Sunday, July 6, 2008

What to Choose, What to Let Go

Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this. (Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu)

Pennsy's great experiment has concluded. First I confess to the failures. I didn't do nearly as much cardio as I planned. I rode the bike to work a couple of times, and spent some time walking on the treadmill, but the running, climbing, spinning stuff was pretty much not part of my routine. And I hit the wall like my feathered friend here at the two hour mark of today's work out. Every part of me was either shaking, screaming, or wanting to puke. It was time to stop, so I stopped without doing any of the arm isolation lifts I had planned.

What to Choose

Now for the successes. (Comparing June 21 to July 6)
Weight decreased from 357 - 354
Body Fat % decreased from 32.1 - 31.9
Lean Body mass stayed at 241 lb - three pounds of fat up in smoke
And the personal best lifts.
Bench Press 155 - 175
Lat Pulldowns 160 - 180
Deadlift 145 - 195
Squat 105 - 225
Pushups 0 - 28 (4 x 7 in between 4 x 30 Crunches)
I also found, by checking my heart rate during these workouts, that because I tried to keep up a good pace, my heart was beating between 120 and 140 BPM - not exactly running, but not exactly watching summer re-runs either.

I gained a lot of strength in the big exercises where I wanted to see growth. More strength = more weight = more muscle mass to gobble up fat. I have been getting on the treadmill without pain for several days now, and those bigger muscles will start paying dividends when I can get my heart rate up to a training level and keep it there for a while.

The long two day rest periods worked well. I did get tired by the end of these long sessions, but I never started out that way. And I found myself anticipating getting back to the gym all day when the recovery days were finally over. When I lift heavy weight, my long-neglected muscles are going to require greater rest periods - more time to run!

What to Let Go

There are some things I would change if I were to undertake this kind of intense muscle building course again. First, I would make the work-outs shorter. Too many exercises, especially arms and shoulders. I wanted to work Biceps and Triceps and all three Deltoid directions, but wound up burning too much fuel (and time) on these toning exercises. I would probably include leg curls in that bunch too. My focus needs to be on whole body conditioning, not isolated muscle sculpting. If I keep doing push ups and pulling heavy deadlifts and squats then my legs and arms are going to look just fine. I'll do body building later. Right now, I'm still in the demolition phase - making muscle to burn fat.

And too many reps, I think. My 20, 12, & 8 plan was not a random choice. I wanted to start with light weight and high reps to be sure my form was solid before testing my limits. That was wise, I think, and something I'll probably continue as I add new movements into a routine. But after a while, I found I used up a lot of gas grinding out those 45 lb bench presses. I would like to have been able to test that 200 lb barrier, but not yet.

Bench pressing without a spotter is holding me back. Now that I have had the experience of straining to lift a 175 lb barbell back into the hooks, it's time for me to bury my pride or shyness or insecurity or whatever it is and ask someone for help. I think I don't want to ask because I'm still lifting so much less than most of the guys back on the wieght floor. If I want to get over the hump, I'm going to have to get over my reluctance to ask for a spotter's assistance.

Pride, pride, pride: the single greatest cause of injury in the gym. I need to remember that I am a beginner, and will be for many years. I will work hard and grow and learn, but it will take time before other lifters are watching me the way I watch the guys with ths skinny legs squatting 285 in the power cage. I may be much stronger than that one day, but for now I need to remember where I am - at the beginning of a journey.

What I Take With Me on the Journey

Making a plan like this, and sticking to it was a very good thing. It created a goal and a time-table - a finish line to press toward. It turned my routine into an event with a beginning, middle, and an end. At times I was tempted to improvise - to change up the plan - and while I did substitute lifts a couple of times (ex. standing barbell curls for preacher curls) I did not yield to that temptation. I stuck with the discipline of the program. I hope I'll learn to design better plans, but working from a plan based on weeks and not days felt really good to me.

I have been thinking about Personal Trainers. I think I might like to be one some day. This is very early to contemplate such a thing - like wanting to be a doctor because you liked you first two months of high-school biology, but it is something that's on my mind. I need a lot more experience, and I need to build a body that elicits confidence, and I need to know a lot of stuff, but still I keep thinking that I might end up being a 55 year old personal trainer somehow. I guess I'll mention these dreams to Brad at my quarterly review in two weeks and get his thoughts. Soon as I feel comfortable about paying for it, I should probably start working with a personal trainer myself. And of course, I'll do what I always do when I start a new obsession - I'll read books and blogs about it. I will test it out and see if this is just a late-midlife thing, or a real vocation I want to pursue.

For now, that will do. And for now, it's pretty good being Pennsy.

Peace, y'all.

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