Tag Archives: strength training

Closing the Goal

Today I entered Week 12 of the Body for Life Challenge.

This isn’t so significant in the sense that I’ve completed a few other fitness programs/challenges in the past few years with varying degrees of success.

First there was the Insanity Max:30 Challenge.  That one focused on cardio and the goal was weight loss.  I got super skinny but still looked fat.

Then there was the Body Beast Challenge.  That one focused on heavy weight lifting and bulking up.  I packed on muscled but still looked fat.

Then there was the La Leche del Sol Challenge where I had to use a mule to take daily shots of the illegal Mexican beauty secret of the stars.  That one focused on getting ripped but only for certain cameras in precise lighting.  I finished and looked like Austrian opera singer Maria Jeritza.

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Too bad ol’ Chuck isn’t still considered a fitness icon.  Sure he’s got a “V shape” but he’s also wearing a diaper.

I was beginning to think I couldn’t win except that I did have a sense of accomplishment at finishing all of these programs.  And for a guy in my condition – no will power, loves to shovel food into his mouth, works 23 hours a day, and missing all of the DNA receptors that promote muscle building, fat loss, and scalp hair – that’s saying something.

I have a friend who patiently tried to give me training advice.  Believe me, it’s a compliment to say what I’m about to say.  He’s super ripped.  He’s also super dedicated and on a level I doubt I will ever see.  He works out every day.  He runs long distances three times a week.  When he’s not doing that he does resistance training using only his bodyweight.  We’re talking muscle-ups and hand stand push-ups.  Even if I had the will power I don’t think I could be successful like that.  I’ve come to the point of forcing myself to believe that maybe I’m just not meant to be “jacked”.

But something in me keeps persisting that I could get there given the right program before I’m dead.  And believe me if my loved ones are standing over my rotting corpse in a casket and saying “Damn he looks good” I’ll be happy with that.

So tonight I reach the final week.

I texted my buddy to tell him how excited I am and to ask for some prayers this week that I don’t give up with the finish line in sight.  I think he knows where I’m coming from.  Even for a guy like him there’s got to be some sense of how hard this is to accomplish.  I mean, even the best probably still remember a time when they were starting out when the goal seemed impossible.  Granted, for him that time was probably in infancy.  Dude, it’s called “baby fat”.  Babies are supposed to have it.  And again, I kid because I admire his dedication and the results he’s achieved and maintained.

I like to have something solid to back it up so I tell him a little statistic.  “I got the tape out and did some measurements,” I say.  “I started with 14″ biceps and tonight I’m measuring 16″.”  I honestly don’t know if that’s supposed to be impressive.  I also do not want to boast or come across as bragging.

He replied that this was bigger than his arm.  Now I know I measured wrong.  That couldn’t possibly be the case.  So I got the tape out again.  OK, this time I measured my arm at just shy of 16″.  But not much.

Holy cow!  Could it be that I might have finally found the right program?  This one (Body for Life) has been amazing.  It’s just the right mix of cardio and weight training.  My only regret as I stare in the mirror and see my transformation is that I didn’t do more.  Now I keep thinking “If I had just done 30 minutes of cardio instead of 20 on those days…” or “I could have lifted heavier and pushed myself more…”  “I would like him to see my gains (and losses),” I think to myself, so I put on the tightest white tee shirt and head over to church where he’s doing a Holy Hour.  This oughtta’ be fun.

We catch up afterwards in the parking lot.  In a way that only one guy can say to another, he compliments me.  “Dude, your calves were already bigger than mine.  Now you gotta’ have bigger arms too?!”  Believe me, my friend, you are definitely the motivation.  Still not sure my arms are any bigger than his (and sort of still feel like they’re not much bigger than when I started) but there’s a whole lot more definition, that’s for sure, and not just my arms either.

I’m happy with this.  Happy where I am.  Do I want way more?  Yeah.  I’m never satisfied with my results and I’m always harsher on myself than anyone else ever would be.

Will I do another 12 weeks?  Well, either that or 12 weeks of something else.

I’ll just keep collecting challenge tee shirts every three months until I finally reach my goal.

Then I’ll finally be able to say that I did it.

Until then, keep the prayers coming.  I’ve still got a week to go.

And take it from me, La Leche del Sol is crap.

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Back at the Bar

Those who know me might immediately assume I mean the kind that serve gin. 

However I’m talking about my trusty pull up bar. 

I haven’t actually been away from it. Far from it. I’m continuing to build myself up to greater things with it. 

Having gotten to where I can do three sets of ten in a row I’m looking for something loftier. 

Starting today I’m going to increase the number in each set until I can hit 30 straight pull ups

Now THAT’S a goal. 

Raising the Bar

Getting back to writing about my fitness goals…

I had intentionally stopped writing about these particular goals for a long while.  In fact, my plan was not to mention the subject again.  There’s only so much one can write about when it comes to a lifetime of trying to get in shape.  And failing.

I have had the benefit over the years of a number of resources yet never felt confident that any of the information I received was either worthwhile or accurate (in other words, it wouldn’t deliver the results I wanted to see).  In particular, the past four years I’ve been leeching off the training advice of a coworker who generously tried to help whenever he could.  The problem, it turns out, was me.  I always had some kind of excuse.  Sometimes it was valid and oftentimes it was not.

About three months ago, having completed the Insanity Max:30 program from BeachBody and having taken a subsequent Christmas break and some time off for the death of my father I committed to BeachBody’s BodyBeast program.

The program started out great.  I spent three weeks using fairly light dumbbells in what the program’s trainer calls the “Build Phase”.  That is, you build yourself up to the next phase by learning the movements and proper form.  In my case, even though it had been many years, I was re-acclimating myself to these movements.  Not entirely unfamiliar with weightlifting technique, I discovered that I more or less remembered proper form.

When I finished building I moved into the “Bulk Phase”.  The goal of the whole program is to build solid muscle, something I have lacked.  I started seeing results, especially after another friend who had injured his shoulder graciously loaned me some considerably heavier dumbbells.  I’d buy my own but a full set runs around $500 and I don’t feel like dropping that kind of cash on something I wasn’t sure would benefit me.

Then came the callback…  Two weeks ago today the guy with the bum shoulder called his weights back.  He was recovered and ready to lift again.  To my surprise (and not entirely unsure of whether he was just trying to be polite) he called that night and asked if we could workout together.  His weights.  His garage.  In my  mind I balked at the idea because I just didn’t love the idea of making a fool of myself.  Don’t forget, I’m probably the most insecure person you’ll ever meet.  Seems to me that most guys my age are not only either current or former champion athletes but also far more adept than me in a gym.  This guy was going to kick my ass and then laugh about it.  Or worse yet, he’d patronize me by telling me “good effort!”

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A more solid pull up bar there never was.

But it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined.  For the past two weeks, almost every night around 9:30, he and I have been lifting heavy weights in his garage.  I’m noticing tremendous gains.  Even if I’m the only one who sees it, the muscle is there and getting bigger.  What’s more important is that an increase in raw strength – something I had almost overlooked as a goal – is also improving.  This past Sunday my friend called me as I was on my way home from graduation.  He told me to swing by his house.  He had a present for me.  He had heard me make one of my trademark excuses.  “I could do pull up’s… if I had the proper bar with the right clearance.”  So he made me a bar out of a length of pipe he’d picked up from Lowe’s.  He completed the bar with mounting brackets and told me to stick it onto the cross timber of my kids’ playset in the yard.

And so for the past four days, with no actual excuse in sight, I’ve been doing pull up’s.  I heard a statistic about a year ago that said only 1% of grown men can properly do a single pull up.  That sounds high to me; but then again I’m talking about real, solid, proper-form pull up’s – the kind where you dead-hang from the bar before lifting yourself completely up to chest height.  I certainly had a hard time for the longest time.  Callouses, gripping the bar right, what muscles to engage, etc…  But when you shed those excuses – or rather, when someone takes them away from you – it all comes down to how committed you are.  I WANT to do pull ups.  Another friend told me today that he knocks out 25-50 a day every 2-4 days.  That’s impressive.  No comparisons here.  That would be insane.  But man, I’d love to get to that level.

Toward that end I gripped the bar this past Sunday.  Remember that strength I mentioned?  It must be growing, especially in my forearms and upper back.  I nailed 5 of them.  And as if to knock me back down I tried a sixth and struggled hard.  I’ve been experimenting and discovered that I can knock out five at a time, take about three minutes, and knock out another five.  Can I do more than that?  I’d probably need more of a break between the later sets.  Should I try?  I see no reason not to.  Just a short while ago I hit fifteen in three sets of five over about five minutes.

But without a friend like the guy who threw this bar together for me I wouldn’t be able to try.  And if he’s reading this (which he probably isn’t) I want him to know how much I really appreciate that and the time he’s investing and the camaraderie.  I’m certainly having fun.  I’ve had a few personal goals in the past few years.  One of them was to move into school administration before I turn 40.  Another was to get shredded before 40.  In both cases I’ve been motivated by a desire to prove myself.  Very few people have any measure of real respect for teachers.  It’s sad but true.  Even those with the best of intentions generally let on that, in their minds, teaching is something you do when you can’t do anything else.  I know my fellow teachers know what I’m talking about.  Likewise, very few men have any measure of real respect for a man who is weak.  They may be polite and tell you athletic ability, broad shoulders, and curling prowess are overrated but deep down we all know differently.  It’s man’s nature to respect power and achievement.

I got the admin job.  I’m excited to finally show my family and friends I’m actually a really talented guy who is competent in the formation of youth.  So what if some of them needed to see a title attached to my name in order to believe it.  I’ve always considered myself mentally strong.  Maybe those same people will finally see that strength in me too.  So what if some of them need to see a strong body to believe it.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll get jacked before I’m 40 after all.

Loving Concern

Getting stronger, for the kids.

This evening I drove over to the gym.  This time, though, I had the kids with me.  My son was up last night for a few hours and never really recovered his sleep during the day.  My daughter, well, she’s just crazy to begin with.  My niece leaves in two days and we thought we’d have some fun time.  I had to get back into some semblance of my fitness routine.  So, while I rode the bike for an hour, my niece watched the kids on the playground just outside.

Upon my exit from the gym — I had skipped a shower so I could get back to the kids quicker — I made my sweaty, disgusting way over to the playground.  My son was crying.  My niece had told him, quite rightly, that he was not allowed to climb up the slide.  This upset him.  I reached their location and asked what was wrong.  “Daddy?  I want you to hold me!”  Before I could tell his 52lb. self that this wouldn’t be a great idea my daughter interjected.  “Daddy’s back hurts, silly.”  Again, I tried to get in a word but my son shot back: “But he just did his exercises at the gym.  Now he is stronger and his back doesn’t hurt him no more.”

I really can’t argue with their logic.  So we went for frozen yogurt and then went home.  But first, I carried my children across the field to the car.