so primal and titanic is a woman with love madness.
~ Frank Gelett Burgess
Tuesday's Workout: 5x rotation of backsquats (New PR put me over bodyweight!), renegade rows, bench presses, and military presses. Tacked on grease-the-groove style pullups and pushups.
Anyway. While I was in town, I bought (primal) groceries. I wandered around Home Depot, plotting future projects. I took my time. And I didn't get hungry.
I came home. Lifted heavy for almost an hour. Set a personal best on back squats. Wrapped up in an Aussie duster and fed the livestock in a driving rainstorm. Warmed up with a mug of spearmint tea. Didn't get hungry.
By 8:00, I still hadn't eaten and reckoned there wasnt' any need to. I went to bed looking lean and feeling strong (if still a bit queasy) and pleasantly satisfied with my body's apparent ability to make the best of a nasty shock.
As I understand it, a primal-adapted body, that is, one that is insulin-sensitive and accustomed to accessing fat for fuel, can endure -- and even benefit from -- an occasional influx of carbs. Yes, yes, such influx should typically be free of gluten and added sugar. Believe me, I know.
Faced with a rush of starch and sugar, my liver arranged neat chains of glycogen molecules to be harvested at will for the satisfaction of the parts of my brain and other tissues that prefer glucose as fuel. Excess glycogen was shuttled away to my muscle cells, where insulin rang the doorbell so my sensitive insulin receptors could admit as much fuel as possible. When my liver and muscle glycogen stores were both full, all extra energy was stored in my fat cells for later use.
Thanks to my fat-adapted metabolism -- the product of months of low-carb, adequate-protein, high-fat eating -- all that stored fuel was ready and waiting to meet energy needs long after my stomach emptied. Those bolstered fat cells emptied right back out.
And, as an added bonus, I enjoyed a reboot in leptin sensitivity, which resulted in visibly-improved leanness within 48 hours post-cheat. (Basically, leptin is a hormone that encourages the burning of stored bodyfat.) Under normal circumstances, I achieve this without the nasty side effects of grain and sugar-laden dairy by consuming a bi-weekly boost of primal carbs such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, fruit, or plantains.
And oh, those side effects are nasty indeed. Three days and two 16+ hour intermittent fasts passed before I felt completely normal again. It doesn't matter whether you fall off the wagon or jump off by choice -- the ground is just as hard!
I'm glad to be back on the straight and narrow for the foreseeable future. After all, the primal straight and narrow is a pretty satisfying place:_________________________________
If you've been reading for a while and have a very good memory, you might recall that I started doing primal workouts about 13 months ago, well before I'd even heard of the primal blueprint. I didn't have much equipment, but I had plenty of determination and enough creativity to turn bodyweight and interval work into a very effective training program.
But you know us overachievers. Never satisfied, are we? I wanted heavier things to lift! I also wanted more energy with which to lift them...and my long-enjoyed flegan diet wasn't cutting it anymore. I began looking for solutions to my slow recoveries and frequent stomach bloating. You can read about my transition to primal here.
Going primal -- I was nearly 100% compliant by late August, 2009 -- gave my training program a major shot in the arm. After enduring an extended low-carb flu (6 weeks, presumably due to my formerly heavy reliance on carb-laden grains and legumes for the bulk of my caloric intake), I emerged stronger, faster, and more energetic than ever.
But I still needed heavy things. Stacking hay is great, but you can't do it every day. The beasties just don't eat that much! I needed iron. Finally, in late December, I bought it. My Christmas present to myself was an Olympic barbell set, squat rack, plate rack, curl bar, and the necessary accessories.
My workouts, which had moved indoors for the winter, underwent a significant shift. My late 2009 workouts were built around metabolic conditioning (Tabata and other types of intervals, usually "prison style" due to limited space and freezing weather) plus bodyweight/gymnastics work such as decline pushups, pullups, and HLRs. Once my barbell set came home, however, my schedule transitioned to something like this:
Day 1: Heavy
6x rotation of back squats pull-ups, bench presses, weighted HLRs, weighted dips, and military presses
Day 2: Gymnastics
6x rotation of pistols(aka one-legged squats), decline push-ups, pull-ups, L-sits, weighted step-ups, close-grip push-ups, planks and side planks.
Day 3: Sprints or Metcon
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Heavy
6x rotation of barbell lunges, chin-ups, deadlifts, bent-over barbell rows, weighted calf raises, and renegade rows.
Day 6: Gymnastics
Day 7: Sprints or Metcon
Day 8: Rest
Pop Quiz: What is wrong with this picture?
Gradually, I did less metcon and more heavy lifting and gymnastics. Gradually, my performance peaked...and plateaued...and dropped. Gradually, mild fatigue set in and I lost enthusiasm for training. Gradually, my sleep patterns became disturbed.
Yeah. I was flirting with overtraining.
Okay, okay. It spent the night.
In early March, faced with minor but unresolved pain in my left knee and resolutely mediocre performance, I took a week off. A whole week! (Oh, the mental anguish!) It was my first rest of more than two, consecutive days since September, when Ironman and I took an active vacation to compete in a multi-day equine endurance race.
After my week off, I spent another two weeks working my way back into a regular, amended schedule involving more rest -- and also a few more primal carbs, which now come in around 85 instead of 65 grams on the average day.
I'm still in flux, accommodating increased farm work now that we have more daylight hours, but my enthusiasm has returned. My strength is burgeoning, too. I set a couple PRs last week. I'm leaner than ever. Climbing again.
I think there's a bit more going on here than overtraining. Just over a year into general physical preparedness training, and roughly 4 months in to my heavy lifting program, I believe I am teetering on the brink between "novice" and "intermediate." (Check out this fantastic reference.) My gains are starting to slow. I'm forced to work smarter, not just harder. As the weight goes up, so must my time spent in recovery.
About the abs: I like 'em. Some people seem to find them unfeminine, which is okay with me. They're entitled to their own, lousy opinion. ;) I've always said that I'd rather be athletic than classically beautiful.
Anyway, it has been my experience that weighted core work is responsible for the "6-pack" definition. I do renegade rows with 15 lb dumbbells, HLRs with 15 lbs between my ankles, situps with a 35 lb plate held overhead, and Turkish get-ups with a 12 lb dumbbell.
On post-workout nutrition: While leaning out, I found that skipping PWO food intake was an easy way to take advantage of the release of human growth hormone and maximize fat burning. However, a person can get too lean for optimum performance. I've found that, when increasing strength is my primary goal, I need to eat within about half an hour PWO. A little full-fat cottage cheese and fruit, or sweet potato roasted in coconut oil, goes a long way toward enhancing recovery.
On weight: I weigh myself about once a quarter. It's always fascinating -- but never so much as this last time, when I discovered that I've gained 12 pounds since last April. At 5'3", I'm up from 110 to 122. Wow! That represents a massive shift in body composition, from fat to lean, considering I had to buy a new professional wardrobe in January because all my suits were way too big!
I'd love to know my bodyfat percentage, but alas, I haven't a clue -- nor much faith in any of the usual measurement methods. C'est la vie.