"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Experiment Continues Part V: The 100

Continued from here. This is the last of the fitness posts for a while. Maybe. ;)

On this particular day, there had been some confusion over the time at which the group would be meeting: I ended up being a half hour early for the group session, but it worked in my favor because I swung by a nearby gas station and picked up a bottle of Gatorade. I have stayed fairly low sodium with my diet even after stopping prep, which had resulted in occasional cramps in my feet during the more hard-core training sessions. I had just realized that morning that I was out of my Hammer Endurolytes Fizz tablets and had been bummed about it...but now I could resort to the Plan B of Gatorade.

This would be a brilliant idea on my part: I poured half the Gatorade into my water bottle so I could have a less-sweet diluted version, and kept the other half of the drink available to drink straight, just like I used to do at endurance rides. I would start out drinking the straight Gatorade during the day's workout and then 1/3 of the way through switch to the diluted version. It worked beautifully: I never did get cramps, and I'm pretty sure the simple carbs in the drink helped fuel the day's workout.

Trainer had said it would either be The 100 or Leg Day. I was expecting Leg Day, so I was surprised when he started setting up for something else. Elsa was there too and we helped him get the equipment laid out, though both her and I were confused: this looked like it was going to be an upper body workout. I was kind of bummed, to tell you the truth.

As the rest of the group arrived, Trainer announced it:

We would be doing The 100.

The 100 consists of 100 consecutive reps (as in, you can't mix them up) of each of these 10 exercises: 1. Push-ups, 2. Air squats (body weight), 3. Pull-ups, 4. Walking lunges, 5. Push-press, 6. Wall balls (throwing a medicine ball at the wall), 7. Dips (triceps), 8. Barbell row, 9. Lateral line hops, 10. MB (medicine ball) sit-ups.
You are supposed to complete them in this order as well. 
There were groans from everyone...while I tried to keep my face from visibly brightening.

I had stared at that board with the workout for months now, wondering if I would be able to complete it. Imagining myself going through 100 reps of every single one of those exercises, and wondering if I would be able to finish each one. Only recently I had decided that not only could I complete it, I was pretty sure I could be competitive at it. I just wasn't sure how I would stack up against the others.

Trainer had never had a doubt that I could do it. His incentive for me joining the group had been so I could do The 100 with them after all.

We all warmed up and then got into position for push-ups. Trainer set a timer on his cell phone and placed it on one of the wooden boxes lined up against the wall.


Trainer and I started out neck and neck. He was the only one in the group doing regular push-ups though: the rest of us had our knees on the floor. He was doing the most difficult version of the 100: everything unassisted (mainly the pull-ups and triceps dips), so despite him and I leading, this really was not a competition because he was doing the workout at a completely different level. As it would turn out, I would complete the workout at a different level from the rest of the group myself.

I finished 3 reps behind him and started on squats. I caught up and rapidly passed him: as y'all know by now, squats are one of my literal strengths and sans added weight like this they were an absolute breeze. I just splayed my legs out as if I was on a horse and squatted down to parallel to the beat of the music, very akin to posting. 100 reps without pause.

Trainer was not far behind me though. I attacked the pull-ups next, choosing the set of resistance bands that had less resistance. In the time it took me to think "How am I going to get my foot in here?" Trainer had finished his 100 squats and came over to pull the bands down over my foot. He was out of breath.

"If you take your foot out of this, I'm not coming back to help you," he panted.
"I won't," I said. I meant it. This was WAAAAY more assistance than what I even use when working on my own at the gym. I have been progressively using less assistance on the pull-up machine and Trainer has me use even less when working with him, so right now I felt like I almost had to fight the assistance in the hanging phase of the pull-up. I figured if I needed a break, I'd just let the band assistance bounce my torso up onto the bar and rest there!

Assisted pull-ups with band. This is what all of us in the group did.

Unassisted or standard pull-ups. This is what Trainer did.
As it turned out, I knocked out those 100 reps without pause as well. Trainer had said that pull-ups with the level of assistance the others needed would be a piece of cake for me. I had not believed him...how was it possible that I was better at pull-ups than the guys? Though my upper body is SO much stronger than it used to be when I first started working with Trainer, upper body strength is not what I consider my forte. He had insisted that I was nowhere near as weak as I thought.

I believed him now.

Trainer was doing pull-ups completely unassisted (see photo above), which meant he had to stop to take breaks. This is where I truly pulled ahead for good, because after pull-ups came walking lunges.

I might struggle with jump lunges but walking lunges are my bitch. I own that shit. I don't do body weight walking lunges because I can do them forever and ever and ever; we had been doing them with the 45 lb barbell and I had been doing static lunges with 95 to 115 lbs on my own. The 100 called for body weight walking lunges.

Walking lunge. A lot of people need to pause to rebalance before swinging forward into the next step with the opposite foot; this is fine and absolutely normal. I've been doing these long enough (years) that I can literally walk forward without pause while lunging. That was my one advantage now.
I backed up as close as I could to the open garage door behind me and proceeded to walk lunge my way down the length of that gym as fast as I could while still maintaining correct form. It took 4 rounds, which I completed in under two minutes.

Which was great because it meant I could pace myself for the push press, the one exercise I knew I would struggle the most with. Why? Because the push press is that awful barbell shoulder press that had nearly killed all of us during my first group class.

Push press sequence. Note the bending of knees before pushing the bar overhead.
I started out fast, trying to gauge how I was going to split the 100 reps based on what my shoulders and body told me.10 reps at a time? I reached 10 reps and was fine. 15 reps at a time then? I hit 15 and realized that if I pushed a little harder, I could get all the way to 20.

At 20 my shoulders were burning and I was breathing hard. I set the bar down and started to pace. I glanced at my heart rate monitor: I was at 158, which wasn't surprising given how much I was having to expand my chest on inhalation. I walked 2 circles while I got a handle on my breathing and successfully dropped my pulse to 144.

Rock on. I knocked out another 20, this time placing my hands closer together (they were at shoulder width now) so as to minimize strain to my rear delts, and used my legs a little more during the push portion of the exercise so the momentum would help my upper back muscles lift the bar above my head. This spiked my heart rate but that was fine: I preferred to deal with that over sacrificing my shoulders.

My heart rate monitor went off when I hit 15 reps. I glanced at Trainer: he was sitting on one of the boxes taking a break. He didn't hear it over the music. I went on to 20, then set the bar down and paced for another 2 circles. Breathe deep and slow. Heart rate back to 144, and repeat.

Third set, and the same thing again: Beep-beep-beep-beep at 15 reps. This time Trainer heard it. I got a grin and a nod. I just laughed and finished the set.

This is the part where my crazy cardiac recovery time gave me an edge yet again: thanks to All The HIIT, my heart rate was dropping 20 bpms in less than a minute each time, which allowed me to continue to pull ahead from the others even during the toughest-for-me of all the exercises of The 100.

On to wall balls.

Trainer was finishing walking lunges at this point. I don't know how he knew that I was done vs just taking a break, but he knew.

"Use the large 10 lb medicine ball," he said, and I went over to fetch it. He gave me directions on how close to get to the wall and how high to throw the ball against the wall while still lunging away, and I began the exercise. I was able to glance at Trainer's cell timer on one of the boxes before starting: we were only 18 minutes into this and I was already more than halfway through.

Wall balls was challenging. You had to hold the ball above your head and throw it up against the wall, catch it, squat, and throw it against the wall again...x100. My shoulders protested a bit at the beginning but I just engaged my legs more and was able to knock out 30 reps at a time. My heart rate monitor went off again towards the end of each 30-rep set. I'd pause after 30 reps, wait for my heart rate to drop to 148 (it took less than 30 seconds) and then continued.

A group of people demonstrating different phases of wall balls.
Trainer was still working on his walking lunges while I worked on wall balls. He looked exhausted already. I would deliberately walk past him when my heart rate monitor was beeping and glance at him to see him visibly brighten. Cracked me up every single time, but I felt like I was giving him a morale boost too!

And done with wall balls. I paced for a minute to catch my breath and glanced at Trainer's timer on the box...20 minutes. It had only taken me two minutes to complete the wall balls.

Okay then! Onward.

Tricep dips. These I could do on one of the wooden boxes. I also split them into sets of 20, also done as fast as I could while still maintaining correct form (this was still a workout. Not only did I want to be the fastest, I wanted to be the fastest while doing every exercise correctly! No cheating on form), with a 30-second break in between sets.

Unassisted dips on the left, assisted or bench dips on the right. Trainer was the only one doing the version on the left, the rest of us did the version on the right using wooden boxes instead of a bench. I typically press my heels into the floor and point my toes up to make it more challenging, and that is how I did my 100 dips.
When you've spent the last 6 months doing the most excruciatingly slow versions possible of most of these exercises, suddenly being unleashed to do them at lightning speed made them so freaking easy. That was my other advantage right there: I was used to doing all of these super slow while maintaining form so the muscles used were hit in their entirety during the full range of motion. Now I was using all of that development in a functional manner.

I wasn't ever expecting to be an advocate for this, but Imma say it again: whoever said bodybuilding doesn't give you functional fitness is WRONG. Absolutely wrong!!!

The guys were using the two barbells that Trainer had set up for their push-presses so I pulled out another barbell to do the barbell row: this way no one had to be waiting to use a barbell. There was some confusion about which barbell I should use (Trainer saw the one I chose and instructed me to pick a different one), which later made me wonder how much faster my time would have been had it not been for that. But anyway: I had thought the rows would be challenging.

They weren't.

And that was with the 45 lb barbell.

Bent over barbell row. This is what The 100 called for.
Lateral line hops was next. This was simply choosing a line and hopping sideways back and forth over it. I fell into rhythm with the beat of the music playing right then and found myself hopping all the way to 100 without pause. My heart rate didn't spike much either. I was surprised.

Time for the medicine ball sit-ups.

Again, Trainer knew I was done and was about to move onto the next exercise. "Use the 10 lb medicine ball," he directed again. He had just started on the tricep dips, which he was doing suspended. No assistance.

The ab work sucked almost as much as the push-press and it felt like it took me forever. I was 20 reps from finishing when I lay back and just stopped for a moment to regroup. I needed to take my brain away from the fire in my abs before I could continue.

The 10 lb medicine ball was held like this, above my head, for 100 reps.
I was the only one other than Trainer that was able to do these with the medicine ball.

"Are you done?" Trainer gasped asked: he had stopped to take a break and noticed that I had stopped on the last exercise. I couldn't believe that he was still paying attention, but he was. This thing was hard, guys.

There was no surprise in his voice when he asked, though. It was said in the most matter-of-fact tone. At no point had there been any surprise from him over the fact that I was ahead.

I'm not used to that. I spent such a long time being regarded by coaches and trainers with reproach and disdain...I wonder if I'll ever get used to being seen the way I am now: as an athlete.

"20 to go," I said from my spot on the floor.

I took a deep breath and continued. 10 reps. Paused. My abs were screaming bloody murder. I was thankful for all the ab work I've been doing the last 3 months because Jesus Christ this would have been impossible otherwise. I glared at the ceiling and ignored my protesting body. "You're almost there," I thought to myself. I engaged my abs, lifted the ball over my head, and continued.


Those were the longest 10 reps of my entire life.

I finally slammed the ball down against the floor in front of me.


Trainer had just started on line hops. He immediately stopped to grab his cell to look at the timer.

He announced my time. He was still able to smile when he called it out. He then went back to finish his line hops.

I was quiet. For starters I had misheard: I thought he had said "49:43." I had still won, but I had secretly wanted to be closer to the record holder's 30 minutes.

I slowly and methodically went about stretching every muscle I could stretch in my body while everyone else continued, lost in thought. This had been a full body workout. This would have been the stuff of nightmares when I was in high school PE. 100 sit-ups? I would have died. Let's not even talk about the pull-ups, assisted or not.

I now searched for one shred of exhaustion in my body now and found...none. I literally felt like I could go out for a run right then and there. Or take a Bang Power Dance class. Or maybe do The 100 all over again. Or work on my squat 1-rep max some more.

Where did this body come from and where has it been all my life? Has this really been lying dormant inside me for 38 years? Holy shit. Because now I want to take it to a competition, any kind of competition where performance is taken into account, and see how it stacks up against other people's.

Trainer finished his line hops and came over to write my time on the board.

It wasn't 49:43.

It was 39:43.

My jaw dropped. I just stared at the board for a minute.

"The fastest time ever was 30 minutes?" I asked him. He couldn't talk. He held up four fingers and dropped to the floor to start on the medicine ball sit-ups. He would be the only other person other than me to use the medicine ball for them.

34? The fastest time ever was 34 minutes? I looked at the board again and just grinned like an idiot.

When Trainer finished the sit-ups, he wrote his time on the board: he was around 11 minutes behind me. He then lay back down on the floor with his eyes closed. Elsa finished third, about 5 minutes after him, still under an hour. She was thrilled: her goal had been to do it in less than an hour. The guys were last to finish, with Elsa, Trainer and I shouting encouragement at them. But we all completed The 100! We all did it!!! I don't think any of us would have tried this feat without Trainer's guidance and belief that we could all get it done.

You know it was a tough workout when everyone is on the floor at the end of it, including your trainer.
That's him with the sleeve tattoo! (And seriously: how cool is it that he did this entire thing with us?)
Afterwards we all walked outside to our cars. Everyone was in a sort of daze. Trainer was still having problems stringing sentences together...and I was already wondering when my gym's next Sprint class that day might be. I reined in my train of thought, thinking, "Who the hell are you??"


Apparently so. O_o Sheesh...


A week later I was in the middle of a shoulder workout with Trainer when Tony walked into the gym with two of his clients. After initial hellos, Tony got to work with his clients at the far end of the gym. Trainer said to me with a grin in a low voice, "Tony here says he is going to beat your time." I paused what I was doing, looked at the board at my time again, and snorted: Tony is not unfit by any means, but he is not an endurance type of guy. The 100 is an endurance event, hands-down. My snort made Trainer laugh.

"Are you doing The 100 today Nicole?" Tony asked from the far end of the gym, as if on cue. His clients and him had been talking about my crazy athletic feat.
"No. I did it last week already," I replied.
"I'm going to beat your time!" he sang.
"Oh really?"
"Yes! I'm going to do it in 25 minutes!"
I turned to Trainer. "Wasn't the fastest time 34 minutes?"
He shrugged, "I honestly don't remember. And it was a different format when the record was set then." My face lit up and he grinned: I was officially the lowest time for the current format.

Tony then went on and on to Trainer about how some of the exercises should have had added weight, like the push-press and barbell row. Trainer just shook his head and grinned silently. Tony explained to his two clients why The 100 wasn't that hard and what he was going to do to make it better while still beating my time. The two ladies continued to be awed by my time though: I felt like an exotic rare bird. It was a pretty cool feeling. Meanwhile, I listened to Tony with a raised brow and arms crossed in front of my chest. No one was taking my success away from me without a fight, and I suddenly knew exactly what I was going to say to stop him in his tracks.

I let Tony finish explaining why The 100 wasn't that hard.
"If it's going to be so easy for you, you have to film your 100 then," I said. "You can't just say you did it."
Tony got quiet.
I added, "And you can't vomit. If you vomit you are disqualified. None of us vomited." I glanced at Trainer. He was setting up more equipment for me while listening and looked highly amused now.
Tony paused what he was doing. I heard him mumble to one of the clients, "I'm going to have to do some video editing then..."
"The video has to be one continuous shot. No editing," I said.
"That's a lot of memory on the phone," he said to me.
"So? Delete some apps and reload them after. 25 minutes isn't a lot to film on a phone. Longer than 25...well, that's a long time to film on your cell..."
He pretended to ignore me and talked to his clients. Trainer was trying really hard not to laugh.
Tony addressed me again, "Did you use gloves?"
"Nope. I never use gloves for lifting." I ditched my gloves 7 months ago. The gnarly calluses that I proudly bear on the palms of my hands are proof.
"I'm going to have to use a lot of chalk then," he said to his clients. Chalk is used to aid in grip.
"I didn't use chalk either," I quipped, as I got to work on the next set of exercises. "None of us did."
Tony got real quiet again.
By this point Trainer couldn't hold back his laughter anymore. "Let's do this," he suggested. "Tony, you bring your fittest clients and I'll bring mine and we can all do The 100 together. You won't have to film it then and you'll have plenty of witnesses for your time."
"But will Nicole be there?" Tony asked him.
"Of course I will!" I said, before Trainer could answer.
"Nicole can't be there though," Tony said to Trainer. "Because then she'll be aiming to beat her own time."
I scoffed. "It will motivate you even more to hit that 25 minute goal!"
"No, I need to set my own baseline lower than your baseline."
"Fine. Then you have to film the entire thing in one continuous shot. No vomiting, no gloves, no chalk. And then you post it online."
Tony got real quiet again. Trainer chuckled silently. I grinned victoriously.

I won. Again. ;)

A month into the off-season, this is what I look like. As stated in my first series of fitness posts, it's nearly impossible to maintain competition leanness (aka crazy low body fat %) and definition in the off-season, especially if you're trying to further change your body and eating (healthy!) carbs in reasonable amounts to fuel said changes.
I'm pretty happy with the current results so far. :)


  1. I'm reading this post from my hospital bed....third I've been in in the last three weeks and saying that next year I won't be here I want to be where you are! You inspire me to feel the power in my body instead of the pain and weakness. Thank you!

    1. Weaseldancr, your comment made me choke up. <3 I hope next year you are in this spot too! I think everyone, especially women, should get to feel this empowered at some point in their lives. It's a magical feeling. Sending you so many healing thoughts!

  2. Ok. I want to see the video of Tony puking. And crying. And posting a 40+ minute time.

    1. *insert laughing emoji* Karen, your comment literally made me laugh out loud!

  3. As usual, I think you're such a bad ass. We need an update on if Tony actually follows through with his promise to beat your time. ;) Doing the tricep dips and the row back to back is where I would've gotten stuck...you know...if it were 20 reps each. hahaha. 100 is insanity.

    1. The truly killer part of the 100 was the order in which things were supposed to be done: it is 100% deliberate (pun intended...hahaha)

      I suspect Tony won't really follow through (lol) but if he does, I will keep you posted. ;)

  4. I hurt just thinking about any one part of this. You are literally my hero, but you knew that already.