August is almost here, and I find myself wanting a new fitness challenge. 2020 has been a challenging year, to say the least, but it hasn't really affected my training all that much if I'm honest.
It's just a turd year from a quality of life standpoint for many of us, for many reasons, none of which will be explored here by me. I wouldn't be able to do them all justice.
I don't have any solo races to train for, as per my new year's resolution, but I did complete a snowshoe race at the Silver Skate Festival in my hometown. It was a nothing race with few competitors on a course that didn't require snowshoes, but it was nice to push the pace snowshoeing for as long as it lasted because that was a new experience for me.
Besides that mostly pointless race, the year has been free of competitions by both design, on my part, and necessity, on the part of the pandemic protocols influencing race directors.
There are lots of virtual races available, but they seem like cash grabs to me. Not trying to be cynical, but all of these virtual races all have the same thing in common: Exploiting a lack of social connection within the running community to sell registrations to a nonexistent competition as if it's a real event.
It's not. A clue to that is in the word "virtual," but whatever. I've done the Red Bull Wings for Life World Run virtually, but that one felt less exploitative, given that it was held in a pre-pandemic world. Not sure why I see a difference there, but I do.
Regardless, I'm still interested in doing something new and challenging that (a) aligns with my values, and (b) doesn't cost anything to join. Enter squatting every day and experimenting with daily training maxes.
I didn't come up with this. The concept has its beginnings in what is known as the Bulgarian Method of weightlifting, and several iterations of the famed (or infamous) training program have gained popularity over the years.
I trained at a gym through the 1990s that had more than a couple of Bulgarian style lifters, most notably, a fellow by the name of Chuck Thompson, who was (and still might be) a competitive amateur bodybuilder.
It's gained notice more recently thanks to people like John Broz and Matthew Perryman, who wrote a book, aptly titled, Squat Every Day. I highly recommend seeking out both online if you're even remotely interested in strength training.
John has a no-nonsense style of coaching that I admire and appreciate. Matt's is one of my favorite books on the topic of lifting, and that's saying something because I am a massive fan of the genre and own dozens of books on the subject. His book is part of the inspiration behind the hedonic reversal I'm seeking with this challenge.
Bringing us back to me and my plan for August.
Starting August 1st, I'm going to squat every day, up to a daily training max, estimated to be 85% of my one repetition maximum ("1 RM") depending on my rate of perceived exertion ("RPE") at the time.
It's not an overly complicated process, so I'm not going to write an elaborate breakdown for you. I will share all of the online articles I read in preparation for this venture that you can enjoy at your leisure as per your interest in the topic and the challenge.
They are as follows:
The Squat Every Day Study
Max Out on Squats Every Day
Max Every Day...Can It Be Done?
Every Day Squatting for the Every Day Athlete
Should You Squat Every Day?
The Bulgarian Method for Powerlifting
Workout Systems: Squat Every Day
Observations from Squatting Every Daily
I own an old copy of the Bulgarian Burst/Serious Growth program written by Dr. R.L. Horine & Leo Costa. It's entertaining in its hyperbolic claims, just not particularly useful as a program or even as a resource going into this challenge. That's a story for another day, or you can read Paul Carter's scathing takedown of the program instead and save all of us the trouble.
Ultimately, what this all comes down to is seeing what happens to a runner when he decides to squat a daily max for a month. My squat is one of my weakest lifts, which is not surprising with my running history, and it would be nice if this challenge brought that lift up, even marginally.
Runners are always weaker than they should be, even at a lighter bodyweight, for various reasons: fiber types, anthropometrics, training load, fatigue masking, training specificity, and overspecialization, to name a few. Pound for pound, they are one of the weakest classes of athletes in the world of sports. A lot of that has to do with the lack of strength specificity that resistance training confers on a runner should they choose to do it, but most choose yoga or donuts over weights.
So, it's no wonder they're also the most chronically injured athletes in the world.
The correlation between squatting strength and knee injuries in running athletes, for instance, is well documented. The lower the load a runner can handle in the squat, the higher the risk of injury to said runner. Runners hate to confront those realities, me included, but that doesn't make them go away. Maybe squatting every day will.
I guess I'll find out in August. To that end, I'll be posting my daily training max on Facebook and Instagram to document the process. I have a relatively good sense of my 1 RM going into this. I'm estimating that those first few posts will see me working up to my body weight on the bar, but my mileage will also influence the daily training max.
I'm not giving up running to do this challenge, so that will make for a, shall we say, "interesting" confounder as far this experiment is concerned. Cardio kills gains and all that, but even marginal gains are still gains.
I'll take them.