Multiple day programming for addiction recovery/mental health? Multiple day programming for addiction recovery/mental health?

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Thread: Multiple day programming for addiction recovery/mental health?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2019
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    Default Multiple day programming for addiction recovery/mental health?

    Facts: 42 y/o male, 5'9" or 5'10", 202 lbs. In week 12 of following the novice A/B workout. Lifts as of this week (all 5RM): D: 355, S: 310, B: 195, P: 135. I haven't been doing power cleans because I haven't taken the time to learn them properly, but I've been doing chins.

    I was basically untrained until June 2018 when I started doing a half-assed program I mostly made up myself, based around the core-four lifts, and progressive loading. It was a hot mess but I did make a lot of progress on it (of course), but I quit doing it after about 8 weeks when I got laid off and lost access to the gym in the building where I worked. Anyway, the point is that when I started again at the end of February, I wasn't starting from zero.

    So here's the thing. I'm closing in on 6 months of sobriety after about 22 years of alcoholism (along with comorbidities of depression/anxiety and a traumatic brain injury). Daily (or near daily) exercise is a pretty critical element for addicts in early recovery (6 months to 2 years). I'm happy to discuss the evidence behind that at length elsewhere. The short version is that exercise mitigates the unpleasant mental and physical effects that are the result of changing brain chemistry (effects which tend to lead to relapse if not managed successfully). In terms of what seems to work, 45 minute of moderate cardio (like a 5 mile run or 10k on the Concept 2) is a good baseline. A novice A/B split workout is even better. Combining strength and cardio on alternating days has the lowering the intensity of the cardio I need to get the same effect.

    My training goals are: stay sober, stay alive, feel good. Get strong if I can. My own experience is that in order to achieve that, 6 days a week is perfect; 5 days a week is tolerable, and anything less than that is not enough to meet those goals. Doing all cardio worked fine but mixing cardio and strength seems to be even more effective (not to mention all the other benefits of getting strong). Having said all that, of course I recognize that doing cardio 2 or 3 days a week is impacting my strength progress. I'm still adding weight every week but not consistently every time I lift-- but if I back off on the cardio, I seem to be able to get back to progressive loading-- so I suspect that I'm still in the novice stage. What I'm looking for, is what's the least destructive way that I can work out 5 or 6 days a week while getting the most I can from the novice effect? Here is what I have considered:

    • Continue to do the A/B split 3 days a week, with the expectation that I'm going to miss reps, and to proceed accordingly. Reevaluate as I transition into the intermediate phase
    • Radically reprogram into a one lift per day split over a 6 or 7 day rotation
    • Some other re-program I haven't considered


    I appreciate any advice or insights here. I'm *not* going back to 6 days of cardio, though.

  2. #2
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    Start with the novice program, when it runs its course switch to a 3 day per week HLM program or a 4 day split. Keep the cardio in 2-3 days per week. I think the cardio will be less detrimental to your squat gains than getting back on the booze. I agree with daily hard exercise being a positive habit for you to stick with while recovering.

  3. #3
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    May 2019
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    Thanks, Andy.

    I don't know if you were specifically calling out the squat, but that is the lift that seems to be suffering (I suppose because it's the one I'm doing 3 times a week). In contrast I've been able to add 10lbs to my DL for the past 4 weeks. Would it make sense to do a recovery squat day now while still pushing LP on the other lifts?

    The other thing I figured out just this week is that splitting my cardio work each workout (30 minutes on the erg, 15 minutes running or vice versa) seems to be just as effective and slightly less destructive than doing 45 minutes of a single exercise.

  4. #4
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    Sep 2016
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt77 View Post
    The other thing I figured out just this week is that splitting my cardio work each workout (30 minutes on the erg, 15 minutes running or vice versa) seems to be just as effective and slightly less destructive than doing 45 minutes of a single exercise.

    The only (possibly) helpful suggestion I can think of is maybe stop running and just use the rower or stationary bike for the cardio workouts – running really beats up your lower body. And have you experimented with interval sprints instead of long slow cardio? Or would sprints not have the desired effect?

    Anyway, I think this is great. You can’t always add weight to your squats, but so what? You’re doing a modified version of the program that logically addresses your specific needs.

  5. #5
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    Thanks, Treg. To answer your questions all together: sprints or intervals work fine as far as meeting my mental health goals but done with any consistency they're hard for me to recover from enough to lift heavy the next day. However, some of my non-strength workouts include wearing out my 1 y/o blackmouth cur mix rescue, which usually involves a combo of brisk walking, sprinting, wrassling, and getting distracted by interesting smells and pretty girls. As far as lsd-type running, I'm doing less than 10 miles a week, probably more like 7, which doesn't beat up my body much compared to the 25 miles a week I was doing when I was in treatment.

    Andy's advice seems to mirror my intuition here: make the cardio fit into the program instead of making the program fit into the cardio.

  6. #6
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    Unless you feel the jogging is imperative to your mental health I would try and get the cardio from other sources. Incline treadmill walking, stationary bikes, ellipticals, rowers, etc all pair better with barbell training than does running.

  7. #7
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    Have you switched to a light squat day in the middle of 2 heavies yet? If not that could help give your legs a bit more recovery time.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Baker (KSC) View Post
    Unless you feel the jogging is imperative to your mental health I would try and get the cardio from other sources. Incline treadmill walking, stationary bikes, ellipticals, rowers, etc all pair better with barbell training than does running.
    Nope, I don't, it's just been something familiar (and easy to do at a time when other exercise options weren't available).

    I'm going to try a few weeks with no jogging at all and see how things shake out. Thanks.

  9. #9
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    Matt, glad to hear you are getting sober. Alcoholics always want more: more reps, more cardio, more booze, more whatever. But here’s the thing from a guy who has been sober for a while: do the SS program as described. That means a recovery day.

    You may benefit tremendously from the recovery day, not just physically but mentally. Use the downtime to get your head on straight, go to an extra meeting or whatever. Jamming in unnecessary cardio or work at the gym is counterproductive and at this point in your sobriety there may be better uses of your time.

    Stay focused on sobriety, train the way the program is laid out, and your life will get better. Trust me on that.

  10. #10
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    I wouldn't over think or worry over cardio for heart and health reasons. You can satisfy both with a twice a week Graded Exercise Protocol (GXP). It consists of 5 minutes of ramping up to 85% of maximum heart rate (MHR), 5 minutes working at 85% of MHR, and a 5 minute ramp down again. I did these in my late 50's and early 60's and my VO2 max tested out in the low to mid 40's which was in the excellent range for geezers. What's more, you can do a GXP on any or no equipment at all; walking, jogging, swimming, elliptical, biking, rowing, etc.

    A heart rate monitor is not essential, but it's very helpful in keeping track of when and how long you are at or above 85% of MHR. Which for you would be 151 beats per minute. This is determined by subtracting your age from 220 and multiplying by .85, or 220 - 42 =178 * .85 = 151.

    I quit drinking in October of last year myself after consuming far too much every evening and weekend for around 30 years or so. Since then, I shed 50 lbs. of accumulated fat over that period of time. My strength has suffered a little for that weight loss, but then I just hit 220 lbs. a few weeks ago and no doubt I have not recovered fully from a months long caloric deficit. Then too, I am 68 years old and having been fairly strong my whole life, some drop off is inevitable at this point. So I'll see if I get the relatively small amount of strength I lost back again.

    Congratulations on quitting. It was not as demanding for me as I feared it might be. Went cold turkey and had the sweats for 3 days and that was it. (knocking wood) It's interesting to learn that multiple days training per week is a thing for overcoming addiction. While drinking I trained 5 days a week, and sometimes more. Concentrating on doing that rather than kicking back with some potent potables does seem to keep it off my mind though.

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