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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I scared myself today

I dunno exactly how I got stuff mixed up in my head.

Lemme explain.

I pulled into the gym right on time today–

Wednesdays are kinda tricky, so I gotta git in there and get my workout in before the whole noon-time crowd jams in there.

I park my sled , take my helmet and headphones off, and am untying my gym-bag when I feel a jab between my shoulder blades.

I figure it’s one of my wise guy buddies from the gym, so I take my time turning around, and when I do, I got my eyes fixed laconically straight ahead.

Nobody there.

I look down, and there’s this little 4-foot-nuthin pregnant lady who doesn’t speak a word of English standing there, jabbering something in an unknown foreign tongue and waving a coat hanger.

Well, the obvious but rather grotesque ‘ look what you done to meI said no coat hangers ‘ jokes aside…

It took the Sherlock Holmes in me only about five minutes to determine that she had locked her keys in her Plymouth Voyager mini van, and she wanted me, who presumably looked like someone who could jimmy a lock, to, well, jimmy the lock.

Frankly, my first inclination was to tell her that I couldn’t speak a word of Northern Kalypuan and would never consider ever jimmying a lock even if I knew how ( ok, yes, I was gonna lie ) …..

But I didn’t know how to say all that in Northern Kalypuan, so I went and followed her to her car, trusty wire coat hanger in hand.

That mini van had to be the only Plymouth Voyager ever made that didn’t have a messed up weather seal around the door.. it was tight, man.

I worked on it for about 20 minutes until I finally got the verdammte thing to open… cussing under my breath the whole time about how it was messing up my workout and screwing around my schedule for the day.

So, anyway… when I got it open, I looked at her, and she has this expression that I’ve only seen in movies… like the chick who just rescued from the Gestapo by the guy in the rocket pack.

The+Rocketeer

Ok…
… maybe without the gag, the short skirt, and the Betty Page look-alike.

She was so happy and obviously relieved, that it made me forget the stuff I thought was so important a couple minutes ago.

My long be-labored point is that sometimes we all tend to over emphasize the importance of our routine in our daily activities…

Kindness can cost very little, and be a very big help.

People who are in need aren’t an interruption, but an opportunity to feel good about yourself and to make someone else happy.

And we should appreciate those times, and be more open to them.

Cause this poor ole world needs all shoulders to the wheel these days.

Hoy.

Zen and the Art of Powerlifting

Weight trainers, and particularly power lifters, combine the concentration and cooperation of all three kinds of being- mental, physical and spiritual, to achieve something approaching ‘mind over matter’.

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Being a big fan of Eastern philosophy has it’s advantages…. because, in weight lifting, you often find yourself faced with questions that could easily qualify as Koans….

…………… and like everything in life,
powerlifting is all in the way you look at it….

First, here’s a classic Koan:

A monk was asked to discard everything. “But I have nothing,” he exclaimed. “Discard that too!” ordered his master.

Now, the powerlifter’s Koan:

A powerlifter complained that he was working too hard. “Add more weight”, demanded his trainer.

A very helpful concept in Eastern Philosophy is the concept of mind over matter…..

Let’s say you got 500 pounds loaded up on a machine or implement, pick any one you like…..

You can look at that 500 pounds and run each one of those pounds over in your mind…..
and equate them to “real world” weight – 500 bags of sugar for instance….

Now, if you piled 500 one pound bags of sugar up in front of someone and said “Lift that” ,
they’d tell you to take a long flying jump off a short dry dock….

….. because part of the function of the conscious mind is to KEEP YOU FROM DOING SUCH STUPID STUFF.

The trick to powerlifting is not to think of the weight as work – as real weight – as 500 units of anything – but as weightlessmeaninglessresistanceless.

You pick it up because you know you can – because you’ve already visualized yourself doing it – because your mind has told your body you can do it…. and so, your body complies.

Sure, you can over do it – and you’ve got to build up to it –
after all, your mind ain’t STOOOPID, and your body isn’t made of steel….
– the mental conditioning is a PART of the package – not the package itself –
without physical training, your body’s not gonna cash those checks your mind is writing……

When faced with a particularly heavy weight, I like to imagine big helium balloons attached to them….. I know that probably sounds crazy, but it really does work – your subconscious mind can be a help or a hindrance – I like to have it working for me and not against me – so I use any tool I can to keep the edge.

The same goes for visualization – if you imagine yourself being successful doing a task ahead of time, you will be invariably more successful performing that task. It works for baseball, it works for football, it works for bowling, it works for lifting, it works for sex, it works for ANYTHING.

Commitment to a task – what Zen calls acceptance – is nothing more than putting your whole essence into it – anybody who has ever deadlifted at max weight will tell you what this is about – you have to have complete focus, and be willing to use everything at your disposal to get it done.

Once it’s done, you look back and see why it worked – because you were totally IN the moment.

And the techniques of mediation are also extremely helpful – especially during that rest phase between sets …. controlled breathing, set focus, clear mind – these are essential for rapid recovery and repair … and for pain management during and after.

So, what can someone who is not well versed in Eastern Philosophy take away from all this?

Why not try these simple ideas for yourself, in whatever activity YOU like…

1: Adjustment of mental values – It’s not how heavy it is, but how LIGHT. Not how hard, but how EASY.

2: Set your mind on your goal – See your goal as already accomplished in all but the final act.

3: Visualize doing it as well as it’s ever been done before. Or better.

4: Acceptance – it IS, what it IS – the only variable you can change is yourself.

5: Commitment – In the gym, you will hear me say this over and over and over —-
YOU MUST COMMIT TO THE LIFT – before, during and after.
Give it everything you got – don’t hold back – this is the one that counts.

6: Use what God gave you to the best advantage – relax, breathe, concentrate, live in the moment.

Let me know how they work for you. OK?

OK.

Give Your Monster Another Cookie

This is just one man’s perspective of the social pressures surrounding obesity.

It is not meant to criticize or mock anybody.

Don’t take it personally.

OK?

Give Your Monster Another Cookie.

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Like the nuns used to like to say in Grammar School:

“We have all have our crosses to bear in life.”

Some people walk around miserable just ’cause they like it…

But most of us have some little monster or other that walks around with us-

Clawin’ at our back….

….. constantly nagging at the back of our minds…..
Trying to get us to do something we know we shouldn’t.

Something that will keep us from being the person we want to be.

That monster might like booze…

…. or dope…

….. or clandestine rendevouses
(ummm… what is the plural for ‘rendevous’ anyway?
)
with $10 chantoosies behind the Gas and Lube.

With me, it’s being lazy.
 (that, and redheads)

AND ——–

If I gave in to that damnable little monster…..,

I’d be the laziest, fattest, pizza-eatenist redhead-crazy dumb meathead
(……….I’ll keep the redhead-crazy dumb meathead part, thanks…) on the planet!

I mean it.

Now, some of you might understand what I mean, and some of you won’t…

Because if you happen to be one of those people who couldn’t gain weight wearing a 75 pound backpack, (known in strength training circles as a ‘ectomorph’..) ,

…. you just wouldn’t understand how just lookin‘ at a piece of cheesecake can add 25 pounds of ugly spare tire to an already ample body.

But, if you do know what I mean, well, Buddy….. I feel your pain.

It ain’t easy – not being cheesy.

My daily diet (otherwise called by those who write nutrition books as ‘healthy lifestyle’) is a royal pain.

I spend three times the money, time and effort to consume 1/3 the amount of food everybody else on the planet seems to eat.

I have to eat when I’m not hungry, and not eat when I am.

My kid’s rabbit wouldn’t eat the greens I do…

Hell, some of my food couldn’t even be used as a secret ingredient on “Iron Chef” for chrissake…

………… and those guys’d cook with ANYTHING!.

It’s no wonder that some folks look for an easier way.

I have a good friend who weighs somewhere around 350 pounds.
(…..sort of like how Florida is ‘somewhere around’ Virginia.)

Now, this guy is a great cook…

……….and he makes stuff that’ll break your cotton pickin heart it’s so good.

He and his wife are Italian,

and their idea of celebrating is eating…

their idea of the good life is eating….

……… their idea of happiness is eating.

“Manja! Manja!”

I can’t sit down and eat his food, I can only smell it and walk away….

………..it’s got butter, it’s got cream, it’s got duck’s liver, it’s got 2000 calories per tablespoon.

How in the world can anybody who can cook like that be expected to be thin?

But, therein lies the rub.

He wants to eat like Pavarotti, but wants to look like a 25 year old Frank Sinatra.
– – – – – – – – – – – – and, an ectomorph he ain’t.

OF COURSE, he don’t wanna work out either.

So, he’s decided to have a ‘surgical procedure’ done, called a “gastric bypass”.

It involves cutting him open, slicing his stomach, closing off the majority of it, and sewing a small remainder of it to his intestine.

After this heals (assuming it does) he will have only about 3 tablespoons of stomach capacity left with which to process food and nutrients——

Now, I don’t want to be a stick in the mud here, gang,

………but who the hell ever thought this kind of elective surgery was a good idea?

I know the idiom of ‘no pain-no gain’ is apparently passe and completely outdated, but this method of weight loss seems a little extreme-

—-  even to a guy who complain incessantly about how much of a pain his ‘healthy lifestyle’ is.

‘Cause now that I think about it, it’s still better than putting my life and health in the hands of people who are only still ‘practicing’ medicine.

Call me when you’ve got it down to a science, fellas.

My generation, and my father’s generation before me, blindly trusted the medical establishment—and look at the results- the poor health of our citizens, the intolerably expensive state of the health care system, and the unavailability of health insurance for those who need it the most.

I’m gonna trust those money grubbin’ hacks to lay me down on a table and cut on my intestines ?????

Oh sure, — right after I ask Lorena Bobbitt if she wants to play with my cajones,
……..or Gary Glitter to be a counsellor at the annual Girl Scout jamboree…
……….or Brittany Spears to teach parenting skills,
……….. or Jane Fonda to sing the national anthem,
…………..or Ozzie Ozborne to dedicate the new museum at the Alamo,
………….. or O.J. Simpson to teach anger management…………

Man, talk about folks with their own private monsters… hoo boy.

Somehow we’ve gone from a society of independent, self-reliant can-doer’s to one
of co-dependent, get-somebody-to-do-it-for-me’s in the course of a few short decades.

Weight loss is a relatively simple equation of mathematics and physics: eat less, exercise more.

OH to be sure, I know HOW HARD that equation is to put into practice,

believe me –  I KNOW.

Between the fast pace of modern life, the lack of nutrition education, fast food dumps on every corner, and the virtual unavailability of pure, unadulterated foods —

– it’s a jungle out there.

But, make no mistake-
—- YOU CAN DO IT, if you want to.

The equation EAT LESS, EXERCISE MORE works.

Then, with a few refining touches, like:

eating carefully on a 40/40/20 plan,
varying your exercise plan to match your carb/protein intakes,
eating 5-6 smaller meals at the right times of day,
avoiding saturated fats, refined sugars and soy products, etc…..

you can make this equation much more efficient,

and start building lean, strong mass to improve the way you feel and the way you look….

Not just to others, but to yourself.

Not just FOR others, but FOR yourself.

Just start with EAT LESS, EXERCISE MORE.

——– OR, if you don’t want it that bad,

Just give your monster another cookie, and BE CONTENT !

Weight does not determine who you are.
Happiness does.

So, If you’re happy, I’m happy.

And I’m not the one who counts, anyway.

It’s all about YOU.

If you know you’re sexy, you are sexy.

If you know you’re beautiful, you are beautiful.

Take it from Cookie Monster himself.

There’s nothing more appealing and attractive than a confident, well-adjusted, non-surgically altered, blue furry monster full of enthusiasm and joie de vive —

……. googley eyes or no.

As Gracie Slick and the Jefferson Airplane put it way back when in 1968:

“You’re only pretty as you feel.”