No bitching about
corruption, petty tyranny, or my utter lack of faith in humanity today.
I'm going to wax positive, for a change.
A few weeks ago, several of my Facebook/Animal List buddies (I'm compelled to give credit where it's due, but these guys have real jobs. Therefore, I'll only list their given names: Doug, Monty, Brian, and Clint) convinced Mags to start working out. When she approached me with the idea, I shrugged, said "What the hell?" and hauled the bench, weights, squat rack and other paraphernalia out of the basement, where it had been gathering rust and dust for ten or so years. That was eight weeks ago, and I haven't missed a workout since.
I was a tad nervous at first. I hadn't done any serious lifting since my thirties, I was too out-of-shape for my liking, and at my age, I was worried that I'd try a dead-lift and find a nut rolling around in my pants leg. I had also to consider the fact that I'm a walking collection of injuries: at one point or another, I've broken, fractured, sprained, strained, pulled, torn, or dislocated damn-near everything. What cinched my decision, though, was simple vanity. I didn't like the way my gut was migrating over my belt, and worse still, I was no longer convinced of my ability to throw a one-shot knockout punch. I could learn every tres kewl Kwai-Chang Caine move in the book, but without speed and power behind them, I could still have my ass kicked by some snot-nosed punk half my age. That, I'm afraid, would be too embarrassing for words. I eased into the program for the first few days, and the rest is history.
In addition to working out, I've cut way back on the beer (no more after-work six-pack, and contrary to the assertion in Nazareth's "Local Still," Friday night is no longer a party night for me) and calorie-dense Eurochow. Consequently, I've slimmed down to 165; my exact weight at 27. Most of the beer gut has melted away, and I'm feeling years younger. As one might expect, my strength has increased (this is the entire point of lifting weights, if I'm not too gravely mistaken), but interestingly enough, so has my flexibility. To my surprise, I was able to throw a head-level front kick (not that I'd ever kick above the waist in a fight -- I'm too fond of my nards. Besides, as one of my instructors used to say, "Kicking a man in the head makes as much sense as punching him in the foot…") after my last workout, with no difficulty at all. Given the deteriorating state of the world, this is a definite "plus." Within a few months, I should be limber enough to bend over, put my head between my legs, and kiss my rosy, Irish ass goodbye.
We started off with a basic program my wife downloaded from the Internet, but my bum knee acted up midway through the third week. I've had to tweak the routine a bit by way of "babying" said joint, but I'm pleased with the results so far. I hit the weights three days a week, starting with the "big three" (squat, dead lift, bench press), and then work strip-sets to failure for a different body part each week. I've been performing very slow reps (four seconds on both the positive and negative phases), which encourages proper form and spares my joints. Unfortunately, it does not spare my ego. When lifting that slowly, I can only handle a fraction of my max. The method is effective, though: the mirror, the scale, and the tape measure don't lie.
Normally, I'd save the vanity shots for Facebook, but this time I'll make an exception. I haven't become a fitness nut, and I won't preach, harangue, or shill products for money, Gentle Reader, but I'm excited, make no mistake. I'll be forty-six in September, and in eight weeks, I've gone from beer-bellied slob to what you see below. My shoulders are stronger, my gut is flatter, my chest is much firmer (no "sausage tits," for me, thankee kindly), and the most surprising result of all is the development in my lats, which have always been a trouble spot.
I don't take steroids, I don't endorse gimmicky, bullshit programs ("GoombahTech presents: The WANKMASTER! Build eye-popping muscles while you jerk off! Six easy payments of just $99.95! The adjustable, multi-position Wankmaster allows you to perform a variety of exercises: Beat the Bishop! Box the Clown! Choke the Chicken! Spank the Monkey!"), and I haven't pushed myself to the brink of penury with a gym membership. I have the same bench I bought at Sears when I was in college, 300 lbs of weights, a 6' Bollinger "Starlock" bar, an ancient Weider triceps bar, two starlock dumbbells, two cast dumbbells, a safety rack (for bench pressing without a spotter) a squat rack (both of which I bought at going-out-of-business sales years ago), a Weider "arm blaster" (an ingenious device -- it allows one to isolate the biceps without shelling out one's hard-earned shekels for a preacher bench) and a chest-expander. Throw in a five-dollar jump rope, and that's it.
A judicious shopper could probably spend even less than I did by canvassing garage sales, salvage outlets, pawnshops, and used sporting goods stores, or even having a look at E-Bay or Craig's List. No machines, no expensive cable-doohickeys, no treadmills or any such thing. To perform triceps pressdowns, for example, I simply attach the chest expander to a tree branch with my rappelling harness (ten or so feet of seatbelt webbing - I told you I was a cheap son of a bitch, now didn't I?), and work one arm at a time. For lat work, I lay an empty bar across the safety rack (see below), position myself beneath it on an exercise mat, and perform supine rows until I'm too exhausted to continue. That takes care of width, while bent rows attend to thickness. (And man, those supine rows are a motherfucker at first. During my first workout, I could barely complete a single set of eight, and it was all I could do to raise myself a few inches from the ground. Now I'm performing three sets of twelve, bringing my chin to the bar each time.)
As I've mentioned, I'm happy with the results so far, but I'd like to make faster progress on "gut busting." For that reason, I'm adding yoga, rope-skipping, calisthenics, and martial arts on my off days. To the same end, I've also drastically reduced my beer intake. In the long run (and being a dyed-in-the-wool Celt, I'm actually pained by the admission), it's nothing but "empty calories" and water weight. After the first three weeks, I realized that much of what I'd taken for fat was only the bloating one acquires from too intimate an acquaintance with "John Barleycorn."
Needless to say, I'm not gorging on overpriced supplements. In my experience, most of 'em are of questionable value at best, and outright snake-oil at worst. I'll be damned before I'll spend $39.95 on the same amount of protein I could have from eating one 50¢ can of tuna a day.
Green tea/green coffee bean extract is as fancy as I get. The caffeine kick-starts my metabolism and serves as an appetite suppressant, as well. A month's supply costs a little more than a sixpack of beer. Aside from megadoses of B & C vitamins, the only "exotic" supplements I take are boron and chromium picolinate. The former helps old farts like me prevent our testosterone levels from plunging (not that I've ever stood accused of being short on testosterone), while the latter keeps my insulin and blood sugar levels reasonably normal. (Another unexpected benefit of working out and taking the chromium: I haven't had a depressive episode since I started the program. Arguably, the hypomania has been a little worse than usual, but in the same period of time, I've only had two full-blown manic episodes. As I'm not a physician, I won't state, categorically, that there's a causal connection between wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels and manic-depression, but I'm convinced that there is at least a corollary relationship.) I'm also drinking Laci LeBeau's Super Dieter's Tea, but only every two or three days: the senna in the blend gives me the "Green Apple Quickstep" if I overdo it. On my off days, I take 12.5 to 25 mg of ephedrine (it increases one's metabolic rate while acting as an appetite suppressant), but no more. High blood pressure runs in my family, and courting a stroke in the interest of physical fitness seems downright counterproductive.
Super-setting, and strip-setting are a bitch, especially with the slower reps. One reaches failure so quickly, it's nearly impossible to perform three sets of any given exercise with a consistent poundage. Here's an example of how the the strip-set method works. If I'm emphasizing shoulders, as I did last week, I'll do a set of military presses with, say, 50 pounds on the bar, until I reach failure. As soon as I do, my wife removes five pounds from the bar, and I immediately begin another set, once again, to failure. We keep removing weight until I'm physically incapable of raising the bar. I'll rest 45 seconds to a minute,then proceed with upright rows, lateral raises, and front raises.
When super-setting, I rarely strip the bar. Instead, I'll go from one exercise to the next without resting. Both methods (and/or a combination of the two) are painful, exhausting, and rough on the ego, as the pre-exhaustion factor precludes the use of eye-popping macho poundages.
If you want fast results, though, it's the way to go.
For my part, I'd rather build my body than my ego. I'm a happily married man, and at 46, trying to impress chicks half my age is -- what's the phrase I'm looking for? Oh, yeah: "Fuckin' pathetic." That's it.
My workouts are fairly simple. Five sets of umpteen million is fine -- if you're in your twenties and using steroids. Being neither, I train realistically. As an example, I'll list this week's workout (I'm focusing on my back, as you may gather from the selection of exercises. Last week it was shoulders, the week before it was chest, and so on).
Squats (3 sets)
Dead-lift (2 sets)
Inverted Row (3 sets)
* One set of each, 4 seconds positive, 4 seconds negative, to failure.
Before I close, I'll mention that I'm posting this for one reason only: If I can do it, you can do it. You don't need a gym membership, a personal trainer, several metric tons of expensive equipment (Hell, you could probably get off to a decent start with nothing more than a barbell, a pair of dumbbells, and a hundred pounds of five- and ten-pound plates), or faddish dietary supplements. You need only a few articles of basic equipment, and the determination to see the program through.
G'night and God bless.
My "home gym." Told you it was nothing fancy.When it rains, we move the gear into the garage and work out. In good weather, we can build muscle and work on our melanoma suntans in one fell swoop. (Not that the wife needs much of a tan, mind you.)
The device you see is meant to allow one to bench press safely without a spotter. Toss an empty bar across it, though, and voila! You're all set to perform supine/inverted rows.
Three weeks into the program.
Eight weeks (rear view).