I’m entering my thirteenth week of doing my Spartan race training. I’ve been doing three days a week of workouts. Two of them are completed at a normal gym, and the third I do at my CrossFit box during open hour. I’m going to look back at my results from the start and compare them to the most recent one.

The exercises are all pretty upper body focused, with a smattering of core focused work added in for stability. I try to push myself when it comes to weights. The idea is to push to failure, and I try to get close without risking injury.

The first exercise is wrist extensions. I’m not sure if I should maybe go back down in weight again to try and build up strength on these. I started out using a 5 pound dumbbell, then moved to 7.5 pounds and yesterday I used a 10 pounder. With the 10 pound dumbbell, I definitely struggle on the back half of each set, and my form would probably be better with the weight backed off a bit.

It’s almost the same story with the second exercise, which is wrist curls. I started with 10 pounds, and I’m up to 17.5 as of yesterday. But those are also pretty difficult at that weight. And there’s something weird that happens with my wrists when I do the wrist curls, even with lighter weight. My wrists pop as I lift the weight, and they don’t stop popping. Lift, pop. Release, pop. It feels weird, and does start to hurt, so I try to avoid it, but I think I’m not getting full range of motion when I avoid the popping. Again, dropping the weight might help.

The next thing I do is go to the lat pull down machine. Rather, to one of them. There are two at my gym; one is downstairs and the other is upstairs. The downstairs one has a narrower bar and can be adjusted in 5 pound increments. The one upstairs has a thicker bar and can only be adjusted in 15 pound increments. I find the upstairs one much harder to use; I’ve discovered that I have about a 10 pound difference between the two machines. At the start of this project, I used the upstairs one more often, but towards December the gym got less crowded and I used the downstairs one more often. Now, in January, it’s a lot more crowded and sometimes (like yesterday) I have to wait for a machine. Rather than do nothing, I skip to the next exercise and then try to find an open machine again.

In week 1, I did 50 pounds on the upstairs machine. Last week, I did 100 pounds on the downstairs machine. And yesterday, I struggled with 80 pounds on the upstairs machine and went to failure on 95 pounds on the upstairs machine.

Usually, the Eccentric Biceps Curl comes after the Lat Pull Downs, but yesterday I had to switch them. For those, I have two different ways of approaching the exercise. I can use two lighter weight dumbbells and do both arms at once, or I can use one heavy dumbbell and do one arm at a time. The heavy dumbbell should be one that I can’t curl without the help of the other arm. As an added stress to my grip, I try to go upstairs and use the dumbbells with the thick handles for these.

I started with two 20 pound dumbbells for the light weight and one 25 pound for the heavy. Yesterday, I did one 30 pound dumbbell, and last week I did two 25 pounders. So I’m making a little bit of progress on those free weights. I’ll have to try doing a chin up one of these days and see if there’s any improvement.

My last machine stop is at the seated row. Again, there is one machine downstairs and one upstairs, but the difficulties are reversed. The downstairs seated row is much more difficult than the upstairs, which has two independent handles instead of a single handle. I can switch out the downstairs handle, but there’s still only one pulley, so it’s just as hard.

I started at the upstairs one and really had no idea what to use when I started. The first day, I tried sets at 40, 50 and 60 pounds. Up to 70 pounds the next week and continuing to tick up, slowly but surely. Yesterday I did a set at 105 on the upstairs. But I only got 90 pounds last week on the downstairs machine.

The last exercise on the plan for this day is a tabata (8 rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest). Plank, right side plank, left side plank, bridge, repeat. I feel stronger on this one. I’m doing straight arms for all the planks, and doing a full bridge. I could have just done a hip bridge, but I’ve got the flexibility for the full and I’m enjoying doing something a bit gymnastic in the routine. I definitely feel better in the bridge than when I started. It’s easier to breathe and also to adjust myself.

One thing that I’ve added to the routine is some hip flexor work. At the gym, that’s usually some seated leg lifts. I think I might add in a goal about doing a hanging L sit, but I’m not sure what kind of goal would be realistic; at this point I can hardly hold an L sit long enough to count.

Overall, I’m experiencing steady improvement with these exercises. I’ve got a lot more time before my race, so if I can keep this up, I should get a much better result for myself – the official goal is an obstacle pass rate of at least 70%. If there are 8 burpee-penalty obstacles, like last year, then that means missing no more than 2.

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