Fitness, thy name is spreadsheets.

I’ve been lifting since high school. I started running regularly in law school for some much needed me-time that did not involve reading. It wasn’t until approximately 2015 that I really began tracking the data behind all this work, and lately I’ve made a concentrated effort to compile that in a meaningful way, i.e., to both track certain values separately and also to see how, if at all, they relate to one another (e.g., macronutrients vis-a-vis perceived effort on a run.)

Unfortunately, I’ve been a little burned out on running. This happens to everyone at some point, I think, except for the Greek gods among us. Thus I’ve turned to creating a new lifting routine with some recreational running included, just because I do like getting outside in the summer.

I’m going to write about it because I like talking about fitness as much as politics and policy.


Rules of the Road

There are two rules:

  • Train for specificity
  • Concrete, discrete goals

What this means it that if you want to lift more, you train specifically for that. If you want to run farther, you train specifically for that. If you want to bodybuild, you train specifically for that. “Get in shape” and “stay fit” are laudable goals but ambiguous and don’t lend themselves to tracking, so it’s easy to both slack off and get discouraged due poor frame of reference. What constitutes “fit,” for example? Likewise, it’s easier to quit mid-run (or any other routine) if you’re not sure what you want to accomplish from that single run.

In contrast, when I was training for my half marathon (October 2016) l had several measurable benchmarks on which to improve: heartrate (beats per minute, Max HR, lactate threshold), distance, speed, time run, and pace. This brings me to the second point; all of these variables can be measured and tracked over time. They are concrete and objective, subject to human and tech errors (like if your GPS messes up.)

Running Data 2016–2017

My goal was to beat my previous a half marathon of 1:40:00. My previous personal best was 1:45:47 (first road half in 2015.) I ran 1:39:52. Data!


Goals and Benchmarks

I’m going to focus primarily on weight training goals. I’ll dive into nutrition goals — which are related — in another post after I’ve had time to sift through all of that information. I’m still tweaking these as I need to “pilot” where I’m at on Monday, but roughly, after 12 weeks:

Week 12 Goals

Note: the reason for two weights is because the final decimal weight includes, in pounds, the weight of the power bar.

This captures concrete numbers but also the principle of linear progression (getting measurably stronger) and starting points. I picked these numbers using both weights I am currently lifting but also downgrading on the basis that throughout this time I am going to put a premium on form, as one always should (but I often falter.) I felt this really required substantial decrease in order to spend more time perfecting muscle isolation and activation, as well as decreasing the risk of injury.

Additionally, I aim to get to roughly 111 pounds and 14% body fat. I picked these numbers because I’ve achieved them in the past and I felt they were a healthy benchmark.

February 2015, 112 lbs, 22% bf
February 2016, 117 lbs, 19% bf
March 2016, 115 lbs, 17.5% bf
March 2016, 115 lbs, 17.5% bf
The Student Loan Diet. May 2016, 111 lbs, 14% bf

I’m not convinced this definitely achievable over 12 weeks even though I’m starting out further ahead than last time. That said, 12 weeks is only a starting point. I’ll be building on this routine after safely establishing a push/pull/leg routine that I’ll have to vary after three months anyway. Now that I’ve sufficiently removed myself from any future possibility of a political career, onto the rules.

My workout at the time was a little ad hoc. Mostly, I wanted an outlet after work, so I used the aforementioned ambiguous goals, and this was fine for me at the time as a first step and I’ve learned from it.

Primarily, I focused on muscle confusion: lift as much as I could as heavy as I could until failure, where failure was defined as only having one more lift in me (I didn’t like asking for spotters at the time, so real failure wasn’t an option.) I also stopped running from January until about April when I moved to Seattle. Instead, I crosstrained on the elliptical.

I began running again in April to train for my half marathon, and applied the same confusion principle here: three different kinds of runs 4–5 times a week — at least one tempo, one long run, and the rest were easy runs (under 140 beats per minute.) This required buying a heartrate strap since I found the optical HR monitor of my GPS watch added about 5–7 bpm in comparison. I added intervals in August. Both these factors are why my averages trend a bit higher.


Next Steps — Nutrition, Sleep and Mood

I’ll be writing about this in more detail eventually, but here’s a preface.

Diet. I’ve been limiting the amount of distance running I do. This is germane to diet because lately I’ve been experimenting with Tim Ferriss’ “Slow Carb” diet. 6 days a week I don’t eat grains, fruit, dairy or drink any calories save for coffee. This requires a major adaptation in terms of running without that traditional base of glycogen stores (the reason why runners focus on carbs pre-race.) One day a week I eat whatever I want. Yesterday I ate a whole pizza. Yes, the whole pizza.

Sleep. I try to get a solid eight hours but I’m finding that the kicker for me is hitting that REM cycle. A bit of peanut butter before bed has helped, or at least I’ve been eating some peanut butter before bed and sleeping better, and I choose to assume causality because I like peanut butter.

Mood. IT VARIES.

Supplements. Very few. I take GNC’s Ripped Vitapak for women. Supposedly it keeps my skin nice but this strikes me as bullshit and I might just get rid of it. I periodically take C4 preworkout before lifting if I get to the gym early enough, otherwise it impacts my sleep — and only 4 grams instead of the recommended 6. Finally, I make a mean protein shake — two a day, the first just whey protein isolate and almond milk before lifting, and the second at night before bed with an additional 8 grams of casein.