Second Place is a set of Steak Knives

March 31, 2013 Comments Off

67381You get used to a pretty busy schedule of meetings at Microsoft. Either you let it get to you, or you adapt. I had adapted quite well. I had a full slate for the week, with a fairly important release coming up the next week, and meetings stacked up on most of my days. I had a late call for a “Skip-Level” or a meeting with my bosses’ boss. This wasn’t all that uncommon, and usually involved a bit of outreach from the higher management, a bit of chit-chat, and back to work you go.

So I completed my round of meetings in the morning, had the release drop prepped for a review later, and made my way over to the big bosses’ office. There was someone already in there, so I waited outside. After a bit, she opened the door, and asked me inside.

“Mark, thanks for coming. This is to inform you that your position has been eliminated at the company, and as of this moment your duties are finished.”

I was laid off.

I held the packet of severance information in my hand as I walked out. I was actually one of the lucky ones, I had two months for internal job search before I was terminated. But I was still in shock. I headed home. Then I had the pleasure of telling my wife that I no longer had a job. The look on her face made me want to cry.

This sucked.

Fortunately, and frankly accidentally, I had been prepared for this. I was not prepared to go out and market myself, I had a stale resume, and I don’t interview very well. I’m nervous talking in front of people, and twice as nervous talking about myself. But I had two things going for me.

First, my job for almost thirteen years has been about firefighting hot issues. Website failures, system failures, publishing failures. Big, high-visibility, high-pressure issues where vice-presidents were breathing down my neck and thousands of dollars were lost every minute. I could buckle-down and ride this kind of stress with no problem. I instinctively knew to hunker down and focus on working the issues. No blame, no anger, just resolve the problem at hand.

Second, I had my health. This might seem like an irrelevant thing, or something silly, but at the time if felt critical. From my weightlifting and kettlebell work, I knew that I was capable of pushing through personal suffering and short term pain for a goal.

It may sound silly, but knowing that I could focus and survive making 100 Kettlebell snatches in 5 minutes told myself that I could dive and survive interviews. No ifs, ands or buts. Most of physical exertion is mental at root. I knew that I could tap that experience and use it to my advantage.

I had to focus on the process forward, not blame backward. This meant casting aside the immediate self doubt that was creeping in, and focusing on what I knew I did right. I knew my job, I knew I was good at it. Now I needed to get out there and ignore the potential for failure to sell myself.

I was given access to a placement resource, and they offered classes on things like networking and negotiation. I attended everything I could. I cast a wide net on the internal search tools, and started contacting individuals on the teams that were up. I fixed my resume and sample works so folks could see what I did.

I ended up getting an offer from the first group that I met with. Lots was happening in parallel, but the first contact made me an offer. In the end, it will be a great advantage to move to this new team. But the path here was rocky, to say the least.

Our professional world draws on the personal, just as much as the opposite. A solid personal foundation serves us all well, and can’t be ignored. Physical exertion lays a foundation that can be called when you need it most. And in many ways, our mental state calls on the physical abilities that we have grown.

I landed well, but that outcome was not set in stone. It was earned. I have the support of many, including my wife, family and friends. I have the support of my co-workers, but I also have invisible support from my network of trainers and friends. Solid physical health gave me an edge on mental health. I can draw on all that when needed, and this was one of those needs.

Now I’m excited to move on to my new work, and thankful to all those who gave me a helping hand, whether they know it or not.

Thanks.

Rock around the Block

February 11, 2012 Comments Off

So I completed my Deadlifting cycle for a bit. That was a ton of fun. (Actually, if you add all the pounds moved, it was well over a ton, but that involves doing a lot of math, so I’ll just round down)

As I have written before, I use Pavel Tsastouline’s Power to the People protocol for Deadlifting. But I was able to have even more fun with this. Over the summer I had picked up Easy Strength by Pavel and Dan John. Easy Strength is an amazing book that details out how to understand and identify your goals for lifting and training, track progress, and set your programs to hit those goals.

I had read through it twice, and found a great protocol that I thought would fit my Goals (general fitness as opposed to sport specific) and it fit both my skills and equipment. The program worked out to be:

2-week Block Training (for a minimum plan of 10 weeks (5 sets))

Block 1: Single-arm Kettlebell Clean and Presses with Goblet Squats
Block 2: Power to the People Deadlifts

If you aren’t familiar with these these things, I’ll clarify.

Block Training is an old training method (very popular in the Former Soviet Union) where different exercise types are organized into Blocks, with a period of two weeks being the most common. You alternate the blocks over a period of several weeks before changing or moving to something new. Each block would differ from the others by either area worked (say, and Upper body block followed by a Lower body block) or it could differ by exercise type (in my case, a Pressing and Squats block followed by a deadlift block) You can run at a fairly high intensity as you recover from one type of work as you change to the other. Also, it lets you combine things in a way that keeps everything interesting.

Kettelbell Clean and Presses are surprisingly less common that I usually think. While kettelbells are very popular via Crossfit right now, most folks out there are just using them for swings (and typically the American Style over-the-head swing. – I follow RKC methods myself). I favor the C&P because when you are handling a large overhead weight on one hand only, then add the inherent eccentric balance of the Kettlebell, you turn an upper-body exercise into a whole-body lift. You need tight Glutes, core, and lats to achieve a good, straight lift, or you just wobble all over the place.

The Goblet Squat is one that Dan John promotes all the time as a way to dial in clean Squat form. Holding a weight out n front of your body, you pull yourself down into a low squat, with elbows resting on the inside of your kneecaps. It is very hard to get out of alignment with this exercise, and it really dials in great squatting form. The Kettlebell handle is a perfect alignment for the grip in a goblet squat, making it a perfect bookend for pressing sets.

With varying weights, this made my sets look like the following:

Block 1:
Single Arm Presses & Goblet Squats

Monday (16kg x 5, 20kg x 5, 24kg x 5) X 4 sets
Wednesday (32kg x 2, 24kg x 5) X 4 sets
Friday (20kg x 5, 24kg x 5) X 4 sets

Block 2:
Power to the People deadlifts

Monday: 185lbs/135lbs
Tuesday: 205lbs/185lbs
Wednesday: 225lbs/205lbs
Thursday: 215lbs/205lbs
Friday: 225lbs/205lbs
Saturday: 235lbs/225lbs

After a Kettelbell week I would see if I felt up to adding an extra set for each day. At the end of a lifting week I would dial back 20 pounds, then add 10 each day. If the set felt too hard, I dialed back a bit.

This progressed fantastically! By the last Kettelbell week, I could get in 5 solid sets, and I was on track to break through a deadlift of 300 pounds. A few days before my cycle completed, I racked up 285 pounds to the bar.

In proper form, I made two excellent pulls. On my third pull, elves snuck in and glued the weights to the floor.

I mean, the bar didn’t move at all.

I was at my body’s limit, so I cut it short. I was well past my Personal Record, I had finished 9 weeks of solid, intense training, made amazing gains, and had no injury. So when my body said stop, I listened.

I took the next two weeks to recover with walking and some light bodyweight. Then is is on to the next challenge…

Ringside at the BULLfight

December 22, 2011 Comments Off

One of the things that I really like about social media is the exposure you get to large groups of people normally you wouldn’t be able to interact with. In good times, this allows you to get information and feedback from people but you might find useful and interesting. And in other times, you get to watch them pick fights each other. This is one of those other times.

Two of the big groups I’m exposed to right now are the Kettlebell crowd and the Paleo diet crowd. In both of these groups are having big internal conflicts. Personally, I’m rather enjoying the show. I’m lucky enough to have some of the better minds in all these groups available to me on Facebook either as direct friends, or through their business pages. And for the most part, they’re a smart, professional group of people.

Currently, I’m trying not to take sides in the arguments. I’m still pretty much a novice in all these areas, and I am hoping to learn from these people. But after a while, you can start pick out the wheat from the chaff.

I can see the point of the arguments for both sides in these situations, and usually they simply have a difference of opinion, but generally are moving towards the same goals. In some cases, I can see where one side really has a difficult time explaining its point of view, and that makes me feel like they don’t know what they’re saying in the first place. Or that they are just BS’ing to gather attention.

I might be wrong, but if you don’t know where you stand in the first place, you probably shouldn’t be arguing. It might be fun to watch for the rest of us on the outside, but it ends up being a colossal waste of time and bandwidth. And worse, you look like a real dumbass after a point.

There have always been splits in the Kettlebell community, and this time looks to be not dramatically different. I think that’s fine. Most of the players are arguing more about form, and details, and they tend to be mostly polite and professional about it. I think thats fine. In the end, we are really just talking about picking up hunks of iron, and there can be many successful roads to the same destination in this area. most of these folks seem to get that.

The paleo crowd has been quite a bit different. Since this summer there has been a core argument between the argument of the “Insulin Hypothesis” (too many carbs raise insulin which triggers fat storage) and the now opposing “Palatability Hypothesis”

This palatability hypothesis supposedly says that if food is better tasting you eat more of it in this causes obesity. If you buy into the whole “well it’s all just calories” argument, then this works.

That seems to make sense on the surface, but from an idea like that, all we can really difficult conclude is, “eat really crappy food and then you’ll be healthy!” So far, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot said about what mechanism is happening (it’s complicated!) or how this is borne out by the evidence; whereas on the insulin hypothesis side, there’s a pretty large volume of writing about what this is and how it works. It might be wrong, and probably is to a certain extent, but at least we know what they’re trying to say.

As I’ve been following this across all the blogs and other media, watching the same small number of people over and over making the same arguments and I feel like they’ve never been very clear. This has frustrated the heck out of me. These are people who I’ve really respected before, and have really appreciated their writing, and now I’m left trying to effectively fill in the blanks on what they’re trying to say, because they’re so outrageously unclear.

If you can’t clearly state your hypothesis, then I suspect that you don’t really have one. It ‘s a bit like the Monty Python sketch with the guy selling arguments. It ends up as contradiction for contradiction’s sake. (I could be arguing with you in my spare time…)

But, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this will be much clearer once there is some better writing and better arguments on this topic. But I just don’t have a lot of faith in that case. So in the meantime, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing right now. The way I’m eating, and the way I’m lifting, are working pretty good so far. And there’s always room for improvement.

That much will probably never change.

Wrap and a soup!

October 24, 2010 Comments Off

Well, that finishes up the twelve weeks of Kettlebell Muscle.

I have to say, that is an excellent, but very, very intense program. Next week is a “down” week. Light exercise and recovery.

I had to split my final day workout between Friday and Sunday because my knee started hurting halfway through the workout. Out of all the lessons from the past year of working out, “Don’t move into pain” is probably the most valuable. Working out shouldn’t hurt. Heavy exertion is one thing, but actual pain means something is wrong. In my case, I know my knees start to hurt if my feet aren’t in the proper alignment for swings and squats. Two days of rest, and making sure my feet were correct, and I completed my sets with no pain.

I think once I am recovered, I will work on one-armed pressing again. I have been doing Doubles work for over six months and a change would be good. I have Kenneth Jay’s Perfecting The Press and may do that with some bodyweight work or Mobility work. We’ll see.

Week of 10/10/10

Sunday:
Rest

Monday:
Double High Pull x 5 reps
Double Clean + Military Press x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
90 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 5 sets of all

Tuesday:
Active Recovery

Wednesday:
Double High Pull x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
See-Saw Press x 5 reps
75 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 6 sets of all

Thursday:
Active Recovery

Friday:
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
Double Military Press x 5 reps
Double Clean + Push Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
120 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 4 sets of all

Saturday:
32KG KB Presses 2/2

Week of 10/17/10

Sunday:
Swings & Getups practice

Monday:
Double High Pull x 5 reps
Double Clean + Military Press x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
90 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 6 sets of all

Tuesday:
Active Recovery

Wednesday:
Double High Pull x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
See-Saw Press x 5 reps
75 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 7 sets of all

Thursday:
Active Recovery

Friday:
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
Double Military Press x 5 reps
Double Clean + Push Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
120 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 2 sets of all (completed remaining 3 sets on sunday)

Saturday:
Rest

Aside from that, how was the show Mrs. Lincoln?

September 21, 2010 Comments Off

My workout took a backseat to Yulia getting in a accident with my car on Friday. I caught up, but Friday was a nasty mess. Fortunately she was alright, and after that it’s just about nothing else.

I’ll start catching up next week.

Week of 9/12/10

Sunday:

Rest
Monday:
Double High Pull x 5 reps
Double Clean + Military Press  x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
120 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 3 sets of all

Tuesday:

Active Recovery
Wednesday:
Double High Pull x 5 reps
Double Snatch  x 5 reps
See-Saw Press x 5 reps
90 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 4 sets of all

Thursday:
Active Recovery

Friday:
Panic

Saturday:

Double Front Squat x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
Double Military Press  x 5 reps
Double Clean + Push Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
120 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 3 sets of all

Muscle Midpoint

September 12, 2010 Comments Off

OK. That finished the first half  (six weeks) of the Kettlebell Muscle Program. I now move on to Complexes and Chains for another 6 weeks. This should be fun. I actually missed my workout on the 6th (my birthday) but since we spent 2 days lifting equipment, sweating, and filming, I didn’t feel the need to do a makeup.

I’ve also kept up with doing pull-ups at the office. 2 in the morning, and then singles across the day as time allows. It’s getting better. I should work up to 3-2-1 soon. I hope. I need to make 5 to do the HKC, and at 220 pounds that’s some heavy lifting.

 

 

Week of 9/5/10
Sunday:
Filming 

Monday:

Filming

Tuesday:

Active Recovery

Wednesday:
Double Swing x 5 reps
Double Snatch  x 5 reps
See-Saw Press x 5 reps
90 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 6 sets of all

Thursday:
Active
Recovery

Friday:
Double Clean x 5 reps
Double Military Press  x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
Double Push Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
120 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 5 sets of all

Saturday:

Rest

 

Catch-up fitness post

August 9, 2010 Comments Off

I haven’t posted my workouts for a while, so here’s a big catchup post. Right now I’m doing a lot of Doubles work. Currently following the “Kettlebell Muscle” book from Geoff Neupert. Great book, also reduces me to three workouts per week which aligns with Sasha’s Dance class, so I can run home and get my workout in. It took me a few weeks to get a handle on the rhythm of these exercises, but I think I have it now.

Should be a fun 12 week program.


Week of 6/27/10


Sunday:
10 Mile Ride
Monday:
20KG KB Clean and Press – 7 Minutes
24KG Goblet Squat – 5 Minutes
20KG + 24KG KB Double Clean and Press – 5 Minutes

Tuesday:

Rest

Wednesday:
Boating

Thursday:
Rest
Friday:
Double High Pull x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
Double Military Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps

20KG + 24KG KB – 4 sets of all

Saturday:
Cruise…


Week of 7/11/10


Sunday:
Rest
Monday:
Double High Pull x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
Double Military Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
120 seconds rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 4 sets of all

Tuesday:
Active Recovery

Wednesday:
Double Swing x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
See-Saw Press x 5 reps
90 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 4 sets of all

Thursday:
Active Recovery
Friday:
Double Clean x 5 reps
Double Military Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
Double Push Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
120 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 3 sets of all

Saturday:
Pavel Class!


Week of 7/18/10


Sunday:
Rest
Monday:
Active Recovery

Tuesday:
32kg + 40kg KB Farmers Walks

32KG Military Press 3/3

Wednesday:
Active Recovery

Thursday:
Double Swing x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
See-Saw Press x 5 reps
90 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 4 sets of all

Friday:
Active Recovery

Saturday:
Boating

Week of 7/24/10


Sunday:
Boating
Monday:
Bike to work (6 mi total)

Tuesday:
Bike to work (6 mi total)

Wednesday:
Bike to work (6 mi total)
Double Swing x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
See-Saw Press x 5 reps
90 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 4 sets of all

Thursday:
Bike to work (6 mi total)
Friday:
Kettlebell Lesson

Saturday:

Lats work.

Week of 8/1/10


Sunday:
Rest
Monday:
Double High Pull x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
Double Military Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
120 seconds rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 4 sets of all

Tuesday:
Active Recovery

Wednesday:
Double Swing x 5 reps
Double Snatch x 5 reps
See-Saw Press x 5 reps
90 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 4 sets of all

Thursday:
Active Recovery
Friday:
Double Clean x 5 reps
Double Military Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
Double Push Press x 5 reps
Double Front Squat x 5 reps
120 sec rest
20KG + 24KG KB – 3 sets of all

Saturday:

Rest

…and the 20KG does down.

June 26, 2010 Comments Off

I just hit one of my goals for the year. 100 snatches with the 20KG kettlebell in 5 minutes. I had a whole 2 seconds to spare. When I add this to the Livestrong ride on sunday this has need a pretty active week.

Earlier in the year, someone on the Dragondoor boards asked “fit for what?” when another poster asked “how do I become fit?”

It’s actually a great question. “Fitness” really only applies to what you personally want to do. At the time, my answer was to just be healthier. Then at the beginning of the year, I set a few goals, this being one of them. When I did the Red Hook ride earlier, I was really surprised at how my cycling ability was so much better despite not being on the bike for so long. (improvements in both leg strength from squats and VO2Max from snatches.)

So I’m adding to my goals doing the Livestrong ride again, for either the 75 or 100 mile distance. I have also mapped out a 104 mile loop to try locally. It goes around lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, Mercer Island, and Bellevue. I want to ride that.

If I can hit those I’ll see about doing STP in two years.

Fit for that.

Week of 6/20/10

Sunday:
Livestrong 45 Mile Ride

Monday:
20KG + 16KG KB High Stop Military Press – 10 Minutes
16KG + 20KG KB Double Front Squat – 6 Minutes
20KG KB Clean and Press – 5 Minutes

Tuesday:
5 Mile Bike Ride

Wednesday:
Yardwork

Thursday:
16KG + 24KG KB See-Saw Press – 9 Minutes
20KG + 16KG KB Double Front Squat – 7 minutes
16KG + 24KG KB High Stop Military Press Press – 7 Minutes

Friday:
Rest

Saturday:
20KG KB Fast Cadence Snatch – 5 minutes (100!)

Livestrong

June 17, 2010 Comments Off

Well I’m getting all set for the Livestrong ride on the 20th. I even bought a pair of shorts with more padding because I am old and tender now. But this will be a great ride. I have almost hit my fundraising target, and the weather looks like it will be ok.

I am getting ready to start on a different program once my vacation is over in July, it will be good to shift gears. This will be based on chains and complexes for reps instead of time. Should be fun.

Week of 5/23/10
Sunday:
Rest

Monday:
20KG + 24KG KB See-saw Press – 4 Minutes
24KG KB Goblet Squat – 8 Minutes
24KG KB Braced Military Press – 6 Minutes

Tuesday:
24KG Fast Cadence Snatch – 8 minutes
20KG + 16KG KB Double Push Press from Squat – 12 minutes

Wednesday:
32 KG Jerk Practice
Pushups

Thursday:
20KG + 16KG KB High Stop Military Press – 7 Minutes
Pistols – 3 minutes
32/24KG KB Braced Military Press – 8 Minutes

Friday:
Rest

Saturday:
24KG KB Slow Snatch – 8 minutes
32KG KB Jerk – 6 minutes

Week of 5/30/10
Sunday:
7 Mile Walk

Monday:
Rest

Tuesday:
20KG + 24KG KB Double Clean & Press – 7 Minutes
16KG + 20KG KB Double Front Squat – 11 Minutes
16KG + 20KG KB High Stop Military Press – 4 Minutes

Wednesday:
32KG KB Snatch – 8 minutes
24KG KB Viking Push Press – 7 minutes

Thursday:
20KG KB Clean and Press – 7 Minutes
24KG KB Goblet Squat – 9 minutes
12KG + 20KG KB See-saw Press – 11 Minutes

Friday:
32KG KB Overspeed Swing – 6 minutes
20KG + 12KG KB Double Viking Push Press – 8 minutes

Saturday:
44 mile bike ride

Week of 6/06/10
Sunday:
Rest

Monday:
20KG KB Military Press – 5 Minutes
16KG + 20KG KB Double Front Squat – 7 Minutes
16KG + 20KG KB High Stop Military Press – 7 Minutes

Tuesday:
Rest

Wednesday:
Rest

Thursday:
20KG + 24KG KB Double Clean and Press – 8 Minutes
20KG + 24KG KB Double Front Squat – 10 minutes
20KG KB Military Press – 6 Minutes

Friday:
Rest

Saturday:
Rest

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