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Astreja's Early Bird Quest-and-a-Half


Astreja

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The title of this quest has a dual meaning:  I want to take advantage of the last few weeks of the September-October challenge as a warm-up for the following one, but at the same time I want to learn to appreciate the early part of the day.  I have a schedule that's preposterously full of stuff (full-time job, music lessons, dance lessons, band rehearsals and concerts) and once I'm finally home it's hard to summon the energy -- or even find the time -- to work out.

 

Years ago, however, I had very good experiences working out on my way to work.  I want to try that again, at least one or two days a week.  I also have at least one weekend morning open, sometimes both.

 

Main Quest:  Start getting up earlier so that I can exercise when body and mind are rested and fresh.

 

Subquest #1:  Increase barbell squats to 125 pounds (currently 95) for one set of 5 reps.

 

Subquest #2:  Increase bench press to 100 pounds (currently 75) for one set of 5 reps.

 

(I've lifted my goal weights before, but it's been a while -- Nearly 20 years.  I'm older, but am I wiser? Only time, and the weights, will tell.)

 

Subquest #3:  Recalibrate my eating habits to make sure I'm getting at least some protein at least 4 times a day. 

 

Side quest:  Make this hectic life of mine more peaceful whenever and however possible.  That could mean uncluttering and simplifying my personal space, clearing up old projects before starting new ones, trying to figure out how meditation works, and/or not causing trouble on the Internet at 3:00 in the morning.   :tongue:

 

Scoring:

A for reaching the weight targets; B, C, D for each 5 pounds below the targets. +1 or more STR points.

A for achieving 3 morning workouts a week, B for 2, C for 1, D for working out only later in the day. + to CON and STA as appropriate.

A for getting quality protein 4+ times a day; B, C, D for 3, 2 or 1 servings. +1 or more CON points.

 

Making any meaningful progress on the side quest:  +1 or more WIS points plus CHR or DEX points if applicable, based on what activities (or inactivities) I opt for.

 

This quest will continue into the next challenge period, with levelling up at that time.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Trying to calm a crazy busy life as well as fit lifting in really calls to me right now, looking forward to seeing how it works out for you. I find the weekend mornings by far the easiest place to fit lifting in myself.

Massrandir, Barkûn, Swolórin, The Whey Pilgrim
500 / 330 / 625
Challenges: 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 31 32 34 35 36 39 41 42 45 46 47 48 49 Current Challenge
"No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. " ~ Socrates
"Friends don't let friends squat high." ~ Chad Wesley Smith
"It's a dangerous business, Brodo, squatting to the floor. You step into the rack, and if you don't keep your form, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~ Gainsdalf

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Just rolled my alarm clock back to 8:30 a.m. for Saturday morning, which will allow me to spend an hour or more at the gym (and have a nice swim afterwards).  I have my lifting notes from last Saturday and will try to build upon what I did last week.

 

Didn't get in 4 protein meals today as I had to do fasting bloodwork for a doctor's check-up, but did have a few good noms:  Omelette for brunch (bacon, eggs, Swiss cheese and red peppers) and cod with yams for supper.

 

Exercise-wise, I haven't been totally idle.  Monday through Thursday of this week, a friend and I were re-insulating the front of my house.  I was using my legs a lot as I climbed up and down the ladder, and my arms got a workout from hanging onto the various tools.  Really noticing the benefits of the weight loss from my Level 1 challenge, and definitely appreciating the strength that I do have.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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This Saturday I would have normally gone to the recreation centre to lift, but this week and next I have something a bit different to do:  I had 2 personal trainer visits left over from a 4-visit package I signed up for a couple of years ago, and I wanted to put them to good use.  The original trainer had left the gym, so I met with another trainer this morning.  We went over my goals and did an assessment of my gait (tl;dr version:  I walk like a penguin  :sour:), and she gave me some exercises to put it right.

 

Next week we're going to check my squat and bench press form, but in the meantime I've added assisted pull-ups to my workout and will also be doing some rowing.

 

Oh, and alarm is set for 8:30 a.m. Sunday so that I get my usual weekend lifting done.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Made it to the gym this morning, and did squats, bench press, machine chin-ups and seated hamstring curls.  Still working on getting good squatting form, and looking forward to next Saturday when the personal trainer will have a look.

 

Carbs a bit heavier today, but nothing atrocious:  A mug of beer, a scant handful of potato chips, and a small piece of garlic toast was the worst it got.  Had a hard-boiled egg and tea for breakfast, another one for a snack, shrimp Caesar salad when I was out with a friend, and butter chicken (no rice) for supper.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Many trainers don't know what they are talking about with squats, but at the same time, many do. I'll give you a short list of a few things to look for to tell which she is:

  • Knees going out over the toes is ok. Google olympic clean and you'll see it on all of them. Many of us have problems getting there due to poor ankle mobility, but that's a mobility problem, not a knee danger problem. If a trainer tells you otherwise, they are misinformed. This all stems from an out of date study.
  • In the same vein, many will tell you not to squat too deep because it's bad for your knees. The exact opposite is true. You want to squat down so your hip crease AT LEAST breaks barallel with the tops of your knees. Even better is to squat down until your hamstrings are on your calves if you have the mobility to do so. If not, it will come with time and proper form. Squatting above parallel puts more shear on your knees by stopping and changing direction that high.
  • Like 1

Massrandir, Barkûn, Swolórin, The Whey Pilgrim
500 / 330 / 625
Challenges: 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 31 32 34 35 36 39 41 42 45 46 47 48 49 Current Challenge
"No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. " ~ Socrates
"Friends don't let friends squat high." ~ Chad Wesley Smith
"It's a dangerous business, Brodo, squatting to the floor. You step into the rack, and if you don't keep your form, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~ Gainsdalf

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Thanks for the squat pointers! I have fairly good flexibility all over, so getting the hamstrings on the calves is ultimately quite doable. Currently my main concern is keeping a solid stance with good balance, and at my next workout I may take the weight down to just the bar until I have the proper body mechanics burned in.

It'll be interesting to see what the trainer has to say on the subject -- Hopefully something useful rather than useless.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Had my last session with the trainer today, and it's safe to say that I'm not going to book any more visits with her or with that gym.  She subscribed to the "don't let your knees go past your toes" business, and also was so busy showing me exercises that I hadn't even asked for that she never did get around to working with me on a barbell squat, deadlift, or bench press.

 

Good (very rude word) riddance.  I'm going to the gym tomorrow to cleanse my palate.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Sunday was a good day at the gym. I only did 65 pounds for my squat maximum yesterday, but it was a good 65 pounds, sitting back properly on my heels and going below parallel.

Got up to 90 pounds on machine bench press. Only 10 pounds to go before my challenge goal weight.

Improved machine-assisted chin-up by another 20 pounds, getting my back into it. I'm now essentially lifting about 80 pounds of my own weight (machine set to an assist of 140 pounds, and body weight hovering between 215 and 220.

And I got some Xtreme Eating out of the way this weekend with pizza, beer and cake, and am shifting from low-carb to meat/veg/occasional fruit with avoidance of grains and sugar.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Had my last session with the trainer today, and it's safe to say that I'm not going to book any more visits with her or with that gym.  She subscribed to the "don't let your knees go past your toes" business, and also was so busy showing me exercises that I hadn't even asked for that she never did get around to working with me on a barbell squat, deadlift, or bench press.

 

Good (very rude word) riddance.  I'm going to the gym tomorrow to cleanse my palate.

 

That sucks. I wish there were laws that defined what a fitness trainer was, and various levels, so you know what you're getting before hand.

Massrandir, Barkûn, Swolórin, The Whey Pilgrim
500 / 330 / 625
Challenges: 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 31 32 34 35 36 39 41 42 45 46 47 48 49 Current Challenge
"No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. " ~ Socrates
"Friends don't let friends squat high." ~ Chad Wesley Smith
"It's a dangerous business, Brodo, squatting to the floor. You step into the rack, and if you don't keep your form, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~ Gainsdalf

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Struggling with a trifecta of irritating problems this week:

* I have a very sore right foot and knee, worse than usual. Calf and hamstring stretches seem to relieve that, so I just have to keep on top of it.

* Going to bed way, way too late, although I'm starting to rein that problem back in. I have been sleeping a more solid sleep when I do get to bed, though.

* A bit heavy on the carbs. Need to replenish the household supply of protein-rich snackies. Still not bringing cookies to work, so that seems to have stuck.

On my off days I'm working to practice my squat form, nice and slow with a chair or desk near at hand in case my balance decides to wander off. Starting to see and feel what needs to be done to get some quality lifts, and looking forward to my next sortie to the gym on Saturday morning.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Ah, that's better!  Not only was I able to advance all my weights at the gym today (including a 100-pound bench press set on machine), but somewhere along the way I also lost 2 more pounds.

 

I got an unofficial second workout in this evening, as I needed to open up one wall of a window gable on the third floor of my house.  (It has no insulation, and when there's a north wind it gets rather chilly).  Between bags of plaster and bundles of lath coming downstairs, and various tools going upstairs, I made at least 10 round trips to the back yard to drop off the trash.  My legs are not speaking to me at the moment.   :angry:

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Gotta love those functional workouts!

Massrandir, Barkûn, Swolórin, The Whey Pilgrim
500 / 330 / 625
Challenges: 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 31 32 34 35 36 39 41 42 45 46 47 48 49 Current Challenge
"No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. " ~ Socrates
"Friends don't let friends squat high." ~ Chad Wesley Smith
"It's a dangerous business, Brodo, squatting to the floor. You step into the rack, and if you don't keep your form, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~ Gainsdalf

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Got a mid-week burst of aerobics in tonight, in the form of a tap-dancing class (class 7 of a 10-week beginners' program through the city recreation department).  I'm still trying to puzzle out what's wrong with my right leg -- I suspect it's a combination of multiple sprains over the years plus arthritis plus overweight plus a desk job -- but my improved leg strength seems to have given me a bit of stability there and I was able to do the whole class.

 

Am starting to try one-legged squats for the days that I can't make it to the gym to do squats.  So far I can only do negatives, but I expect that to change.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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one-legged squats= pistols? Following any progression for it?

Massrandir, Barkûn, Swolórin, The Whey Pilgrim
500 / 330 / 625
Challenges: 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 31 32 34 35 36 39 41 42 45 46 47 48 49 Current Challenge
"No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. " ~ Socrates
"Friends don't let friends squat high." ~ Chad Wesley Smith
"It's a dangerous business, Brodo, squatting to the floor. You step into the rack, and if you don't keep your form, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~ Gainsdalf

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Pistols? Yes, that's exactly what I'm trying for. I found a few websites with suggestions of things to try, including using a chair to limit the downward movement (although a chair would interfere with squatting down all the way).

Reached uneasy truce with my right leg today. When the top of my foot starts to sting, it's a signal to get up to do some calf stretches, plus a few squats (2-legged, but that's going to change) to get the blood pumping.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Still struggling with the concept that one should get up earlier than 11:00 a.m. on a Saturday, but after the cats nudged me out of bed I went to the gym to see if I could top last Saturday's workout.  Had a very good day indeed; details in my battle log.

 

Body weight today is 217 pounds, per the gym scale.

 

I had a couple of Woot Moments.  One involved finally taking the deadlifts to the Olympic bar, and equalling a weight that had messed up my back something awful 18 years ago.  I think the proximate cause of the injury had been not bothering to put collars on the ends of the bar, which caused one of the plates to slip, which unbalanced the whole thing, and rather than doing the sensible thing and just dropping it I attempted to control the weight... and tore up the right side of my lower back.

 

Well, today I lifted the weight properly and safely, and it felt really good to confront my fear.

 

The other Moment involved when I was psyching myself up to do the last set of bench press, at 110 pounds.  There's a quote from a Margaret Weis book that I love almost beyond words, and it sprang to mind just before I made the (successful) attempt:

 

 

I will do this.  Nothing in my life matters except this.  No moment of my life exists except this moment.  I am born in this moment, and if I fail, I will die in this moment.

 

- Raistlin Majere, The Soulforge, Book 2, Chapter 4.

 

I seem to have acquired an archmage as my training partner.   :pride:

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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That's an awesome quote. I'm going to have to remember it for next time I compete.

 

And yeah, unbalanced DLs are no bueno.

Massrandir, Barkûn, Swolórin, The Whey Pilgrim
500 / 330 / 625
Challenges: 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 31 32 34 35 36 39 41 42 45 46 47 48 49 Current Challenge
"No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. " ~ Socrates
"Friends don't let friends squat high." ~ Chad Wesley Smith
"It's a dangerous business, Brodo, squatting to the floor. You step into the rack, and if you don't keep your form, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~ Gainsdalf

Link to post

Had an okay workout today. I woke up with my left knee feeling sore, for unknown reasons (it's usually the right knee that gives me trouble) and it was somewhat hard to get full range of motion.  It had a bit of an effect on my ability to focus during the workout.  Pain seems to be mostly in the gastrocnemius, and a bit on the front and inside of the knee.  I vaguely remember putting the leg into an odd position the night before when stepping down from a ladder, so most likely I strained something.

 

I was barely able to move 95 pounds on the bench press, but today I was using the Olympic bar rather than the machine.  To get to my challenge goal I need 5 more pounds, for reps.

 

Erred on the side of caution on deadlift and only did 115 pounds.  Managed to double the reps on the "heavy" set  of assisted chin-ups (offset currently 120 pounds), and added a rep or two to the heavy set of squats (currently at 95 pounds).

 

Although there were no major "woot!" moments, I think it was a constructive day that sets the stage for future gains.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Just checking in to report that I'm still slogging away at the heavy stuff, tucking workouts into my Sunday mornings for the last couple of weeks. I have the actual lift numbers in a notebook in the bag where I keep my shoes and sweats, and if I can only remember to take it upstairs when I get home from work, I'll update my Battle Log.

The "get up earlier" aspect of the challenge isn't happening, alas, but overall my strength has made some astounding gains. I've been putting that strength to good use by doing a lot of very useful functional things, including renovations and hauling gear for band concerts (I play clarinet in one community band, and clarinet and keyboards in another one, and have been hauling a 20-year-old synthesizer around to Christmas concerts for several weeks now).

I have made progress on the calm-down-and-simplify aspect of the challenge. My study has been reorganized, my office is gradually getting cleaned up, and other rooms in the house are also looking good -- Which makes things much less stressful overall. (Darned if I know how clutter causes stress, but it quite obviously does.)

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Well, the quest-and-a-half is officially over and it's time to level up.  Here's how I did:

 

Main quest (get up earlier in order to work out):  Mostly a washout, although I am getting up earlier on the weekends than I used to and have been getting a good strength workout in every week.  This one only rates a D, and I'm giving myself 0.5 STA but no CON.

 

Subquest #1:  Barbell squat, 125 pounds for 5 reps.  Achieved as of Monday, December 22.  My form was a bit iffy for the last couple of reps, but I did it.  Rating this as an A, and assigning 2 strength points.

 

Subquest #2:  Bench press, 100 pounds for 5 reps.   I'm giving this one a B because I could only lift 95 pounds for a couple of reps using a barbell.  I did manage 100 pounds for 5 reps on a lever-type bench press machine, but it didn't feel like the same exercise at all.   1 strength point for making good progress, plus another +1 STR for steady advances in chin-ups and deadlift as well.

 

Subquest #3:  Increase protein intake.  This is good for a C, as I've been making sure I get at least some protein before and/or after workouts.  On average I've been getting 2-3 meals with protein of some sort, but perhaps a bit too much fast food on occasion.   +1 to CON for this

.

Side quest:  Simplify and pacify a manic life, and make my environment more pleasant.  I probably picked the worst possible time of the year for a goal like this, as I play clarinet in two community bands and have been constantly rushing out to music lessons, rehearsals, festivals, seniors' residences and now a whole slew of Christmas concerts.  My house has also been in the throes of Xtreme Renovations, and I have a full-time desk job.  However, I actually succeeded in the side quest.  I uncluttered a pile of renovation junk from the back yard, wound up an electrical permit by getting things ready for final inspection, got out of temporary sleeping quarters and back into my own bedroom (new paint, new flooring, new bed!) and even found my desk again.  It was under the cat.

 

For the side quest, I'm assigning +2 wisdom, +1 to STA for keeping the energy flowing steadily and (mostly) sensibly, and +2 DEX for the 10-week Intro to Tap Dance class I managed to sneak in on Tuesday nights.  I'll also throw in +1 charisma because socializing with band mates and audience members and fellow students in the dance class -- Not to mention learning how to tap dance -- has improved speaking, listening and moving.

 

Overall, 11.5/15 points assigned, as follows:


 

STR 4

STA 1.5

DEX 2

CON 1

WIS 2

CHA 1

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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Sounds like you made some great progress and built some solid habits. What's the plan for next time?

Massrandir, Barkûn, Swolórin, The Whey Pilgrim
500 / 330 / 625
Challenges: 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 31 32 34 35 36 39 41 42 45 46 47 48 49 Current Challenge
"No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. " ~ Socrates
"Friends don't let friends squat high." ~ Chad Wesley Smith
"It's a dangerous business, Brodo, squatting to the floor. You step into the rack, and if you don't keep your form, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~ Gainsdalf

Link to post

My next stop is the Druids.  I'm going to put aside heavy lifting for a while and work on body awareness, trying to move better with less pain.  I want to retain the improvements in squat form in particular, so I'll occasionally be doing body-weight exercises and trying to figure out how to do pistols.

Astreja K. Odinsdóttir, socially-distanced Valkyrie
Race:  Humanoid (
Ásynja)
[ Level 9 | STR 14 | STA 18 | DEX 16 | CON 18 | WIS 19 | CHA 15 ]

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