Time for a review–Convict Conditioning

The beginning of January also marked the end of my first month of using the convict conditioning system.  When I started the Primal Blueprint, I stopped doing the running as I felt I had achieved what I set out to achieve, and I was concerned that long term I was going to get an injury.  I was already feeling it in the knees.

I started with the ‘Lifting Heavy Things’ or LHT progressions as described in the Primal Blueprint.  Taking my cue from the success I had with the C25k, I decided to take the time to do the self assessment that is included in the free fitness ebook, and start where Mark recommended.

So I began, and I did all of the exercises regularly, and I was soon hitting the progression standards for the early progressions.  I found that on the dive bombers in particular that I was struggling with sufficient range of motion in my shoulders, yet I could do the required number of beginner reps of the overhead press, so I went straight to that step.  Soon I was doing most of ‘the essential primal movements’ and looking back on my notes, I wasn’t doing to badly.  2 sets of 35 full push ups with good form etc.  My workouts were taking around 45 min each, and I felt like I wasn’t getting them in anywhere near frequently enough.  It was getting to the point that I was running 2 to 3 weeks between workouts, then over a month! I just wasn’t making progress, and something wasn’t working for me.

I realised this around mid-November 2011, so I started to look around the primal/paleo community a little more for other options.  The big thing seemed to be Olympic Lifts.  We have a fitness room at work, with treadmills, weight machines & some free weights,so I could check that out and do some serious iron pumping.  I started looking at programs: starting strength, stronglifts, etc.  Watching youtube clips of Rippetoe coaching the correct form, pricing up bars & bumpers online.

Then I heard about convict conditioning and got curious.  Curious like I was when I first heard of the Primal Blueprint. This was mostly due to the announcement of the release of convict conditioning 2.  Which many in the community said they were looking forward to.  So I got my hands on CC2.  Pretty much right at the front of the book, it says that if you are looking for workouts, they are n CC1.  I read CC2 in just over a day, and a great deal of it made sense so I got CC1 as well.  That also took little over a day to read the first time.  I just couldn’t put it down.  This was exactly the sort of thing I had been looking for all those years ago when I was stuck in a tiny cabin off base with the navy.  Those cabins actually make a cell look quite luxurious.

push-upsWhen I first saw the illustrations, flipping through the book, I was a little disappointed:  Full pushups was step 5 of the progressions, the progression standard was 2 sets of 20.  I was already knocking out 2 sets of 35, albeit with maximum effort.  I had no doubt thatI could make the intermediate standard of the next progression and do 2x 10 close push ups.

After then reading the book properly, I decided “settle down, ego-boy; start at the beginning.  Remember the C25k and how you thought running for 60 sec at a time was not even worth doing? Remember how day 3 of week 5 kicked your ass?”

So I decided to start at the beginning.  I did make one concession to my ego, by starting with the ‘Good Behaviour’ program, rather than the ‘New Blood’ one.  This has more to do with my work pattern and shifts meaning that a three day break in the middle had the potential to cause me to stall out.  The day on/day off routine fits much better.

So then there I was going from a reasonable effort at full push ups to 1 set of 10 wall pushups.  Never mind.  Like the diet, I have decided that I am in this for the long haul, so at the other end, the time I spent at the very beginning will be like a blink.

The first week went well, and then the second week I made the intermediate standard, and still felt good.  By this time I had also read through both books a few times.  I decided it was time to add in the stretches from CC2.  The book said every day was good, so that’s what I did.

With the exercises I knew that I could make the progression standard, so I decided to do a couple of weeks at progression standard to make sure I wasn’t pushing myself to progress too early.  I really wanted to lay that foundation. That whole “Stay on the level as long as you can, until it no longer works for you” mindset.

In the second week at progression standard I decided to start with the calf and grip work on my rest days, rather than skipping days/workouts, I actually get restless on the rest days (great oxymoron right there).

I’m doing the level 2 stretches, and feel ready to step it up to level 3, except I struggle to get off the ground for the N hold.  With the daily stretches, I’m also adding in a 60 sec plank hold and 10 min of meditation.  So the stretches & plank take me 5 minutes a day, and that includes 2.5 minutes of rest.

My arms feel bigger now than they did when I was busting out full pushups, although I think a lot of that is down to a 30 sec straight bridge hold every day.  I have always been a little lop-sided, but my left arm is not keeping up with my right at all.  I’m not sure what to do about that at the moment, I expect it will even out as the exercises progress.

Looking back, I think I could have had similar success with the blueprint progressions if I had approached them in the right way: only do a couple of exercises each workout and cycle through them, and really work those early progressions.  These lessons are also serving me well with my martial arts practice as well.

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