dj kreger

Musings. Liftings. Eatings.

Program Selection, Program Hopping, and Instincts

A couple weeks ago, I realized that I really needed to commit to a powerlifting meet, so I pulled the trigger on a competition out in York, PA for April 18th and 19th.

This meant that I needed to organize my training for the next 6-7 weeks and ramp up to peak performance for single repetition maximum effort (hereafter 1RM). Since I’ve never really done this before, I figured it might be a good idea to check the Googles for some information on how to do this. For my first powerlifting competition last year, I did a 3-4 week cram for my preparation. It wasn’t optimal for several reasons: I was just coming off of several medications that affected me adversely; 3-4 weeks is nowhere near enough time to adequately prepare when you’ve been unable to lift more than once a week for the last several months; I had no idea how my body would respond to any kind of training in the wake of the ankylosing spondylitis flares, medication issues, wacky weight gain, etc.

I wanted to prepare much more carefully this time around. I have been able to train very consistently for about a year now, so a peaking program would be pretty ideal. After poking around on Google for a little while, I settled on a program by Jonnie Candito, a very accomplished collegiate powerlifter. You can find the free training program on his site. I punched in my numbers, got my plan, and put it into practice last week.

For two days.

And I was wrecked. Totally wrecked. I had to recover for the rest of the week, and just got back to training today. The volume was much higher than I am accustomed to, and since I’m only a month and a half away from the meet, the prescribed percentages were already at 80% of my 1RM. This is not Candito’s fault, of course. It just isn’t the right program for me at this time. I think I’d need a much higher volume 12 week program to utilize Candito’s program effectively. So I may use this again another time. Maybe later this year.

My last few months of training have been a mix of Wendler’s 5/3/1 and SSPT Deadlift training. Both these programs are fairly low volume, which seems to work very well for me.

Which brings me to how I should have just followed my instincts rather than program hopping. The 5/3/1 and SSPT training were working really well. They just weren’t lining up very well with my time frame for the meet. But I shouldn’t have let that distract me. I should have just moved back in the SSPT sequence for the squat, bench press, and deadlift and let it take me right into the peak for the meet.

So that’s what I’m doing now. The low volume but high intensity approach seems to work well for me. I make good progress and can recover in a reasonable time. I think they call this old guy training. Maybe not. All I know is that I will be adding a significant amount of weight to my total over last year’s performance. Sometimes, you just really have to listen to your instincts.

Bacon Experiments

coffee bacon

I haven’t posted about any food creations lately, so I thought this would be a great way to kick off the Eatings category.

There are few things more fulfilling than creating something from raw materials. Cooking is one of those areas where I like to get creative. In fact, I rarely use recipes. If I do, it is only for reference and to make sure I get certain critical ratios so I don’t ruin the food. Bacon is one of those foods. You have to get your salt ratios very precise, but everything else is open for personal interpretation.

It takes a week to make a wet cure bacon. And when you love bacon like I do, that wait is an eternity! But the amazing flavors are well worth the wait.

I was out of maple syrup, and had no money, so I looked around to see what I could use and discovered a jar of molasses. Hm, that ought to work…add in some really dark roast coffee…should be tasty! This is how my food creations go. And so far, I have rarely had any memorable disasters. Usually, I just have more ideas to improve or adjust a result after each attempt. It’s my way of keeping things fresh and interesting.

Obviously, this can be applied to much of life. Don’t be afraid to plan less, and just fly by the seat of your pants (what does that actually mean, anyway?). Be creative. Play with your food.


We are into February now. How are those resolutions holding up? Are they already a distant memory? Are you still hanging in there by your fingernails? Maybe the golden dream is beginning to crumble a little bit?

We have all seen the stories of people who made incredible physical transformations in a seemingly short time. Usually, these stories are followed by a sales pitch for some miracle product that played little or no role in the transformation. These people just did hard work and stayed committed to their goals.

But here is the catch. Generally speaking, massive fat loss doesn’t happen in just a few months. Can it happen? Yes. Does it happen? Yes. Will it happen for you? Maybe. But probably not. Very rapid physical transformations are the exception. Dramatic physical transformations take time. Most of the people I know have worked for a period of 2-3 years or longer to achieve their end goal. This is normal.

You are probably normal. If you’re lucky (and I hope you are!), then you may see rapid change. But the vast majority of us need to adjust our expectations and get set for the long journey. Focus on daily successes, and enjoy the process. More on that later!

Celebrate a Birthday, Help Protect People

My friend Olga is among the most amazing people I know. For her birthday, she is asking that you donate here at The Against Malaria Foundation to provide mosquito nets for people in areas with high malaria risk. $3 buys one net. For a small investment of buying a few nets, you could help a whole family. And if you donate today, there is a 1:1 match, so your donation goes twice as far.

This isn’t my usual kind of post here, but I hope it reaches a lot of people. I think it is important to help people. It’s why I’m becoming a massage therapist. But sometimes, you get an opportunity to help in a much larger way. This is one of those opportunities.

Three Terrible Truths

I am terrible at running. I am terrible at swimming. I am terrible at jumping.

The thing is, I used to be pretty good at all these things. I grew up in Minnesota and swam in the lakes there all the time. I used to be half decent in running – at least, I could do it. And I used to be able to get my fingers over the basketball rim.

It’s funny how when you stop doing something, you get pretty terrible at it. And the longer I go without practicing these things, they scarier they seem.

That is all about to change. These three skills have application to my goals, and therefore, they need to become part of my process.

First, let me get specific about something. By running, I mean sprinting. I have no intention of going out for long runs of several miles. Jogging doesn’t fit my goals, so it isn’t a process that I will use.

Why Sprint?

The short list of reasons: superior fat burning, muscle building and fast twitch muscle recruitment, increased endurance and work capacity, improved heart health, improved insulin sensitivity, improved conditioning and lung function, mental benefits (brain power!!), efficiency. For more detail, check out this article, which is where I got the short list.

Why Swim?

I need something that will allow me to increase work capacity, use more energy, and make life easier on my joints. Since I have ankylosing spondylitis, it is important to incorporate movements that involve rotation movements and hip movements, and training in a ‘weightless’ environment allows me to burn more energy without little or no stress.

Why Jump?


Basically, a ninja.




Didn’t work on his jumps.


It’s all about the skills. And looking cool.

But seriously, jumping has a huge transfer to all power and strength sports. Working on this skill will help me have a bigger squat, deadlift, clean and jerk, snatch, and tire flipping will be easier.

Seven Reflections: Progress

I find it helpful to look back at what was done in the previous year, and what wasn’t done. Some goals were achieved, some were not. Sometimes, my process failed (or I failed my process – more accurate), and sometimes heavy problems forced a redirect. In everything, I learn. If I don’t learn, I make a grave mistake.

Strength Goals – I didn’t make any of my goals, although I came incredibly close on some of them. I wanted a 450 squat (got 420 for an easy rep); a 315 bench press (got 300 a couple of times); and a 500 deadlift (just missed at lockout last night). I am thrilled with the progress I made, because this year was really rough with fighting ankylosing spondylitis. The medicines we tried made me feel awful, and I didn’t see improvement until I stopped the meds and changed my diet up.

Fat Loss Goals – Speaking of diet, I failed this process in terms of fat loss. I learned a lot about how to manage inflammation, but I didn’t manage my calories the way I should. I could blame it on meds, stress, etc. (and I’m sure those things played a role), but I know I didn’t do what I need to do to see fat loss. I know what I need to do in terms of nutrition and exercise – just have to execute the plan.

Professional Goals – As I talked about in my recent post on Purpose, I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. I am starting classes on January 5! I am beyond excited about becoming a massage therapist. The plan is in place; I’ve taken the steps to get started; now I just need to show up for classes and master the skills. Crushing this goal!

I want to focus on the Strength and Fat Loss Goals in this post. This might get long.

Strength for 2015

Since last year’s goals are incomplete, I am setting them as my goals again this year. However, I fully expect to hit them in my first powerlifting meet in the spring. So I look forward to setting new goals at that point. The plan is to stick with what has worked so well. One day each week will focus on one of the four major barbell movements – squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. A minor difference will be that I will focus on singles almost exclusively for the deadlift. In these sessions, I will also incorporate strongman elements for conditioning.

For those of you who know me and my loathing of globo gyms, you will be shocked to learn that I actually got a membership at LA Fitness. The primary reasons are that I need access to a form of cardio exercise that is extremely easy on the joints. They have a pool with Olympic length lanes, so I’ll get swimming in my routine on a regular basis. My arthritic body will also enjoy the sauna and steam room. And if I deadlift there, I’ll try not to scare anyone.

I will save the specifics of a training plan for another post – mostly because I am still developing the plan, but also because it is ridiculously difficult to plan around ankylosing spondylitis. I can’t really put anything in concrete. I train when the body is cooperating.

Fat Loss for 2015

Activity – My daily activity levels will be taking a turn for the better, since massage therapy school will be a pretty active experience. I plan on two training sessions a day. The morning session will be either mobility work and a CrossFit WOD, or just mobility – light activity. The afternoon/evening session will be the swimming and/or weight training. Flexibility with what my body can handle each day will determine what I do. But I will do something each day because my body demands it. Pain increases dramatically if I am not active.

Nutrition – Through a great deal of experimentation, I know that I respond quite well to a moderately low carbohydrate diet. I’m not particularly crazy about keto style eating, because it’s too little carbs for how my body seems to work. I need to get back into what I know works for me. I operate very well on a high protein, moderately high fat diet. I never bonk during extended workouts on this eating plan. And now that I’m on a very limited budget, I have to prepare all my own food. Controlling the quality and content won’t be a problem. I just have to be careful of quantity. I will also be following an intermittent fasting program since it will make my eating schedule easier. I will have set lunch times and dinner times each day that work around my school schedule.

I suppose you could say that I follow a Paleo eating plan, except that I eat rice and certain dairy (the really high fat ones likes cream, butter, full fat Greek yogurt, kefir, etc.) and am not afraid to admit it. These foods never give me any problems, so I include them. Some of the foods I avoid are gluten and nightshades. The primary reason is that it seems to negatively affect my arthritis. I don’t believe these foods are evil. They are just evil to me. Still, I enjoy them now and then without any major issues popping up. That only happens if I eat them frequently.

My focus is on meats, fats, vegetables, limited fruits, and limited carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and rice. It’s pretty simple, really.

So, to sum it up: more activity designed to relieve chronic pain, which should allow better progress with the heavy training; optimize quantity of foods, and continue to improve quality. It sounds too simple, but it really is that simple.

The progress of 2014 is that I have learned how to be more patient with my body and have learned to work WITH my body, rather than beat it into submission.

Seven Reflections: Strength

I spend a good deal of my time contemplating strength. Why I don’t have as much as I’d like; why I have as much as I do; how I can get more strength…faster; how I want to test my strength; what I might be doing wrong to prevent strength…etc. Strength is a primary goal of mine, and I work on it daily.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and most people are planning out their resolutions for the coming year. Statistics show that the vast majority of people fail very quickly in the pursuit of these resolutions. I believe strength is the missing ingredient.

It isn’t because these people aren’t physically weak. They are mentally weak. Yes, I include myself in that group. We don’t practice mental strength. As it turns out, mental strength is a better indicator of success in any goal you set for yourself.

So let’s look at what constitutes practice. Practice is consistently attempting to duplicate and improve on what you have done before. So it requires a starting point. And it requires continuation. And it requires improvement.


Do it now. Pick the goal. Define the goal as clearly as possible. “I want to lose weight” doesn’t cut it. You could chop off an arm, and you would certainly lose weight. It’s not recommended, though. “I want to lose 10 pounds of fat by June 1″ is much more specific. It is measurable, and it is reasonable. I see people state goals like improving their deadlift by 100 pounds in 12 weeks, when they just spent the last six months adding 50 pounds to their deadlift. Don’t let your desire for an end result create an unreasonable goal.


Follow your plan (and you were specific in your plan, right?) and execute. Miss a day? Get right back on the plan. Don’t make excuses. Don’t dream about the other useless stuff you’d rather do. Get it done. Day after day after day. Look to accomplish many short term goals. You are looking to make goal achievement a habit. Don’t focus on the big scary goal that is 6 months or a year away. Hit the goal for today.


This is critical. If you aren’t striving to improve each day that you face your goal and do the work that will get you there…you may as well not even start. Honestly. I have seen plenty of people who never change from year to year although they are consistently in the gym. They don’t strive to improve. Get one more rep. Make your art just a little bit smoother. Spend a little more time being positive. Whatever it is that you set out to do, do it BETTER. Technically, there isn’t much difference between try and strive. But strive is a more concerted effort. It’s focused. It is intense.


Do the work. Make the attempt. Ever heard someone whine, “I’m tryyyyyyyying!”? Yeah, not nearly as impressive as, “I did it!”

Seven Reflections: Pain

Pain is my constant companion. It wakes me daily. It slowly grinds away at me, trying to make me bend, trying to make me break. Every movement is influenced by the disease creeping through my bones and tissues.

But it makes me aware. Pain makes me think. Pain makes me plan. Pain makes me adapt. Pain makes me desire – to fight, to win, to never break.

Pain can only change me if I let it. If I think of it as an evil, then I give it power. If I think of it as a punishment, then I weaken myself and have failed already. If I think of pain as the victor, then I am desperate, and fall victim to my own fears.

Pain simply is. And I must endure it. I am thankful for it, because it has given me an opportunity to become more.

Seven Reflections: Action

Every good thing that happened to me this year was the result of actions I took. Sure, there were plenty of bad things that happened. That’s life. But the good things that I wanted to happen…those required me to act. To do. To seek. To force into being through my own determination.

Have you ever heard to phrase ‘waiting for your ship to come in’? Guess what? It never will. It’s firmly under the control of the person sailing the ship – not the person on the shore. No one is looking to hand you a pot of gold, your dream life, or the keys to a Bugatti. And if they are, it is with their other hand empty and expectant of something from you.

I have to admit that I waited far too long for some of the things I wanted in life. Why? Comfort zones. What I thought were safe zones. Fear of the unknown. All the usual suspects. And in the end, I pretty much had to be pushed into action. I’m a little slow sometimes.

But I DID take action: I competed in my first powerlifting competition in spite of an arthritis diagnosis, finished my certification to be a personal trainer, registered for massage therapy school (starting January 5!), started coaching at Fitocracy, created art and a store online, began to learn about woodworking and blacksmithing, learned to make bacon (very, very important), and most importantly…chose my path in life.

Too often, we let life just sort of happen to us. But if you want to live the life you really want…you must act. It is as simple as that.

Seven Reflections: Anger

“A quarrel is quickly settled when deserted by one party; there is no battle unless there be two.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

My brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry – James 1:19

“Anger turns the mind out of doors and bolts the entrance.” – Plutarch

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. – Proverbs 29:11

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Anger is a cancer, a toxic thing that will destroy you. It will rule your every thought and action, and slowly drive away every person around you. And then anger will turn on you and consume the very person who has been feeding it.

I could be angry about many things. And if I’m honest, I struggle with anger. However, I have seen the effects first hand – personally, and in others. And it is never pretty. It changes the whole set of someone’s face. It changes their posture. It ruins health. And I want better than that for my life, and for those who share their lives with me.

I think we become angry because we instinctively know that whatever caused the offense cannot be undone and cannot be prevented from happening again. In other words, we have no control. Not on external things, anyway. But we can control our reactions. If you’ve read the last two reflections, you might see this as a bit of a recurring theme.

The quotes above are all about our reactions. They don’t give answers for preventing people from making you angry. There is no three step plan to eliminating anger causing incidents. There is only the way you respond.

I like how Marcus Aurelius spoke of the power of anger. Anger depends on you to give it power. If you hold on to it, and nurture it, anger will grow out of control. Don’t feed anger.


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