The End of Deload Week and Why “Going Viking” Isn’t for Everyone

leg cramp cat

That’s it. My first deload week is over, although I don’t know how effectively I actually “deloaded.” Granted, I wasn’t lifting as heavy as I could, but I was still nudging the weight up more than 40 to 60% of my 1RM.

The day didn’t start well. I woke up early to a cramp in my calf. The muscles involved always feel sore afterward, as if they are bruised. I didn’t walk with much of a limp when I got out of bed at a quarter to four, but the calf was still tender, and I noticed my lower back was aching a little too, probably from yesterday’s squats.

As with my other deload days, I had only a semi-plan for what I wanted to do this morning. I figured I’d change it up from the last time I did this routine. You’ll see what I mean below. Rest times weren’t all that long in the beginning, maybe a minute or so. By the time I was doing my dumbbell shoulder press though, I was resting a full 2 minutes between sets.

Here’s how I wrapped up deload week.



Overhead Press in Squat Rack

5x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 45lbs/20.4117kg
5x 50lbs/22.6796kg
5x 55lbs/24.9476kg
5x 60lbs/27.2155kg
5x 60lbs/27.2155kg

Rack Pulls in Squat Rack

5x 135lbs/61.235kg (warm up)
5x 185lbs/83.9146kg
5x 185lbs/83.9146kg
5x 185lbs/83.9146kg
5x 200lbs/90.7185kg
5x 200lbs/90.7185kg

Bent Leg Deadlifts

5x 135lbs/61.235kg (warm up)
5x 155lbs/70.3068kg
5x 175lbs/79.3787kg
5x 185lbs/83.9146kg
5x 195lbs/88.4505kg
5x 195lbs/88.4505kg

sumo deadlift
Photo credit:

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press (5×10) 22.5lbs/10.20583kg

10x 30lbs/13.6078kg
10x 25lbs/11.3398kg
10x 25lbs/11.3398kg
10x 25lbs/11.3398kg
10x 25lbs/11.3398kg

Bodyweight Bar Supported Squats
x10, x10, x10

Quad Stretch
Lx 30 sec
Rx 30 sec
Lx 30 sec
Rx 30 sec

Ham Stretch
x 60 sec

Butterfly Stretch
x60 sec

I arrived at the gym a couple of minutes before it opened. The regular Thursday crew was there. When I got inside, I ditched my hoodie and headed for the squat rack. Again, I was the first one in the weight room and made my claim.

Lifting just the 45 pound bar for my warm up set felt heavy, which is why I need to warm up. I did my first 3 sets at the same weights I did last time, but then, I increased the weight 5 more pounds up to 60 and did another 2 sets of 5 reps per. I’m anticipating increased weights next week and thought I should get used to them.

Instead of switching to deadlifts, I stayed in the squat rack and did rack pulls. I did one warm up set and then pulled the next 3 sets at the same weight as last Monday. But for the final 3 sets, I upped the weight to an even 200 pounds and did another 5 reps per set. It didn’t feel as heavy as I thought it would.

Then I turned to deadlifts.

Last time, I treated them as an assistance lift, doing 5 sets of 10 reps per set using a 135 pound barbell. Today, I felt like making deadlifts more like a main lift, keeping my sets at only 5 reps per.

After a warm up set at 135 pounds, I kept increasing the weight. Nothing particularly outrageous. I maxed out at only 195 pounds for the last 2 sets.

Photo credit:

By this time, shaved head guy and formerly broken foot guy were in the weight room lifting. I forced myself to ignore the thought (for the most part) that formerly broken foot guy can deadlift an excess of 250 pounds for multiple sets of 5 reps per set.

This is deload week. This is deload week. This is deload week. But running that thought through my head wasn’t all that comforting.

I turned to my one and only assistance lift-style exercise: seated dumbbell shoulder presses.

Just to see how I’d manage it, I started with a pair of 30 pound dumbbells. I’d forgotten about the weights I used last week for this lift, so in my mind, 30 pound dumbbell shoulder presses sounded challenging.

I cranked out a set of 10 reps and although it was doable, I knew I couldn’t sustain that weight for even one more set. I switched to two 25 pound dumbbells and told myself I’d use them until I got too tired, then I’d move down to a couple of 22.5 pounders.

But I didn’t have to reduce the weight of the dumbbells again. I pulled off 4 sets with the 25s. Last Monday, I did all 5 sets of the same exercise using two 22.5 pound dumbbells.

I was kind of feeling impressed with myself until I checked my performance at the same lift for last Thursday. Then, I did the first 3 sets with two 25 pound dumbbells and the last 2 using a pair of 30 pounders. So I hadn’t managed a new record for this exercise. Oh well, I still think I’m getting better.

Consider that during the first week of my 5/3/1 reboot, for my Thursday lifts, I started dumbbell shoulder presses with 20 pounds for the first set, moved up to 22.5 for the second, and finished off the last 3 using a pair of 25s. On the previous Monday, I started with 25 pounds, moved down to 22.5 for the second set, and finished the last 3 at 20 pounds.

Something’s got to be improving, at least a little.

going viking
Photo: Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen

I know this is something of a non sequitur, but I came across an article the other day called Why I’m going Viking – and why you should too written by a guy named Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen. His blog touts him as a Novelist, Screenwriter, and Blogger and he was born in Oslo, Norway the year I graduated from high school.

But what’s this “going Viking” business? Here’s what Bull-Hansen has to say about it:

Going Viking doesn’t mean dressing up as a Viking. Going Viking has nothing to do with how you dress. Although, I must say that personally, wearing Viking clothes is my natural state and it’s when I have to look like a modern man that I’m «dressing up».

Going Viking doesn’t mean that you sail out to raid monasteries either. It could mean that, but last time I checked, it was sort of illegal. Going Viking means that you leave your home for an extended period of time and go in search of adventure. Yes, I know it sounds a bit romantic. But it’s the truth. Going Viking means just that. And I think everybody should do it.

Reminds me of something Yoda (Frank Oz) said in the film The Empire Strikes Back (1980):

Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things.

I guess there’s a big difference between Vikings and Jedis.

So what’s my point?

Men tend to be testosterone driven critters. On some level, we’re all competing for something and trying to impress someone. Maybe it’s with our income or the type of car we drive. Maybe it’s our big fancy house or all the cool stuff we have inside of it.

Photo credit:

Sometimes it’s a big pickup truck and other times it’s power tools.

And yes, for some of us, it’s how heavy a barbell we can pick up and put down again.

But according to Bull-Hansen, it can also be going off in search of adventure. But is that for the purpose of impressing someone or competing with someone, or could there be another motivation?

Nothing good comes to those who live their lives in front of their tv. A great single-handed ocean sailor (I’ve forgotten his name) said that «The world is full of guys moving the lawn and watching tv. They’re already dead and they don’t even know it.» Read those sentences again and think about it for a while. We all know guys (and girls) like that. And it’s kind of sad to see how they’re wasting their lives.

In other words, there’s more to life than paying bills and then dying.

Bull-Hansen’s version of “going Viking” involves not only traveling to see the world, but seeking wealth as well as adventure. And while wealth can be financial gain, it can also be emotional or even spiritual acquisitions; the process of “gaining experience and becoming a wiser man or woman.”


Also, going Viking is different from just travelling. It is not globetrotting. A Viking will not necessarily respect the cultures and traditions he encounters. I know this sounds harsh, but stay with me and just think about it for a moment. For example, if you travel to a country where it’s common practice that the parents marry off their infant daughters, will you respect that? If it’s a tradition to torture animals to death, will you respect that tradition and the people upholding it? I don’t think you will. Respect is, for a Viking, not something anyone is entiteled [sic] to by default. It must be earned. And let me tell you this: The truth is that not all cultures are equally valuable. Some are cruel, sick and twisted. As a Viking, you have no tolerance for those.

adventure abroad

Going Viking, it seems, is not so much about being a tourist as it is about experiencing the environment and filtering different people and locations through your own code of honor and decency. It’s not at all about being “politically correct” or “tolerant.”

Is “going Viking” for everyone? Bull-Hansen seems to think so, but he does have a caveat:

I’m not saying that you should stop everything you’re doing, quit your job and run out your door. You might have children who need your presence. And you might want to do a bit of planning. But start planning now. Don’t wait. Start planning for that great adventure, and start now. Not tomorrow, but now. Today.

I wonder how many men don’t wait but indeed do leave their wives and children to seek, if not adventure, experience, and wisdom, something they think will make them happier. That’s not becoming wiser. Abandoning your responsibilities to satisfy your personal desires does not make you a better person.

So… caught up in the past that I… *You* are my greatest adventure, and I almost missed it.

-Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson)
from the film The Incredibles (2004)

But I get it. Most of us really do get stuck in a routine. We get up, eat breakfast, go to work, go home, eat dinner, unwind in front of the TV or at the computer, then go to bed…and then do the same thing the next day, day after day.

We mow lawns on the weekend, clean toilets, take kids to soccer practice, occasionally go out with the guys for coffee or beers.

We do the same things year after year after year, and then we wake up one morning and we’re old. We find that there are many more days behind us than there are ahead, and we’ve run out of time for adventure.

Or we wake up one day to a diagnosis of cancer, or ALS, or Alzheimer’s, and we realize that the only “adventure” ahead is the futile effort to extend our lives and our cognitive abilities as long as possible as we watch bodies and minds decline in their slow (or rapid) march toward death.

Given that perspective, I can see Bull-Hansen’s point.

But I don’t think it’s worth it for that group of men (or women) who feel they can’t wait for the right time, and have to leave behind everyone who depends on them in order to not waste their lives in front of the TV or paying taxes.

viking ship
Photo: YouTube Channel: Viking Ship / History Documentary

Going Viking, if I understand all this correctly, is “planful” and it doesn’t mean you go on your grand adventure for the rest of your life.

I have been going Viking before. I sailed my yacht from the Mediterrenean [sic], out into the Atlantic and up to Norway. I was mostly sailing alone, and it was a life changing experience. It added greatly to my «fehu» and I know I have to do it again, but next time I will sail to North America, maybe following the route of the Viking settler

Plan the right time, budget for it in terms of money and scheduling. When everything is lined up, go on the adventure…and then come back to your family.

For some, I think “going Viking” might not necessarily be a solitary pursuit (but then, it might not be considered “going Viking” anymore). Yes, some guys need to go on that solitary adventure for a few days, weeks, or months, but others will go with a group of guys, and some will share their adventure with their wives and even their children (the adventure would have to be child-appropriate, of course).

I’m probably not describing Bull-Hansen’s idea of “going Viking” anymore, but hopefully I am describing something that helps us get away from the daily grind occasionally. I think this has to be more than going on vacation and playing tourist. I think this has more to do with taking (calculated) risks and seeking out something that will make you more than who you are today.

It could be climbing mountains to test your physical strength and endurance, but the same exact journey could also be to seek a closeness to nature or to God.

Walking such divergent paths might not require that you even leave home. For some, reading and studying the ancient texts of your spiritual orientation are considered an adventure; a way to grow more morally and spiritually. Observant Jews especially Chasidim spend much of their lives in study halls or in their homes learning the wisdom of the ancient sages and seeking ever greater spiritual or even mystical heights.

While going Viking seems to have a very specific set of parameters, I think we can “kill” a life of mediocrity using other methods. If the goal is not to live life in the rat race or the rut, then anything that gets you out of there and onto a path that leads you, not just to emotional or physical gratification, but to you learning to be a better “you,” is worthwhile.

I’ve said that going to the gym and lifting weights has emotional and even spiritual benefits. Maybe someone’s idea of “going Viking” is taking what they’ve gained from lifting and letting it lead them to competing as bodybuilders or powerlifters.

Photo credit:

It certainly worked for “Cowboy” Gene Lawrence who started strength training at the age of 66 and now in his mid-70s, proudly boasts of his winning numerous powerlifting competitions within his age bracket.

We need to go on adventures, and for some, that will be going Viking. But for many others, we’ll operate outside of that particular “box” and find what it is that our bodies and souls need. For some of us, it’s waking up every morning at 4 a.m. and stepping into the squat rack by 5, loading some metal plates on a barbell, stepping under it, and then starting to lift.

I don’t know if I’d call that “adventure,” but it’s a good way to start the day, or a good part of living a life.

If you’re not excited about it, it’s not the right path.

Abraham Hicks


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