I’m entering my fourteenth 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.
My second gym day starts with some max sets of push-ups on the Bosu. I do one set with my hands flat and one with a side grip, for variety. I get more reps on the flat ones, but that might be because I do them first. I should probably try switching it up and see if there’s a difference. Then again, I’m using different muscle groups for each one, with the side grip being wider and the flat being more of a triceps push-up.
The first sets I did back in late October I got 12 reps flat and 14 with the side grip. Last Thursday (in week 13), I did 30 with flat palms and 26 with the side grip. I find as I get over 20 reps on the side grip that it’s useful to use a bit of chalk. Otherwise, my hands slide off the side of the platform before my strength runs out. The numbers fluctuate more on the side grips, but I’ve been pretty steady in beating my last set by one or two reps each time on the flats, and most times on the sides.
Next is a balance task: single leg Bosu ball balance; I do 30 seconds per leg, three times each leg. To simplify timing, I use a Tabata timer and set it for 6 rounds of 30 seconds each. That gives me 10 seconds to switch legs and reset. For the most part, I do pretty well on this. I’ve only dropped off before the 30 seconds a few times, mostly when I’m feeling under the weather.
Then I get to do a traditional Tabata (8 rounds, 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest), alternating between Superman holds and swimmers (which are like Supermans in motion). I push through that every time, but it started hard and stayed hard. I think I’m getting stronger, and that’s why it still feels just as hard as the first time – because I’m using my muscles more.
The next two exercises use a cable cross machine. When I first started, the gym was never super crowded, so it wasn’t hard to find an open spot. But in January, the gym gets some influx, so I don’t always have a choice about which machine to use. There are several machine that I can use, but I prefer the one that always me to add weight in smaller increments – which happens to be the metric one. See, on one machine, I can use pounds, which I have a pretty good sense of, but the only option is 10 pound increments, and those are pretty big jumps for me when it comes to upper body. The metric machine allows for adjustments in 1.5 kilogram increments – much easier to build up.
I started in late October at 17.5 kilograms for my single arm row and reach. That’s about 38.5 pounds. I stayed in the 40 pound range for a while, but when I used the metric machine, I could start to ease the weight up without skipping right to 50. I did go to 50, but then I started preferentially using the metric one, since I wanted the smaller increments for the next exercise. Last Thursday my heaviest set on these was 29 kilograms – nearly 64 pounds.
I was even more hesitant to go up with the low to high twists, because even 40 pounds felt really heavy. I stuck with close to that weight for 7 weeks. But on the day I wanted to go up with them, the metric machine wasn’t available. So I bit the bullet and did 50. The next day, I could feel soreness in my lats, and I knew I had to make that jump and keep pushing on these exercises. Last Thursday, I did a set at 25.5 kilograms, which is touch above 56 pounds. And those reps hurt.
At first, I went directly to the 30 assisted pull-ups, as is written on my sheet. But lately, I’ve taken to giving my forearms and grip a little break first. So, I do my hip flexor exercises, which allows me to catch my breath and mentally prepare for the set of 30.
I wasn’t sure where to start with the set of 30 assisted pull-ups, because I’d never even attempted 30 strict pull-ups, never considered what it might take to get me there. I started at 70 pounds of assistance (and here, higher weight means I’m getting more help, so I want it to go lower). 70 pounds was really tough, and I stuck at that weight for 8 weeks. But going up on the twists gave me the confidence to try and go up on this one. In week 9, I succeeded at 60 pounds assistance. Week 10 I tried 50 and went to failure after 29 reps. I figured that was a good place to stay and work.
It was only week 12 that I finally completed a full set of 30 with only 50 pounds of assistance; basically I’m taking a third off of my body weight to get through the sets. Last Thursday, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish all 30 again, because I was feeling tired and I’d done a 5 am workout that involved a total of 50 pull-ups. I did those kipping, but it’s still the same muscles. And I’d went heavy on my twists, so I approached the assist machine with a bit of trepidation.
To my great surprise, the entire thing was easier. I kept the wide grip longer, and when I had to go narrower, I never went to the narrowest part. Instead, I stayed on the rubber coated area, though I did get right to the very edge. And my arms were limp noodles at the end, but that happens every time I do the sets of 30. Good thing that’s the last movement!