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About Me
Hey yo! For those of you who don't know my name is Phoebus Apollo. I am a Pittsburgh, PA based blogger, web designer, fitness nerd and once-passed bill writer. I spent 3 years working in the Portland, OR area for Circuit City and 4 years before that working at Regal Cinemas in downtown Portland, many of you may know me from those places. After moving to Pittsburgh I worked at Sears, now I work with Office Depot. Some of you may have met me via activities in the Pittsburgh area that I host or attend on meetup.com which is awesome. Others may know me from my work with Perverted Justice and their websites @ pjfi.org. A few may even remember that time I founded the alliance Of Sound Mind in Eve Online - I'm back in game but definitely a Minor League Casual Gamer these days. My hometown is Greenville, MI where most of my family is located.

This is a home for my personal ideas, projects, fitness logs and other nonsense. Follow me on Facebook for pointless asides and hashtag parades!

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Exercise Log 5.15.14 (Bench Press & Deadlift Day, No Cardio)

Well I wanted yesterday to be a rest day, but wound up throwing boxes all over receiving so still was tired as all hell. So today I hit up the new gym, which I officially am subbed to. Goodbye LA Fitness, hello Factory of Solitude.

Today was my first day of the new bench press/deadlift split. I honestly looked forward to doing some bench press after the long break, and wanted to test my shoulder integrity. Due to that, I took it slow and easy during the lifting.

Bench Press: Sets 1 & 2) 5 reps @ 145lbs. Set 3) 5 reps @ 150lbs. Normally I would have gone up 155 (+10lbs), but for bench press just due to the fact that I was cautious due to shoulders, I decided to stay strict to my program’s suggested weight. Then I did a drop set of 8 reps @ 125lbs just to remind my body what a bench press motion is like.

Deadlift: These were harder than I imagined they should be given the fact that in comparison I did substantially more reps on Monday. Still have a lot of focus in improving my upper body form, keeping my head back as a physical cue to engage the upper back tighter. In fact today having so much shoulder work was all done with my back tense. Sets 1 & 2) 3 reps @ 255lbs. Set 3) 2 reps @ 275lbs.

With the main lifts out the way, it was time for two chest/tricep accessory exercises…

Incline Dumbbell Press: Felt like I wanted to get these out of the way with extra light weight due to them being a greater risk of shoulder impingement aggrevation. 4 sets of 12 reps @ 30lbs. Focused on form, and made sure to squeeze my shoulderblades together to keep the back tight to support my shoulder shelf, it helped a lot.

Decline Bench Press / French Press: Thanks to the new gym being quiet, I can wrap up this delicious superset into my workout today and take a big ol’ bite into it. I did 4 sets of 8 reps declined bench @ 115lbs / 8 reps of french press @ 50lbs. Was cautious on form, and always cautious when using the decline bench, especially with the shoulder issues.

Next was a couple back/bicep accessories to encourage the split for the day.

Chin-ups: 3 sets of 6 reps (failed my last two reps). I’m still an awful pull-up-er-er and it goes no different for chin-ups.

Lateral Pulldown: I felt like this could help me make up some deficiency in the previous exercise, so did some of these and am now using an underhand grip so I can bring some bicep into the motion. 3 sets of 10 reps @ 105lbs.

Did skip cardio today, it was wet and nasty outside and I had things to do… like cancel the old gym membership. Yoga later tonight though so don’t think I’m missing out on my stretches. I’ll try to get cardio in soon when I get the free time to next. Unfortunately my only time to work out these next two days is tomorrow morning, and I have a feeling I will not have enough rest from the workouts to justify going straight out and working out again tomorrow, so that means my next workout will be after 2 days rest. Which, with this new more flexible and awesome program, is fine. Right? It’s fine. I might just start busting out into curling Moxie again if I get a little hungry.

Random gym story, guy asked me today why I don’t lift with a belt on deadlifts. I like using the natural weight belt that you have when lifting. I feel like I want and need to develop the skill of isolating and improving my lift from that part of my body rather than shore up the deficiencies there with a belt. Is that probably bad in some ways? Sure, potentially. But it’s what I enjoy. I really have no good reason otherwise not to wear a belt. Thankfully the new gym supplies belts, so maybe I’ll try one sometime to get a real firsthand opinion about how I feel like it. Like Einstein though, I shave without shaving cream (just water), and I lift my heavy lifts without a belt… I doubt much will change that anyday soon.

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Exercise Log 5.13.14 (Dev Day & Run, Jump, Lift, Throw)

My second workout day of the new cycle was my new developmental day, but that took a back seat a bit to the fact that it was also testing out a new gym. The new gym was interesting, it had a lot of equipment, was very quiet in comparison to my normal gym so very ready access to things. Plus it has day visitor rates, so if I want to bring a guest or have a meetup here it’s possible.

Developmental day is about shoring up deficiencies but it’s also a day of general physical preparation. Key body parts to do on this day I think are definitely shoulders and core, if I have nothing else on the agenda. I have been wanting to learn a new exercise, the barbell overhead press, thinking about giving Dev Day the Overhead Press as it’s own special lift even. My shoulders are still impinged, ever so slightly, so I definitely took it with caution.

Here is a quick video showcasing the overhead press…

Omar Isuf gives you a quick view at this underrated exercise.

I had my workout in the morning because in the evening I planned on going to a fitness meetup function where I joined Eddy Jones for Run, Jump, Lift, Throw which is a great physical activity meetup if you live in the Pittsburgh area.

Anyways, first my usual log of the morning workout…

Overhead Press: This was a more challenging exercise than I imagined, but that’s logical given it’s a pretty big motion and it’s my first time. Plus I was very cautious due to the impingement issues. I think I did get through here without any serious shoulder aggrevation, so that was a good sign, but had to keep very strict to form so just took my time, kept the weight low. I really don’t think I’m super strong in this lift yet, mostly due to just not doing it ever. I’m hoping if this develops though my shoulders become stronger and more stable, and they support me better in my other lifts. Like I said, I may make this Dev day’s primary lift. Set 1) 3 reps @ 95lbs. Sets 2 & 3) 5 reps @ 85lbs. Sets 4 & 5) 8 reps @ 65lbs.

Side Lateral Raise: Tried these as an accessory shoulder exercise, made sure to watch my form keep my arms in and dumbbells out in front of me. Kept the sets light due to concern that I’d aggrevate impingement. 3 sets of 10 reps @ 20lbs.

Side Raises: 4 sets of 10 reps @ 15lbs. Slow and controlled form.

Reverse Delt Flys: Did these today with my head resting on a mat and leaned forward, felt like it did help isolate the delts and back. 3 sets of 12 reps @ 25lbs.

That wrapped up shoulders, and I did feel good about the form and weight levels being safe for not aggrevating the shoulder impingement issues. The week off helped a lot. Just gotta be careful as I proceed with the workout schedule and I think I will be good. I do a lot of stretching throughout the day, almost habitually now. Next I did some core work.

Cable Crunches / Stomach Vacuum: These are awesome for my core, and for the first time I had a reason to pin a plate to the weight stack to add weight. I also used dumbbells to keep my legs down. Set 1) 12 reps cable crunches / 5 stomach vacuums @ 150lbs. Sets 2 & 3) 12 reps cable crunches / 5 stomach vacuums @ 175lbs.

Oblique Chops: 3 sets of 10 reps each direction (up to down, down to up, each hand) @ 60lbs. *

* Update: After two days my obliques, especially upper, are real damn sore from these. This is definitely a very effective workout for the obliques and one of those rare ones I think I might go two sets on in the future.

So I didn’t want to run on the treadmill and didn’t feel like leaving the gym for cardio. So one thing I scoped in the new gym was a nice little room tucked in the back with a heavy bag hanging out. Well I don’t know any fighting technique training but I know how to punch and kick shit. So I decided to just work out at an intensity with the bag that would keep me in the “doing cardio” zone for 15 minutes. It was a fantastic time, basically did myself a flurry of punches on the bag 10 times then 10 hard kicks with each leg, and repeated for several cycles until I decided I had spent enough time. I got this idea from CT Fletcher, who put up a Youtube video where he talks about what he does for cardio that I saw earlier this morning… will definitely consider doing this as a “cardio fix” in the future. In fact I’ll link the video.

This guy is a little crazy I think, but it’s good to get a fresh perspective

So after that, I felt like I had to do something else so I did 20 pullups. Nothing fancy, I’m still kind of shitty as a pullup-er-er.

Alright so that’s plenty of a workout, but that was just the morning. After a few hours it was time to go out again. I always underestimate the workouts at Run, Jump, Lift, Throw and always wind up getting my ass kicked as a result.

First up was 5 rounds of 25 air squats with a 400m lap around the Schenley Oval. That was particularly tiring, took 14:27 (Eddy keeps time thankfully so yay for having the ability to log the madness of it). Then as many reps as possible of 50 jump ropes, 5 burpees and 5 mountain climbers… completed 4 rounds of that and got into 18 rope skips before time was up. Lastly was push-ups, I thought I did very well actually considering my shoulders are snapped to shit, 2 minutes of max reps to failure. I lasted almost the whole 2 minutes fell down finally probably 10 seconds away from it being over and clocked 47 pushups. I had always personally wondered how many pushups I could do in one go ever since last year, when – to attempt to impress some attractive lady I met at a party – I did 35 in one go… to hit 47 today, with extra cautiousness due to my still semi-snapped up shoulders, I think is a marked improvement.

Then as if that wasn’t enough there was 4 laps of jogging around the oval to wrap up, although I admit the last lap and a half I mostly walked.

All in all, busy busy day and a great excuse to have a nice big dinner by the end of it all. Had great fun and definitely earned a rest day tomorrow!

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Exercise Log 5.12.14 (Deadlift & Front Squat Day, No Cardio)

Today was the first day of my phase 2 workout plan, which I detailed extensively in my long video blog that I linked in the previous post. It was a real great workout and let me tell you, you take a week off from extensive training like I had last year and you notice right away how twisted up your body gets when you do too much resting. My back and all parts of me were tense and sore and this workout really helped limber me back up. Felt like the tin man getting an oil change afterwards.

So the first week of a new cycle of my workout plan is a conditioning week, just basic volume, nothing fancy just do the work and get ready. So as an update the new plan is split lifting, a primary lift and secondary lift, with 3 accessory exercises.

I’m going to be more detailed in the writeup this time so let’s get to it! As a reminder all sets used necessary warmup sets, particularly the lifts had several warmup sets to get to the working weight.

Deadlifts: Sets 1 & 2) 5 reps @ 255lbs. Set 3) 5 reps @ 275lbs (split set, 4 reps then 1). The first facet of this new program is that I’m not planning to go many more sets than 3-4 on the main lifts because I will revisit each lift a second time in the week. So the volume is still there but not on just this one day. That means these feel like shorter sets and what that immediately meant was I felt like I could really focus much more on proper form and technique, which made each rep count more.

Front Squats: Was doing deadlifts off the power rack, so reset it for front squatting, did warmups and went to it. I was real tired from the deadlifts, which was good. Set 1) 3 reps @ 145lbs. Set 2) 3 reps @ 155lbs (split set had to do these in single reps). Set 3) Failure, tried to do 165lbs (which is like 94.2% of my one rep max). My plan has a 1 rep of 90%, which honestly is closer to 155lbs than 165lbs but my muscle brain always rounds up to 10lb increments. The first failed rep I tried to come up too high and didn’t count it, the second rep I sank too low into the hole and couldn’t come back up. Made a minor adjustment to the percentages to this for future use.

Barbell Bent Over Rows / Pendlay Rows: 4 sets of 8 reps BOR’s / 5 reps pendlay @ 135lbs. This being a superset exercise really helped me add in extra work to the workout, will be using supersets a lot for the first accessory exercise.

Seated Cable Rows: 4 sets of 12 reps @ 135lbs, focus on form and contraction in the upper back. Felt great!

1-Legged Angled Leg Press / Calf Raises: Got on the angled leg press but decided to try something new by doing one legged leg pressing. This was fun, and definitely worked the legs better. 4 sets of 6 reps each leg / 12 reps calf raises @ 180lbs.

This was a fantastic workout, if I had the time after I would’ve done come cardio but had to get home to take care of things. Very promising for my first week of the new plan.

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PA’s Tableside Chats Ep. 6 “Thoughts on Fitness Programming”

Designing a personal fitness program is something nobody really has to do, there are a lot of well thought out plans available for anyone to learn about and try. However I find that part of fitness really fun and motivating, so I thought I’d share my ideas as I transition from my first year program to a new second year program. I apologize for the length of the ramble, I’m very much a stream of consciousness here, but I feel like sometimes that’s the best way to get things out.

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Car Door Fixin’

Just a quick blog I thought I’d share, so I busted my car door off in the cold part of winter when the plastic of the door handle was especially brittle. Really sucked and it broke further making it almost completely unusable. Which is really bad given that the passenger door doesn’t unlock easily. I got a cheap door handle ($8) and decided I’d potentially give it a shot to see if it’s worth trying to fix up the door. Took it to the repair shop and got a $100 quote. I’m broke and I’m not spending that kind of money on a door handle I can probably service myself, so I set aside the time to replace it on my own.

I just thought I’d say that having a Haynes Manual for my vehicle helped a lot, but what helped me the most was a Youtube channel called 1A Auto Parts. They are an online auto parts retailer that posts DIY videos of car repairs. Sure enough, I found a video for my specific model of car door.

The video was comprehensive, but it obviously took me a little longer than the guy in the video.

Took a lot of tools, a little bit of fumbling (getting the clips off didn’t seem that intuitive at first) but I got the door handle off! It went exactly like the video showed, although I did not remove the center door brace (the metal bracket removed just after the film) I had enough room to negotiate my hand without removing it. Goes to show that if you need to do some simple work sometimes it’s best you do it yourself. Then I searched for a second video to remove my rear brake light assembly which was also helpful to replace a light that was out. All in all this is a great channel to keep in mind if you need some help troubleshooting a minor car issue.

No point to this blog just thought I’d share that it’s easy to use the internet – and helpful too if you have a Haynes manual sitting around for your vehicle – to do a lot of minor fixes. Amongst other things I did also tear apart my center console area to replace the light bulb that illuminates my automatic shifter (I can’t see if I’m in drive/reverse etc. if it’s dark without that bulb, and it was also out). That took a considerable amount of time as well since I slipped the bulb housing out by accident then had a hard time getting it back in (it’s only made to be slipped out if you tear out the whole console, which I wasn’t going to do). Did some nice detailed cleaning while I had the console tore apart (everything was a complete mess from an unfortunate soda incident or two).

I admit I did not shop for parts through 1A Auto (just got them from Amazon & Auto Zone) but I will definitely look at the 1A Auto website the next time I need a part for my car since they provided such useful info for me! Check it out.

And hopefully I will not rip more door handles apart, but with my Herculean strength it’s hard to control myself sometimes.

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Exercise Log 5.4.14 (Pittsburgh Half Marathon)

After the training and the talking and the stressing it was finally race day, and I was ready as I’ll ever be. I had a fantastic time out today, well except for getting my car out of downtown after the race was over due to the race sections still being corded off… the day was awesome and I felt really good about how I did!

From the training I had done in the previous weeks I was concerned of getting a good time, and while I’m not racing competitively time is still a personal motivator and I gotta set some practical goals. Most of my training runs were a good 3+ hours and while I admittedly wasn’t training for pace as much as endurance, a poor run last week left me really concerned. Still though I did estimate a good set of goals for myself for the race, and felt like I did great. I fixed all the problems I noted in my previous log… it was a horrible run but it definitely helped a lot.

So what were my goals going into the race and how did I do? I usually set multiple goals on a project like this. 2 hours 30 minutes was my “cutoff for feeling good about the run” goal. In the Boston half marathon if you can’t run 2:30 you shouldn’t even try it because they kick you off the course. My training runs were all considerably worse than 2:30. My second goal was 2:15, which I felt like would be real good and knew would be a challenge. I somewhat suspected I would fall just outside this, like 2:20-ish. Finally my unrealistic and idealistic goal was under 2 hours. Turns out I was wrong to view it as unrealistic while I did not get under 2 hours I came really close – 2:04:11 was my official time. So pretty damn good I think considering it was my first half and it was definitely representative of the effort I put in to improve to go do it.

Most importantly though was the people who encouraged me and motivated to do better because frankly with all the weight lifting I do I could take or leave any kind of intense cardio but it’s helping me grow in new ways and I’m glad to have done it. My running partner Trish was supportive all year making sure I kept cardio consistent and getting me into running races in the first place and I also got a lot of motivation from my friend Jon and his running partners Melissa and Val seeing their posts on Facebook about their progress and runs. It motivated me to get out there and take this more seriously, which after the huge slowdown I experienced from the winter freeze and the weight lifting I felt was really needed to get anywhere close to the level of performance I had today.

Click the arrows to see all my pictures from today’s race!
Check out the run on MapMyRun

Now I can take the rest of this week off from all physical activity and feel mighty accomplished, between this and my deadlift PR last Friday I feel completely satisfied with where my progress is at right now. Still a long way to go though! I might have to aim to beat that 2 hour time next year!

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Bodybuilding diet: Steak & Egg Bagel!

My mornings are never productive enough to properly make breakfast every morning, I’m always running late and sometimes even the prepared staple frozen diet of eggs/broccoli/chicken nuked in the microwave is still too much of a hassle. How, I can’t imagine.

There is a huge temptation each day to pick up food on the way to work, but I only ever have time to stop two places. One is McDonalds, which has a fantastic deal on a pair of egg white delight McMuffins most days – I double them up and toss away half the buns, and it makes a great serving size for breakfast (high in protein). However more often than not I make the even faster choice of hopping into Panera bread and getting a steak & egg bagel sandwich. This is fast, easy and kind of spendy at $5 just for the sandwich. McDonalds also serves a sandwich like this, but the nutritional specs of the McDonalds variation is quite a bit worse than Panera’s and the price isn’t much different. Still, a great breakfast for someone looking to get the day started with a gob of protein.

In the effort to be as frugal as possible, and to have more pre-prepared breakfast options, I decided to mimic the Panera steak & egg bagel sandwich and add it to my bodybuilding staple diet rotation. So far loving the three I downed recently.

They just seem fresher and heartier, and another breakfast option gives me a little more daily variety.

Preparation was simple, got me some spencer (skillet) steak (4 ounces per serving), egg white beaters (already have a jug of that for other stuff I make) and extra sharp sliced cheddar because extra sharp is the best cheddar. What did I do for the bagel itself? Well actually got those direct from Panera, making it as legit a bagel sandwich as possible. Season meat to liking, cook in a pan, simple. Microwave 1/3rd cup of egg whites in any small container, I used mini-tupperwares that I use for breakfast but you could just as easily use any bowl with a bottom that has a flat spot, spraying first with a little spray on cooking oil to make the egg white slip out when done. While doing this you can toast the buns in the oven and melt up that cheese real good. Microwave for 2:30 or until the egg white is tough and congealed into a patty, it should pop right out. Slap the sandwich together & store in the fridge in parchment paper. These hold up in the fridge pretty well when wrapped with parchment paper, although I slapped them in tupperware too just to keep them better.

Nutritional facts of this breakfast:

Calories: 700
Fat: 26g
Carbs: 59g
Protein: 56g
Cost: around $3.50

It is pretty high in calories and fat, but considering how much protein it gives you to start the day off if you’re physically active you should be off to a right start. If this is more than desired for you, get smaller bagels and use smaller portions. The macronutrient spread is definitely in line with something balanced for any average person’s daily needs. Plus I save about $2 off just having Panera do it, and it’s bigger and tastier, IMHO.

Just thought I’d share!

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PA’s Tableside Chats Ep. 5 “End of Phase 1”… Exercise Log 5.2.14 (Back Day, No Cardio)

One of the things I promised myself was I’d plan my break from the gym around the vacation time I requested off for after the half marathon. So today was my last workout day and since I’m starting a new plan to replace the one I’ve been doing for the last year, I decided to go out with a bang and go for a new max deadlift. Why type about it though when I can tell about it?

Not the best form, but definitely a milestone lift to remember.

Hitting this new max made me feel absolutely fantastic and I really just am enthusiastic about how great this was. Quick log for the record books about the workout…

Deadlifts: Set 1) 8 reps @ 155lbs. Set 2) 5 reps @ 175lbs. Set 3) 3 reps @ 205lbs. Set 4) 1 rep @ 245lbs. Set 5) 1 rep @ 275lbs. Set 6) 1 rep @ 305lbs (new max!). Set 7) 1 rep @ 315lbs (the sleeper has awakened!). Set 8) 5 reps @ 225lbs (did a set to film for the form video).

T-Bar Rows: Sets 1 & 2) 8 reps @ 70lbs. Sets 3 & 4) 6 reps @ 90lbs.

Seated Rows: Did these to focus on the mid-back area where I had some troubles in the deadlift pattern. Lowered weight, but focused on good contractions, felt real good after these. 5 sets of 12 reps @ 120lbs.

Pendlay Rows: 5 sets of 5 reps @ 135lbs.

Barbell Trap Shrugs: 4 sets of 10 reps @ 135lbs.

Body Rows: 3 sets of 8 reps.

Standing Reverse Deltoid Flys: 4 sets of 6 reps @ 35lbs.

That was it! Done with phase 1, now I get to appreciate some time off, focus on the half in a couple days and prepare for phase 2!

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Exercise Log 4.27.14 (Half Training Run #4)

Today is leg day, which as part of my temporary program change is now half marathon training day. So today I wanted to do a run on pavement, as much of my half training was on trails (to get elevation change challenges). I need to preface this with the fact that basically everything went wrong, which is good because I’d rather learn some of the lessons needed now before race day!

First big problem was last night, due to being out and socializing, I had dinner at like 6pm with no substantial meals before bed. Then when I woke up this morning, had a lazy morning and didn’t get a proper breakfast around (maybe 600 calories of my very macro balanced oatmeal raisin cookies… not a ton of sugars though to boost my glucose levels). So I started today’s run on an empty tank. I realized quickly while running that this was going to be a problem, and that running the distance I had intended (originally 14-16 miles) was not practical or even effective. Second problem, my heart rate monitor which I use to give myself benchmarks on exertion was acting all out of wack, believe it’s battery was running low (replaced the battery and all seems fine). Final problem was attire, I was wearing some cargo shorts I had intended to wear on race day and they were too bulky, felt uncomfortable after a while… plus the layers I wore also felt uncomfortable. I would rather start the race a little chilly I think and warm up as the race progresses than get smothered near the end of the race.

So all in all said, ran an uncomfortable 10.3 miles. However I did learn a couple things as I ran aside from the above which I will have fixed by race day. First is that my race goal of 2 hours 30 minutes or better is possibly feasible if I can exert my energy levels a little higher on race day. Second is that running on pavement definitely does require a little mental adjustment, going to have to be strict to form, short fast striding and landing on the right part of my foot.

Will see if this combined with all the other long runs I did this month result in a race day I’m happy with or not. In the end, I’m happy to have gotten this far!

A bit tired, just hoping the effort put in was worth it.

Well this is the last big run… next week is the half!

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Exercise Log 4.21.14 (Half Training Run #3)

Another lost log, but this training run (which is shorter than intended due to the intensity of the 10K from two days before) was an elevation challenge – the half only has one elevation change but it’s a couple hundred feet, so to be sure that wouldn’t take me for surprise I ran up and down the east slope of Highland Park 5 times for a total of 7.8 miles. The pace was abysmal, but it did the trick and was an effective workout.

Keeping this short but will syndicate to the front page so the updates are all consistent. Combined with the 10K distance from two days before that puts my mileage this week into the half zone so I feel like I’m closer to being ready for the real deal.

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