Tag Archives: strength training

A training schedule I built around my current work schedule

Right now I’m basically exercising three times a day. No, these are not all hard workouts. I would have dropped dead by now if so. Or be incredibly ripped. Who knows.

For example, on weekends:

Morning – Take a 2-3 mile run, or a long walk of probably a couple miles. Either option gives sun exposure in reasonable temperatures, and some light to decent calorie burning exercise. If I have any step goals, this gets me a good way there. Any extended walking would last about 45 minutes, and is a thin substitute for the everyday walking in Chicago. Since I’m not seriously training for races right now, I play this by feel. I run that day if running feels good, and walk that day if it probably doesn’t.

Afternoon – In the blazing hot Vegas sun, probably during a brief work-from-home break, go for a brief run around the neighborhood. This is only a few blocks, and less than a mile, all pretty close to my home just in case I absolutely have to stop for some reason. I run about 3/4 of a mile, and come back inside. it takes about 7-8 minutes. That’s pretty much all you can reasonably do in 100 degrees Fahrenheit without hurting yourself. This is more of an anti-cold-shower mid-day pick me up than serious training. But it augments your training volume.

Evening – Towards the end of the day, around 7pm, I go to the gym and get some swolework. Do my 20 minute workout. Head home.

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It’s Not a Burden: The Benefits of Wearing A Mask During Gym Training

The author in his mask at the gym

Okay, so most of us live somewhere where a mask is required in any indoor public place. Assuming your state hasn’t closed all gyms (hello, California!), many see this as a huge bummer while working out at the gym.

In fact, gyms have been the most difficult offenders regarding enforcement of indoor mask policies. People just don’t want to wear them while doing intense exercise (though many local governments have permitted mask removal when performing cardio exercise on a machine).

Instead of seeing the required use of a mask as a burden or shackles holding you prisoner to The Man… recognize the two key training benefits wearing a mask is providing you.

  1. Constricted breathing trains your breathing

The biggest complaint about masks in gyms is that you need to breathe harder to exercise, and the mask interferes with breathing. I’m not going to pull punches: Yes, masks by design constrict your breathing. The intent is to keep any germs you have out of the public airspace, but the flip side is that it makes taking air in more difficult. Your lungs themselves don’t have muscles, so the associated core muscles that keep them going have to do more work.

However, because your associated lung muscles are working harder per breath, this is actually a workout for those muscles. You are effectively making your breathing stronger, and once you can train and compete without a mask you will improve your overall oxygen intake.

Many people don’t breathe, take in oxygen during exercise, as effectively as they could. Wearing a mask will force your body to adapt your breathing patterns and muscle usage to maximize oxygen intake.

Even though it wasn’t the intent of the law, this policy is actually helping you get stronger and better.

  1. The mask is to some degree an air filter

So while the mask obviously won’t stop most viruses from getting into your windpipe, they do however filter out dust, allergen and dirt particles you otherwise would have breathed in.

Recall that people in heavily polluted Chinese and Indonesian cities walk around in public wearing these masks. The masks do filter out most if not all of the pollutants in your immediate airspace.

Most don’t realize that indoor air is generally far more polluted and dirty than outdoor air. The air is enclosed and very few people and businesses employ ground-level air filtration systems. Most don’t clean or replace their HVAC air filters more than once every few years, if ever. The air you breathe indoors is often rather unhealthy.

In fact, if you don’t own one already, I recommend you buy a cheap electric air filter for your home, at least for your bedroom if not other rooms you frequently use. Also, if you can keep them alive, get some house plants: They also help a bit with air quality. But I digress….

Your mask is actually cleaning the gym air you’re breathing in. By being forced to wear one, you have improved the quality of the air you breathe during gym workouts (and of course you breathe more heavily during these workouts, needing more oxygen) by a lot. Again, this was not an intent of the mask policy, but it is a useful and healthy side effect.


So instead of getting mad about having to wear a mask, recognize the unintended ways that it’s actually helping you train healthier and get better.

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The Crowded Gym: Pivoting and Timing Gym Workouts To Avoid Problems

Yesterday I wrote about my 20 minute strength training protocol. I hinted in there that sometimes the areas I need to use are crowded and I have to switch and do something else.

I’m not hard and fast locked into my exercises. I do have Plan B, Plan C and other exercises in mind just in case my main exercise is not an option.

First of all, I do my best to mitigate this by going to the gym at times when it’s not so crowded.

The worst time for crowds at the gym are:

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The 20 Minute Strength Training Workout

Just in case you haven’t noticed, a certain pandemic problem has just wiped out every single road race and running event for the rest of the year, possibly also a good chunk of next year.

I’m not going to run any races anytime soon. Virtual races are a waste of my time.

This situation is also a gift. This is possibly the one time in our history where every event/race/etc is basically stopped, and we now have a long period of available space and time to work on improving ourselves. If and when life returns to some sort of normal in 2021 or beyond… we may never get this opportunity again.

Some are wasting it, in many cases waiting for normal to return… not realizing that “normal” isn’t going to come back for a long while, and they might want to get comfortable with the uncertain yet perpetual stasis of the present because this reality is going to stay for another while longer… months, not days or weeks.

I certainly have not wasted it. Never mind I’m among the few who kept their job through the lockdown, AND had to work my butt off for that job pretty much the entire time. Medical personnel and law enforcement can tell you way more about that than I can, but I’ve had less free time than everyone else.

And yet I’ve put it to productive use however much I could. Even though I put a forebearance on my running, I’m now focusing on something I’ve wanted to for a while: Strength training.

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Summer Slimdown

After deliberately taking all of July off from writing here, I plan to write as much as I can in August about what I’m doing to stay fit, knowledge I can share, and so on.

I am currently in an aggressive intermittent fasting phase. Similar to what’s practiced in The Warrior Diet, I am now eating all my meals in a roughly 4 hour window each day.

I typically eat my first meal at around 4-5pm, and then eat dinner at home around 8pm. Sometimes I will chase dinner with something else, almonds or oatmeal, but after that I go to bed and I don’t eat again until 4-5pm the following afternoon. I just drink coffee in the morning, and water in the interim.

I had successfully pared my weight down from the 180-185 lbs I peaked at early this year. I had two brief periods of rapid loss buffered by more extended periods of flatlined, maybe slight increases in weight, and had gotten down to about 170-175.

Ideally, I run at about 160 lbs, lower if I can get there in healthy fashion. My bodyfat, which in my peak running days was around 15%… is currently around 19-20%, and that’s an improvement over the 22-23% I peaked at early this year. By BMI rough estimates, I was technically overweight for a few weeks.

It’s harder to lose weight now in Las Vegas for some obvious reasons.

1) Because I no longer commute on foot, a lot of my previously built-in daily calorie burn is now gone, unless I go to great effort to put it back.
2) Because of the Vegas heat (100-110 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the early mornings it’s 80-90 degrees), no races to train for, and no need to run-commute in car-focused Vegas (want to run 12 miles one way in 100+ degree heat?)… I’m not running nearly as much as I did in Chicago. Again, I’d have to make great efforts to match that mileage right now.
3) Because it’s summer in Las Vegas, it’s also really hot. Endurance exercise outside is often impractical.

So I wasn’t surprised to see my weight go up, and then struggle to come back down. I knew that, diet in principle being 80% of your body composition, most of my work to slim back down was going to require aggressive dietary habit changes.

I don’t eat processed food unless not doing so would be impractical, or if I’m about to exercise or just finished exercise and something like a protein bar is readily available.

I got my family to start cooking exclusively with healthier oils: Avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil. They were leaning on cooking with canola and vegetable oils, and getting them to switch was somewhat difficult. But the oxidative stress, inflammation and water retention from eating food cooked in the refined oils wasn’t helping them, let alone me. While they still have a lot to work to do with their diets (and that’s honestly up to them), the food we eat for dinner together has been better for my health.

I got so aggressive with cutting out industrial oils and processed food that I stopped eating most restaurant food altogether until I’ve hit my current goal. Every restaurant uses those refined oils for cooking due to cost, and then people wonder why most Americans are overweight and unhealthy. It’s not ever good for you, but now it’s harder than ever for Western society to not eat this garbage.

We’re trained to eat out of boxes and eat from restaurants, and these unhealthy ingredients are EVERYWHERE. They’re ubiquitous parts of most people’s diets and people don’t realize that it’s the source of their health problems.

And while I didn’t write this post to end up preaching out of nowhere, I did want to explain why cutting these ingredients out was important to my efforts to slim down. You can’t just fast, count calories and exercise. WHAT you eat matters as much than any of that.


I realized my current struggles with running, aside from obviously reduced volume, is because I weigh more than I did when I regularly ran in Chicago. The added fat is slowing me down. It needs to come off.

Also, because the quality of the Vegas Diet is not what I could maintain in Chicago, it was harder for me to maintain the needed metabolic health to run a lot. I’m also turning 42 in October, and I can’t just power through bad diet decisions and bounce back the way a twentysomething can.

So I decided to also curtail running, not totally stop but just do it every few days or so for now. I want to ramp up training in the fall when Vegas cools down to a more human temperature, and I want to be in better shape to maintain that volume.

Instead for now I focus on an old fitness-bro standby: Do walking for most if not all of my “cardio”, to let that and the hot Vegas sun fuel some calorie burn, instead of burning myself out by trying to run often in Vegas heat. I look to get in one good 30+ minute walk each day, and at least a bit of walking throughout the day if I can’t get that longer walk.

Since getting aggressive with slimming down in the last couple weeks I’ve gone from a stubborn 172 lbs to 170-171, and I notice energy-wise and mentally I’m feeling better overall. And this is despite some upheaval situations at work plus dealing with the 110 degree Vegas days in often-limited air conditioning.

I also strength train several times a week. I’ve increased my focus on weight training and now have found a consistent series of defined workouts, plus I’m seriously tracking my progress in weight I can lift for these workouts. I’ll get into these at some point soon. And I still walk even if I do strength train, so it adds onto the calorie burn and mitochondrial development from the walking.


That’s where I’m at right now. My plan to resume running is when the Vegas heat becomes cooler Vegas fall temperatures, and I can run in weather cooler than 87 degrees Fahrenheit or run at times other than the early morning.

Until then, I’m going to slim down with aggressive intermittent fasting, an aggressively clean diet, walking everyday and strength training throughout the week.

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How I Built A Training Schedule Around A Different Work Schedule

To preface all this, I have a weird work schedule now. Not that the schedule isn’t normal for me personally (I am working it every week, after all!), but it’s not a schedule most people work.

It’s an office job where I work from about 10-11am until about 8-9pm, an early swing or 2nd shift, and I work Thursday through Monday. That itself is no big deal.

What’s weird is that some days are worked in the office, and some days are worked remotely at home. Because most of the office works a traditional Monday through Friday schedule with office closed weekends and some holidays, there’s no practical reason for me to come to the office on weekends and holidays… though the stores I interface with are open weekends and holidays.

So I work remotely at home on Saturdays, Sundays, and business-open holidays, while going to the office (when open) on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. (Of course, with the current Coronavirus risk, this can always change and I could end up working remotely everyday if that situation gets suitably dangerous again.)

Getting back to more relevant material, this adds several wrinkles to training. I’ve mentioned before that my schedule now allows me to train comfortably every morning, without having to wake up early. I can also sleep in as needed, and the reduced sleep deprivation improves my long term recovery.

However, once I get off work around 8-9pm, it’s highly impractical to train at all being so close to bedtime. So on work days I need to train during the morning, unless lunch and work circumstances allow me to sneak out and get a quick workout in during a late afternoon lunch break.

On the flip side, having to work out early in the day means spending my work day sitting, which really helps with recovery. There’s no afternoon commute or stress to complicate recovery… especially if I’m working from home that day: There is no commute!

With all of these opportunities and advantages, I have slowly carved out a template for a weekly all-around training schedule.

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Training progressions, stabilization, and running health

I’m learning a borderline unfathomable amount of information from my Personal Trainer course, and a lot of it applies just as well to running as it does to general strength training.

It’s hard to get into much of what I’m learning right now, especially given I’m studying for new material through the accelerated program and I need to focus on processing all that information on top of still trying to ingrain the previous information.

One thing that sits with me is the NASM structure to training progression known as the OPT model. The basic premise is that, before you should work on maximizing strength and athleticism, you first need to work on and improve the stabilization of your existing muscle systems.

The idea is that your muscles have some natural imbalances, and jumping right into swolework or athletic drills not only can risk injury but also further solidify and thus complicate those imbalances.

Someone with an incredible amount of strength or athletic development might actually be surprisingly weak in a key core muscle group, and if this person has recurring injury or performance problems that weakness could be a key factor in their problems. It may seem like a step back to work solely on stabilization basics, but in reality improvement here avoids bigger, longer setbacks in more serious situations.

Going back to running… even prior to this training, I could watch someone run for a few moments and immediately point out what kind of injury problems they either have dealt with or will deal with. I could see mechanically what was limiting them.

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