My Training and Adrenal fatigue
Monday, October 12th, 2009
I had two questions that are sufficiently related that I can tackle them in one post. One relates to training, the other to adrenal fatigue Here are the two questions:
I noticed you posted on coach rut’s site about doing the wendler 5-3-1, which i had heard of before. i looked it up, and i noticed the similarities it had with the layout of MEBB program with the rep scheme and all, except that the wendler progresses with sub-maximal weights while in MEBB, its always a max-effort.
would you mind commenting on sub-maximal progressions vs. max efforts for improving strength (which do you think is better?). and do you think the wendler 5-3-1 could be mixed with metcons similar to MEBB programming?
Awesome entry. It’s like it works, indeed.
Question: I’ve got a client (and this holds true for myself as well) who I suspect is suffering from major adrenal fatigue. Way too many hours working, way too little sleep, way too much stress. Is there a way to quantify this/get some kind of cortisol measurement we can track? Going by feel is tough–some days he reports he feels great but performance is dragging; by same token I occasionally feel great on 3 quad americanos spaced out over the course of the day but fear that might be overkill and would love a way to quantify it!
So, I’ll tackle my training first, then the adrenal fatigue issue as the two are related. For the past several months I’ve been following elements of both CrossFit FootBall and Coach Rut’s Max Effort Black Box. I’ve made some good gains on these programs but when I was visiting Rut a few months ago he told me about the Wendler 531 program. Now, having done CrossFit or some derivative of CrossFit since early 2002, the Wendler looked like my old power lifting days. It progresses folks in a very measured way that generally keeps one within ones means, but it DOES have Some Max effort elements to it (in answer the question above). It is just a different format than the MEBB. Both approaches attempt to control volume and intensity with an eye on progress. Both are appropriate when married to smart met-con or other accessory work. I’m not going to go into the details of the 531 program, you should buy the damn thing as it’s only about $20 and worth every penny. I will mention roughly how I have structured the training.
Day-1 Press-531 progression
Accessories- Rope climbs, Dips (Ring or bar). I have progressively loaded the rope climbs by adding more assents each week (up to 11 now in about as many minutes, no feet) and the dips (5 sets of 10, increasing load each week).
5-10 100m sprints, typically with a 50m build up and then 85-90% top speed.
Day-2 Dead Lift-531 progresion
Unlike day 1 I actually put the focus lift after an accessory lift, in this case the power snatch. I do these on the minute and have progressed from 10 x 1@ 60kg to 10×1@70kg. The full OL’s hurt my knees…no way around it for me, so power and split variants are it. I then do my DL progression and have wrapped up with 3 x 20 Good Mornings. I have progressed that loading from 40kg to 60kg over the course of a month. They fracking SUCK.
Day-3 Bench-531 progression.
Accessories- On the minute I did 5 reps of 60kg push press. Each week I added a minute and am up to 10 minutes. I’ll likely change this up in the next cycle as it is just miserable.
Ring work from Coach Sommers site. Varies with the day but many front levers, skin the cats and back levers.
Then a favorite from Crossfit football: 100m sprint max chest to bar pull-ups, rounds in 12-20 min. I walk back on these get fully recovered and try to haul ass! Absolutely LOVE these types of WOD’s. I will finish with a set or two of Krock Rows- As many 1 arm DB rows as you can do in a set. Sounds easy, but they suck.
Day-4 Back Squat-531 progression
On the minute for 10 minutes, 2 power cleans. I started this at 85kg and have progressed it to 95 kg.
Front Squat- 5×10 @ 85 kg. Have progressed this up from about 70 kg. I fracking suck at FS and these things just make me want to poop my pants.
This schedule is broken up over 7 days. I drop in a few 200-400m repeats in the mix, a little hand stand work and other gymnastics moves.
Results: I’m stronger, leaner and look bigger than when I started 5 weeks ago. I’ve been following a low-ish carb plan similar to what Mat detailed a few days ago. Met-con? Not really sure, have not played with it. I suspect it sucks, but if I’ve learned anything over the past 5-6 years is if I’m strong, I’m only about 6 weeks away from being in GOOD shape. At age 37 and about 180 lbs I back squatted 405, DL 445, pressed 175 and benched 265 (don;t laugh!). I think I could turn a mid 3 min Fran by simply pacing and not blowing myself up, I might give it a shot. That said, I’m of a mind to NEVER do anything I am not excited by and find fun. At this stage, given my travel, and other demands, doing 25 min Met-cons in which I see the “White Buffalo In the Sky” is not much fun.
Which leads me to my other topic, adrenal fatigue. For those of you unfamiliar with this condition, your adrenals begin to give out do to too many life demands. Sleep, stress, training can all take their toll. I think I’ve had a mild to moderate dose of this condition for a LONG time. I have always burned things pretty hard, taking upwards of 18-20 units in my chemistry undergrad while being president of the Chemistry club and VP of the Pre-med club. For several years the schedule of starting a gym ran like this : Up at 5 am, train people all day 5 days per week. Write for various message boards, maintain a blog, travel most weekends (I was on the road 38 weekends last year). Big issues of travel include: sleep problems due to time zone change and the stress of putting on certs. I love doing them, but I do not sleep well the nights leading up to a cert. Food: I get gluten doses pretty consistently on the road, no matter how careful I am. This combo of shitty food and bad sleep really takes me down at the knee caps.
Then we have coffee. Nicki and I have a 15 shot, stove-top espresso maker that I have routinely drank 2 of before noon. then I’d have another latter in the day. did I mention the espresso machine we have in the trainer lounge at NorCal?
What my adrenal fatigue boiled down to was this: Crushing fatigue most of the day, only perking up a bit in the evening. This is a reversed cortisol profile in which I have higher levels in the evening than morning. this is about a stage or two away from the full systemic melt-down that leaves on in bed, immune compromised and generally feeling like death. Cortisol competes with testosterone for the substrate pregnenalone. High cortisol means insulin resistance, low strength and slow recovery. Excessive metabolic conditiong makes things worse. What’s excessive? You never make progress, you feel like absolute death doing anything over a few minutes duration. I’ve also had 4-5 sinus infections in the past about 8 months. No bueno.
I’ve talked to a ton of people about this. OPT, Josh Everett, Garrett Smith, and Scotty Hagnass have been the main folks. My shift towards CF football and ME black box was helpful from the Met-con perspective but I’ve benefitted from an even more strength oriented program that allows me to really control the volume and intensity of my training. I went off coffee for 2 weeks. I literally was hallucinating for a few days…it was WEIRD. I limit my days to 2-4 shots of espresso. I used to do 10-15x more than that…I seem ok at this level. I’ve used some adrenal recovery formulas like Orthoadapt. You really need to work with someone who knows what they are doing to get much out of this stuff. The fundamental thing however is you need to LIVE differently. I had to tweak my training, sleep and coffee intake. So far, so good. I’ve started studying Italian again and playing a little guitar in the evenings. I really try to create some down time in which I am not working on the gym, book, blog, emails or phone calls. I’m VERY thankful for the life I have but it’s easy for me to let this stuff take control of everything and leave no down time for restoration and unstructured fun.
The original question was “how can one ell the signs of adrenal fatigue?” Dips in energy in the day, feeling like death during met-cons, disturbed sleep, increased energy in the evening vs am. Low libido, lack of motivation. Constant, persistent muscle soreness (high cortisol makes muscles really stiff). One can also do and adrenal stress index, or ASI test. You need someone to help you interpret this process. You would also benefit from a DHEA-S test (free and bound). Don’t know what any of that stuff is? Get someone to help you, it is outside the scope of what I can easily cover here. Perhaps sometime in a podcast. I type at about 14 WPM with a 50% error rate so this stuff kills me!
Sorry if this is a bit scattered, but it’s what I’ve been tinkering with for a while. Something to take away form this is similar to the issue with PWO nutrition: Every person, every situation is unique and needs to be viewed as such. BUT there are some general guidelines that folks benefit from: Sleep, smart training, deloading periods (wendler has an unloading week every 4 weeks), do stuf that’s fun and unstructured.
Ciao! Time to practice my Italian and play some guitar.