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PaulG’s Spring Projects: Mainly Bread and Pullups


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Okay, let’s keep this real simple.
 
I’m PaulG. Current jams: parkour, cooking, strength training. The low-key top secret goal through my challenges to date are to finally get a good bar muscle-up, re-attain headstand push-ups, put on three (or five or ten) pounds of muscle, and become an assistant coach for my parkour org. Heart? Composed of gold. Left shoulder? Composed of suck, but under the care of an excellent physical therapist who is getting me back to strength work.
 
Also, I recently moved apartments, and I can feel myself swinging into hardcore nesting/cooking mode as I get acquainted with my new space and far more awesome kitchen. This challenge is going to be filled with a lot of ruminations on furniture, slowly-building workout progress, and hopefully respectable levels of food porn. You have been warned.
 
If you’re wondering why this challenge is posted a touch late, it’s because in the last three days I:
  • Confessed in my last challenge that my 2021 life-goal and workout plans had not been written, then sat down and wrote them;
  • Finally installed the last bit of furniture and unpacked all but one (!) moving box; and
  • Came down with a gross stomach flu.
 
So I have plenty of goals to draw out of my 2021 plan, but I’m still feeling a little discombobulated. Let’s get to some goals, such as they are.
 
Goals:
1) Life: Make someone else's life a little better one time per week. When I finally wrote out all my goals for the year in one place, I realized that quite a few of them fall into the bucket of "be an active part of a community," which is something that I've felt missing in my life for a while now. When I visited my mother recently to connect with her after she got vaccinated, I was reminded of how important social connections really are, especially when so many of us -- including me -- are isolated from regular human contact. I've been thinking about this goal for a while now. In theory, it's a way for me to bolster my mental health, and the mental health of other isolated folks around me. In practice, it will probably be an excuse for me to bake a lot of bread products and deliver them to people over the next few weeks.
 
2) Nesting: Overdue adulting. This is really four little goals, things I've been putting off due to my apartment move that now need to get done.
  • Taxes need to get (re)done. I did them once already, but they got rejected for putting my employer's tax ID number in wrong or something. In the meantime, one of my coworkers insisted I must be doing them wrong and should get way more money back every year, and was kind/cavalier enough to provide me with her own tax returns to check mine against. So a relatively simple, dumb chore is a little more complicated. But it must happen.
  • I need to crunch a few numbers now that I live in a new place and ensure all my fixed costs are under 60% of my take-home income. OR have a damn good reason why they aren’t. Yes, fixed costs includes fancy groceries.
  • Need to submit claims for all my recent PT care, which has all been out-of-network for my health insurance and thus needs to be submitted... BY MAIL.
  • Let's be real, there's probably at least one other time-sensitive chore I'm forgetting. TBD.
This goal, though, will have an inbuilt reward (aside from the fun of bragging that I performed basic adulting tasks online)! Now that I have a new, much larger apartment, it needs FURNITURE -- mainly lighting for the living room and dining room, and maybe a side table and nightstand or two. So let's set this down for myself: once all my adulting garbage for this challenge is done, I can turn my attention to the FUN part of nesting, namely picking and shopping for shiny new furnitures.
  
3) Strength: Do a Dang Pull-Up. After lots of PT and prep work since December, it looks like I’m getting close to some real pullups again. I’m even doing eccentric pullups! That means I’m probably 3-5 weeks away from being able to work the real thing. The finish line is simply being able to do at least a set of one pullup that doesn’t aggravate my shoulder or set back my PT. Extra credit if I get my chest to the bar. 
 
4) Mobility: Improve Hamstrings and Add in Glute Work. This is simple. Mobility has taken up a challenge goal slot just about every challenge for the last year, and over that time I have seen progress -- mainly in my adherence. This time last year, I had a lot of trouble doing any mobility that wasn't on a workout day. Now, I'm working on my legs in a couple different planes just about every day -- I'm averaging 6 days per week of some kind of mobility work. The next step is to start tracking my progress objectively. So this challenge, sometime before the start of Week 1, I will take a benchmark photo for my hamstrings and hip flexors, for comparison at the end of the challenge. As well, I'm going to add in bird dogs (or quadrupedal leg lifts, or whatever) as an activation exercise when I do squats, and on off-days to assist with hip flexor work -- I haven't been seeing as much visible progress with my flexor range of motion as I'd like, and I want to see if they help.
 
BONUS GOAL: What could it be? TBD.
 
 
Current Stats:
Height: 6’ 0” 
Weight: 176 lbs 
Age: 32 
Waist Measurement: 28 5/8 inches 
Bodyfat: 12.1% 
 
 
Workout Log Legend
Spoiler
Since my training is primarily bodyweight, I use a notation that allows me to log a lot of variables. I log weight (if used), sets, reps, my Form quality, and my rate of perceived exertion.  
 
Form:  
a: high-quality form maintained throughout the set. No issues or very minor issues.  
 
b: Average/above-average form. No major issues, but maybe some smaller details need ironing out. (For example, didn't hit my chest to bar quite where I wanted in a pull-up, or didn't focus on scapular retraction as much as I could have in a row.)
 
c : Below average form. I did the exercise, but didn't do it right. Some possible major issues, though not severe safety issues.In chest-to-bar pullups, chest didn't hit the bar.
 
d: Poor form, major problems. This is probably a signal I should be ending the set early. If I didn't, I probably deserve chastisement.  
 
RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion):  I shamelessly stole Waldo's system for grading his RPEs, which he outlined in a blog post on StrengthUnbound.com (which sadly, no longer exists). Since it’s tough to find a good explanation on this anymore, here’s mine. 
  
My rating is based on Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion system, which is used sometimes in the sports training world. The idea is to track how close to failure I get in each set of an exercise. The original system is a 1-10 scale, but I took a page from the book of an old-hat member (Waldo) and chucked that out the window. The idea is that strength workout sets should nearly always go close to failure, if not to failure itself, so I have no interest in the first 6 numbers on the scale.
  
E: Easy work. Two or more reps left in the tank. This covers pretty much any number from 1-7. My goal is to only see this letter when I’m doing rehab/prehab exercises, or remedial work to build up joint strength, balance or form, like pistol prep work. Otherwise, I should be pushing harder.
  
X: Held one rep in the tank. Rep speed slowed noticeably, slight grind, but not at failure. This is where I try to keep most of my work, especially early in the workout.
  
Y: Hit failure or very close when I’m working out calm, may have stopped right before physically crapping out, but couldn’t have performed another rep without really amping myself up. Final rep was grinding and slow.
  
Z: Hit true failure and needed to pump myself up to do it — jumping, making noises, etc. Very slow, grinding final rep. 
 
/: denotes left/right reps in a set of a single-limb exercise. For example, 5/3 reps on a pistol squat means 5 reps on my left leg, 3 reps on my right.  
 
(): used for my eccentric exercises where I need to note both reps and time under tension. For example, a set of pull-up negatives shown as 3(6s) is 3 reps of 6 seconds each. 
  
There are other techniques that deserve extra notation, of course, but these are the ones I'm using in my current workout. 

 

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Cowardly Assassin
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9 hours ago, deftona said:

Here for the food and apartment levelling up porn! 


Glad to have you!

 

14 minutes ago, Epsilonte said:

ALL the adulting!! :) 

 

Can't wait for more food porn (and shoulder stuff xD I really find that interesting :P


And here I was hoping the shoulder stuff would come to a swift and timely end. :D

 

2 hours ago, Mad Hatter said:

I love this! Such a great goal.

 

Booo about the stomach flu, glad you're better.

 

Thanks! It seemed like a good way to level up from “hang out with folks regularly”, which I suspect would only result in me seeing the same three or four people I’ve seen regularly anyway. Plus, hopefully it’ll give me a focus for some cooking energy.

 

Sadly, the stomach flu is ongoing. That’s the main reason I have no workout log for Tuesday; I made some halfhearted attempts to warm up, but everything from my knees to my hands and grip were feeling weak and a little sore. Instead, I did a fifteen-mInute yoga nidra script followed by an hour of straight up napping.
 
So if you’ve read the last post or two in my old challenge, you‘ve probably read my whining about the final big hurdle that kept me from fully unpacking into my new place: a huge IKEA bookcase that, once upon a time, separated the “bed” area of my old studio from everything else. In my new place, I wanted to make it into a backing piece in my new den, and fill it with books and my sexiest Dutch ovens.
 
TdOdumsd_o.jpg
 
Crappy photo with my old phone, but you can see my intention when I first wheeled it into my new place. Before I could fill it, though, I had to bolt it to the wall. I was less worried about it in my studio, since it was hemmed in on both sides by my bed and sofa; but against a wall, some stray small child could easily topple it.
 
Of course, it took me two weeks to get around to it, after the rest of the kitchen had been unpacked and I got tired of stubbing my toes against VERY heavy boxes of books. In the meantime, I got tired of not having a pot lid rack. Lacking an obvious place to permanently install it, I rigged up a little sling to hang it off the side of my bookcase:
 
CJOpKVAX_o.jpg
 
Not something you’d find a tutorial for on Apartment Therapy, but it is quite solid. Makes me wonder what other  home projects could be solved with rope...
 
oF93ytDf_o.jpg
 
It took two trips to the hardware store and about four hours of faffing around, but ultimately I got the bookcase attached via some scrap 2x4s, and screwed in the whole business with a couple 5/16” lag screws at each upper corner. If you’re wondering about the moment arm on the lag screws, I salute you. You wouldn’t want to hang a person from a setup like this, but to keep furniture from tipping from an accidental bump or the weight of a small child, I feel pretty good about it.
 
And finally, I was able to get everything unpacked and into its proper place.
 
YqqXj72z_o.jpg
 
I DO have some food porn waiting to be posted as well, but I need to put a little more time into the write-up, because I got inspired by @deftona and it is all about adventures in NAAN.
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Cowardly Assassin
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36 minutes ago, PaulG said:

And here I was hoping the shoulder stuff would come to a swift and timely end. :D

 

I'm sure it will, since you are doing your exercises so diligently. :D I just hope you continue to post about it in the mean time. :) 

 

37 minutes ago, PaulG said:

but against a wall, some stray small child could easily topple it.

 

Now I'm wondering, do you have a lot of stray small children running around the appartment? :D 

Nah, I think it's very wise to attach that thing to a wall. I had the same one, also bolted to the wall, it's a good bookcase. :) 

Also love how it turned out in the end, very aesthetically pleasing with the black bookcase and the colorful Dutch ovens. 

Previous challenges: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

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I am loving all of the stuff in this challenge.  Especially looking forward to all of the food/home decoration pics, but also to see what you end up doing strength-wise.   

HUNTER OF ALL THINGS SHINY

Intro Thread    Bodyweight Exercise Library

The Arruvia Conspiracy Challenges: 1, 2, 3, 4, 567, 89, 10 

Other Challenges: 12345, 6, 7, 89, 10, 11, 1213, 14, 15 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31Intermission [Current]

Level 2 Ninja

Strength: 13 Intelligence: 14 Wisdom: 6 Dexterity:14 Constitution: 12 Charisma: 11

 

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8 hours ago, Epsilonte said:

I'm sure it will, since you are doing your exercises so diligently. :D I just hope you continue to post about it in the mean time. :) 


For sure. Of all the things I document in probably-unnecessary detail, I think my injuries are the most useful. My old battle log still gives me some insight into my old injuries, and the training plans I had that actually worked. So by all means, expect more silly bullet points on the different directions my shoulderblade starts to sag as it fatigues. :D

 

8 hours ago, Epsilonte said:

Now I'm wondering, do you have a lot of stray small children running around the appartment? :D 


Thank god NO, but hey, I’m thirty-two and the friends who have kids are just starting to pile up! You never know when some tiny aspiring bookshelf-climber is going to get brought over.
 

It’s a bit morbid to say I suppose, but a kid trying to climb the bookshelf is really the ultimate catastrophic failure scenario. If it can stand up to that, it can stand up to anything I’m likely to throw at it.

 

And thank you! I’m not very good at decorating — I own very close to zero paintings/wall art — so it’s nice to hear that the bits and bobs I have don’t look bad. :D

 

6 hours ago, Klutch said:

Awesome goals. I am glad to hear you are not going to let your shoulder prevent you from "Doing Something Cool" but are also being super safe about it. 

 

Whatever it is, it will be cool by someone’s definition.

 

3 hours ago, WhiteGhost said:

I am loving all of the stuff in this challenge.  Especially looking forward to all of the food/home decoration pics, but also to see what you end up doing strength-wise.   

 

Thanks, me too! The strength part of this is still a mystery. I am pretty sure I’ll be able to do full pullups by the end of this challenge with no problems, but I don’t wanna jinx it.
 

 

Wednesday was also a bit of a bust folks. I worked about an hour and change late, did a little meditation, and took a very brief nap. Afterward I woke up fairly refreshed, and I thought about taking my stretching benchmark photos... but I want my first benchmark photos to be taken after some mobility warmup, and my hamstrings (and frankly, every other muscle) are still feeling sore and tight and weak. Objectively, my legs are weak — I tried to do a little straddle pancake compression work, and couldn’t even lift my feet off the floor.

 

Whatever this bug I’ve caught is, it doesn’t feel severe, but it’s turning out to be very disruptive. Not cool, bug.

 

So instead, let’s rewind a touch to Sunday evening, and the last good meal I had before the bug set in: Mafé Poulet, or Senegalese peanut stew with chicken, from Pierre Thiam’s cookbook Senegal.

 

9vk502MY_o.jpg

 

This is a recipe @Mike Wazowski and I chatted about in his last challenge thread, and I finally got around to trying it out. If you’re curious, the recipe is here. None of Thiam’s recipes are quite the same online as they are in his book (pro tip: the scotch bonnet pepper is NOT optional, but all the random cabbage/carrots/potatoes are), but you will still get the bones of the dish correct, and it’s not complicated. In many ways, it reminded me of some restaurant versions of chicken tikka masala I’ve had, at Indian places that like to thicken their Americanized dishes with ground cashews.

 

Thiam really wants you to serve it with fonio, a rather unusual grain native to West Africa. I was fresh out of fonio — plus I think it’s about $20 a pound online — so I used jasmine rice.

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1 hour ago, PaulG said:

It’s a bit morbid to say I suppose, but a kid trying to climb the bookshelf is really the ultimate catastrophic failure scenario. If it can stand up to that, it can stand up to anything I’m likely to throw at it.

So have you already picked out which of your friends' kids is the most annoying one and you're going to invite over for science dinner? 😄

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15 hours ago, PaulG said:

So by all means, expect more silly bullet points on the different directions my shoulderblade starts to sag as it fatigues. :D

 

Rawr! Talk shoulder to me! :D 

 

15 hours ago, PaulG said:

Thank god NO, but hey, I’m thirty-two and the friends who have kids are just starting to pile up! You never know when some tiny aspiring bookshelf-climber is going to get brought over.

 

All those people being all adult and stuff getting themselves kids and dogs and houses... Horrible. :D (I'm also 32 and my friends are starting to multiply, but it feels so weird and adult to me and I don't feel very adult. xD I'm too young to be an aunty!! xD)

 

15 hours ago, PaulG said:

 

So instead, let’s rewind a touch to Sunday evening, and the last good meal I had before the bug set in: Mafé Poulet, or Senegalese peanut stew with chicken, from Pierre Thiam’s cookbook Senegal.

 

Oh my, that looks delicious! Hope you feel better soon, stupid bug! :( 

Previous challenges: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

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20 hours ago, Mad Hatter said:

So have you already picked out which of your friends' kids is the most annoying one and you're going to invite over for science dinner? 😄

 

So morbid! I would never.

 

I mean, if you were really looking to freak someone out, you'd want to put the top on some kind of track so it tips over just far enough to make someone really panic. But not me, I would never mess with people like that. 😇

 

6 hours ago, Epsilonte said:

Rawr! Talk shoulder to me! :D 

 

See, now I won't be able to write about posterior scapular tilt without imagining it in a Barry White voice. :D

 

6 hours ago, Epsilonte said:

All those people being all adult and stuff getting themselves kids and dogs and houses... Horrible. :D (I'm also 32 and my friends are starting to multiply, but it feels so weird and adult to me and I don't feel very adult. xD I'm too young to be an aunty!! xD)

 

I KNOW. Thank god only my cousins so far have kids, so I'm unlikely to be a real-live uncle anytime soon. But it's so freaky to look up and suddenly wonder how long I actually have before my brother makes me into one.

 

--

 

Workout Log 3/25/21
- Going In: Pretty tired from work, although I got decent sleep last night (7.5 hrs). I had my "morning" protein shake at 4:30 PM today, just before jumping into the workout, so I'll have to watch for how it affects my sleep tonight.
 
Warmup
- Was feeling a little weak during my warmup, but overall ok.
 
Foot-Assisted Ring Supports: 10s b-e, 10sb-x, 10sb-x
 
Foot-Assisted German Hangs: 5sb-e, 8sb-e, 10sb-x
 
(Superset A) Deep Step-Ups: 4/4b-e, 5/5a-e, 5/5a-x
(Superset A) Feet-Elev. Pushups: 13a-e, 13a-x, 10a-x
 
(Superset B ) Knee Pike Press: 4a-x
(Superset B ) Bar Pullup Eccentrics: 1(6s), 1(7s), SHUT IT DOWN
 
 
- Went into pullups and hit a wall. Looks like I'm not over this stomach bug after all, because as I finished my first eccentric rep of my first set, I was overtaken by a big wave of nausea. Like immediately started sweating and salivating, quick-step-to-the-toilet-just-in-case type nausea. It passed after about 30 seconds, I gave it a minute, then tried another rep... same thing, I had to lie down on my bed and do some deep breathing until it passed and my heart rate slowed. SO FRUSTRATING, but clearly a full workout was not in the cards today.
 
The nausea is still there, but no longer severe... and although I could probably physically handle a set or two of PT, the lingering nausea is just super demotivating. I took a slow walk outside in the sunset, ordered takeout, picked it up, and realized on the way back that my spatial perception felt a little off too and I probably shouldn't even be driving.
 
I was going to post about naan, because I ran a couple experiments on Monday that I want to document, they were quite interesting. You know how naan you get in Indian restaurants is often sort of thin and crispy in places, with big puffed-up holes in other places? Right, it's delicious. And you know how all those recipes online that purport to show you how to make naan at home ACTUALLY give you a sort of cakey, fluffy flatbread that is not crispy ANYWHERE? Exactly, it IS a bunch of bullshit.
 
Well, I had a breakthrough and, fueled by a few helpful Youtube videos, I MADE that crispy-puffy naan. At least, I made a half-decent but imperfect version, with a lot of potential.
 
But I don't want to write about naan while nauseous, or really write about food at all. Instead, for now I will leave you with a photo of the nonsense my local grocery store tries to pass off as naan: a fluffy, cakey, dough-conditioned impostor. Soon, I will write down, for posterity, how I managed to make something better. But first, before my writing becomes any more unhinged, I think it's time for some sleep.
 
lOFAMsTY_o.jpg
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9 hours ago, Epsilonte said:

All those people being all adult and stuff getting themselves kids and dogs and houses... Horrible. :D (I'm also 32 and my friends are starting to multiply, but it feels so weird and adult to me and I don't feel very adult. xD I'm too young to be an aunty!! xD)

I'm getting there too, it makes me want to run away and get a new set of friends until their kids become at least teenagers. 😄

 

3 hours ago, PaulG said:

See, now I won't be able to write about posterior scapular tilt without imagining it in a Barry White voice. :D

Thank you for that, now I'll keep reading it that way. It's going to be great. 😄

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16 hours ago, PaulG said:

I KNOW. Thank god only my cousins so far have kids, so I'm unlikely to be a real-live uncle anytime soon. But it's so freaky to look up and suddenly wonder how long I actually have before my brother makes me into one.

 

13 hours ago, Mad Hatter said:

I'm getting there too, it makes me want to run away and get a new set of friends until their kids become at least teenagers. 😄

 

I have to nieces. Thankfully they will be 14 and 16 this year, so right about the age where you can actually TALK to them. :D (Nah, they have always been cute. :P )  

 

Such a shame that you are still feeling nauseous. :( Hope it will be better soon and then you can tell us EVERYTHING about Naan. :)

Previous challenges: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

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Nausea sucks, and so does that spatial perception thing. Probably hard to focus too? Feel better soon.

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On 3/26/2021 at 12:20 AM, Mad Hatter said:

I'm getting there too, it makes me want to run away and get a new set of friends until their kids become at least teenagers. 😄

 

In all honesty, I am actually totally fine with kids as long as they're not ultimately my problem. It's when I have to do something like get a kid to eat the meal I put in front of them that everything breaks down.

 

On 3/26/2021 at 1:40 PM, Epsilonte said:

I have to nieces. Thankfully they will be 14 and 16 this year, so right about the age where you can actually TALK to them. :D (Nah, they have always been cute. :P

 

I don't know, I have a feeling I just hit the age that teenagers no longer think I'm cool. When you're in your mid-twenties, you're doing all the things that teenagers wish they had enough freedom to do. Once you're posting on fitness forums about your light-viewing and meditation practices, not so much.

 

On 3/26/2021 at 12:20 AM, Mad Hatter said:

Thank you for that, now I'll keep reading it that way. It's going to be great. 😄

 

It's a shame my next PT visit isn't for another 4 weeks! :D

 

12 hours ago, juliebarkley said:

Nausea sucks, and so does that spatial perception thing. Probably hard to focus too?

 

Mm, what was that?

 

Yeah, I've noticed that my ceiling for alertness is lower. I'm not sure I would necessarily notice it if I weren't paying closer attention than usual to my level of alertness/calmness, but I seem to have a bit of a ceiling the last few days. I can get to calm and alert enough to carry on a conversation, but no farther. It's been getting better since Friday, though.

 

--

 

Speaking of ceilings, I pushed that alertness ceiling about as far as it would go in yesterday's workout.

 

Workout Log 3/27/21
- Going In: It's a little weird to feel well-rested and fresh, but also feel the effect of an illness. I can feel great, and feel calm; but once I started my warmup I felt a little more sluggish than usual. Still feeling weak, too, especially in the hips.
 
Warmup
 
Foot-Assisted Ring Supports: 10s b-e, 10sb-x, 10sb-x
 
Foot-Assisted German Hangs: 12sb-e, 10sb-x, 10sa-x
- These are starting to feel much stronger; I was able to remove my feet from the ground entirely for one-third to half of each hold.
 
(Superset A) Deep Step-Ups: 4/4b-e, 6/6a-x, 5/5a-x
(Superset A) Feet-Elev. Pushups: 12a-e, 12a-x, 13b-x
 
(Superset B ) Knee Pike Press: 5a-x, 4n2(4s)a-x, 5n2(3s)b-x
(Superset B) Bar Pullup Eccentrics: 3(5s)b-x, 3(6s)b-x, 3(6s)b-y
- I had another mild wave of nausea during the first set of pullup eccentrics, but it passed quickly and I was able to complete the rest.
 
Ring Rows: 10a-x, 11a-x, 8a-y
 
Asst. Natural Hamstring Curls: 5c-x, 3c-x, 3b-y
Tuck Dragon Flags: 4c-x, 5b-x
 
Prone O Extensions: 3c-x, 4b-x, 4b-y
Wall Slide & Flex w/ Step: 4b-x, 4b-x, 3b-y
Kong Pull: 3c-x, 3b-x, 4b-y
Knuckle Wall Angels: 4a-x, 2b-y, 3d-y
 
Cooldown
 
- Shoulders got crazy-fatigued by the time I made it to my PT work, I really emptied the tank in those last sets. My lower traps became sore within an hour of finishing my workout -- usually it's the next day that I feel it. I was worried for the rest of the day I might have aggravated that pesky glenohumeral joint, because I got a few twinges while making dinner and such. After a night of sleeping carefully on my back, though, it seems to be okay.
 
- I FINALLY set up my CO2 tank in my new place, specifically because I'm tired of drinking flat water between workout sets. Did I mention how much more refreshing it is to be able to drink sparkling water during a workout? It's WAY MORE REFRESHING guys.

I've been thinking about challenge goals and the best way to set them, trying to figure out the best way to set a strength goal for myself that doesn't tempt me to push myself too hard. I've decided my strength goal for this challenge is going to simply be "do a pull-up", plus extra credit if I can get chest-to-bar by the end of the challenge. If it doesn't look like it's in the cards given my shoulder PT, though, I'll just change it -- I don't really see a reason not to be flexible with my challenge goals if I try them and they don't seem realistic. I don't seem to generally have a problem with making excuses for myself.
 
Now! Let's talk naan.
 
I should probably acknowledge, off the bat, that "naan" is a bit of a loaded term; in many countries and languages, naan just means "bread," and there are quite a few versions of naan out there that are no doubt delicious, but don't fully conform to what I've been trying to reproduce (barbari bread, lavash, pita, the awesome bagel-like ka'ak). BUT! To folks from American and European countries, naan seems to be one particular phenomenon: a yeasted, savory flatbread, puffy in some places and crispy in others from its baking in an extremely hot tandoor, usually brushed with butter or ghee and served in Indian restaurants all over the dang place. It's that specific vision of naan I've been trying to recreate, on and off, for a couple years.
 
I started, as I often do, with a recipe from Kenji Lopez-Alt. While it's not bad, whenever I tried it, I ran into the same issue: cakey, fluffy naan.
 
It turns out this problem is rampant among naan recipes on the internet, though it took experimenting with several others before I realized it. If you haven't seen this firsthand, it's best illustrated with a photo:
 
Spoiler

naan3.jpg

 

You can see that it has several large, noticeable bubbles along the surface (one of the visual hallmarks of naan). However, the bread is also quite thick; and if you tear it open, you'll find that everywhere except those occasional large bubbles, the crumb is soft and fine, like a milk bread or a potato roll.

 

On the other hand, restaurant-style naan usually looks a little more like this:

 

Spoiler

a-huge-naan-bread-in-a-indian-restaurant-S1EWNE.jpg

 

The important differences: for one, there are a lot more bubbles over the surface of the naan; for another, the naan is much flatter and thinner. Often you'll find the bottom is somewhat crispy, making it a good vehicle for scooping up something brothy or saucy.

 

Granted, all my attempts were made by griddling the bread on a hot cast-iron pan, rather than grilling it as Kenji suggests. Over the last couple of years, I have come back to Kenji's recipe five or six times, wondering if I'd just flubbed it a bit the times before. After quite a while, I was forced to conclude that while it made quite a good flatbread, it wasn't QUITE the naan I was looking for.

 

I tested several others: recipes from Bon Appetit, Rasa Malaysia, Madhur Jaffrey, and Denise D'silva Sankhé. All of them turned out about the same. I always wanted to try @deftona's recipe she posted about a year back, but sadly, I lost it to the ravages of time (and my failure to appropriately bookmark it).

 

Then, a couple months ago, I found a video by Adam Ragusea that purported to crack the code. I had seen lots of videos of people grilling naan on a tava before, while trying to troubleshoot my own failures, but I always figured what they were doing probably didn't apply to me -- the key step to tava breads is flipping it over and grilling the bread's top side over an open gas flame, and my stove is an electric coil (cue groan sound effects). However, Adam's video brought two new ideas to my attention:

 

1. If you get an electric coil red-hot, it can scorch the crap out of something almost as well as gas.

2. For some reason or other, breads leavened with chemical leaveners seem to work better on a tava than yeasted breads.

 

I found both points interesting, but in particular, chemical leaveners are something I've had near to no experience with. I always just assumed a yeasted bread would be superior, so I'd never tried it. I immediately resolved to try a quickbread-style naan and see what happened.

 

Just one problem. No shade on Ragusea, but I kind of hate his recipe. The problem: he has you figure out the hydration of the dough by feel. I have probably whined and stamped my feet before c bread recipes... but even more, I hate hate HATE recipes that have you start with such-and-such an amount of flour, add the water/milk, and then mix in more flour "as needed" until the dough feels a certain way. Yes, I know this is how they used to write recipes back in the day. Yes, I know that's how your Grandma did it and she never had problems, did she? But it worked for Grandma because she knew exactly how the dough should feel, because she'd been doing it every weekend for twenty-five years, probably screwing it up regularly for the first two. It's very, very difficult to communicate how a dough should feel by words alone in a recipe (as @WhiteGhost can no doubt attest, after I tried to give tips on tortilla-making a couple challenges back). And dammit Ragusea, if I had any idea how the dough should feel once I'm done kneading it, I wouldn't be looking up your freaking recipe. Just give me the goddamn hydration level and let me get it done.

 

I had to refer back to every recipe I'd ever looked at, but eventually I did calculate a pretty good guess as to what the hydration of the dough should be (60-66%), and I found a recipe for quickbread-style naan that gave me a working rule of thumb for how much leavener to use. (It's another Kenji recipe; his non-yeast naan recipe is in his book The Food Lab, but not published anywhere online.)

 

In the end, here's what I did (this made four naan):

  • 150g Gold Medal Blue Label all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 50g water
  • 50g milk (I used 2%, but fat percentage doesn't matter)
  • 1 Tbsp Fage Greek-style yogurt (just for a little lactic flavor)

I whisked all the dry ingredients in a bowl, then added the wet and mixed by hand with a dough scraper to a shaggy mass, then kneaded with my hands in the bowl until I had roughly medium gluten formation (and until I got tired of scraping dough off my hands). I was really pushing the hydration level to the high side, especially with the extra yogurt, so the dough was quite sticky, even after I'd kneaded for about six minutes. I decided I'd let time take care of some of the work I hadn't been willing to do, and let it sit in the bowl, covered with a towel, for half an hour.

 

Afterward, I threw a tiny bit of flour on my hands, portioned the dough, rolled the portions into balls, and left them on a cutting board, lightly-floured and covered by a towel, for another half hour.

 

When it came time to bake, I used Adam Ragusea's method from his video from that point forward. I rolled them out -- no flour on the counter -- peeled them up, rubbed some water on one side, and stuck them to my cast iron pan. For all four, I tried the tawa-style method of cranking the heat way up once the bottom was done, and flipping the pan over to let the top side hover just over the hot electric coil.

 

Takeaways:

  • Turned out, I needed a little more water on the bottoms than I thought to get them to stick to my pan. The first two naan peeled away and fell out of the pan before they were done, so I didn't get them very puffy. Those ended up fairly cakey, pretty close to what I've made in the past.
  • The second two stuck properly. They needed a solid 90 seconds hovering over that coil to really puff up -- but once they did, they came out of the pan just about perfect. They had huge bubbles on the surface, and their bottoms were thin and fairly crispy. I threw them under a towel with my first two naan, and they softened up just a bit and came out ALMOST PERFECT.
  • The one problem with those last two naan: A lot of the smaller bubbles blew up so much once the coil's heat hit them, that it became just one bubble along most of the surface, almost like a pita. However, it was much thinner than a pita would be.

The final naan, I brushed with a little butter, just to see how close I could get to a restaurant style. I would grade that one easily an A-.

 

The money shot: eaten with some leftover mafe and a labneh plate. The butter-brushed one is off on its own.

 

CN13Duvp_o.jpg

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Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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I was too distracted by the delicious looking food to read the naan excourse thoroughly, but I really enjoyed reading your little rant about adding stuff to recipes "as needed". I feel you. 

Looks like you had a very successful naan experiment. :) "Almost perfect" doesn't sound too shabby. :D 

How do you like garlic naan? Yay or nay? ^^

Previous challenges: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

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This sounds way more complicated than it needs to be,  Billions of Indians are probably eating delicious homemade naan everyday and I'm sure they aren't putting that much work into it.  I have found that @deftona's recipe ccomes out almost restaurant-like if you toss it thin enough and then throw it on a cast iron skillet at the right temp.  If she doesn't come and save you soon, I will try to recreate her recipe for you here.

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7 hours ago, Epsilonte said:

I was too distracted by the delicious looking food to read the naan excourse thoroughly, but I really enjoyed reading your little rant about adding stuff to recipes "as needed". I feel you.


Steam is leaking out of my ears again just thinking about it.

 

It’s an especially insidious problem for people who are newbies to dough, because newbies don’t realize that when it’s soup for the first minute of mixing and a powdery mess for the second minute, that’s totally normal for every wheat-flour dough on earth. They think they effed something up, and they start throwing in extra flour or water. DON’T DO IT NEWBIES! Just make sure you have a recipe you can trust.

 

Screwing with your dough hydration just opens up a Pandora’s box of problems; if something goes wrong down the line with your bread and you don’t know your hydration, you will never be able to solve the problem.

 

GAH

 

7 hours ago, Epsilonte said:

How do you like garlic naan? Yay or nay? ^^


OMG, I can think of zero food situations in which I wouldn’t enjoy garlic. Garlic naan is ALWAYS welcome. Only reason I didn’t do it that time was I didn’t want anything distracting from testing the bread itself.

 

The only thing I might take over garlic naan would be paneer naan, but that’s advanced naan artistry. Are you a garlic naan person or more of a naan-with-spices person?

 

5 hours ago, WhiteGhost said:

This sounds way more complicated than it needs to be,  Billions of Indians are probably eating delicious homemade naan everyday and I'm sure they aren't putting that much work into it.


I — ahh — dammit...

 

My first thought is HOW DARE YOU SIR I AM ENGAGED IN A NOBLE PURSUIT, my second is that you’re quite right that it’s kinda complicated, and if there’s a way to do it with less work I’d love to try it.

 

Naan as we know it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to home reproduction; the leavening and the fact that they are cooked in a super-hot tandoor (which requires a lot of fuel to run) makes them sort of a pro vendor kind of deal. I’ve been led to understand that Indian families making their own bread are probably more likely to make unleavened roti. Still, this has not snuffed my desire to reproduce the stuff made in restaurants, so I would love any tips you can give.

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Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Give my naan recipe a shot! I did start with a recipe once upon a time but I have bastardised it so much over the years and it always comes out perfect. 

 

1 1/2 tsp fast action yeast

1 tsp sugar

30 ml lukewarm water

 

300g plain/bread flour plus extra because you'll probably need it. (Even when recipes call for strong bread flour I just ignore them and use plain flour so bare this in mind and do what you like)

1 tsp flaked sea salt

75ml natural yoghurt

2 tbsp melted butter

120 ml lukewarm water. 

 

A variable amount of butter, but at least a few knobs.

 

Combine the first three ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Leave for about 10 minutes until it's frothy on the surface.

 

Put the flour into a larger bowl and add the salt, sprinkled with your fingers as fine as you can get it. Add in the yoghurt and the melted butter, then the frothy yeast mixture, and then slowly add the water bit by bit, stirring with a wooden spoon until it stops being practical. Move on to using your hands to finish incorporating the water and turn it out onto a work surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. I hate the feeling of kneading sticky dough so as soon as it starts to stick on the surface or my fingers I add a sprinkling of a bit more flour which everyone tells you not to do but I don't care. Lightly oil a glass bowl and pop in the dough. Cover with cling film. My house is a draughty thing even in summer so to rise bread dough I always put it in the top shelf of an unlit oven with a bowl of boiling water at the bottom. Leave for about an hour/an hour and a half, changing the boiling water once half way through. The heat and the moisture from the steam guarantees a great rise every time, even in the middle of winter. 

 

When the dough has doubled in size, tip it back out onto your work surface and knock out the air. Divide into 6 similar sized balls and grab a frying pan. Open a window, it gets smoky. Roll out one of the balls of dough until it's roughly naan shaped or round. Melt a tbsp butter in the pan and pick the dough up at one side and quickly rotate it a little to stretch it out but be careful not to let it tear. Lay it in the pan. It will slightly shrink and bubble on the surface. While the first one is cooking roll out another naan ball ready, keeping your eye on the one cooking ready to turn it over and cook on the other side until there are no doughy looking bits on either side. Keep in a warm oven if serving all immediately, melt more butter in the pan and repeat with the other balls of naan. Keep your eye on the temperature of the pan and as it gets hotter reduce the heat so the naans don't cook too quickly as you go. 

 

These have never failed me. They freeze well too. 

 

 

I'm more than adequate. Leave Kanye out of this. 

Profile picture credit : NF's resident super artist - NinjaKitten

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2 hours ago, PaulG said:

Steam is leaking out of my ears again just thinking about it.

Haha yeah those are my grandma's recipes in a nutshell. If I'm lucky she'll include some starting measurements, rather than "mix flour and water until right, then bake". 😄 

 

I was also too distracted by the pictures to read haha, because they look amaaazing! Even if overcomplicated. 😉

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10 hours ago, PaulG said:

Screwing with your dough hydration just opens up a Pandora’s box of problems; if something goes wrong down the line with your bread and you don’t know your hydration, you will never be able to solve the problem.

 

Hydration is key. In Naan and everywhere else. :D 

 

10 hours ago, PaulG said:

OMG, I can think of zero food situations in which I wouldn’t enjoy garlic. Garlic naan is ALWAYS welcome.

 

Congratulations, you passed my test. :D 

I'm also a garlic all day every day person. ^^ Spices are nice as well but... garlic IS a spice, isn't it? :D 

Previous challenges: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

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On 3/24/2021 at 1:58 AM, PaulG said:
1) Life: Make someone else's life a little better one time per week. When I finally wrote out all my goals for the year in one place, I realized that quite a few of them fall into the bucket of "be an active part of a community," which is something that I've felt missing in my life for a while now. When I visited my mother recently to connect with her after she got vaccinated, I was reminded of how important social connections really are, especially when so many of us -- including me -- are isolated from regular human contact. I've been thinking about this goal for a while now. In theory, it's a way for me to bolster my mental health, and the mental health of other isolated folks around me. In practice, it will probably be an excuse for me to bake a lot of bread products and deliver them to people over the next few weeks.

Yessss. I love, love, love this goal. And can attest folks really love a bread delivery. ❤️ 

 

Also, I lol'd at your rant about imprecision in recipes. I prefer them that way, but it does very much help to have some kind of measuring stick or comparison to aim for. 

Raptron, alot assassin

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On 3/28/2021 at 11:45 PM, deftona said:

Give my naan recipe a shot!

 

I totes will! @juliebarkley was kind enough to send me a copy of your old recipe she'd saved (thanks julie!), so I will be poring over both, looking for differences and doing hydration math and other fun stuff. If there are enough differences, maybe I'll try BOTH 😮😮😮

 

On 3/29/2021 at 12:55 AM, Mad Hatter said:

Haha yeah those are my grandma's recipes in a nutshell. If I'm lucky she'll include some starting measurements, rather than "mix flour and water until right, then bake". 😄 

 

I was also too distracted by the pictures to read haha, because they look amaaazing! Even if overcomplicated. 😉

 

My grandma did the exact same thing with her traditional Christimas cookies. I once tried to copy down her recipes, but I had to actually make the cookies with her to make sure she wasn't leaving out steps (she was), and then I realized that I'd probably need to refer to other recipes anyway to get consistent results. It's not like other recipes don't exist, luckily: her mainstays for Christmas are glazed German/Austrian-style anise-flavored springerle (springerlen?), soft ginger cookies, and (as I discovered thanks to @Epsilonte) Vanillekipferlen with a recipe that seems to have taken a hard left toward Mexican wedding cookies.

 

On 3/29/2021 at 8:53 AM, Epsilonte said:

Congratulations, you passed my test. :D 

I'm also a garlic all day every day person. ^^ Spices are nice as well but... garlic IS a spice, isn't it? :D 

 

Garlic is a vegetable. This is how I justify having multiple servings per day. :D

 

On 3/29/2021 at 9:16 AM, raptron said:

Yessss. I love, love, love this goal. And can attest folks really love a bread delivery. ❤️ 

 

Also, I lol'd at your rant about imprecision in recipes. I prefer them that way, but it does very much help to have some kind of measuring stick or comparison to aim for. 

 

Yes! Exactly! You don't need to share my pain to understand it. :D

 

--

 

Week 1 started! And everything started going nuts.

 

Sunday was great. Handled mobility, and started working out some budgeting to get a jump start on my Overdue Adulting goal. However, I had a little setback during parkour class: I got dumb during a pathfinding exercise when we passed through a playground and hit a jungle gym-type structure with a network of ropes, climbed a little too high, flipped myself upside down in the ropes, and ended up putting most of my bodyweight on my shoulders as I crawled through. I know this explanation makes no sense. Suffice it to say, my shoulder was sore after. To soothe myself, I hit my local Vietnamese grocery and grabbed ingredients for phat si ew, intending to finally set up my outdoor wok burner and make my first meal on my new balcony. I was stymied, though: see, classic phat si ew, I feel, requires sen yai: those very wide, sorta slippery rice noodles that anyone familiar with noodle dishes in ‘Murican Thai restaurants is familiar with. Sadly, this grocery store only gets deliveries of wide rice noodle sheets on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and the ones they had left were old, clearly refrigerated, and brittle. Everyone knows you can't refrigerate wide rice noodles! Plus it got dark, drizzly, and super cold while I was in the store. So in the end, I made phat si ew indoors, with glass noodles.

 

Monday was a trash fire due to work, we got slammed with a massive load of new cases and I worked until 6 PM, taking a break just long enough to spill an entire cup of coffee all over my kitchen counters, floors, and bar cart. However, it was also a freaking beautiful day. So the moment I got off work, I used my remaining energy to steam a batch of rice noodles from scratch, got out the wok burner, and made myself some phat si ew for reals.

 

Afterward, I did some mobility, including a hip flexor stretch that I am finding to be quite killer (very crampful for the hamstrings), but seems to be very effectively pushing me into true 180-degree hip extension, which I have never gotten before. Then I did some hamstring work, then took my "before" benchmark photo for hamstrings:

 

Spoiler

yltq4LRl_o.jpg

 

Still not at 90 degrees, even after a warmup. Shameful, but I guess it's important to know that I haven't progressed as much as I'd hoped.

 

Tuesday was no better at work, but I did eventually manage to tear myself away and get a workout in. I meant to take it easy because my shoulder still didn't feel 100%, but I wound up doing more than I'd meant to. (And yes, afterward I made even more phat si ew. That shit is delicious when it's made right.)

 

Workout Log 3/30/21
- Going In: Barely able to get into the workout by 6:15 PM because work was so crazy.
 
Warmup
 
(Superset A) Knee Pike Press: 8a-x, 7b-x, 7b-x
(Superset A) Bar Pullup Eccentrics: 1.5(8s)b-x
(Superset A) Pistol Squat Eccentrics: 4/4(5s)b-e, 3/3(5s)a-x, 3/3(6s)a-x
 
Asst. Natural Hamstring Curls: 4b-x, 6c-z
 
(Superset B ) Feet-Elev. Pushups: 9b-x, 12a-e, 13a-x
(Superset B ) Ring Rows: 11a-x, 9a-x, 11a-x
 
Prone O Extensions: 5b-x, 5b-x, 4b-y
Wall Slide & Flex w/ Step: 4b-y, 4b-y, 4c-y
Kong Pull: 5c-x, 4b-x, 5a-x
Knuckle Wall Angels: 4a-x, 3b-x, 3c-y
 
Cooldown
 
- I had a lot more energy this workout than on Saturday, I think whatever bug I had is finally fading.
 
- On the other hand, as of the next day, my shoulder is not 100% happy with all the work I did. It still feels strong and functional, but a bit twingy, especially when I let it roll forward.
 
And finally, let's cap this with a photo. It was too dark to get a photo of my ratchet-looking wok burner setup on my balcony, with all the ingredients stacked around it on quarter-sheet pans. But I can settle for a photo of my first balcony-cooked meal: phat si ew, with homemade rice noodles and all.
 
zAc7rzIu_o.jpg
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Cowardly Assassin
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Aw snap on getting your outdoor cooking on! With the proper noodles, hehe. Looks delicious. And glad you were able to squeeze in the workout despite work being wild.

Raptron, alot assassin

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