All of our New Year’s resolutions have now been tested for a month. How are yours going? I’m on the fitness wagon, but wrestled long in December about which program I would undertake for the remaining winter months. But it’s February now, so it’s safe for me to share with you what exercise I actually did in January. I was hesitant to share it with you as a plan before I completed it just in case it turned out to be a complete flop. I figured I’d be the guinea pig.
Winter is a great time to add strength and mass, and the long, slow transition from late winter to late spring (about March through June where we live) is a great time to focus on conditioning. The weather is mild enough to be outside and get a good sweat on (if that’s what you like) though not prohibitively cold. Besides, at the end comes swimsuit season (it lasts about two weeks here: last week of August/first week of September). Anyway, I’m not much of a bulk-up/trim down guy; I’m pretty constant. But some people like to spend the dark days of winter lifting (and eating) heavy. But that’s all to say we should decide how to exercise and eat based on our _goals._
Obviously, everyone’s goals are different, and you need to establish yours and write them down. Would you like to be able to shoulder press your bodyweight? Run an 8:00 mile? Touch your toes? All of this matters for planning purposes.
My goals generally center on building strength, as that’s a great way to expand work capacity. For instance, I know for myself that if I can snatch a 70# kettlebell five times, I can snatch a 53# kettlebell fifteen times. So to build up my 53# snatch numbers, I like to snatch a 70# bell. If you can run with a weighted vest uphill, running on flat ground unweighted is easier.
So at the end of December, I wrote down some exercises, weights, sets and reps that would help me progress toward my own personal fitness goals. I categorized the movements as “Grinds” (G) or “Ballistics” (B). I wrote out six potential courses to a fitness meal for each. The first course would be a Grind and the second course would be a Ballistic. (Side note: I’ve done this for a long time. My workouts often have a strength component, and an explicit conditioning component, sometimes a “finisher.”) When I wrote it out , it looked like this:
Here’s where it gets fun. I like variety. One of the fun things about CrossFit is that there’s variety, and I like that. (Another side note: What I don’t like is that CrossFit workouts are written generically, by someone I don’t know who doesn’t know what my goals are. If I want to increase my power clean numbers, I can only hope that the workout prescribed for tomorrow helps me do that. See the problem with that? You can read more here.)
So, I ROLLED THE DICE! This was really fun and definitely not boring. I only did this two days per week, as that’s what I can swing with my schedule. On Wednesdays I would do some sort of group conditioning workout with some friends in the afternoon, and I sprinkle in bodyweight movements and yoga throughout the week. But for strength and kettlebell conditioning I rolled the dice. So fun.
I would roll two dice, and the number on leftmost or uppermost die would represent which of the six “Grind” workouts I would do. The second die would represent the number of the “Ballistic” workout that I would do. For instance, my first trial workout was December 30. I rolled a 2-6. That meant I got to do…
I. 10-minute Countdown (performing the work when the clock hit zeros): Double 70# Clean and Press every minute, on the minute for ten minutes. (Then I rested a few minutes. Then…) II. 10-minute Countdown: Double 53# Cleans, 7 reps (I rolled two dice to determine the reps) every minute, on the minute for ten minutes.
It was great! Every time (except for one brutal exception) I finished with several reps still in the tank. I wasn’t destroying my body, chasing endless reps and making my training sessions something to be avoided…and dreaded. In case you’re interested, I can tell you what I rolled, and you can figure out what my workouts looked like:
Jan 1: I rolled 5-1: TGU’s and 1-H Swings. Jan 3: I rolled 1-5: C&P’s and Double Swings (I rolled an 8 for the swings, so I did 8 reps of those). Jan 6: I rolled 2-2: Double C&P’s and Snatches (A vicious workout!). Jan 10: I rolled 3-1: Double Front Squats and 1-H Swings. Jan 13: I rolled 5-1 again! Just like Jan 1. Jan 17: I rolled 3-5: Double Front Squats and Double Swings. Jan 20: I rolled 3-4: Double Front Squats and Swings (On the swings, I alternated 15 reps/20 reps). Jan 24: Felt under the weather. Did some light C&P practice (Double 53#), 5 rounds, 5 reps/round. Jan 25: Felt better, rolled a 6-5. Double C&P’s and Double Swings (rolled a 7 for the swings). Jan 27: I rolled 1-1: C&P’s and 1-H Swings. Jan 28-31: I took it off for rest.
The last thing I would add is an inherent weakness with a plan like this: it doesn’t allow for waving of the load. There are several ways to address this, but it’s important to cycle your work so that you’re not trying to up your numbers, times and reps in a constant, linear fashion. Nobody can do that forever.
One option is to to wave your effort or intensity like this:
Week 1: 70% effort Week 2: 80% effort Week 3: 90% effort Week 4: 50% effort
I think I’ll do something like this in February. Feel free to ask me how it’s going.
This forces your body to adapt and builds in some needed recovery.
So there you go. Feel free to steal my idea or tell me what you think of it. What did you do for exercise in January?