Wednesday, October 05, 2011

SuperSlow Update: The First Sheet

By Diana Hsieh

In mid-September, I completed my first "sheet" with my SuperSlow gym -- now TruFit Health -- in south Denver. That's a milestone of sorts -- 16 sessions in 16 weeks. Since I know that many people are curious about how I like SuperSlow compared to CrossFit, now seems like an excellent time to blog an update.

As you might recall I'd done CrossFit for a year as of May. I enjoyed it at the time, but I grew weary of it for all the reasons outlined in this blog post. In early June, I started SuperSlow -- meaning resistance training to failure of major muscle groups using slow movements once per week.

So... here's my sheet of 16 weeks. You can click for a larger version. The weight is in the top-left of each box, while the time under load is in the bottom-left. As you can see, I'm doing more movements than just the Big Three or the Big Five.



Here's what I've done, with my progress in load from the first good failure weight (usually at week 3, 6/20) to week 16 (9/19). All the machines are Nautilus, except the lower back and torso rotation, which are MedX.

  • LE/LC: Leg Extension: 50 to 60 lbs. Meh on progress. I find this machine extraordinarily unpleasant. (LC is a 90-second Leg Curl of progressive intensity against a stable frame.) Only done every other week, alternating with Hip AB and Hip AD.

  • Hip AB: Hip Abduction: 55 lbs to 75 lbs. Good progress. Only done every other week, alternating with LE/LC.

  • Hip AD: Hip Adduction: 90 lbs to 105 lbs. Okay progress. Only done every other week, alternating with LE/LC.

  • LB: Lower Back: 108 lbs to 150 lbs. Good progress! You can see that I went from 128 lbs to 170 lbs to 150 lbs from 8/22 to 9/7. The 170 lbs was a mistake: my trainer forgot to adjust the machine. It was the day of Paul's hip dislocation and fracture, and we were all a bit distracted. After that, we realized that I could do much more than what I had been doing, but 170 lbs was too much, so we went down to 150 lbs.

  • LP: Leg Press: 190 lbs to 225 lbs. Good! I love the leg press, and I hate the leg press.

  • PD: Lat Pull-Down: 85 lbs to 115 lbs. Good progress, particularly given how difficult I find this movement.

  • CP: Chest Press: 50 lbs to 55 lbs. Boo, almost no progress! I've not made much progress on the chest press, and we just realized that that's probably because my seat was set too high to fully engage my pecs. That's been fixed, so we'll see how I do in future weeks.

  • Row: Row: 40 lbs to 50 lbs. Okay on progress, given that I've had a terrible time with proper form on this movement, but I'm finally getting the hang of it. Alternating pulling with a 2 minute static hold every week.

  • Ab C: Ab Crunch: 10 lbs to 15 lbs. Okay progress. Only done every other week, alternating with Rot T.

  • Rot T: Rotate Torso: 30 lbs to 38 lbs. Okay progress. Only done every other week, alternating with Ab C.
Overall, I've been very pleased with the SuperSlow method and with my SuperSlow gym -- now TruFit Health. The competitor in me wants to make progress faster, but I'm pretty content, knowing that I'm pushing myself as hard as I can every week. (My absolute favorite thing to do is to tell my trainer that I can do one more rep!) Plus, I know that I started SuperSlow with a pretty darn good fitness base from my year of CrossFit.

Now that I've got 16 weeks under my belt, let me review my bullet points from my original post on switching from CrossFit to SuperSlow:
  1. Measuring Progress: I never bothered doing much measuring or recording in CrossFit because writing anything down would have taken time away from my workout. I'm pretty sure that I stalled out in the last few months of doing CrossFitting, but I couldn't tell for sure. With SuperSlow, I like that my progress is clearly measured and recorded, but that my trainer does the measuring and recording for me. It would just be too hard to do myself in the midst of muscle failure. I've actually fallen to the ground after getting off the leg press machine. No, really.

  2. Time at Gym: I love going to the gym only once per week. That's definitely helped me recover from my adrenal fatigue. CrossFit was not doing me any favors in that regard, not with its periodic "metcon beatdowns."

  3. Sports for Pleasure: I'm happy to be doing the sports that I love, whenever I please, without trying to squeeze them into my CrossFit schedule. I don't just save the time of two hour-long CrossFit workouts per week, but also I don't suffer from periodic bouts of horrible muscle soreness. I'm usually a tad sore and weak for the day or two after a SuperSlow workout -- and that's it. Life is so much more bearable that way!

  4. Exhaustion after Workouts: Overall, I've been much less tired after SuperSlow workouts than after CrossFit workouts. However, for the past few weeks, I've found myself completely exhausted by my workouts for some hours afterwards, to the point of wanting to rip someone's head off and then crawl in a hole. That's not good! I think that's happening in part because I'm getting better at pushing myself to full capacity in my workouts -- which is hard, because your brain has been hollering for you to stop for a good 15 seconds by that point. So I'm more exhausted, but then I've added other stressors on my workout days, like not eating right away, shopping at Costco afterwards, and/or feeding all the beasts and making dinner immediately upon on arriving home. That needs to stop! So in future, I'll do any errands before my workout. Then, afterwards, I'll sit in the waiting room for a half hour, munching on some snacks. Once I get home, I'll sit down for a bit if needed. That will help me feel reasonably good in my post-workout evenings, I think.

  5. Injury Risk: I love that I have zero injury risk. Zero. Think about that as you're doing box jumps, oh my CrossFitting friends! (Seriously, I do worry about you!)

  6. No Summer Heat: I've enjoyed the air conditioning and fans in the SuperSlow gym all summer long! My trainer freezes herself for us -- and I so appreciate that.

  7. Cost: I'm still saving money compared to CrossFit. Cha-ching!
I will say, however, that SuperSlow is damn hard, even harder than CrossFit in some ways. The last minute on every machine is seriously awful, and the last 15 seconds is pure agony. You have to learn to ignore that, knowing that you're not doing yourself damage, so that you can push through to full failure. That's not easy!

In getting to that point of utter failure, I benefit hugely from working with a trainer, rather than attempting to do the workout on my own. As with CrossFit, I just couldn't push myself alone sufficently: I'd give up somewhere between 50% and 80% effort. If you don't have a SuperSlow affiliate in your area, you might be able to find a personal trainer willing to use the SuperSlow methodology with you in private sessions. That's really worth the cost, I think.

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with my current level of fitness on SuperSlow, particularly given that I'm only putting in 30 minutes per week. I've not done any test runs or rows to compare my capacity yet, but I suspect that I'd do as well with those as when I was CrossFitting. I'm able to easily carry two 40 lbs bags of horse feed a few hundred feet into the barn. I can sprint without getting winded. I'm very secure in riding, largely due to working my inner thighs. (That was wholly lacking in CrossFit.) So I can comfortably work my horse Lila for over an hour without stirrups, which is something!

Mostly, I feel healthy and strong -- without inflicting any wear and tear on my body. And that's really, really good!

P.S. If you decide to try my SuperSlow gym (now TruFit Health) in south Denver, please tell them that I referred you!

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