08/16/2009 - bob
Get in Shape Lifting Weights and Bodybuilding? Why Not?
I’ve been writing from the perspective of bodybuilding over 40… heck, far too close to 50 for my comfort. But, as time marches on, you can join the parade or be run over by it. I choose to not be run over. So, here I am, working out again, getting in the best shape of my life lifting weights, at 48 years old.
In my 30s, I lifted weights regularly, but apparently wasted a lot of time. I did full body routines, and although I got some benefit, I can’t help but think, “what if I knew then what I know now?” But I won’t dwell on that. It’s not productive. What I take away from that experience is that there’s a lot of new or recent research that doesn’t get a whole lot of coverage in most of the muscle magazines. (Actually, I stopped reading them a looooonngg time ago, except while burning time in an airport newsstand waiting for a flight.) Fortunately there are some guys who studied kinesiology and as a result, know the new material and are selling courses on the Internet. It is from these courses I re-learned how the human body responds to physical demands placed on it. Really.
I can vouch for the general theories because I tested them on myself. I am somewhat surprised, honestly, that I am making the gains I am. And, I have to admit, I regularly stack the deck against myself by not getting enough sleep, not eating six small, well planned meals a day at regular times, and not maintaining a regular enough workout schedule. If I want to see how far I can take this, I have to work my schedule and commitments to address these “enemies” of progress. But that’s more a “bodybuilding” goal than a commitment to being in shape.
Today, after writing the most recent bodybuilding over 40 post, I got to work out, starting at 6:30PM. It was perhaps the latest start since I began this “experiment” in late May. It was the second workout with weights that are perhaps too heavy for me for the five by five workout routine of compound exercises. I had increased my weights in a fit of frustration of not sticking to a good schedule. Since I had done a full workout with these weights, I didn’t want to “go backwards.” Being late in the day, the weights all felt heavier than they were upon the initial lift. I was hungry. I was somewhat tired. I didn’t want to wait until Monday for the next workout. I’ve broken that tendency and habit, and don’t feel like going back there.
But, despite it all, I finished in under 90 minutes. Not that I’m patting myself on the back, but it occurred to me that I am doing supersets of compound exercises now using weights that are very close to my old one set maximum weights. However, I might be pushing too close to the edge of failure. I’ll stick with these weights until I can complete this in 60 minutes. I don’t want to hurt myself and wreck progress. I do have the tendency of getting muscle knots in my right shoulder and trapezius, a leftover from breaking my collarbone umpteen years ago. That, coupled with near failure on the last set, can lead to bad form, jerky motions, and torn cartilage. No thanks. I might rethink the military press weight, though, as I reflect on that.
Since it’s mid-August, and I started about mid-May, I’ve been on this path for three months. I did not have 20 or 40 or more pounds to lose when I started. I had been living a somewhat sedentary lifestyle, though. Getting my “wind” back was tough, but it came back. I looked for any sign I was “packing on 40 pounds of lean muscle” on my scale, but have stayed in the 185 pound range. Now I wish I had done a body mass analysis and learned what percentage fat I had. The reason? My post-workout pump today surprised me again. Again, I looked larger than I’ve ever been. I jumped on the scale…. about 185. You’re kidding, right? No. So my percentage fat has to be dropping as I’ve obviously built muscle.
On one hand, it’s taken me perhaps two months to “get back in shape,” whatever that means. At three months, I’m still going, improving my fitness level. And, instead of just getting skinny, I’m getting stronger and more muscular. One more oddity: after a year, my alopecia (big bald spots that “forced” me to shave my head) is fading. The biggest bald spot had remained unchanged since two different dermatologists blasted it full of some steroid or another a little over a year ago. My hair was thinning, and I’ll keep it short, but the biggest bald spot is easily less than half as large as it was before I started lifting weights. Could this be a benefit of forcing my body to release its own growth hormone? It very well could.
I know I can carry my three year old around without thinking twice about it. That’s my motivation. I can carry my five year old, or toss him in the air as he howls with laughter. That’s my motivation, too. I can undertake any repair, construction, or landscaping project without worrying about hurting myself because I haven’t lifted anything heavier than my laptop in years. I don’t fear a heart attack from shoveling snow. My commercial lawnmower weighs almost 500 pounds. You get the point.
What does “back in shape” mean to each of us? At 25 years old, it might have meant having a great body to attract and meet someone special. At 35 or 45 it might mean just being able to walk the dog without getting winded. It might just mean a healthy blood pressure. One aspect of it has to include the strength of our heart muscles and avoiding diabetes. If you could get into the best shape of your life now, no matter what age, why wouldn’t you? Could it be fear of failure? It would require effort…. Is that it? It can’t be a fear of the time commitment. I’m proving it doesn’t take much time for the basic mechanisms to work. True, I didn’t start with an extra 40 pounds of fat to burn, but I am 48. The biological mechanisms work.
I have read great workout routines that take even less time and still get you to hit the right intensity to build muscle and burn fat. I signed up to a bazillion mailing lists and have been getting information from several other authors and trainers besides Vince DelMonte. They all have been saying similar things about muscle building being far better than low-intensity “typical” cardio exercises like running for getting in shape, and most have degrees in kinesiology. There are some interesting exercises and routines. I’ll gather some routines for bodyweight routines for muscle gain and fat loss, and post them in the not-too distant future.