Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Getting to Know Me

As much as I rant on Facebook, and in personal chats and conversations, about how much I hate it here on this deployment to Africa, and cannot wait to return to the bosom of the United States, I am actually beginning to savor, yes savor, my time here. Besides the opportunity to save some money and pay down my ridiculous debts, and the chance to have little distraction preventing me from pursuing better physical fitness, I am also growing, mentally and emotionally, perhaps even spiritually, whatever that means. Yes, the very thing that makes this deployment so deceptively straining and intolerable, the cerebral isolation and boredom, has turned out to be possibly be the very thing that I have desperately needed for some time: to actually listen to the clutter inside my brain, and get to know myself.

It all began a few days ago when it became apparent to me that my battle with depression was getting more difficult. Yes, for those of you who do not know, I was diagnosed by a VA psychiatrist with major depression after returning home from a combat tour in Iraq, 2006. I refused treatment and went about dealing with the sweeping variances in mood due to my diseased thought patterns. I had become somewhat adept at staying ahead of my changing mental states, and did my best to control my behavior so as to not be controlled by my sickness. I did not always succeed at this, and my life was a pathetic mess, but I was functional, I guess. Anyhow, amidst the isolation and boredom I felt my struggle becoming harder and harder, until one night I became very concerned about myself. I have never been suicidal, and never ever think of causing harm to another (unless they deserve it), but I was beginning to wonder if things could eventually get to that point. It was at this time that I decided that my way of "handling" things was not working, and I needed help.

When I spoke to the doctor about my condition, I began to break down. I strained to maintain my composure, apologized for my emotion, and declared that I didn't know why it was so hard for me to come to terms with it. The doctor, who was very kind and understanding, simply asked "a blow to the ego, perhaps?" to which I responded, instinctively, "maybe". I was surprised by this. It was a very honest moment. I didn't try to defend myself and claim that I, Harold McBride, couldn't possibly have an ego! What a revelation that was. I have an ego...and he's a fucking asshole.

Yep, that was a real eye-opener. I faced my ego for the first time in, well, probably my whole life. The defensive spirit I created for myself to ensure that I never have to deal with pain, rejection, loss, emasculation, whatever, was finally exposed, and like the coward he is, he retreated. I won that battle with practically no effort at all. He did not fight, for fighting meant the possibility of losing, much less pain. He just left. And good fucking riddance! That bastard is responsible for me losing friends, lovers, jobs, opportunities and chances at happiness, he has caused great strain in the relationships I have with people who truly love me, and worst of all, he tricked me into believing that he wasn't even there at all, and that I could justify myself because I am a "good guy". What a load of shit!

So here I am. A 42 year-old man with a load of regrets, who seeks redemption and, like anyone else with a vulnerable heart, just wants to love and be loved. Maybe now I'll be able to do these things.

Does this relate to working out as well? I'm glad you asked that, self. No problem, Harold....okay, that was weird. So, anyway, I was at the gym the other night struggling with my squat, which was feeling rather flat, and had been bothering me, when a guy, who I'd seen come in at my regular time before, who is in good muscular shape, solid legs, big traps, and actually does heavy barbell work, came in to workout. He needed to use the power rack, and I was in the middle of my workout, so he asked if he could jump in to do some heavy shrugs, which I, of course, said "sure", and I gave him a hand setting up the bar, and we started talking about lifting. He told me that he used to compete in powerlifting, and I asked him a bunch of questions about lifting, my lackluster squat in particular, and told him that I could not decide if I was over-reaching and needed to take some weight off the bar to get my speed back. He said that I should probably do that, because unless I am going for a 1RM, or an advanced lifter building massive strength gains - like my good friends, Ty Phillips and Jay Ashman, are doing at the Gorilla Pit in Mentor, Ohio - I should be focused on training my skeleton, nervous system, and connective tissues to adapt to the lifts, and perfect my form and technique. Being a novice, older, with not much of a history of sports participation, add years of using drugs, drinking unbelieveable amounts of alcohol (yes, kids, being able to "handle" your alcohol doesn't mean being able to drink an entire liter of whiskey and still walk, it means knowing when to stop, which I didn't), a lazy mental and physical attitude, and other general suckiness, I am not in a position to start adding pounds to the bar as if I were a teenager during a growth spurt.

On the way back to my living area, I ruminated about my goals, and how to approach my workouts in a way that would really move me forward. I realized that my focus was off. My desire, eventually, is simply to get strong, and I do not have any self-imposed limits on that, I just want to get strong! But, for right now, I am at the very beginning, and this rusty, sludge-filled engine needs a good overhaul. I am at around 29-30% bodyfat, by army tape test, which is whatever. I got man-boobs, a gut, and hips, I'm fat...don't need no tape to tell me that. I want to get rid of this fucking fat once and for all god dammit! I know that running helps me do that. I know, I know, I'm not talking about a bunch of long, slow running, that stuff causes me to lose strength and muscle, and I absolutely do not want that, believe me, I figured that one out the hard way. But, speed runs, sprints, and timed runs, help me just as much, and don't cut my strength, and they don't take a fucking week to recover from like a goddamned 5-mile jog does. However, doing this immediately following lifts impairs my recovery, and is counter-productive. I also learned that one through trial and error. So, given my situation, and my goals, I decided to re-vamp my program.

First, I am taking this week to get a good rest. Since I am completely resetting, I want to start fresh, so Monday is when I will commence. I know I stated before that I was doing Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength program, and I sort of was. But what I failed to appreciate was that I am just beginning, and I did not follow his prescription for getting my intial working poundages, which is to start with an empty bar (135 lbs. for deadlift) and add 20 lbs. doing sets of 5 until you begin to lose form and/or technique. I must do this to truly know at what weight I should be working with. Like my friend at the gym told me, "when I walk into the gym, I check my ego at the door". Ha! mine totally split the scene.

Being older it takes longer for my body to recover from heavy physical stress, and a high-volume workout of 5x5 on work sets - advice taken from Nikki Ashman, a woman of amazing strength and fortitude, and she's as sweet as they come. Hi Nikki! - is a decent amount of stress for a novice like myself. Therefore, lifting two times a week, instead of three, seems like it may allow me more time to adequately recover and maintain my form and technique as I progress.

As far as the cardio goes, I do not want to overdo it. I also have learned, again through pain and failure, that running the day before squats or deadlifts is a bad, bad idea. Doing this the day after, though, seems to work well, so long as I have at least a full day of rest following, and I get enough protein in my diet.

These changes are really simple. Monday and Thursday are lifting days, Monday being squat, bench press and supersetting sumo deadlift high pulls and chinups; Thursdays are squat, press, deadlift. Tuesday and Friday are cardio days, which, for now, will just be running. I am keeping an open mind, however, about adding endurance work like barbell complexes and HIIT on these days, if it feels prudent. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday are rest days.

Lastly, the most important component to progress: recovery. My very dear friend, Miss Heidi Hill, an absolutely lovely woman, both inside and out, impressed upon me the importance of getting enough protein. At least 1 gram per pound of lean bodyweight every day, which, for me, puts me at 180 to 200 grams a day! That's a lot of food! Good thing I have protein supplements. Nothing fancy, just basic whey and casein. A whey shake in the morning, one following a workout w/oats to replenish carbs without going overboard, and casein before bed to keep repair going through the night, has been sufficient. And, as long as I use water and not milk as a base, I lean out just fine. Sleep has been a little difficult lately, but I will continue to take steps to improve that. My workouts being more streamlined will shorten their duration alot, which will allow me to try and get to bed earlier.

This is where I'm at now. I feel like I'm starting my life anew. Like I've been given a second chance. I'm not sure that I deserve it. In my humble opinion, I don't. But, I will take it, and I am not going to waste it. I sincerely hope that I am able to show my family and friends, who are the most deserving and incredible people I could ever imagine, as much love as I can.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Week two going good so far. The learning process never ends, nor should it. Read a great blog post at Chaos & Pain. The author was, basically, reminding us to not over-think things and move forward, learning as we go along. Excellent advice! I admit, I can have a tendency to over-think, but I've learned to not get bogged down in details, and to accept early failures, and to learn from them. A friend once said to me, while giving me pointers on deadlift form, that ultimately the goal is to just pick the weight up. This is definitely true, even if your form is horrendous, your body will only do what it can, and if you go beyond that, carelessly, then injury will - should - teach you. Sometimes learning is painful.

Still having some difficulty getting to sleep, but seems to be getting better. I'm thinking it may be a combination of things: some jet-lag from leave, the conditions here, and adjusting to a new routine and diet. My weight is reducing slightly and slowly, and feels right. When I first got here, I was around 270 and within a month dropped to 235, but I lost some muscle in the process. I would rather take the time to lose fat while maintaining, and possibly building some muscle, not losing it. So I don't want my weight to come down too much. I'm guessing at 5'11", with a wide frame, at my goals I will weigh anywhere from 200 to 220. Of course, the impatience in me wants to be ripped and big NOW! but I know the changes will come, and not overnight. They will require hard work and dedication on my part.

Tonight my big lifts are squat and bench press. As you already know, I added volume to my workouts, going with a 5x5 scheme for work sets, which requires a little readjustment of my working poundages. Based on last workout and tonight's, I will reset my poundages and drive forward. So far it's looking like my work weights, at the moment, are 115 press, 335 deadlift, 205 squat, 155 bench. The last two are projected, and I will know for sure after tonight's lifts.

The diet feels pretty good so far, and the supplement's seems to be helping, but some of that may just be in my head. One thing I am going to change is having a protein supplement as my last meal of the day, instead of nuts. This is part in due to having to shift my workout lifting time to 1:30 am, just after my work shift. This may actually work to my advantage, as I will be in more of a ketogenic state throughout the day. I did just order some casein, and I am considering where to add that in my diet. I feel the extra protein will be helpful.

New workout time: 01:30 - 03:30

New eating schedule:

wake, coffee + L-carnitine

high protein
high fat
no carb
fish oil

whole nuts or peanut butter

high protein
moderate fat
low carb
fish oil


post-workout shake (whey + casein) w/sugar, lifting days
oats 'n' whey shake, non-lifting days
fish oil
alpha lipoic acid


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Out of the Gate

I find beauty in vulnerability because therein lies love. Sometimes in our drive for self-fulfillment we lose the true meaning of passion. the textbook definition, to paraphrase, is an almost obssessive interest or desire. If this is true, then the deepest of all passion is not in a hot sexual encounter or a fiery love affair, or even in tireless effort given in one's career, artistic endeavor, or even the gym, but is within those who are always there, willing to sacrifice their own dreams and desires for something that is vastly more important to them: the well-being of another. There is no greater passion than to steadfastly place someone else's happiness before your own. Many would say, "ah, well, that's bullshit, what does it matter if anybody else is happy if you're miserable?" but that would be missing the point entirely. A person who depends solely upon self-interest would indeed be un-happy, but the one who strives for another's wellness fills many hearts including their own. No matter how big our lifting total, no matter how low our "Fran" time, no matter how satisfying our sex lives, no matter how much influence or authority we hold over others, we are all at our greatest when we are brought to tears because our heart has been touched, and that can only happen to a willing heart, an open heart, and vulnerable heart.

This is an age when shit-talking is king, and boy do we do a lot of it, hell, it's fun, I enjoy it. But we should never give the silly selfish ideas we banter about too much import, and we should never lose sight of what is most important, and that is the willingness within ourselves to give and not expect in return. Money is only good when being spent, and sex is only good during the act itself, but love is always its own reward. Some may wish that they were Ghengis Khan or Cleopatra, but I would rather be the guy who works his ass off at a job he couldn't give two shits about just so he can come home to play with his kids and hang out with the wife.

And so a new week begins, with a few lessons learned. I mixed last night's protein shake more appropriately, and drank it much slower, and guess what...no tummy ache. Took melatonin again last night, was still rough getting to sleep, but I eventually got there, and I think I got enough to get me through today. I sure wish it was easier for me to get there though. I'm going to work on that. I believe I already posted that I changed my rep scheme, which means I might have to drop the weight I'm using in my work sets, but that's okay, because I will make much better progress in the longer term. I'm also adding 10 min. of warmup cardio and stretching at the beginning of workouts.

I need to start thinking about what I'm going to do when I return from deployment. I plan to take some time off and travel a bit, meet some people I've been chatting with online and such, also visit some family I haven't seen in a long while. But, after all that, life goes on, and I need to consider this and move forward. I have a few possible paths at the moment, the most promising of which is using my GI Bill and finishing my degree while working for a good friend, at the same time assisting another friend establishing a promising fitness facility. I would be dishonest, however, if I didn't admit that the idea of leaving Kansas is alluring, but, at this moment, all of my most feasible options are there, and, hey, life could be much worse.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sleep Troubles

So I'm at the close of the first week of workouts. Discoveries: the addition of HIIT workouts is very beneficial, and my rep scheme was not well-conceived leaving volume to light, do not overdo it on amino acids or drink protein shakes too fast, melatonin don't do shit for me, wrist straps are necessary for shrugs, and the bar goes up under my junk when I do shrugs (TMI? idk, but it was very unexpected, exciting, and a little awkward all at the same time).

I updated my rep scheme on my post "Zero Hour". I am expanding my warmups and going to perform them with less rest between sets. Also, I am going to a 5x5 scheme for work sets on all major lifts except Deadlift, which is now 1x4 for work set. Also defined schemes for assistance lifts as well.

Started using supplements this week as well. Time will tell if they have any impact or not. The camp store (NEX) did not have any measuring spoons, so I had to use a plastic spoon from the chow hall. Well, I used a rounded teaspoon, as directed, but I think it was a little much. I got a nice little tummy ache after drinking the shake. I also drank it pretty fast, so that may have been a factor, along with all the other supplements all at once. Today, I used a plastic knife to level off the spoon in the mix, so, hopefully, my stomach will be more accepting of today's shake.

Not gonna post lifts until I get into the swing of it, which should be another week or two. I have been having trouble sleeping lately. Tried taking melatonin at the recommendation of another soldier, as I want to avoid sleeping pills, but it didn't do a fucking thing. I think I may need to visit the clinic...fuck!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So Far, So Good...

Two workouts down since last post. Workout A on the 12th, and HIIT with the Rat Cellar on the 13th. only lost 20 lbs. on my squat from the time off, lost a little on my bench too. That was expected of course. I'm a little tight, but not bad, the lifts felt great, and the diet is supporting very well, along with the addition of HIIT training, my numbers will be back to where they were very shortly, and progression will resume. The assistance exercises also felt right on. Building my traps and p-chain will improve my overall strength and power immensely, I can already feel that.

I took an APFT on the 8th. The pushups and situps felt extremely easy, no surprise there. The realy surprise was on the 2-mile run. I have always been a slow runner, except when I was in basic training, but we ran sprints almost every day then. However, I have only ran two times since I have been here, approx. two months at the time, yet I held a pace that would not only have passed me for the event - if only there was an NCO to mark the time - but was also approx. 6 min. faster than when I ran the course only a month prior...yep, no shit, 6 fucking minutes faster!! That, my friends, is why strength is the most important physical attribute to train. Anyone who says anything different is either a liar or a moron.


205 x 2 x 3

185 x 3 x 2


155 x 2 x 3

135 x 3 x 2

Barbell Rows:

115 x 3 x 3

I feel wonderful, and you should too. You are the only you there is, and that makes you very special. Now go out there and make me some money bitches...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Zero Hour

Alright, it's time to get it on. I've already begun the diet process, tomorrow, Sep 12th, is the first day of workouts. Here is my schedule, which may seem a bit stilted, but having a routine here is not only a good thing, it's pretty unavoidable. If the times seem a bit odd, keep in mind that I work a 12hr shift from 13:00 to 01:00 (1pm to 1am for you civilian types):

Ten-week repeating cycle, first nine days are all ketogenic, >30 g carbs/day (non-lifting days) >40 g carbs/day (lifting days), the tenth day (Saturday) is a carb loading day with no restriction on carb intake. Weeks two through nine follow the same ketogenic limits with a carb-load day every Saturday. Finally, week ten is a complete break from all restrictions.

05:00 (wake)

16:30 - 17:00
high protein
high fat
no carb (no restriction on load days)
Fish Oil

19:00 - 21:00 (workout, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday)

post-workout shake* + carb (quick sugar)
evening shake** (non-lifting days)

00:00 - 00:30
high protein
moderate fat
no carb (no restriction on load days)
Fish Oil

04:00 - 04:30
peanut butter or whole nuts
Fish Oil

05:00 (bed)
Alpha Lipoic Acid

*post-workout shake:
whey protein

**evening shake:
oats & whey

Sunday, Wednesday, Friday are lifting days of alternating A/B workouts.

Rep scheme for all major lifts, except deadlift, is two warm-up sets of five (2x5) with empty bar, add weight at decreasing increments for three warm-up sets (1x5, 1x3, 1x2). Five sets of five will then be performed (5x5).

For deadlift, one warm-up set of four, 135lbs. (1x4), add weight at decreasing increments for one set of four, three times (1x4, 1x4, 1x4). One work set of four will then be performed (1x4). Note: these sets are split with alternating mixed grip (2x2 left-hand under, 2x2 right-hand under).

The scheme for the assistance exercises is as follows:

Workout A: two warm-up sets of five barbell rows with an empty bar (2x5), add weight for one set of five (1x5). Work sets are five sets of five (5x5). The plank holds and chinups will be performed as a compound set, plank holds at 35 sec. intervals and chinups to failure with slow negative.

Workout B: the shrugs start with two warm-up sets of five, 135lbs. (2x5), add weight at slightly decreasing increments for one set of five, three times (1x5, 1x5, 1x5). One work set of five will then be performed (1x5). Two warmup sets of ten with empty bar will start the good mornings, add a moderate amount of weight for five work sets of ten (5x10).

Workout A:
barbell rows
plank holds/chinups
30 min. low-intensity cardio

Workout B:
good mornings
30 min. low-intensity cardio

Mondays are HIIT workouts

"For as long as I can remember people hated me. They looked at my face and my body and they ran away in horror. In my loneliness I decided that if I could not inspire love, which is my deepest hope, I would instead cause fear. I live because this poor, half-crazed genius has given me life. He alone held an image of me as something beautiful and then, when it would have been easy enough to stay out of danger, he used his own body as a guinea pig to give me a calmer brain and a somewhat more sophisticated way of expressing myself."

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Plan

Here it is, tweaked, and defined:


All workout sessions will begin with 10 min. of light cardio and stretching.

Sun, Wed, Fri are lifting days. Mon will be a HIIT workout (with the RATB's).

Lifting workouts will alternate between an A and B workout:

Workout A:
Good Mornings
Plank Holds

Workout B:
Barbell Rows/Chinups (compound set)

At the close of each workout will be 40-60 min. of low-intensity cardio.

Diet and Nutrition:

A carb-cycling plan will be followed after nine initial days of 30g carbs/day. The tenth day will be a carb-loading day, which will happen every seventh day (Saturdays). All other days carbs will be kept to less than 30g/day, on lifting days this will be slightly higher (40g) to account for an induced insulin spike following the workout.

No food will be ingested until at least 3 hrs. after waking. Meals before workouts will be high in fat and protein, and void of carbs, carbs will only be taken following workouts. It's important to note that the purpose for ingesting carbs is not for their energy value, but to induce an insulin spike to effect an anobolic state.

A supplementation schedule will also be followed:

L-Carnitine will be taken in the morning

HMB and Fish Oil will be taken at meals

Protein shakes will be consumed post-workout on lifting days, and in the evening at approx. the same time on non-lifting days.

PWO shake:
100% Whey

non-PWO shake:
Oats & Whey

At bed a multivitamin/mineral, ZMA, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Glucosamine will be taken.

This plan will be followed for the next seven months, unless changes dictate.