Summer 2023 Fitness Challenge Results…Part 1

As many of you will recall, we set up the Summer 2023 Fitness Challenge back in May. Our goal was to test and train a unique capacity of athleticism, which is power. We sampled anaerobic power with a lifting test and used the mile run for aerobic power.

The lifting test used a trap bar deadlift, or similar setup depending on the equipment you had available. The challenge was to lift your body weight (+/- a little depending on the individual) for as many repetitions as possible (AMRAP) in 1 minute.

Our running test was performed by first getting properly warmed up and activated, and then running 1609 meters on a track at a best effort.

We set the challenge up with a pre-testing period, some training advice to use over the summer, and a post-test opportunity at season’s end.

I did the tests on Memorial Day weekend and posted my results. A number of athletes in our nationwide community also participated. I’m still in the process of collecting data from everyone but today’s post will highlight my personal performance and experience.

I’ll start with my deadlift results. The goal was to express the outcome in total tonnage and in my pre-test I lifted 175 pounds 37 times in a minute. This gave me 6,475 pounds as my standard to beat. I had left the bar loaded at 175 pounds all summer and used that for training with the methods I suggested in the previous article. I would generally warm up with dumbbells or bands and then do some training with the loaded bar. My plan was to schedule an official test toward the end of August and bang out a few more reps than my pre-test.

Strange how things happen sometimes. Not long ago I was having the rare crummy day at the office. I was in the midst of a computer upgrade and found myself more than a little frustrated. It was actually somewhere between piss-off and rage. As I stood at the workstation seething a bit, I realized I needed some major catharsis. I thought about yelling a few times and then going outside and throwing a medicine ball at the sun. At that moment, a light bulb in my brain turned on and I realized now was the time to test the deadlift. I quickly went through a warmup so I’d be ready (and not injure myself). Then I blasted some Iron Maiden. I grabbed the bar and got 40 reps exactly. This raised my tonnage score to precisely 7,000 pounds. I was quite pleased. I was also no longer enraged.

The next day I went to a track workout with some of our local Tribe members. My upper back,  where I had noted some soreness at pre-test, felt fine. But my hamstrings were a bit sore and stiff. I saw this as a good sign that I was lifting with proper technique and using that posterior chain. 

Fast forward a few more days. I had to go out and cut firewood. This is always an ass-kicker of a workout. Running the chainsaw, hauling the logs, loading the trailer, unloading the trailer, and stacking the wood – no matter what kind of shape I’m in – it’s always a long and tough day. Consequently, for several days afterward, I was stiff, tired, and sore all over. Par for the course.

In my post wood-getting state, once I was mostly recovered, I went back to the deadlift station as part of a workout. This time around I wanted a little less load so, since my bodyweight is now 165 pounds, I took the 5-pound plates off the ends of the bar. I was just going to do a few easy sets as part of my workout, but warming up, I felt surprisingly good. I wasn’t enraged this time but I went ahead and repped out 42 reps with 165 pounds, achieving a tonnage outcome of 6,930. This was so, so close to my PR of 7,000. If only I’d had a little fury and gotten one more rep! Oh well, it’s all good.

I like that test. I think it’s an excellent representation of power in a functional movement pattern. The weight is light enough that most Lifetime Athletes can easily and safely participate.

The mile running pursuit went reasonably well. I didn’t end up running quite as fast as I wanted, but that was just a good dose of reality. In my pre-test, I’d gutted out a 6:34 and, at the time, it was a pretty decent run for where my condition was in May. And, also as many of you are already aware, I don’t do an extensive amount of run-specific training in my personal system. But I dedicated myself to getting in some running several times per week all summer. Most of this was either track intervals, or easy barefoot grass jogging. I stayed relatively consistent throughout the summer and I noted that I was getting a little faster and feeling smoother.

Hiking, rucking, and biking were also a part of my outdoor recreation and training. There was also some of the outdoor Tribe workouts and the gym sessions. I tried to target a mile assault several times. On a couple of occasions I just felt flat on the day and had to adjust the session to postpone the time trial. I also had the opportunity to participate in a track meet and race an official mile. Unfortunately, my busy summer schedule placed that firewood outing just a few days before the race and I had to scratch due to my being temporarily barely able to run at all.

So I finally got back on track (pun intended) yesterday on September 9th. I warmed up using the good ole Lifetime Athlete Track Warmup (free video any athlete can use) and set forth on the quest. Running solo for time is a little harder than being in a group situation or race but that was the situation in which I found myself. The mental game on that 3rd lap is challenging no matter what, but when you are running by yourself you really have to keep the demons (that tell you to back off) at bay. I knew I wasn’t in sub-6:00 shape so I didn’t go out foolishly. I decided to just hold 95’s (for 400) and run at about a 6:20 mile pace. I got through 3 laps right at 4:45 which was spot on for pace but going into the the first turn of the last lap, I was really struggling to hang on. I made it to the backstretch and just told myself to get down to the final turn without falling apart. Once there I was able to rally and get up on the balls of my feet and charge home (to just a bit of dry heaving) in 6:17 for the full mile.

Overall I’m pleased with that run. Sub-6:00 was unrealistic for me this year. 6:17 was about the best I was going to get out of the training I’d been doing. I had to wait a few extra weeks until I felt fresh and aggressive. Next year I’ll be 60 and so “sub-6 at 60” might be my project. It will take much more dedication and planning. We’ll see.

So those were my performances in the Summer 2023 Fitness Challenge. In Part 2 I’m going to organize the data I collected from all the other participants and do my best to make some generalizations about age, gender, and of course the proverbial crossroads between performance and longevity. Thank you for joining me today and if you haven’t yet sent in your data, I hope to receive that soon. Cheers!

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