Tuesday, November 23, 2010

#280: Loving Recovery Day

It's recovery day, and I'm pretty stiff. May just do a nice easy walk around the park with Jake later. I realize that yesterday's post may have been a little esoteric, so I thought I'd fill in some blanks for anyone who's interested. First of all, here's a link to the gym/church. I don't know much about this community, but I sure liked the people I met yesterday.

My time in the mile walk was not impressive at all, but I did feel good about a couple of things. I was able to keep good form the whole way. I left my teeth in, and they did not fall out or choke me. My mouth started to dry out at the end, but it only took a little water afterwards to put me back in shape. The best part was that I was able to go full-out the entire time. By that, I mean that I didn't have to slow down or rest along the way and my pace in the second half mile was not much slower than the first. The track is a balcony around a single basketball court and 17 laps make a mile. It takes a little concentration to keep up with the counting, but it's better than walking on a treadmill. I like running on them, but walking a mile on a belt is just a little boring, even if you do get to watch yourself in the mirror the whole time. I didn't measure my heart rate, but I broke a good sweat and felt like I had gotten a righteous first workout, so I'm not too concerned about that data just yet.

One bit of data that I am pleased about is my weight. I had a doctor's appointment yesterday morning and my weight was 319. That's 80 lbs lost since my surgery day. I know that a lot of that was muscle weight, but I can build that up again. It's the fat that I'm so pleased to see gone. Most of my clothes fit better than they ever have, and a lot of them are too big to wear at all. I'll keep the giant jeans for my before/after picture. An advantage of the weight loss are the reduced strain on my heart and joints. Another is my reduced blood pressure. Once I get the meds and hydration issues worked out, that's going to improve my performance and allow me to work a lot harder.

Here is the book I'm using as my guide for resistance training. Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove base the workouts in The New Rules of Lifting on the principle that what goes on in the gym should mirror the actual movements we perform in life. The "six basic moves" are Pushing, Pulling, Lifting, Squatting. Lunging, and Twisting. This is different from bodybuilding. It isn't designed to sculpt the body, but rather to improve overall fitness and strength. Working this way may not turn you into Mr. Olympia, but if the cover photo is any indication, it can make you very pretty.

The authors emphasize complex movements. You can curl a heavy bar from your waist to your shoulder, or you can clean and press a really heavy bar from the ground to over your head in a single movement. These complex moves involve more big muscles and have much more cardio benefit, as well as improving strength. So that's how I intend to work.

So what about all these strangely named machines? Well the Lat Pull Down is a pretty standard one.

This exercise does a lot of things, but I'm only using it for one reason. I want to build up my arm, shoulder, and back strength to the point that I can do pull-ups.

The next one I did was the Converging Inclined Press which is a mouthful for a pretty simple gizmo.

This machine works like a pair of dumbbells. Each arm has to lift independently. The big advantage over free weights for me at this stage is that I can't drop the weight on myself or anyone else. Since I was not at all sure about my strength, this was a pretty good choice for a safe beginning pushing exercise. The next step will be to progress to presses with dumbbells with the goal of doing lots of push-ups before I start work on the bench press. Push-ups are probably the better exercise, but the bench press makes you feel so macho that it's hard to give up.

The last move I worked yesterday was twisting. My favorite exercise for this is called the Woodchopper. It is very simple and effective. As you can see from the photo, this movement involves every major muscle group, from the arms and shoulders through the core, and down to the thighs and calves. It is a great workout and really gets your blood pumping. The biggest benefit is probably the way it strengthens those famous core muscles from the abs all the way around to the small of your back. A strong core girdle is essential for stability. It also helps protect you from injury when you do anything from moving the refrigerator to picking up a sock from the floor. There are other twisting exercises, and I'm sure I'll do them, but I enjoy this one, especially at the end of a workout. It feels great when you're done. And you never know when you might need to chop some wood.

The last apparatus I mentioned yesterday was the Smith Machine.
A lot of people hate this machine. The rigid linear motion is not natural, and it can put you in some pretty weird positions. I've never used one, but I've watched people using them and never wanted to imitate them. A free barbell engages a lot more stabilizer muscles and ultimately allows you to lift more weight safely. On the other hand, I guess I understand the liability reasons for not having free bars in an unsupervised weight room. If you throw your back out, that's your fault. If you conk someone's grandma with a 45 lb Olympic bar doing clean and jerks, somebody's gonna get sued. I'm still not sure how I'll integrate the Smith Machine into my workouts. I don't have a lot of alternatives for squatting. There are a lot of people on the message boards who say that it's impossible to do deadlifts safely using the Smith. The movement for a lunge is very similar to the squat, so I may try to do those. I'm afraid my deadlifts will be limited to dumbbells until I can get access to a big bar. That's OK. It is going to be a while before I'll need to do a lot of weight. Right now I'm concentrating on re-learning how to move without falling over.

Actually, today I'm concentrating on re-learning how to move without screaming in pain. Gotta love recovery day.



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