Continuing Fitness Fanaticism

Old School BulkingThis morning, like the one before it, was another 6:30am start. Tough to get used to but ultimately very rewarding. I’m enjoying getting my training down early and having the rest of the day to pursue the other areas of my life.

Deciding to take a week off from strength training has been refreshing: I’ve been able to catch up on cardio, which I haven’t been doing as much of recently, so hopefully I’ll be a bit fitter before I hit the weights again! The obsession to lift bits of iron has been niggling away at the back of my head though and I’ve been planning to adopt a more abbreviated routine in the run up to Christmas: I’ve devised two different workouts comprised entirely of big, compound movements and I’m hoping that hitting each of the main body parts (legs, chest, back) twice a week and neglecting isolation work will help me advance in my lifts and avoid the dreaded over-training. It will be interesting to see if this strategy will work or not.

Another recent change has been the use of FitDay to track my macro-nutrients. I tried to use the service in the past after hearing it mentioned on various forums a lot and didn’t put enough effort into it, but I’ve been paying a lot more attention to my diet of late, trying to figure out the amount of calories I require to maintain my body weight so that I do what is called a “slow bulk”. Sitting down and plugging numbers into my FitDay account has paid off and when I got all my macros from that first day tracked the sensation was like a weight being lifted from my shoulders. It was not until I started trying to consume a specific number of calories in a given day that FitDay came into it’s own, now all the guess work and calculator wrangling has largely been removed.

If somebody told me 3 years ago when I first started going to the gym that I would be training in the manner that I am today I wouldn’t have believed it. It works if you work it!

Early Morning Swim

Breaststroke - Top ViewThe alarm went off at 6:30am, I got up, put the coffee machine on and went to the bathroom. I’d finished my breakfast by 6:45am which consisted of ground oats, semi-skimmed milk and whey protein, blended. The stage was set and after a couple mugs of java I was good to go.

I had often toyed with the idea of getting my training done and out of the way before work, leaving me with the rest of the day to relax, recover and enjoy the endorphins. Due to concerns with time management, pre-workout nutrition and apathy I never took the plunge, but yesterday I was feeling the need for a break from weight training and decided that some cardio would be a good idea. Skipping my Thursday night session was difficult but I don’t think my body could have tolerated it, so I checked the opening times and began making preparations.

The dry ingredients of my breakfast were weighed and left out alongside my vitamin and fish-oil capsules, I shaved, adjusted my alarm and got into bed a half hour earlier than normal. I got stuck into The Iluminatus! Trilogy for a bit, but as has been the norm for the past while, I found it difficult to sleep, my mind awash with what I was going to do the following day. I woke naturally at exactly 5:30am, went back to sleep and thankfully arose an hour later without any serious impediments, ready to take on the self-imposed challenge.

It was dark when I left my flat and I was surprised to see as much traffic and as many people as I did. I also thought that the gym would be more or less deserted at 7:30 on a Friday morning, but there was a healthy throng of fanatics present. Swimming has been dropped from my routine over the past months as I decreased the amount of cardio I was doing to focus more on strength, so I didn’t know what my performance would be like when I got into the water. My original plan was to do 50 lengths of breaststroke and although I found it tough going, when I got to 50 I decided to go for another 20 and my total time wasn’t too far off what I was achieving when I was swimming regularly.

I got into the office about 10 minutes later than usual, feeling good. I think morning workouts will become a staple in my lifestyle, although I don’t know if I’ll get back into swimming regularly: I could feel all the old familiar aches and pains to a small extent but what really got me was the monotony of only being able to do one type of stroke and doing that same stroke for the entire duration. I am looking forward though to finding out what the weights room is like at that time of the morning. Now for some food.

Tuna Shake (Baby!)

A good while back, while I was reading up on the Squat, I stumbled upon the Tuna Shake. Tuna is a very inexpensive source of protein and I’ve possibly eaten the equivalent of my body weight of it over the past year; I didn’t think it was possible to consume it in the form of a shake and when I learned of this preparation I immediately thought of the time, effort and money I could save myself by adding these into my diet. Until Friday I didn’t have a blender to try it out, but after a quick trip to Argos and a £20 debit from my bank account I was set. Here’s the ingredients:

Tuna Shake - Ingredients

Everything was weighed and measured out, the oats were ground and some water was added. From memory the result was approximately 40g protein, 50g carbohydrate and 15g fat: a meal typical of my current diet. The combined ingredients looked like this:

Tuna Share- Ready For Blending

A bit of blitzing left me with this:

Tuna Shake - Blended

Please note the leakage in the above photo. Due to my lack of experience with properly setting up and using a blender, when I went to remove the jug the contents rushed out the bottom, leaving my worktop flooded with liquid fish, nice. Cleaning up took an age but I dusted myself down, started again and this was the result:

Tuna Shake - Ready And Waiting

Needless to say, the sight and smell of this concoction left a lot to be desired but I was determined to go through with it, I brought the glass to my lips and swilled it down. I’ve been using ground oats in shakes for a while now so I’m used to the taste and texture they bring but the tuna lent a thicker, meatier consistency which I wasn’t expecting. I expected the blender to produce an entirely smooth shake, so you can imagine my shock when I got 2/3 of the way down and could see what was waiting for me at the bottom of the glass. What was worse was consuming what was left in the jug. This will give you an idea:

Tuna Shake - Debris

I was surprised I managed to get it all drunk and thought I’d gotten away with it until 10 minutes later when my stomach started to complain. For a while I thought I was going to be sick, but that passed. All hunger left me and didn’t return for a few hours when I was due my next feed, which turned out to be another shake, but of much saner composition.

Unfortunately tuna shakes are never going to be an addition to my diet. The experiment was a success, in a twisted way, but will never be repeated. I’ll leave you with the words of a man wiser than I: “don’t try this at home.

Drumstick Boogie

As usual, Thursday night is leg night chez Biscuit; I’m just in from the gym and I’ve munched on a tuna sandwich and I’m just about to hit a meeting.

I didn’t punish myself (much) and my workout could only have been described as “average” on a good day, but I turned up and did a bit. The focus was on practicing my squat technique and I must admit I was feeling fearful stepping into the power cage after my experience last week. I ended up doing sets of 10 reps with 1) just the olympic bar, 2) 20 Kgs, 3) 30 Kgs and finally 40 Kgs of plates on the bar. I didn’t try to press my luck and do more weight than last week and I wasn’t as concerned about getting my quads down to parallel as I know with time my technique will improve. I was was glad to step away at the end though!

Alrighty, I’m off to get some recovery…

Breakfast Of Champions

I had a bit of a lie-in on Saturday and I was hitting the gym at 10am so I was only going to get the opportunity for one meal before my workout. I knew I would have to have a slightly larger breakfast than normal. When the food was on the plate my first thought was “I have to eat all of that?” followed by the need to photograph it:


I wish I had put something in the photo to reference the size of the plate against! Needless to say, it was both tasty and nutritious with the combination of porridge and scambled eggs providing approximately 60g carbs, 30g protein and a whopping 14g fat (I had 3 yolks instead of my usual 2.)

Supplement-wise, I had a multi-vitamin, a fish-oil capsule and a couple of grams of creatine (I’ve been giving this a go for a few weeks now and it seems to have had a positive effect on my training.)

Training is one of the most consistently difficult things I’ve ever done and some times I just hate doing it but the pay-off is so great in terms of stress relief, increased confidence and maybe some day I’ll actually have a decent physique!

Squat or Rot


Over the past couple of months I’ve been working at removing machine weights from my training regime but up until last week I was using machines exclusively to train my legs.

My mate Tony had shown me how to squat a good few months ago but not only was I afraid of injuring my back with improper form I was downright intimidated by this, the daddy of all exercises.

I spent a good chunk of time reading about the technique involved and last Thursday I stepped into the power cage to give it a go. I started practicing with just the bar and proceeded to add a couple of 10 Kg plates, being very conscience of my form and trying to get a full range of movement. I had difficulty getting my quads parallel to the floor and some guy started giving me his “advice.” He told me about stretching my achilles tendons (thank you) but then went on to suggest I put a plate under each heel… I tried this approach without any weight and found I could get down deep enough but I had read discouraging things about this technique, so I thanked the guy and went back to what I was doing before, safe in the knowledge that if I put the practice in I’ll get there eventually.

I upped the weight a bit more and did a set of 10 reps. A modest beginning but when I stepped out of the power cage my heart was beating fast and I was covered in sweat, a sure sign that I had done something right.

Last night I was back. I found supporting the weight across my traps a bit easier (with less pain in that area today than last Friday) and gradually increased the weight through successive sets and finished on a set of 10 reps with 40 kilos of plates on the bar. This is a fraction of the weight I was doing with a leg-press machine but I’ve found it to be a completely different experience. About half-way into the set I had one of those “uh-oh” moments; I was trying to squat as deep as I could and had paused slightly before my ascent. I think my right knee or my torso moved slightly and I thought “I’m not going to make it back up,” but the moment passed and I finished my reps, breathing heavy with my heart pounding.

It’s going to be some time before I start doing work sets, but the love/hate relationship with this exercise has begun!