Breaking Out of a Training Rut

 

Strength training can take a toll on your body and your mind.

Here’s how to avoid staying in a rut you can’t pull out of.

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Anybody would think that the weight lifting / strength training lifestyle would be good fer ya.

But once you’ve been doing it for a while,
… there are gonna be times when you come to doubt it.

You roll out of bed in the morning with your shoulder poppin’,
and your knees hurtin’,
and your elbows achin’,
and your back screamin’….

Of course, you might just chalk that up to getting old…..

I’m 52, and stuff is gonna hurt just natural from chasin girls all those years.

Naaaah…… 52 is the new 32, din’t ya hear?

Yeah, raht.

We all know that weight training IS good fer ya, especially if you’re over 40 –

it allows you to keep the muscle you already got,
… and maybe even put on some new muscle, too….

it helps keep your body producing vital hormones like testosterone and growth hormone….

it stimulates the mind and helps keep you alert and focused……

it is a vital part of maintaining libido, promotes firm erections, and drives motivation…..

it help keep you looking younger and fitter than most people fifteen or twenty years younger than you….

( it also puts you in close proximity with gym hotties you probably wouldnt get near without tuckin’ five dollar bills in their g-strings otherwise….. )

But some days……… yow.

I recently went through a period of time, about 5 weeks, where my training was just draggin’.

Man, I mean really draggin’.

It wasn’t like I wasnt lifting as heavy —
—it just seemed that I was just working a lot harder to get it in.

My joints seemed to hurt more, and my recovery slowed to a crawl.

I wasn’t adding more weight to the stack —
— and I was walking out of the gym every day feeling completely done in.

Now,
…. let’s talk about the several possible culprits here,

———- assuming you don’t just say that I’m past it.

Cause I ain’t.

Nowhere near.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, ask yourself the questions I have listed in BOLD.

The first thing I did when I noticed the lack of progress and the additional soreness, was to have a physical and my blood checked.

What the doctor and I were looking for was a reduction in my T-Levels, or a physiological problem, like with red blood cells or liver function.

And, although I did have raised levels of creatinine
( a by product of creatine supplementation, but also a marker for reduced liver function )

…… and a surplus of Iron —
( mens bodies don’t use much iron, and if this additional iron isn’t cleared from the system, it can be dangerous ),

there wasn’t anything immediately pertinent to the issue at hand…..

T levels looked nominal, red blood cells slightly high but ok.
No infection, nothing that out of the ordinary.

This is the first question one should ask —
— is there a medical condition that could be causing a lag in training?

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Secondly, I looked at my sleep and rest patterns.

Again, somewhat problematic —- I work at night – and sleep a broken pattern–
a nap in the morning, then hit the gym, and a couple hours sleep before work in the evening.

But, the truth is, that really hasn’t changed much in the last coupla years — I see no reason why it would be affecting me much more only now.

I can’t discount the fact that I am lifting more weight — I am working harder — than ever before, and that very well could mean that I need more sleep than ever before, too.

I found an extra half an hour I was wasting in the morning before my nap, and another half hour in the evening – an extra hour of sleep translates into 20% more sleep – which should translate into me being more rested – and boosting my recovery, too.

As far as ‘rest days’ is concerned, I was lifting five times a week, with a ‘compressed all around day’ on Saturday, which included several leg components previously worked that week on Wednesdays ( my regular leg day ), including heavy squats and deadlifts.

Over-training could be a possibility, certainly.

I decided that, for a time, I would delete the Saturday ‘all around’ workout completely, and especially not work my legs on any other day than my regular legs day.

An extra off day shouldn’t affect my strength negatively, as long as I’m hitting it hard the rest of the week.

As you know, your muscles only grow when they’re at rest – so I should actually gain strength in the long run.

So, the second question one should ask —
— Am I getting enough rest, sleep and recovery time?

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Now it was time to look at my nutrition.

I realized right off that my protein intake had been seriously reduced over the last couple months due to a Spring lean-out program I had been following, which stresses fruits and vegetables over meat — very effective at leaning me out, but clearly might be affecting my strength.

( Hey – ya can’t blame me for wanting to look good in my bathing suit, ya know? )

I had not compensated for the reduction in protein with more whey, because I wanted to avoid the calories, instead adding more BCAA’s.

Studies indicate that whole proteins are more effective in this context.

I was also not ‘eating up’ for a training session like I used to… and decided to follow my carb intake more carefully to ensure the necessary fuel for my workouts.

The best strength training diet contains enough calories to run the body and a little extra to build muscle – in the proportion of 40% proteins, 30% carbs, and 30% fat.

A daily caloric restriction below 2500 is not efficient for strength building.

Third Question —
Am I getting enough good calories – at the correct ratio – to fuel my workouts?

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Another important concern has to do with supplementation.

I wondered how resistant my body had grown to absorbing certain supplements I had been using for a long period of time.

Creatine is a good example… I don’t ‘cycle’ Creatine as some people do, i don’t see the point.

However, I did realize that my creatine intake was sporadic- I would take it on my workout days, but not on my rest days… was that causing my creatine levels to be less than optimally loaded?

The fact that my creatinine levels were high makes me wonder whether there’s too much, or too little, creatine being reserved in my cells.

I decided to be more consistent in my creatine intake, and that of beta-alanine as well.

I’ll have another blood test in six months…. we’ll see what the regularity of intake will do to my creatinine levels….. and go from there.

Glutamine is a terrific supplement to aid in recovery — again, it’s used extensively on my workout days, but hardly at all on my off days – and now that I have an extra off day, I will have to make an extra special effort to get it in.

Two supplements that I had taken completely off my list were: Glucosamine/Chondrotin/MSM and Cissus… they were expensive, and I thought I could do without them…..

I realize now that they had been very effective in keeping my joints feeling well, and the pain in check, and have since added them back.

I have also added back a testosterone booster …. I was using X-Test by Xcience, which I found to be excellent, but it was pulled by my supplier, and I have been doing without. I have added a product called “Tribuloid”, and am currently evaluating it. I’ll let ya know.

I guess the bottom line on these supplements is this:
……… you might not feel them working, but you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Fourth Question:
Am I using those supplements that help me attain my goals?

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A lot of guys who find themselves stuck in a rut start with the next question…. and it certainly is an important one…. because of muscle fibers’ uncanny ability to adapt themselves to a workout program….. you’ve got to mix up your workout, and try to keep your muscles off balance— constantly responding and growing.

This is the ‘muscle confusion’ theory… it’s almost like your muscles are like a repetitive job worker— they get bored of doing the same old work, and just kinda do the minimum required of them. Punch in, do whats required, punch out. Yawn yawn.

If you wanna get stronger, you’ve got to constantly change up your workout- the intensity, the movements, the implements, even the order of when you work certain groups.

The changes can be simple, like alternating wide grip bench presses with narrow grip, or more complicated, like adding dumbbells and machines to overhead pressing with just a bar.

A change like using a straight bar instead of an easy curl bar will force your body to respond, when it has adapted to curls the old way, you betcha. Even if you have to temporarily lighten up the weight.

I modified my workout so that I’m adding new movements, and variations on old ones. I’m alternating stiff legged deadlifts with sumos, for instance, and the variety feels great.

I changed the order of my push-pull sets… and varying the intensity as well.

I needed the change, and it really rejuvenated my whole routine.


Question Five:
Am I constantly provoking my muscles to add strength with new challenges??

This last one is the one most overlooked, and also the one that causes the most people to give up strength training all together…….

It’s not enough to go to the gym, and do the work.

You gotta have the eye of the tiger while you’re doing it.

It’s one part intensity, one part aggression, one part just plain bad attitude.

You gotta know you’re a monster…. and there ain’t a weight made you cant lift.

Call me a jerk, but get outta my way, cause it’s time to hit it.

Pain? I’ll worry about that after I’m done lifting these cream puff weights.

It just boils down to attitude….. you gotta stay fired up – or find a way to get fired up.

And everybody has a different way of doing it, although it really is all self-talk.

By self talk, I mean encouraging yourself through positive statements, and avoiding thinking negative.

It can’t be: ” oh jeez, not time for the gym again…”

It’s gotta be: “oh yes!!! Time for the GYM !!! ”


The last question:
Do I have my mind right???


…………………….. Well, DO YA ?????

HOY!!!

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You Got Mail

aaHo Hum….
Yawn Yawn.

I never seem to get any interesting email anymore.

Oh wait….

The AOL ‘you’ve got mail’ guy tells me I got mail.

Lessee……….

(sounds of tearing envelopes.
Hey- Use yer imagination!! )

Oh goodie. Just in time for my blog. What a coincidence, huh?

Here’s an interesting email I just got.

“Any suggestions on getting going for the gym when youre not feeling like it?”

Well, thanks for the interesting email !! Absolutely!!!

The one very important aspect of strength training that is often overlooked is the psychological one…

(and while my background is in strength training, you can apply this perspective to any kind of training.)

—– motivation,

and more particularly – the phenomena of perceived weight load/overload.

I’ve often been in the gym on a day when I just didn’t feel like working out.

I’ll drag my ass in there anyway, because I know – that if I didn’t,
I’d feel even worse (and lazier) the NEXT day.

But, once there, I’d have to “get my mind right” – that is, psych myself up.

The right music helps, but in the end, its just ‘YOU’ versus ‘LAZY YOU’,
or ‘IT HURTS, YOU’
or ‘IT’S TOO HEAVY YOU’
or ‘I’D RATHER BE WATCHIN OPRAH YOU’
(no, no… NOT THAT! Say it ain’t SO!)
Well, you know what I mean.

I like to run a kinda game on myself.

Before starting a heavy set, say- deadlifts, I’ll repeat 5 or 6 times:
(under my breath , usually…
though, maybe people CAN hear me, because I do get a LOT of funny looks in the gym……
—- but maybe it’s just ’cause I’m funny lookin’….. who knows – )

“NO WEIGHT” , “NO WEIGHT”
“NO WEIGHT”
“NO WEIGHT” “NO WEIGHT”

Now- of course, consciously, I know that 630 pounds weighs 630 pounds.
………….But exactly what does 630 pounds FEEL LIKE?

Well, that’s where this little ritual comes in…. it’s still 630 pounds,
but it feels much lighter than what I would expect 630 pounds to weigh if I hadn’t run thru my lil ritual.

Get it? SURE- It’s all in your mind…. and- that’s the point.

Your are using your MIND as a muscle to help you lift the weight.

Hey, before you scoff yerself off, TRY IT.

A lot of people use it, and it works.

When I was coaching youth baseball, I used to preach to the kids that they
should VISUALIZE themselves making a play or hitting the ball before they actually stepped in to play;

the parents seemed to think I was crazy, but the kids that tried it found that it actually improved their game.

This is the phenomena of the ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ or ‘Pygmalion effect’; and I used it often when I was teaching motivational sales techniques back in my rat-race days as well.

In Sociologist Robert Merton’s ground breaking book “Social Theory and Social Structure”,

he described this effect , and wrote it occured when “a false definition of the situation evokes  a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true”.

If you like to read, I highly recommend “Iron Mind: Stronger Minds, Stronger Bodies”  by R. Strossen;

it was a great primer on “getting yer mind right” for a session of lifting heavy weights, broken down into small ‘digestible’ pieces.

Just remember – your motivation must be mental.

Your body is never gonna say “let’s workout!”.

Mind First – Body Follows.

Choose to do it – then DO it.

HOY!!

Supplement Ingredients to Avoid

supplementsAnybody who has read this blog knows that I’m a dietary supplement fan of the highest order.

I’d rather do my own research, titrate and use a supplement than take a hundred prescription drugs…

I don’t trust most doctors (they don’t call it ‘practicing medicine’ for no reason, after all) to give a flip whether a drug is right for me or not;

…..and with the drug companies pushin all kinds of poisons these days just to make a buck, well, let’s just say I’d rather take the responsibility MYSELF.

With that said however, it’s important to realize the importance of knowing thy ingredients!

Many supplements are blends of different ingredients, theoretically working synergistically together; but sometimes this is not the case: it is up to the consumer to determine whether the ingredients in a supplement are safe and efficaceous.

If a product contains L-Tyrosine, you must know WHY it’s in there, and what it does.

And often , you will find a product with ingredients with no good purpose for inclusion, other than filling up the label with impressive looking gobbledy-gook.

Or worse – some products actually contain dangerous ingredients that will maim, cripple, kill, or just mess up yer day.

So, heres a short list of dangerous (or worthless) ingredients in supplements that I have recently spotted on labels.

Remember: READ EVERY LABEL,
Know your ingredients, and Caveat Emptor!

An ingredient that is sometimes found in “muscle volumizers” and “creatine-protein blends” is called Glycocyamine.

The main idea behind its supplementation is that it is converted to creatine by our bodies, so taking in more glycocyamine results in higher creatine and homocysteine levels.

Well, boosting homecysteine levels has been found to be VERY BAD, and the inclusion of it in these products has been shown to neurotoxic ; cause neural misfiring ; increased cardiovascular disease; increased free radicals and oxidation ; enzyme inhibition ; DECREASED muscle contraction, performance and strength. Who needs THAT?

Here’s a real bad one: Aristolochic Acid, sometimes called fang ji (Aristolochia fangchi), or wild ginger (Asarum canadense). It’s sold as part of some diet aids; it’s supposed to be a fat burner, but all it burns is your kidneys and liver….OUT. It also causes cancer – and worse: erectile dysfunction. OH NICE!

Kava Kava (Piper methysticum) is an herb included in supplements purported to promote relaxation, to reduce sleeplessness, and to relieve menopausal symptoms. (Hopefully, that isn’t a problem for you…) Whether or not kava actually does any of these things has not been adequately substantiated. Kava-containing products have been associated with hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure in over 25 reports of adverse events recently, four of these patients required liver transplants. The only good thing about it is you might sleep through all the operations you’ll have to have.

Other dangerous ingredients in “Fat Burners” and “Diet Aids” (and there’s a lot of them out there…) include:
Chaparral, Comfrey, Germander, Scullcap, all of which are known or likely causes of liver failure; Lobella because of its impact on the heart; and Pennyroyal Oil because of possible liver, kidney and nerve damage. None of these have any real effectiveness (for GYM RATS, anyway..) to outweigh their dangers.

One might also include ephedra – but NOT ME – Ephedra is certainly dangerous in the hands of idiots and those people sensitive to it, but it is also extremely effective, and, if used carefully, it’s benefits certainly outweigh it’s downside.

Also avoid HIGH DOSE herbs, mineral and vitamins in products like:

Vitamin A (in doses of 25,000 or more International Units a day)
Possible Health Hazards: birth defects, bone abnormalities, and severe liver disease

Vitamin B6 (in doses above 250 milligrams a day)
Possible Health Hazards: balance difficulties, nerve injury causing changes in touch sensation

Niacin (in slow-released doses of 1000 mg or more a day or immediate-release doses of 1500 mg or more a day)
Possible Health Hazards: range from stomach pain, vomiting, bloating, nausea, cramping, and diarrhea to liver disease, muscle disease, eye damage, and heart injury

Selenium (in doses of about 800 micrograms to 1,000 mcg a day)
Possible Health Hazards: tissue damage

Geranium (a nonessential mineral)
Possible Health Hazards: kidney damage, possibly death OR WORSE

L-trytophan (an amino acid)
Possible Health Hazards: eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, a potentially fatal blood disorder that can cause high fever, muscle and joint pain, weakness, skin rash, and swelling of the arms and legs

Gentian (sold as an appetite suppressant -actually an appetite stimulant )

Carveol (sold as a fat burner – it just doesnt work.)

Isopimpinellin (sold as a fat burner – it’s a coumarin – a blood thinner)

Diiodothyroacetic Acid – ( it’s a thyroid metabolite – causes increases in the retention of body fat )

Also remember to check the flavoring and sweeteners used:

AVOID Aspartame (Nutra-sweet, Equal, Spoonful)
Possible health hazards: retinal damage, anxiety, depression, confusion, headaches, forgetfulness and chronic fatigue disorder.
AVOID SOY proteins and/or soy derivatives whenever possible; unless you WANT to look like you should be wearing a tube top and heels.

Now, this list is BY NO MEANS all-inclusive; these are simply some of the ones I have seen recently. I will add more to the list as I see them or as readers send me the studies.

Check your labels carefully, and if you don’t know what a certain ingredient does—— ,

Email me, look it up, or ask somebody who knows.

Remember: It’s YOUR body.. take charge of it’s care and feeding!

(Note: this post and any other posts of mine are strictly for entertainment purposes only, and are not to be taken as medical advice or any other kind of fuckin advice for that matter… see your own doctor before entertaining any ideas of using any of this entertainment for your own entertainment. If you’re a minor, supplements aren’t for you.. you’ve still got growth issues and bone development things, and this stuff could interfere with all that shit and mess you up good….. , and you shouldn’t be reading this blog anyway, so don’t read another word…… just go get some exercise – play some ‘find the weasel’ with Sara Jane, play football or baseball – or if all else fails, Nintendo- but get off the Internet. Get it? Good.)

Cardio– first or last ?

kilt As so often happens in the world of fitness, there seems to be a contradiction in what experts think the best method of combining cardio and weight training into a single work out is….

I was at GNC on Saturday, in time to hear a clerk there tell a customer ( young male, 25 or so, 25%? body fat ) that cardio should never be done after resistance training.

And, that he should do cardio one day, and resistance training the next, and so on.

Alrighty– he’s not an expert, he’s a guy working at GNC.

But there are several studies that I have read, that basically said the same thing.

So, who to believe?

Well, this is one of them things that doesn’t have one right answer—

It gets back to knowing your body, understanding your workout, and determining the most efficient way to attain your goals.

I can tell you how I understand it….

There was a definitive Japanese study in 2005, that showed peak power was improved over a four month period by doing strength training FIRST , and then following that up with 30-45 minutes of cardio .

That has always worked for me.

But think about it — that’s for a person who trains for strength — I don’t give a hot damn about the mirror.

If you’re cutting, or on weight loss regimen, or trying to trim up for bikini season, I’d spend much time more time doing cardio— before and after resistance training.

More cardio at the 165-180 heart rate range is what will get you the results in this case .

Light resistance training, like in this example, is for toning, not for building and adding, muscle.

Sure, you can build muscle and do cardio, too — but it’s more in how you balance your workout — 40% of the workout might be cardio, and 60% might be heavier-resistance training.

I still say, though…. save cardio for the end.

Questions?

Comments?

Send em: carolinamuscle@outlook.com

HOY !!!!

chinreducer

Prolonging Muscle Contractions for Power

legdayI spent much of last month’s Mondays in the gym working out with an exercise physiologist…

I dunno how you get to be an exercise physiologist,

but I guess that’s not really important right now….

( I’ll have to ask that question one of these workouts… )

Anyhoo…. he introduced himself on a leg day in December, while I was on the leg press….

He said he’d like to work in, (lighter, of course) and see if he could put some of his ideas into practice.

We got to talking about it, and I decided to help him.

Now, I have no problem with this .. it seems to me that he and I both could benefit, if we can mutually find ways of improving power output and reducing recovery time.

He’ll probably get a study published or some such,
….. and me, well,
I’ll be happy if I just can add some additional power to my arsenal.

We’ve been working on prolonging muscle contractions to increase long term power — quadriceps in particular.

Basically– flexing your quads while slowing down your reps to a crawl.

Initially, I wasn’t happy about him taking almost 200 pounds off the sled on my first test set….

We ended up putting it back on for the 2 thru the 4th sets for a working weight of 1260 or so.

The slower rep added to the contraction really made my quads pop, tho.

I was really sore with DOMS for about 48 hours after, but four days later, my legs felt like they were ready to pull the jet.

( We do that in the fall, though. )

We’re gonna do some more testing for the next 4 weeks, and I’ll let you know the final results, but I can tell you now that it’s gonna be a net gain.

I can feel it in my quads.

Remember: DON’T SKIP LEG DAY !!!!

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