06/03/2009 - bob
Get in Shape!
Get in shape!! Ok, ok, I’m not yelling at anyone… except maybe myself. Why, I’ll never know, especially since I have a pretty bad track record of listening to myself. Ever since the realities of life with little kids set in, I understand the complete lack of time, and sometimes money for a gym membership I used to hear from friends. Maybe I’ve used the hectic pace of home life as an excuse to avoid committing to a serious fitness program, maybe I’ve just been lazy. It is possible I just didn’t have the energy to pull it off, although that sounds like a cop-out to me now.
Of course, it’s easy for me to say now, since three weeks ago I somehow wound up following “bodybuilding” instructions and a course I found online. Happily married and turning 48 this month, every once in a while I ask myself… “why?” There’s no secret ‘mid-life crisis’ here, but there are a lot of reasons that all added up to a “geez, I’d better start something serious.” Maybe you can relate.
Getting in shape always sounds a lot easier than it always turns out to be. My career has had me sitting at a desk typing away on a computer for the last several years, much like a lot of people, I suppose. Although I eat a lot, I never gained much weight. That lulled me into a false sense of security. Each of the last few years I’ve ridden my bike fairly regularly once spring and summer rolled around, but each year it seemed harder to get to the point my usual five-mile ride felt like good exercise and not so much effort that it wiped me out for a couple of days afterwards. In early May, we had warm weather for a week, so I took the bike out, loaded the kids into the bike trailer, and took my first ride of the year. I nearly tossed a lung way before the halfway point of my usual ride. Considering a steep hill I’d have to climb at the end of the “course,” I decided I had to turn around and take the more gentle hill back to our house. That was a disappointing “first.”
I always have a couple of constant, nagging thoughts and reminders that I really need to get back in shape and maintain a good level of physical fitness. In 1996 I had my left ankle rebuilt… complete ligament reconstruction. For the first time recently, I began feeling a pull in my heel bone, where the “replacement” ligament was stapled. (“Crissman-Snook” ligament reconstruction procedure.) That freaked me out. I spent over a year in physical therapy after that operation, and absolutely refuse to get to the point I jeopardize all that work because my leg muscles, tendons and ligaments have adapted to a desk chair in which I sit 10 hours a day. If you sit with your legs bent so long every day, your hamstrings and their tendons shorten if you don’t actively stretch. Another lingering side effect of the repair is that my legs tighten unevenly if I don’t stretch, which I obviously hadn’t been doing.
A couple of years ago I neglected to maintain good enough tone and flexibility and managed to suffer a repetitive motion injury. I tore cartilage in my left knee. I had 20% of my left meniscus removed in August of 2007. Recently, doing another house renovation project, I felt a pull under my right kneecap.
So about eight weeks ago I began feeling I had to do something, and that it was “now or never.” I have two young boys at home, whom I’ve nicknamed Captain and Kid Chaos. You can imagine what it takes to keep up with them. I also really started thinking about what it would take to be able to remain active, playing with, and coaching them in various sports for the next 20 years. They are not going to have a couch potato for a father. It took me long enough to get to this point in my life, and I’m not going to screw this up.
I used to lift weights and work out fairly regularly. Thinking about it, though, it now must be ten years ago that I did it consistently. I wasn’t necessarily a bodybuilder, actually far from it. I could keep some muscle mass on my body if I worked at it, but I always tended to be skinny. I was all set to resume the “same old” workout routine I crafted after reading a course I bought a long time ago by Mike Mentzer. He was a pro bodybuilder in the 70s and maybe the 80s. I had gotten decent results following his course, although it took me a lot to recover from those workouts once I go going.
I was looking for extra motivation to start lifting again. I really just wanted to get in shape and get into a maintenance routine. Maybe I’d get a little more muscular in the process and that would have been fine. When I went looking for any new bodybuilding writings from Mentzer (his fanaticism for the work of the narcissist Ayn Rand really got in the way sometimes), possibly an update to his course, especially an updated guide on how to ease back into a training routine, I learned he was dead. His brother, another champion bodybuilder he trained, had died too, both of some kind of organ failure. They all tried steroids in the 70s and 80s, it seems, and that always catches up to you. (Complete guess on my part, but the “coincidence” is kinda strong.)
As usual, I resorted to “the Google” for my quest. To make a VERY long story shorter, I checked out a couple of things I found, and really liked what I read on Vince Delmonte’s sales web site above all the others. It seemed to build upon what I had come to know from Mentzer. By all means, check out Vince DelMonte’s site here. (But please come back!)
I knew there were conflicts of interest in all the muscle magazines, but I didn’t realize all the supplement companies were owned by all the “fitness” or muscle magazine companies. The other thing that broke down my skepticism was how he explained how ridiculous it was to try to follow a pro bodybuilder’s routine if you have normal genetics and don’t use illegal steroids. I read a few of those routines in that “google quest,” and they were ridiculous. I know 15 sets of anything, for example, would absolutely KILL me. He made sense.
I went back to his site and submitted my email address to subscribe to his email newsletter.
I got a few videos and a few emails over the first two weeks, and he wrote a few things that put me over the edge and got me exercising using a few of his principles.
First: I didn’t know that growth hormone is one of the best triggers of our fat-burning mechanisms. I didn’t know that at all, and I harbored some suspicion about the truth of that claim. But, DelMonte’s explanation as to how pro bodybuilders get so ripped with little enough cardio so as to not lose muscle mass made sense… growth hormone. So, he continued, OUR choices are to either risk everything in our lives and inject it like professional “bodybuilders,” or train to a point our bodies release it naturally. In other words, TRAIN REALLY HARD. I recongized this thinking from my old reference point. Mentzer had advocated training to failure. In other words, push so hard on each set that you would be unable to finish the last rep. At that point, he argued, our bodies would learn that they were inadequate to complete what we had to do, and would adapt by growing muscle. He made a weaker case about bodies working hard to grow muscle, resulting in some fat burning phenomenon, but no direct correlation. In the 20 or more years since Mentzer’s book, there’s obviously been a lot of controversy and research into hormones.
Secondly, in another email, DelMonte linked a free video of himself demonstrating a full body workout of all “compound” exercises. In other words, exercises that worked more than one specific muscle. He made a great case for compound exercises. He laid out how fast to do them, how many sets and how many reps for maximum benefit. My mind had been fairly rigidly set on the traditional muscle isolation exercises, and my old Mentzer course, but he made a great case. It looked like a routine I could do without killing myself. There were fewer exercises than in my old routine, and I thought I’d be able to handle it no problem.
I figured I’d give it a shot.
My wife had been listening to me talk endlessly about all I had learned, and she wanted to get going on a program too. She had followed a routine I had laid out for her many years ago, liked what it did for her, and wanted me to write up a new one. She agreed to try out this free routine in DelMonte’s video. We started three weeks ago, and the quick response of our bodies has been pretty amazing. It’s been really helpful to have a workout partner remind me to get over the feelings of being “not really up for” lifting. Invaluable, actually.
Which brings me to this blog…
Why blog about it? This is yet another element in my motivation arsenal. This is going to keep me honest. I’ll even post “before” pictures of myself. Soon. You may be able to imagine my reluctance about this.
But bodybuilding over 40? Or, in my case, at 48? Why? Why not? A little naturally-occurring growth hormone in my system might help me feel like the 25 year old I think of myself as. Honestly, I’m a little concerned about my ability to recover as I kick up the intensity of my workouts. I don’t know if I’ll get enough sleep to recover, or be able to move after an intense workout. Actually, I’m concerned about my ability to move two days after an intense workout. I suppose these fears kept me from re-starting my old Mentzer routine. The compound exercise workout seemed like a good place to start. I’m interested in testing the growth-hormone-as-the-best-fat-burning-agent theory. My wife’s interested in testing that one too. We both want more energy so we’re better parents, and getting in shape is the best way we can think of to boost our energy levels without extreme amounts of coffee. We’d both been in a lot better shape 10 years ago, and we both would like to get back to that level of fitness at a minimum. This bodybuilding course seems like a great path to our goals.
On my next post I’ll talk more about the workout. Today was the first day I actually was able to do three passes through the routine. It. Was. Tough. It was also only the 7th workout since May 18th. We’re both already seeing progress. It’s kinda fun. However, since this is the first time I did three sets of everything, I am concerned about being able to move tomorrow… I’ll let you know.
In case you missed the link above, you can get to DelMonte’s site here.