I Pick Things Up And Put Them Down

Ahoy, Maytees! It’s been a minute since my last post, and I have so many new things to share with y’all. I’ve been going through a ton of changes lately, and I’ll delve into them all, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

1.) After 3.5 years of living a vegan lifestyle, I’m now omnivorous. And I have extremely mixed feelings about it.

2.) I went to NYC and tried out a Lagree Pilates class. It was sweaty and weird.

3.) I transitioned from triathlon/endurance running to life as a gym rat, lifting heavy with 5/3/1. Werkin’ on dem gainz, son.

There’s a lot to say about each of these subjects, so I’ll break them down into separate blog posts. I think sharing some thoughts around each of these experiences will be pertinent for many of my readers out there, so…Brace

Since I’m having a pretty backwards day today, this post will focus on #3 first: Talkin’ bout dat 5/3/1.

Story time! If you’re an avid reader of my blog (and even if you’re not, just read the last couple of posts), you may know that after many years of competitive running, I got completely burned out on racing this year and wanted to do something new. Enter, weight lifting. I started lifting weights when I was about 11 years old (weird, and probably unsafe, but that’s what happens when you have an older brother), but I’ve never dedicated more than a couple of days per week to it. So, when I started talking to RP about putting together a plan, he suggested I do 5/3/1.

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What’s 5/3/1, you ask? It’s a strength training program devised by a guy named Jim Wendler. Its tactics are used by bodybuilders, powerlifters, and regular folks who are interested in getting stronger. I’ve wanted to do it for years, but always had other goals I was working toward. Now, with no races or deadlines in front of me, I knew this was the time to go for it.

The principles are simple: Lift heavy four days per week, focusing on four compound lifts: Squat, Deadlift, Military Press, Bench Press. There are four weeks to a cycle, and each week you lift a certain percentage of your 1 Rep Max. At the end of four weeks, you increase the load you lift by 5-10 pounds. And so on, and so forth. Written out, it might sound complicated, but I promise that it’s quite straight-forward.

The key to this program is patience, and that’s oddly what I love most about it. It’s not a “quick fix.” You’re not going to bench 500 pounds after a month. It’s sloooooooow. But it’s awesome and effective. Each week, I find myself in the middle of a workout thinking, “There’s no way I can finish this workout,” or “I don’t know if I can beat my reps from last week.” But then I do. And many times, I end up doing way more than I thought I could. That’s a great F-ing feeling, guys. Even on the days where I don’t perform as well as I’d like (you can’t win every time), I still leave the gym knowing I gave it everything I had.

It’s also been eye-opening for me in regards to form. I always thought I had pretty good form on major lifts, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t going low enough on my squats, I wasn’t doing deadlifts correctly, and I’d never even done a military press in my life. Once I began watching YouTube videos and doing things differently, I started working muscles I didn’t know I had. And there’s always room for improvement, always more to learn. Which is mega cool.

You’re supposed to complement this training with assistance exercises. Wendler gives you some suggestions, but I also like to make up my own, and my workouts change all the time. Sometimes I do more, sometimes less. I usually try to add in circuits with some higher intensity stuff like burpees to get the cardio benefits at the same time. Here’s an example of what Bench Day might look like:

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There’s some simple math involved to figure out how much weight you actually need to lift, but if you hate math, you can use an app called “Big Lifts 2.” It makes it so easy, and it tracks your progress through graphs — everyone loves graphs!

The program is also cool because it’s very flexible. The major lift portion takes less than 20 minutes, so you have a lot of room to do whatever else you want to do. And since it’s only four days a week, that leaves two other days (plus a rest day) to go for a run, do yoga, play basketball, cage fight, etc. etc.

At some point, I’ll share my graphs and probably some embarrassing pictures, too. But for now, I’m staying focused. I’ve only been at it for about 2.5 months, and it’s a long-term/life-long program, so I’m looking forward to getting stronger. But my pull-ups are improving, my quads have become small bricks, and it’s been pretty fun to push boundaries.

The wide grip pull-up is my nemesis, but we're getting friendlier.

The wide grip pull-up is my nemesis, but we’re getting friendlier.

Anyway, this post is getting long, so I’ll end it here. If you’re interested in gaining strength, or trying something new, I recommend checking out 5/3/1. It’s not trendy, it’s not frilly or fancy, it’s very much a no-bullshit routine. Which is exactly why I like it. Read about it on Google or Reddit, and see if it aligns with your goals. Got questions or comments? Let me know what you think!

And as always, Remember to breathe

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