A few months ago, I posted my fitness intentions on this blog. I started walking regularly, and working out again. And then I got derailed by a six-week gout flareup. My activity level was damn near negligible for a while.
However, I set down in late December and formulated a new plan, finally feeling healthy again. I didn’t post about it then, but by and large, my plan has been working for me. I’ve dropped a little weight, I’m sleeping much better and I’m moving easier too. I still have a long way to go, but there has finally been some progress.
I can’t remember if it was Dave Tate, Jim Wendler and John Welbourn (all have similar information delivery demeanors), but one of them years ago mentioned the improvement spectrum that was, to put it bluntly, moving from shit, to suck, to good, to great. Fitness-wise, I’m still at the shit level, but the shits are not as runny as they were a few months ago, metaphorically. Last fall, I weighed 276 pounds. I checked in at 257 this morning. At 5’6″, that still is not good, but better.
Daily Habits, in challenge form
My first step was to set up a spreadsheet to gamify my health a little by setting up a weekly challenge built upon daily habits. On a daily basis, I assign points for seven different daily habits. I have a daily bodyweight circuit that, if completed, is worth five points. That circuit is five movements–bodyweight squats, pushups, situps, ring rows and hypers on a 45-degree stand. That gives me a hip hinge, a push, a core, a pull and a posterior chain movement. I started by doing five of each. That was it. I’ve slowly added reps to the circuit, working up to 2 sets of 10 each, plus another set of 7. The goal is to work up to 3×10 at each. I recently reset back to 1×10, adding a rep each day it is completed as I missed a couple weeks. For now, I am just focusing on good form, and moving through the circuit. Once I get back to 3×10, I may start timing it. Once that becomes easy, I can always switch to tougher movements (pistols, dips, pullups, GH raises, etc.) There is plenty of room to play here, but the idea is just to add a quick five-minute circuit to get me moving through range of motions and getting the heart rate up a bit. Some days, this doubles as my warmup before weight training too. In my training log and spreadsheet, this is simply SPSPH (squat, push, situp, pull, hyper).
A traditional workout with weights is worth another five points. Like the bodyweight circuit, this is worth either zero or five points.
I have designated six power movements to be completed, one per workouts–squats, bench, clean, deadlift, press and snatch. Each workout starts with one of those and only one of these are performed in a workout.
I’m a fan of the 5/3/1 stuff, but for now, I’m keeping it even simpler with just plain-old linear progression. I work up to sets of 3×5 on squats, bench and press, sets of 1×5 on deadlift and sets of 5×1 on cleans and snatches. For now, I’m just adding 10 pounds to my work sets on squats and deadlifts, five pounds on cleans and bench and 2.5 pounds each week on snatch and press. It’s simple, but effective at my point in the training cycle.
Accessory work-wise, I do at most two after each power movement. I have a spreadsheet for that too. I have columns for different movement types I just work my way down. I bold one as I perform it, move on to the next one. Sometimes I have to skip around as I work out at the office some too and don’t have all the equipement there. Most workouts include two accessories, although this week I went back to just the power movements with no accessory work for that reset. So, an example squat day could be squats, reverse lunges and planks. Then my bench day could be bench, pushups, dumbbell rows. The accessories change every workout.
I also mix in a sprint day each cycle. That can be simple sprints (10-, 20-, 30-, 40-yard sprints), hill sprints, prowlers in the driveway, or Airdyne bike sprints. I have multiple options there. In the winter months, I was even going down to the high school and doing some killers when weather didn’t cooperate. I usually mix in sprint days after cleans, so my rotation is, in order: Squat Day, Bench Day, Clean Day, Sprint Day, Deadlift Day, Press Day, Snatch Day.
Now that the weather is starting to get a little better, I plan on mixing in a strongman carry day each cycle was well. I have farmer walk handles, a rickshaw, trap bars and kegs I can rotate through. Like the prowler, I simply do these in my driveway, which is about 30 yards long. Plenty of room to carry heavy stuff.
Now, this may seem to be a bit all over the place, even if simplistic. And yes, yes it is. If I was training for something specific, this would be a bit more focused. For now, I’m okay with slow progression and varied movements for general health purpose.
I also have daily goals for sleep and water. I have a daily goal to drink 100 ounces of water and sleep at least seven hours each night. I have tried to make it eight hours a day, but often find myself laying there awake when I do. I just seem to function well enough with seven regularly, eight on occasion. The above four habits are worth either five or zero, no in between.
Diet-wise, I try to eat mostly primal (meats, veggies, fruit, dairy, nuts). I start each day with five points. Each serving of a “cheat” food (grains, sugar, etc.) is minus-one. So, if I have a burger with a bun, that is -2, because of the two pieces of bread. A bag of chips is minus however many servings in the bag, etc. Alcohol falls into this category. I lose more points for alcohol than any food. Eat clean, drink dirty, I say. So, my Primal points can be anywhere from zero to five each day.
I also can earn up to five points a day for doing some mobility work. I have a few I do almost daily, due to some trouble spots (low back, ankles, calves). I try to sit in a bottom squat every day, I have a hamstring stretch I do frequently, a piriformis one and calves. Those are performed pretty regularly, which leaves me one slot to rotate other movements through each day. I rely on Kelly Starrett’s work for a lot of my ideas here. I try to do each movement a minimum of two minutes to count for a point.
My last category I use for my daily habit point total is simply walking. I can get three points for three different goals here. And I lifted these straight from my health insurance company, as they put money into my HSA each day I complete these three FIT goals. I get one point for walking 500 steps in seven minutes six different times in a day. This is about a quarter-mile, or one block around my house. These have to be spread out at least an hour apart. I can’t go do two blocks and have it count twice. This is a Frequency goal. The Intensity goal is simply to walk 3,000 steps in 30 minutes. For me, that is about 1 1/2 miles. That one can actually double up as one of the Frequency goals as well. So, I tend to do five quarter-mile walks and one 1 1/2-mile walk in the day. I have also started jogging some intervals on the quarters as well. All of that tends to add up to the Tenacity goal, which is just 10,000 steps in a day. All in all, that usually adds up to about 3 miles of walking a day. Hit all three, and that is $3 a day into my HSA as well. Not much, but it adds up. That is about $1,000 a year to perform something I need to be doing anyway. I’d kind of like to get LASIK at some point, so these walks will help pay for that hopefully. On days it rains, I have access to an elliptical at work, an Airdyne bike at home or the school hallways if needed.
The total points available each day is 33. Here is the gamification and motivation. I don’t try to be perfect. I’m not competing against anyone else. So, I set a weekly goal, and if I don’t meet it, I owe. I try to average 24 points a day. That allows me some wiggle room in my diet, and allows me to average 5 workouts and 5 bodyweight circuits a week. I do that, I will make progress for quite a while. I started off owing my wife $10 for every points I came up shy of 24 per day. So, if I averaged 23 points in a week, I owed her $10, averaged 22 I owed $20 and so on. However, this week, I changed up the motivation. For every point I come up shy in my daily average for a week, I now have to donate to a cause I don’t believe in. Namely, the reelection campaign of a certain Tang-colored politician. Definitely motivation for me to not have to contribute to that shit show. I will occasionally have previously designated off weeks (vacation, work travel, etc.), but this is my plan for the foreseeable future.
My primary goal is mostly to enforce daily habits and largely let the rest sorts itself out. Simply, I need to be healthier overall. Lifting weights, sprinting occasionally, doing some bodyweight movements regularly, getting my blood sugar under control and walking daily are a great start.
Specific goals are not a huge focus right now. I would like to drop below 242 just because that is a weight class drop in power lifting and I would like to get back into competing somewhere down the road. I also would like to get back to totaling 2,000 pounds between the six power movements listed above. There was a time where I totalled 1,500 just in squat, bench and deadlift, so 2,000 for the six should be the bare minimum strength goal. I also should be able to jog a 1/4 mile without stopping. Like I said: shit to suck to good to great. I’m early in the process.
In my spreadsheet, I try to track my weight daily. I don’t obsess over it, but I like to look at my weekly average and see it going down. I don’t freak out if I am up two or three pounds one day. That happens. I just try to keep the weekly average moving in the right direction. I also track my morning fasted glucose some. I generally am between 105-120, which is not good. I also use a sleep app that gives me a sleep score each morning, based off movement, snoring, time, etc. It is far from an exact science, but I still throw it in my spreadsheet, because why not. I track my daily steps and walking distance. I also have columns for total calories and carbs. I don’t track those daily, but if I hit a stall, I can track them in MyFitnessPal and adjust accordingly. I also measure my waist and hips, keeping an eye on the ratio more than anything else. I also tracked my morning heart rate for a while too.
My first three weeks of the year are in the below screenshot, for an idea of what I’m doing with the spreadsheet.
I am going to start posting my workouts on here once a week. They are basic, but a little extra accountability won’t hurt.