physical viewpoint it makes the workouts flow well and demands just the right amount of energy and motivation. Should be able to continue like this for a while, although at some point I'll probably have to either revert to my 5-8-3 scheme or try a full-body split like Abide's, because the total energy output will keep rising with heavier and heavier loads, and I'll probably start to need longer rest intervals and recovery time. Plus, I'm kind of itching to lift heavier three-rep sets once in a while. On the Squats, it would be nice to feel an even heavier load on my shoulders, I think. It would be good prep for the day my projected 1RM hits 300, because I'm almost certain to test it with a single. And for the Presses, it would probably be good to feel a heavier load once in a while so I don't become too complacent while I wait for the Squat to catch up to them. Still wondering what to do about deadlifts. Maybe just try a single once in a while, and just do SLDLs for the regular sets? I also wonder if one of the reasons that the Press is feeling heavy these days is the lack of rep variety, including the higher rep 8RM day. I think I may end this week with an 8-rep day and a 3-rep day to see how they feel, in preparation for making a plan for Cycle VI next week. Might be time to dust off ye ol' 5-8-3. Tuesday - 10.06 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 11.2 miles, Office to Ford Parkway Bridge to Franklin Bridge to UofM bus route home. Beautiful fall morning, some trees already turning color down by the river banks. Wednesday - 10.07 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. Lifted a two-section, L-shaped desk up two half-flights of narrow stairs divided by a landing. I appreciated being in relatively good shape. The other person (whose name will not be named), pulled a muscle and was huffing and puffing for minutes after we got each section up. My heart rate quickly recovered and the load didn't feel that bad. So there's some practical utility in all this picking up and setting down barbells. Thursday - 10.08 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Slow leak after putting on new tires 10 days ago. Crips, I never get flats. One mile walking barefoot to and from my daughter's school picnic. Felt nice. Friday - 10.09 AM Bike commuting Two miles. Lifting SQ: 2/2/2/1 x 258 TK OHP: 3/3/3 x 130 SLDL: 1/1/3 x 284 S PD 3/3/3 x 190 Well, I decided to finish up this cycle's lifting by experimenting with triples. I hadn't worked out in two days, so I was a little cold. On the Squat 258 felt heavy so I decided to just do two reps instead of three, to prime my back and knees for next cycle, when hopefully I'll be doing triples every Friday. My knees felt a little strain I think, so I may have to rethink doing triples, but I think it was mostly because I hadn't lifted or cycled for two days, and so was a little tight. Plus I had been on my feet more than usual, helping my dad move his office and sorting through and getting rid of a ton of crap. I've found just being on my feet for a while can be more strain on my meniscus than cycling or squatting. It's the ongoing load-bearing I guess. Anyway, if my back and knees can handle it, I think it will be nice doing these heavier loads once a week. I also like how it's easier to recover from triples than quintuples, even though the load is 5%1RM higher. Those last two reps seem to really suck up the glycogen. The Press went up pretty easy, which seems to confirm my suspicion that I've been overtraining a bit, because Monday's lighter load felt heavier. I think taking Wednesday off helped, which supports the idea of making Wednesday more of an lighter, higher-rep assistance day like I have planned for Cycle VI. The SLDL felt really heavy, but I think the problem was not doing enough warm-up reps, because the third set felt OK. No, actually it felt awesome to lift that heavy weight. Still, I wonder if I should make the SLDLs the same load as Squats. As Dan John said (https://www.t-nation.com/training/10-secrets-to-building-mass) for his mass building program, SLDLs should work as a 'tonic' for Squats, so perhaps they shouldn't require equal effort. Then again, if they're my substitute for Olympic DLs, perhaps keeping them relatively heavy is a good thing. It certainly feels good to lift that much weight off the ground. It's empowering to feel powerful. The Supine Pulldowns felt great. And I got a good pump. In general, I've been getting more pumped the last few workouts, which indicates either that I've worked my way up to a good level now, or that I'm on the verge of overdoing it, and need to move into more of an intermediate program, because the constant 3x5 was getting to be too much. In any case, I've already decided to switch to more an intermediate program next cycle. I'll see if it needs further tweaks to avoid overtraining. Some people pooh pooh the idea of overtraining, but I think for older liftings with slower recovery, it might be a real risk. I might only have two intense workouts per week in me, now that the loads are getting up there. So I'm ending the cycle on a good note. Made some good gains in the Squat and got it up high enough that I can align the OHP and BP loads with it according to the Iron Ratio without feeling too guilty about doing OHP and BP loads that are below my true capacity. Now I can bring everything up together, no matter how slowly. And even if my knees won't allow me to go much further with the Squat, I feel like I'm already at a good level, and could probably progress just by consistently lifting loads in the mid-200s. And if my squat really stalls or my knees can't take higher loads, I'll abandon the Iron Ratio and push the upper body stuff more. But for the moment, I have to say, I do feel more balance, so I'll be happy to let everything progress slowly if it means maintaining this balance. The only thing that really needs to come up now are the Pulldowns/Pullups, which will be my point of emphasis next cycle. Saturday - 10.10 AM Bike Commuting Two miles. Wanted to get in the same 30-mile ride I did last weekend, but there are some pressing family matters, so I'll try it tomorrow to start off Cycle VI.