Category Archives: Workout Strategy

Workout Buddies, or Assisted Suicide for Dummies

I nearly committed assisted suicide today, and by that I mean I went to the gym with my personal Kevorkian friend Travis.

A bit of background on Travis: I’ve known him since we became friends in college. We introduced ourselves after a hilarious misunderstanding–somehow, an inquiry as to whether I’d purchased a pet was misheard as an inquiry as to whether I’d had sex on a couch in the lobby of our dorm.

Travis isn’t and has never really been a big guy, but over the past two years or so he’s reduced his body fat and increased his muscle. He’s also studying to be an oral surgeon, which requires a hell of a lot of studying of anatomy, which in turn means that he knows the 768 jillion or so micro-parts of your body that move when you’re doing the barbell bench press. Valuable knowledge when you’re aiming to alter your body composition.

We had a chance meetup (at a liquor store) today, and decided that we’d go to the gym together. I usually go to the gym alone or with other friends, and I had never worked out with Travis before, so I was excited. This will be cool, I thought, we’ll go in, do some cardio, and be done after a little sweat.

Dead. Fucking. Wrong.

After thirty minutes of somewhat brisk cardio, we made our way over to the track. I thought that we were going to do some laps walking to cool down, then peace out. Fuck no. Instead, we did some interval training. Walk, jog, walk, jog and try not to die, walk, jog and then jog this lap harder so I don’t have to jog another lap oh my god how am I breathing.

If I were a stupid fuck, I’d say Travis was trying to kill me. But I’m smarter than that, and I know that Travis was pushing me to become better (a side effect being that he nearly killed me). I did laps today that, had Travis not been there to say “no, you can do this, I would never have thought about walking them, let alone jogging them (sometimes at a slightly quicker pace). And I’m thankful for it, because as a beginner I don’t always have that confidence inside me when I go to the gym alone. As a result, I sometimes do a little more than the bare minimum and get out. There might be more of those days ahead, but they won’t come soon, thanks to the motivational kick in the ass I got today.

Thank you, Travis–you physically fit, semi-slave driving, Belgian White Woodchuck-buying trainer-and-prick-in-residence.

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Enough Rest, Now Get to Doin’!

Yesterday, I talked about the importance of rest in your workout schedule. I also called the Little Voice in our heads a stupid dickface. I stand by both of those statements today and forever. Another statement I’ll stand by is this: do not let your rest day become a rest week.

You know what I’m talking about. You feel sore on your rest day–probably because you’re just starting out, and your body is just getting used to your new-found physicality–and that soreness spills over into the day after. So, what do you do? Right! You stay home again, thinking that another day of rest is just what you need. Unless you’ve sustained an injury (sprained ankle, twisted knee, pus-filled nipple, etc.) the best thing you can do for yourself is get back in the gym and do some work.

“But Mike, if I go back to the gym and work that sore body part again, won’t it just get more sore?” 

Well, yeah, it would, but you’re not going to be working that body part again so soon, are you? Let’s say you did a legs workout on Monday, and on Tuesday (your rest day in this scenario) your legs are sore from hip to toe. When Wednesday comes around, it’ll be time for a back/bicep or chest/triceps or abs/shoulders workout. See the magic here? Your legs might be sore, but you can still get your hobbled ass in the gym and work a different part of your body. Hell, in MiseryJames Caan was able to get in upper body workouts after Kathy Bates crushed his legs with a fucking sledgehammerGranted, he was either wheeling himself around in a wheelchair or crawling around on the floor trying to escape from the clutches of a crazy psycho bitch, but I’ll tell you one thing he wasn’t doing:

Letting his rest day turn into a rest week.

Making the effort to get back in the gym, even when sore, will not only build your strength and endurance, but will serve as a huge boost to your confidence. In working a different section of your body, you’ll be giving the sore section time to rest and be ready for its next workout, which will more than likely be the next week. Stick to your schedule, and be consistent. Or, as the Mustache Man would say, “Keep doin’.” If James Caan can manage to find the motivation to get in a workout with decimated legs, then so can you.

Being Strategically Lazy

A couple of days ago, I was in a puppy-kicking rage. (This video convinced me not to do it.) Today, I am not going to the gym. I’ll pass by it on my way home from work, but I’m not going in. When I get home, I won’t do the first pushup, crunch, or jumping jack. The only walking I’ll do is what gets done at the office or at home. For today, at least, I’m whole-heartedly commited to being a lazy prick.

There are lots of different workouts you can do to get in the kind of shape you want to be in. You can do barbell exercises, dumbbell exercises, bodyweight exercises, running, walking, jogging, interval training, mountain biking, city biking, stationary biking, plyometrics, swimming, Zumba, Sweatin’ to the Oldies, high-intensity chicken-catching, or anything in-between. Despite the various differences all these programs have, there is one thing they all have in common–

Rest.

My high school band director used to tell us that “silence was golden”, and that it wasn’t just playing notes that mattered, but also not playing in the space between the notes. (Coincidentally, the musical term for such a space is a “rest”.) If you think about it, working out is no different. Making sure you get to the gym (or trail, or track) consistently is important, but just as important is making sure you give your body time to recover. When you work out, you put strain on your body. When you rest, you’re not just allowing your muscles time to recover–you’re giving them time to become stronger. True story. The muscles repair themselves, creating newer, stronger fibers which allow you to lift more weight or run longer the next time you work out. Neat, huh?

When attempting to achieve a fitness goal, many people go way too hard at the beginning and don’t take days off. This leads to three things: injuries, burnout, and a Little Voice in your head asking “Why the hell did you do that, you dunce?!” Good question, Little Voice–although, some of you guilty of going too hard might say the same Little Voice was the one who pushed you too far in the first place, using statements like, “Yeah, you can do 300 crunches on Day 1,” “Go on, one more set of squats won’t hurt,” or “Those five miles were fast, but I bet you could do a sixth one faster.”

Come to think of it, Little Voice sounds like a stupid dickface.

Don’t be trapped by Little Voice, or by pressure put on you by your friends or yourself. Create a schedule–complete with rest days–and stick to it. Enjoy your days off. Give yourself breathing room, and feel good knowing that each second you rest, you’re getting stronger and faster by being strategically lazy.

Gym Hate and Endurance

When the worst part of your day is that you forgot your post-workout drink at your office, which is only two miles from your gym, it’s safe to say you had a damn good day.

Today was supposed to be a cardio day, but my legs workout yesterday (read: the first legs workout I’ve done in forever) left my quads and hamstrings a little sore (read: I was so angry at the slight pain, I wanted to kick a puppy, but I didn’t because that would have caused even more pain, which would have led to more puppy kicking, and more pain, etc.). So, for the sake of my legs–and to keep PETA off my back–I went for a chest/triceps routine. Here’s the routine, for anyone curious:

Seated Chest Press: 4 sets, 8 reps, 75 lbs
Pec Deck:  4 sets, 8 reps, 18 lbs (yeah, that’s light, but the last set had me good and sore)
Seated One-Arm Tricep Extension: 4 sets, 8 reps, 35 lbs
Standing One-Arm Tricep Extension (side): 4 sets, 8 reps, 25 lbs (this form was a  bit harder, and felt great)
Tricep Rope Pushdown, Two-Hand: 3 sets, 8 reps, 25 lbs

Not a particularly heavy workout, but the key to completing a Tough Mudder (TM) won’t be strength–it’ll be endurance. Not to say there’s anything wrong with being strong. I would love to be stronger than I am now. But, a guy with endurance is going to finish a TM event, while Mr. Chachi McUpperbody will be breathing heavy on the sidelines.

I’ll talk more about endurance another day. Right now, it’s time to ice my legs, and keep my broke ass away from puppies.