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Highland Games Training Week 1 of 15 done…

Last week, I came to a realization: timing wise, I’d be able to pull of doing the Wichita Highland Games (which is happening at the Great Plains Renaissance Festival this year).  However, from a physical standpoint, there’s no way I could pull it off if it were to be going on today – I’m strong, but not strong enough to compete the way I’d like.  So, now I have a time-sensitive goal (and some doubts if I’ll be where I want to be by that time), which works a whole lot better than just “hey, I want to get into shape.”

Of course, prepping for this is a little different than just working out.  Working out, most of the time you worry about a flat stomach, big biceps, and generally looking buff.  Not so much with stuff like this – you end up worrying much more about core strength (which, honestly, I already have: my ‘minimum’ strength level is – well, was – to be able to pick up a 300 lbs person and move them in an emergency).  You also don’t end up with movie-star abs and display quality musculature.  In fact, you usually end up looking a bit more “dumpy” on a day to day basis – big arms, sure, but most strongman competitors with a loose shirt on look like they’re carrying an extra keg around the stomach.  And, during competitions, you do have to have some fat (or, eat between every event for energy.)

Here’s a picture of Daniel McKim.  I’d like to look like Daniel does in this picture (I’ve seen him in current pictures, and well, he doesn’t look like that anymore – a lot more squishy around the center, but can bench 475!  Though, I can almost match him for number of pull-ups on a good day for me, bad day for him sort of thing – he’s 295 lb, and 15 is pretty good effort.  I don’t weight nearly that much, and can do 10 – 12 on a good day.  That’s about as close as I’ll ever get to matching him 😉  Anyway, Daniel is a cool guy who’s competed at the WHG before, holds world records, and in the picture below, actually looks like he could tear telephone poles in half.  Honestly, he looked more powerful in person!

Daniel McKim - not taken at the Wichita Highland Games but, a good example of what one of the world champions / world record holders looks like.
Daniel McKim – not taken at the Wichita Highland Games but, a good example of what one of the world champions / world record holders looks like.

Without any doubt, currently, I’m going to be the smallest guy on the field.  Not just muscle mass, either.  Last time I competed, the next shortest competitor was 6′ 1″.  I’m… well, I’m not even close.  I’m 5′ 9″ at best.  I was in OK shape, but nothing like these monsters.  (Also, I think the tallest there was a strongman competitor turned Highland Games competitor who stood 6′ 8″!)   And, for those that know me well, I have a strange psychological thing about height: I rarely view people as being taller than me.  I usually just view anyone who’s taller than me as being the same height as me, unless they are ridiculously tall.  These folks make me feel short.

Yep, I am SOOOOO outgunned.  Even if I bulk up, I’m still going to be a short guy compared to the rest of the lineup (unless some local, not particularly tall guys decide to join in.)  Even most of the women were taller than I am.  This is, well, a sport for large, large people.

That doesn’t mean I’m not gonna try, though 🙂  Working out, and getting in shape for this is awesome – I loved doing it last time!  This time, I know what to expect.  The muscles you’d normally work out to look buff?  Doesn’t matter as much here.  Big biceps don’t mean nearly as much as a strong chest, abs, and back.  Throwing a caber (what most people describe as throwing a telephone pole.  Actually, they really aren’t THAT big) is all core (and legs, too.)  I know what all the event categories are, and what it feels like to do them.  Oh, and one more thing – even brute strength alone isn’t enough: you’ve got to have the endurance to do it over and over.  Weight over bar, for instance, everyone takes turns throwing higher and higher, until finally no-one can go any higher.  Pretty much none of it is “one shot” activities.

Right now, I’m “shredding” my body.   Today is the first day in a week that I haven’t felt like someone had put my entire body through a meat grinder, stuffed it in a tube, stuck some bones in it, and called it a human.

When I wake up in the morning, I start the timer.  Ever 30 minutes, I have to stand up from the computer, and be active.  Part of the time it’s 5 – 7 minutes of Tai Chi.  Part of the time it’s just limbering up.  Part of the time it’s doing something like sweeping or loading the dishes.  Just, anything but sitting.

Then, around 10 or 11, I do the first workout.  It’s a “7-Minute” High Intensity Interval Training workout – except, not based on the usual layouts I’ve seen.  It’s still the usual 30 seconds of go like hell, then 10 seconds of rest.

The lineup for upper body days, for instance:

  • Decline Pushup
  • Ab Crunches
  • Pull Ups (Neutral Grip)
  • Star Plank (those things suck)
  • Pull Up
  • Chair Dip
  • Pushup With Rotation
  • Side Plank
  • Ab Crunches
  • Chin Up
  • Push Up
  • Plank

Basically, I set it all up as a sort of declining difficulty level (except the crunches – and when I find an exercise I want to replace ’em with that doesn’t repeat the other stuff, I’ll do that.)  The lineup will change over time.  Then, have myself half a recovery shake.

Then, 5 – 7 minutes of stretching, and back to work (with a “stand up and do something” ever 30 minutes).  In the after noon, somewhere around 3 – 4, I do strength training.  Now, I’m sure someone smart in working out will point out “Wait – you can’t do two upperbody workouts a day, you won’t be at full strength for strength training.”  That’s the idea.  There’s a theory about that I read up on, and decided I’d give it a go – but, not every workout.  Once a week (or twice, if my schedule gets messes up), the morning workout gets removed, the stand up stuff stays, and a strength workout happens in the afternoon (or, that’s the plan – it ended up being evening.)

Right now, the strength stuff is:

  • Wide-grip pulldown
  • Close Grip Pulldown
  • Straight-arm pulldown
  • Barbell Curl (I know – I said I wasn’t worried about big biceps, but it works more than just the biceps.  And since I’m working out already, might as well)
  • Reverse Barbell Curl
  • Wide Grip Barbell Curl
  • Row

Each one is reps to fail (up to 10 – if I hit 10, it’s time to add more weight), four sets each, do 5 – 7 minutes of stretching, and do the entire setup again, then a final  5 – 7 minutes of stretching.  And a full recovery shake (Muscle Milk.  I’m going to be sad when I don’t have enough funds for more Muscle Milk, to be honest.  Plus, that’s the stuff that has Tyrosine, an amino acid that helps with ADHD.)  And, every night, I shoot for 8 hours of sleep (and get really, really close to making it, surprisingly! 🙂

And, yeah, after that, I feel like hamburger.

Does it work?  Well… hard to tell, really.  I definitely did more weight today after not doing the morning workout, but that doesn’t mean much.   In fact, it’s going to probably be a full month of workouts before I really know if my plan works as well as I hoped.  Which is risky – if the workouts were too much, and I wasn’t getting enough gain out of it, I’d only have 12 weeks left to correct it.  But, lady luck favors the bold.

At 8 weeks out, I’m going to (gulp) try and add running to the whole thing to add even more endurance.  We’ll see how that goes – I’m always dubious about me running.

I hope to do better than 4th place this time – I’ve got my eyes set on 3rd.  Even though I’ll be in the Masters Division (40+ year old competitors), I doubt I really blow ’em away.  But, I’m sure as hell gonna try.  And, added bonus, even if the goal isn’t a flat stomach, I’ll still loose some, and look (and feel better.)  No matter what, if I do all 15 weeks of training, I win.

Now for the bad part.  Please, view carefully – you may need eye bleaching after this.  Yes, it’s my progress pictures.  This is after week one.  The cuts returned to my triceps (like they always do), and of course my arms look nicer because they’re blood engorged from workouts.  But, my chest and torso already feel like they’ve grown a bit (*SIGH*  If I gain another inch or two across the chest, there’s a good number of button up shirts that go back to Goodwill.).   The first three shots are “unflexed”.  The rest are flexed up, to see muscle size, etc. to compare again in another couple of weeks.  Oh, and really, really bad lighting and camera choice for this 😉 (I used PhotoBooth on the Mac, with the built-in sucky webcam. Which also means I have 3 seconds to “flex” for the flexed ones.)

Feel free to have a laugh at them. 🙂

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