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EricMN leaves Hoth and goes to Dagobah


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I have been doing challenges with the Adventurers, but it's time I embrace my true nature and continue my training there.



A little background:


I am not who I used to be. I used to be this guy:




That guy sucks, and I sort of despise him. He was a weak, lazy bastard who could barely run to the end of the driveway without gasping for breath, and even when doing something as low-impact as mowing the lawn, would sweat like it was raining.


In late 2011, I finally grabbed at an opportunity to change and started doing group fitness twice a week at work. That was a decent start, but I was still fat, and then in August 2012 I left the company and stopped working out. And I went nearly back to being that guy up there, who like I said I sort of despise. Just look at him with that smarmy food-coma, glazed-eye smile. I bet that's ranch dressing on that plate.


In January of 2013, I joined a Boot Camp class and quickly started doing 2 classes per week.Since I was nearly back to where I had started, I wound up puking in the garbage can in the corner of the gym during my first class. But then, in a massive middle finger to that guy, I jumped right back into the class and finished it out. That was the beginning. Over the last two years, I consistently increased my activity, my strength, my stamina, and my moments of intermittent badassery, and am currently this guy:




This guy, I like. First of all, this guy's beard is infinitely more awesome than that other guy, plus if I'm going to sweat like it's raining, I better at least be doing something awesome to earn it.


Along the way, I learned some things about myself:

  1. I like working out with other people. Boot camp, small group workouts, even just running with a friend - all awesome, and having someone else to push you to keep working or to not blow off a workout is the best.
  2. I like lifting weights. Alone in the garage, in front of others at Boot Camp, in the living room with the kids; hell, I'm even not freaked out anymore to lift with the bros in the free weight section at the gym. I heart hypertrophy. Someone should make that into a tee shirt.
  3. I like running. I'm slow, and I'm still working my way up to a full 5k without stopping, but I run. I ran a bunch of 5k races this year and I enjoy pushing myself to try and hit my personal bests. Right now I'm working toward a personal best of under 34 minutes while still working on that whole run-without-walking part.
  4. I like eating clean. I've been logging my food while working with Jon, my trainer at the gym who started a Small Group thing (he calls it Focus Group). In 2013 I lost 35 pounds in three months between April and June letting him teach me to eat clean and eat whole, and when I am focused and actually am consistent with logging, I can shred off almost 2 inches around my middle in just over a month.
  5. I like me some Spartan Race. I did my first one (that money shot up there) in September of 2014 in Illinois. I am kicking myself for all the times I told myself "I can't" or "Not yet" or whatever the hell else all my excuses were. I loved that one race so much, I signed up for the Stadium Sprint in Milwaukee a month later, dragged my youngest kids out to do the Spartan Kids' Race, signed up for the Minneapolis Sprint for June of 2015 the day it was announced, and am already trying to figure where to fit a Beast into my schedule so I can complete at least one Trifecta this year. I'm going to quit talking about it now before I start going "Aroo!"

Lifting and running. It's not just a Spartan thing; this sounds like a certain NF Class, and it's time to embrace this thing.


Challenge Goals:


I have been measuring myself in Burpees since the last weekend in September at the Illinois Spartan. That number was 90 - 30 each for the three obstacles I failed to successfully complete, the Spear Throw, the Traverse Wall and the Rope Climb. In November it dropped to 60 when that damned spear sagged but did not drop. Sadly enough, I was less than six feet total away from a Burpee-free run in Milwaukee, but cramped up badly on the Traverse Wall and fell off two steps from the bell, and couldn't make it up the last few feet of the rope climb. Close enough to taste it, but far enough that I was in Burpee purgatory. Suck.


I am planning to do the Las Vegas Super Spartan in April, and it's time to get serious about training for it, because otherwise I'm going to be the king of Burpees at the end of that weekend.



Quest 1: Grip it and Rip It. I know I can beat the Traverse. I've been working on my grip strength ever since, to make sure that the damn rope does not beat me again. Jon has me working on pull-ups and chin-ups to increase my grip strength and my pull-force. Right now I can do two pull-ups in a row consistently and sometimes three. I need to keep at it to build up.


Goal: Do fifteen chin-ups or pull-ups every day.




A: 100+ per week

B: 85-99 per week

C: 70-84 per week

Anything less is a fail.


Quest 2: You Go Long. If I'm actually serious about this whole Trifecta thing, it's time to push up my miles when I run. 5k isn't going to cut it if I'm really going to tackle the Super in April. Right now I am doing interval training on the treadmill and can do 4.5 miles in an hour. It's time to push it some more. I'm currently only doing one extended cardio session. Doing it more often will help me increase my long-term stamina and my distance.


Goal: Run for at least one hour twice per week.




A: Two days or more, one hour each.

B: Two days or more, 90 minutes total

C: One day, one hour

Anything less is a fail.


Quest 3: You Have Logs? For the most part, I am consistent about staying away from processed foods and eating clean, whole foods, but the last couple months, I've been pretty lax. It's time to get back on track.


Goal: Log all my food, every day.




A: Logged all food intake every day

B: Logged every day but missed some entries

C: At least four days per week logged

Anything less is a fail.


Life Quest: Do It The Write Way. I am happiest when I spend some time writing. During one challenge in 2014, I had writing as a goal, and while the challenge overall didn't quite go great, I did do some decent writing. I aim to get back to that.


Goal: Produce one piece per week - fiction, non-fiction, or essay.




A: Six total pieces.

B: Four pieces total

C: Three pieces total

Anything less is an incomplete.




My kids. All five of them. They rock. And I want to still be going over the eight-foot wall when they're old enough to run it with me... and their kids, too. I want to be the 85-year-old man doing wall-sits and making the kids climb up my knee and onto my shoulder as I hoist them over the wall.
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Well, the first week of this challenge was a fail, but it's not going to derail me.


First, some major venting:


I work as a software engineer for a company that owns and operates a chain of convenience stores. The IT department is staffed by a group of staunch older guys, many of whom have been in their positions for upward of 25 years; I joined the company just over two years ago. The prevailing wisdom is "this is how we've always done it." This... is an issue. The IT industry, and software development in particular, are in constant change; if you allow your skills to fall even two years out-of-date, you can have some serious catching up to do.


For instance, members of my department are expected to serve a two-week support rotation. There are four of us that support our side of the business. That's 25% of my time that is spent doing support duties. This... is problematic. First of all, we are not just fielding problems with software we have written, we are continually spending our time supporting a vendor solution to which we do not have the source code. In 99% of all organizations, this kind of thing falls to people who just do that, and develop an expertise with it. Not here. I have spent a good 50% of my time over my two years here not writing and improving our own internal applications, but learning this vendor system so I know how to deal with issues as they come up. And they do come up.


All. The. Time.


In previous companies, we have called systems like this - which are supposed to support automation, but only sort of support automation, because all the automated stuff is fragile and fails on a regular basis - "man with screwdriver" implementations. In other words, you install the stuff, and then someone monitors it and then fixes the issues, and the fixes might not apply the next time. It's infuriating. The investment of even a fraction of what it costs to staff the contingency for this crap would be enough to fix some of the issues, but management won't do it.






Also, did I mention the whole "this is how we've always done it" thing? While on support rotation, we get a pager. A pager! On day one, they issued us a smart phone. I've never once turned it on. I already have one, and besides, they give us The Pager! Every time it goes off, I feel like 1995 is calling, asking for its technology back.



She's upset because she can't figure out how to text her BFF back. Maybe it's got Siri.


So, to recap:


Instead of doing my regular development job, I spent the last two weeks supporting software that we can't fix.

I was carrying a pager. Seriously. A pager.



And during the last two weeks, we had the two largest outages of the year, affecting our awesome vendor system and our payroll system. In other words, the two systems that have to be up and running and working without issue. Both happened on Mondays. Two weeks ago, payroll crashed. That caused upwards of 40 man-hours between six people to fix. Last week, our back-end system crashed. That caused upwards of 40 man-hours between four people to resolve, including a 22-hour day for me.


All because fixing things isn't a priority for management.


Okay. Closing the vent.


So, all that said, last week was a complete non-starter due to no sleep and bad eating and no time to work out if you discount push-ups at my desk and making it 20 minutes late to my Focus Group on Tuesday. In the past, I would probably shrug and quit.


Today is a different day.


Looks like this is going to be a five-week challenge. I'm going to re-adjust my grading goals and proceed as if last week never happened.


And I appreciate all y'all's support.

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Well, the first week of this challenge was a fail, but it's not going to derail me.

So, all that said, last week was a complete non-starter due to no sleep and bad eating and no time to work out if you discount push-ups at my desk and making it 20 minutes late to my Focus Group on Tuesday. In the past, I would probably shrug and quit.

Today is a different day.

Looks like this is going to be a five-week challenge. I'm going to re-adjust my grading goals and proceed as if last week never happened.

And I appreciate all y'all's support.

Life happens and sometimes adjustments must be made. Glad to see one not so great week isn't going to derail you.


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Try not, do or do not- Yoda

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Week 2 - Catching Up


So, I'm getting back on track.


Last week, I banished the pager back to 1995, and restored some normalcy to my actual life as well.




I was able to make it to several of my normal workouts: Boot Camp on Monday, Focus Group on Thursday, and lifting on Friday.


Focus group. The new group started Jan 1. I've done Focus with a couple of the people in the group before, but a couple are new. Most of the folks in the group can make Boot Camp or Sculpt class on Wednesday. I cannot, due to other commitments, one of which are my two youngest and a-freaking-dorable children. They rock. Anyway, during the Wednesday night group classes, somebody - who I may or may not hunt down and have drawn and quartered - decided to request a Leg Night at Focus Group. Fine; I've done leg work before.


Ugh. Jon reminded me why, for about an hour or so at a time, he is my least favorite person. He sat pretty much right on me and made sure I was doing form TO THE LETTER - barbell squats, front curl squats, goblet squats, Bulgarian split squats, weighted lunges... and at least four more exercises I have blocked from my memory. It was the first time in months that I have left, gone home, and been in actual "damn, this hurts" while scaling the stairs at my condo. (There are 28 of them, for the record.)



This is a pretty accurate representation of what it felt like.


Normally I head to the gym and run after Focus Group. This was a non-starter that night. I went home and soaked in the tub.


Friday I did an upper body set at the gym. I usually warm up with 8-10 minutes on the treadmill. My thighs were literally cramping toward the end. So was my right bicep. In hindsight, I was not staying hydrated enough, especially for starting back to the gym.


Goal grading:


Goal: Do fifteen chin-ups or pull-ups every day.

Result: Did an average of 10 per day for a total of 72. This week will be better.


Goal: Run for at least one hour twice per week.

Result: Didn't happen. Fail.


Goal: Log all my food, every day.

Result: A. Logging 100%. Admitting the days when I am less than perfect is a humbling experience, as well.


So, not back as if I'd not missed a beat, but not a failure. 

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Back is back and that's what counts. That workout sounds killer so that's quite a return. You've inspired me. My leg day was yesterday and I'm walking normally today so I think I should push myself more. I read it earlier, but I didn't get to reply...pagers?!  HAHA! I had a sweet one back in the day. It was transparent green. 

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Lady Feowyn Miread of Eldavar


You have no idea what you're capable of, you didn't create you.


Megathirio Discord- https://discord.gg/kr2YCJM   




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Week 3 Recap:




I can't complain about the weather. The temps have been unseasonably warm for Minnesota in January (like, 25-45 degrees, which is unheard of). The warmer temps have been making it easier for me to feel like moving around, although I have yet to strap up and go running outdoors. I have half a dozen excuses, including but not limited to the following:

  • My winter running shoes are too small
  • Melting snow re-freezes overnight, making sidewalks a glare-ice rink of slippery hell
  • All the meltage makes the air damp which chills me to the bone even when it's nice out
  • Too dark all the time

Mostly, it boils down to dealing with the ongoing Seasonal Affective crap that I deal with every year. I did better last week forcing myself to get moving again, and once I was actually moving it was fine, but making it happen every time felt like this:




I will not miss this season when it is gone.


I think it would be better if I had something closer on the event horizon toward which I am training. There's the Get Lucky 7k in March and then the Las Vegas Spartan Super in April, but those might as well be a million miles away. I had originally thought I was going to do this during the upcoming weekend, but yeah, I don't see that happening.


I did resume most of my usual weekly exercise routine. I did 30 minutes of HIIT followed by Boot Camp on Monday, which has been trimmed in the schedule from a full hour to 45 minutes. Thursday's Focus group was pre-empted by a non-workout educational piece that I've already done three times so I skipped it - with Jon's approval - and used that time to get back into my lifting program before doing my regular Thursday run. Saturday I only made it to Boot Camp instead of my HIIT/Boot Camp daily double, but no pity party here; and I had a good lifting session Sunday evening, doing back and triceps for the first time in a while. Hadn't done any deadlifts for a bit, and I could tell my grip strength wasn't quite where it had been, but it still felt good. 


I removed a level of excuse-making this week by pre-packing my gym bag yesterday when I got home from the gym, blood still moving. Whatever it takes at this point.


Goal grading:


Goal: Do fifteen chin-ups or pull-ups every day.

Result: B. 90 for the week, including 48 assisted on the pull-up machine Sunday evening.


Goal: Run for at least one hour twice per week.

Result: C.  I got in one hour on Thursday, after my Thursday workout. Did 4.34 miles in that hour, and did a 10mph sprint for the last 1/8 mile. There's a good way go get the heart rate monitor to peg...


Goal: Log all my food, every day.

Result: A. Logging 100%. Nutrition this week was so much better than I have been for a while - with the exception of Wednesday - completely due to us serving the worst possible pizza (Little Ceasar's) at our weekly youth group dinner, I killed it as far as caliories/protein/carbs/fiber. Also, ever since the Great Leg Destruction of January two weeks ago, I've been diligent about making sure I'm staying hydrated.


All in all, not a bad week.

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Rebel Scum - Current Challenge - Battle Log - Epic Quest

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Jumping into following late but love the drive!!  Keep pushing! I just signed up for my first Spartan and I am eating up the knowledge and how people are getting ready with training.  Can't wait to see your results with this challenge.  

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Level 4 Demon/Assassin

We Can't All Be The Hero.


STR:6  DEX:7 STA:8  CON:5  WIS:8 CHA:2


"No power in the 'verse can stop me." River


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I'm behind updating again. About par for the course in this challenge, I think.


Week 4 recap:


I needed last week. Possibly desperately. I am sick of the world being covered in ice and snow and everyone either huddling inside, away from other human contact, or bundled up until everyone looks like ticks ready to pop and unable to move about freely. 



No, I'm good. I'll just lie here until the spring thaw.


The following has been my normal weekly routine since about last May:


Monday evening daily double, HIIT + Boot Camp

Thursday Focus Group, followed by 1 hour run

Friday HIIT, followed by weights

Saturday morning daily double, HIIT + Boot Camp

Sunday - weights


Plus there was a third day of weights in there somewhere.


Last week did not go according to plan.


Monday, in my quest to get in a second hour of running per week, I hit the gym on my lunch hour and got in 4.6 miles. It was a good start. I thought, Hey! I am going to kill this week! No, I wound up missing my Monday daily double due to a family issue, missed my Thursday after-Focus group run due to other issues, and didn't lift on Sunday for reasons that will be covered later.


Also, I totally did not do the Iceman OCR this last weekend and I am sure I will be annoyed by that fact by the time the weather gets warm.





It wasn't a plan, really, more just flying by the seat of my pants. Which looks weird as most people fly in airplanes.


Sunday morning I did the Spartan Workout Tour with a good hundred and fifty or so others. Two hours of sustained medium-intensity cardio with some strength moves - push-ups and pull-ups. I was able, over three rounds, to knock out 10 pull-ups. I was happy not to suck in front of everyone.



I'm in there somewhere.


Before I went off to do my Super Bowl partying, I went back to my own gym and did 40 minutes on the treadmill.


Nothing went according to plan. It just may have turned out better. 


Goal measurement:


Goal: Do fifteen chin-ups or pull-ups every day.

Result: A. 100 for the week. Word.


Goal: Run for at least one hour twice per week.

Result: B.  90 minutes total. I'll get there.


Goal: Log all my food, every day.

Result: F. The bad thing about deviating from plan is that I wind up not doing things like logging my food. I could go back and try to re-construct the week, but I would miss something. I know I did well, it's just a matter of how well, something I'm not going to know because no logging. Bah.


This week is off to a better start schedule-wise. Looks like I'm in position for a strong last couple weeks of this challenge.

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Week 5 Recap:


This one got off to a good start. Between the previous Thursday at Focus and Monday, I shredded my legs. Every. Day. That's five consecutive days where legs were at least part of the workout. 


Monday's online workout was legs-heavy. Barbell squats, lunges galore. Jon switched up my routine for the first time in about six months and while it was mostly legs, it's now a full-body workout instead of isolated legs/back, arms/chest, back/arms. It's time for me to start cutting weight over the next two months while keeping my strength up and he knows his stuff.



Trust your Master's teachings you must, Jedi.


My Monday daily double changed a little as the class schedule has been changed up some. Instead of a 30-minute HIIT class followed by Boot Camp, now it's a 30-minute CrossFit kind of thing followed by Boot Camp. Which means more weights at a high-intensity pace. This is not a bad thing, it's just different.


Oh, and both of those Monday sessions were focused on legs. After 30 minutes of 2-3 variations of barbell squats, I was feeling it even before we started in on the Bulgarian Split squats during Boot Camp. And I was still feeling it on Wednesday morning. 



Or the following day, either, if you really did the job, evidently.


The rest of the week was uneven. I got in my normal Thursday routine - Focus Group, followed by an hour of running, and then promptly caught a mild cold, and spent most of the weekend working on a youth group fundraiser that I look forward to every year in the same way that I would look forward to a prostate examination.


Goal grading:


Goal: Do fifteen chin-ups or pull-ups every day.

Result: B. 95 for the week. It's tougher to get in 15 per day than I'd thought.


Goal: Run for at least one hour twice per week.

Result: C. Only got in one run, on Thursday. It felt pretty sluggish and I only got in about 4.2 miles.


Goal: Log all my food, every day.

Result: F. I need to get back on this horse...

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Week 6 Recap:


Mostly back on track. 


I'm enjoying my Monday daily double. I'm glad that there's a weight-intensive class at the gym that finally fits my schedule. 


Good hour run after Focus Group on Thursday. I wasn't feeling it, I felt like I was just slogging through... and still got 4.5 miles in.


Friday daily double was good - HIIT is always a blast with Michele. She used to work out with us before becoming a trainer, and now she tailors her classes to kick our butts. Plus, she and I have pretty much identical tastes in music. We wind up dancing, especially during tabata rests.



This squirrel probably has better moves than I do. And better hair. But I have a better beard.


Also, as much as I like the dedicated hypertrophy lifting program, it's good to be back to the full-body program that Jon had me on last year. I mean, the gains have been nice and all, but it's going to be kind of sweet to consistently be able to raise my arms above my head without crying.



Me, directly after chest and triceps day during Hypertrophy Phase II.


Goal grading:


Goal: Do fifteen chin-ups or pull-ups every day.

Result: C. 75 for the week. My right shoulder is barking for some reason. Had to do most of them in a hammer grip.


Goal: Run for at least one hour twice per week.

Result: B. My hour Thursday, plus at least 30 minutes yesterday, although it wasn't a dedicated hour run.


Goal: Log all my food, every day.

Result: F. Today is a new day and I have already logged my food.

Rebel Scum - Current Challenge - Battle Log - Epic Quest

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Challenge Wrap-Up:
Not great but not bad. I made it completely through the challenge - something I have had a hard time with in the past due to other commitments - but that's a pretty low bar.
Goal: Do fifteen chin-ups or pull-ups every day.
Did a total of 432 this challenge, averaging 86 per week. That's a solid B grade.

Goal: Run for at least one hour twice per week.

Averaged an hour per week. That was a C. 

Goal: Log all my food, every day.
Ehhhh... I started already today. But it's a fail here.

Life Quest Writing Goal: Produce one piece per week - fiction, non-fiction, or essay.
I think I failed to mention this at any point during my challenge. Bad man. No cookie. (Is that a punishment when you're attempting to eat clean?)


During the challenge, I produced six essays for entertainment and one non-fiction piece for a blog to which I contribute. This is a full A.


B/C/F/A for the four goals. On a 4.0 grading scale that's a 2.0 average. In the University of Life, I get to re-take classes as often as I feel like to improve my grade, and will be doing so with food logging for the next challenge. 2.0 is a passing grade and I level up with no margin, earning 10 of 15 level-up points due to the phail on food logging.


Based on the actual stuff I did, I allocate as thus:


STR +2 - that was a lot of hanging from bars on top of my regular workouts

DEX +3 - all the hanging from bars caused some improvement

STA +3 - going for an hour on the treadmill improved my stamina, even if I didn't always get in 2 per week

CHA +2 - the writing just made me feel more like me, to the point that I forgot it was something with which I was challenging myself


From Level 3: STR 11 | DEX 2 | STA 6 | CON 4 | WIS 8 | CHA 5

To Level 4:     STR 13 | DEX 5 | STA 9 | CON 4 | WIS 8 | CHA 7


I'll take it.

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