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Nick in June on Maui. He’s even bigger and stronger now!

I’m perpetually fascinated by the limits of my mind, especially when I break through them.

When I turned forty I was blessed with a new lease on life, increasing my healthiness and happiness. I had been limited by unwillingness. Various aspects of me held me back. As new doors opened, willingness grew. My life is a makeover. Since I’m happy and healthy, should I be content? Or can I be grateful and in pursuit of more?

Why not continue to seek a better me? A beautiful opportunity presents itself regularly: my kids love to lift weights. They have passion for building muscles. It’s a heart-warming pain in my ass. Literally! Also in my chest, triceps, biceps, lats, hamstrings and back. It hurts so good!

I spent the last decade and a half in self-limiting thoughts like these:

  • I’m too old to really build much muscle.
  • Older folks should lift light weights and just try to keep some muscle.
  • If it hurts, don’t do it.
  • I am strong enough.
  • Too much upper-body muscle will be too heavy to carry around on long runs.
  • My body just isn’t the type to build muscle.

I’ve seen the aging process reduce strength, flexibility, balance and confidence.  I know it’s coming for me, if I’m lucky. Can I stave it off a while? Fight back a bit? Optimize my gift of life? Glow in the beauty of existence?

I want to live as fully as I can! My ego loves hitting 270 – 300 yard drives. 320 sounds even better. I want to be able to do whatever I feel like doing. I hope to limit my limitations and expand my abilities. So I had to try something new. Nick opened a door.

He explained to me that to really build muscle, you have to lift heavy. He recommends sets of six to eight repetitions of weights you can barely manage.  Previously I learned that to run fast, I had to practice running fast. An obvious statement, but I had to run intervals at higher speed to improve my long-run speed. So I finally bought in to lifting heavy.  My mind opened up to the realization that I’ve spent years marking time, making minimal improvement in muscle gain. Perhaps this is expanded awareness of “no pain, no gain.”

It has only been a week. My commitment and gains will play out over time. I must say, however, that this is an exciting week. I am lifting stronger and heavier than I ever have. “Chest and triceps day” last evening was my best, as well as Jaslyn’s and Nick’s. It was so fun! How will bicep and back day go today? Legs on Sunday? We will see. In between, we’ll watch the Ducks visit the Cougars in my favorite stadium. Another great opportunity! Go Cougs!

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What a great way to celebrate the winter solstice: building muscles and watching a classic movie.  The common theme is ass whippings!  After work, I stopped by the gym to do leg weights and spinning.  I’m either building muscles or becoming a sadist. I hope it’s the first option!  Who does Bulgarian split squats for entertainment?  Leg presses for pleasure?  Why should dead lifts bring smiles to my face?  Why am I grinning after adduction and abduction?  Joyful lunges?  Is this perversion?  Or is there a wonderful secret hidden here?

Captain America was very fun to watch again!  The good guy wins!  It’s sad that he slept through his dream date, but the beauty of the romance before the preempted dance painted a masterpiece.  The joy of the chase!  Captain Steve was a great guy who won the heart of the soulful woman by being the best that he could be.  I LOVE happy stories!  Who needs more depressing examples of how not to live?  I love sagas that show good morals, positive living and faith!  It pleases me to see that sometimes, good movies are still made.  The Avengers is another one.  Maybe I should watch it again now!

I’ve spent many years doing a lot of cardiovascular exercise, including running, bicycling, skiing, etc.  I have no regrets about doing any of that.  But I’m glad I can still learn.  Annie has opened my mind to doing focused weight lifting sets, including days focusing on building leg muscles.  I used to believe that my legs got plenty of work from my varietal activities.  Perhaps they got enough endurance work, but the lifting is building muscle like running never could.  Old Cats (go WSU Cougars!) can learn new tricks! 🙂

So today I’m sore and happy about it!  I’ll still work on my biceps and other upper body muscles.  But now I’ll have three different focus days a week:

  1. Legs.
  2. Back and biceps.
  3. Chest, shoulders and triceps.

Mixing in lots of abdominal and cardiovascular work, of various types, and shuffling the lifting exercises should keep my muscles confused, and growing healthier.  Then I can do whatever I want for fun!  🙂

Collage of several of Gray's muscle pictures, ...

Collage of several of Gray’s muscle pictures, by Mikael Häggström (User:Mikael Häggström) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There should have been a warning!  Yesterday’s “drop sets” nearly dropped me on my ass!  I suspected progress when my legs quivered uncontrollably as I layered up to leave the gym.  This morning, it’s more about soreness, in many places.  Annie suggested to do drop sets for a couple of different exercises, at the end of a workout.  Yesterday, in a “more is better” spirit, I did them for 1.2 hours.  Today, I’m dreaming about my upcoming bath!  Nick’s birthday cake is in the oven; if it wasn’t, I’d be typing this from warm, soothing waters.

I’ve learned a little about drop sets.  Some people claim they’re great for building muscle bulk quickly, but not necessarily the best for adding strength.  Others suggest them as yet another option for stimulating muscle confusion, which arguably aids progress by avoiding the plateaus experienced when our muscles become accustomed to routines.  I’ve found this strategy of mixing up routines, activities, pace and exercises to be very effective.  It’s easy for me to slip into routines though.  Thank God for people like Annie who keep suggesting new ideas!

My version of drop sets, which I’ve tried twice recently, involved starting with medium-heavy weights and doing enough repetitions to approach failure.  Then, as quickly as possible, I dropped a little weight and approached failure again, with as little rest as possible between switches.  I continued this until the weights were very light, totaling a lot of repetitions.  Theory suggests that this approach engages many more of our deep muscle fibers, as the mounting repetitions at near failure need their help.  My deep-down soreness seems to confirm the theory!  ( :

Sometimes I feel it, and sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I’m motivated, and sometimes I’m not.  Today I felt good and strong in the weight room.  So I lifted steadily with minimal breaks between sets, alternating arm sets with leg sets and ab sets, mixing in stretches.  I kept moving for eighty minutes.  It made me feel vital, strong, and fully alive!  I pushed hard, knowing that progress comes with effort, not with comfort.  The comfort came later, in the form of a tasty chocolate banana protein milkshake, vegetable salad, Prime beef steak and Weight Watchers ice cream treat.  Now for a shower, reading, sleep and rejuvenation.  If I’m lucky, I’ll be graced with another day tomorrow.  Wouldn’t that be sweet?  ( :

I observed myself in the mirror after my lengthy workout today and saw the makings of a six-pack!  Are the months of hard training paying off?  Wait a minute.  I guess it’s really my aging eyes hallucinating on fat rolls.  Oh well!

I know this devotion to exercise must be making me stronger.  It has to!  But it feels more like a sore right elbow, painful left foot and aching right ankle.  Is this how it’s supposed to feel?  Frankly, I was hoping for something a little more joyous!

One of the main reasons I work out regularly is for my mental health.  It’s working!  It ‘s a damn good thing too.  Otherwise, would heavy sweating, labored breathing, aching muscles and a pervasive stench of sweat be considered a good time?

I’m afraid to miss my workouts.  I know how easy it has been in the past to slip back into less activity.  Physical health lessens.  Mental health slips away.  Pizzas replace push ups.  Chocolate substitutes for endorphins.  Rationalization reigns.  NO!  I don’t want THAT again.  So I’ll err on the side of overactivity.  I’ll keep time for God, before everything else, but the deep cleaning can wait.  It’ll just get dirty again!!!

I’m learning some of my best information about weight training from a woman!  I hope that means I’m open-minded.  I like her recommendation (link below) to generally do weights before cardio; I really do feel stronger when I lift first.  Greater strength gives me more self-confidence.  Regular exercise, especially cardio, helps my brain work better.  Yay!

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fitnessrxmag.com%2Ffitness%2Fthe-fit-life%2F1282-ask-nicole-april-1.html&h=UAQEH5JxsAQFEoMP7bgZYU7EBHhOWlYmYsmlmO_ejKra_iQ

 I just read that I can build three pounds of lean muscle in a couple of months of weight training, thereby boosting my metabolism by seven percent.  This intrigues me, as I love to eat!  I’ve been very regular at weight lifting (mixed with other types of exercise) for over four months now, and I see progress.  I’m guessing that at this rate I’ll be comparable to an NFL lineman in about seven years.  Brett Favre would seem young!  Are you feeling skeptical?  What if I merely feel stronger, more energetic and more confident?  Will all the sweat and exhaustion be worth it?  I have this perverse goal to trick the actuaries and outlive my expected lifespan.  Since I can’t afford to “retire” yet, I’m plotting to become so healthy that I’ll be rewarded with years of happy, joyous living when I do end my current employment.  If it works out that way.  For now, I’m loving the anti-depressant effects and the challenge of trying to keep up with my kids.  Can I become the world’s oldest hackysacker?  Who knows!

frankoshanko

I love health, humor, adventure, exercise, romance and competition. Well, I just love life! ( :

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