Sunday, March 7, 2010


Well, I have a few admissions to make:

1. Regular readers of this blog (both of you) are probably wondering where I've been for the past couple of weeks. Well, I've been very very busy at work, and I've been recuperating a little, but mostly I've been home looking at my bank balance and deciding that I'm out of money to invest in personal training for a while. I'm not really embarrassed by this; as my mom used to say, it's no disgrace to be poor, just damned inconvenient. Anyway, given that I have a son on a mission and a daughter planning for college, and a new car to buy, and some things like that, I'm just going to have to save up for a bit before I can really afford J2's services again.

2. In addition to being short on money, I am also quite frankly short on time. The way I have been working this has just taken me away from work too much and I've got to get back to a regular schedule. Which means working out at odd times, and maybe shorter times, and probably times when I can sleep it off at night instead of in the morning or mid-afternoon. So I've got to make this weight training thing my own, and make it workable in the long term, and without "you've paid for it" to motivate me. To a great extent, that's happened with my food choices, and I've got to make it work for lifting as well. So I've been thinking through that a bit, too, as I've slowly started to climb to the top of the pile at work.

3. What is a little -- well, not embarrassing exactly, but odd -- is that I miss working out. I consider that good news. So I really want to go back and do some myself. That's also what I've been up to, a little bit. Planning my own assault on the gym. I went in last night, to reconnoiter, to see if the roof would cave in on me, to try to make peace with the shoulder press and lat pull-down. I would say we greeted one another cordially, if not warmly. I took B with me, so that the discussion wouldn't get too heated. So I sort of got a plan, and I'll try it out to see if I can 1) keep building some muscle and losing some weight, or 2) at least hold my own while my bank balance grows some.

4. I noticed that I lost my ability to count. My friend and I have started doing some laps at the track at noon. (Notice the clever use of the term "doing some laps" here to obscure the fact that we neither jog nor run, but in fact walk. Still, at least I walk 1.5 miles a few times a week now, much better than I used to do.) We go around the track about 7 or 8 laps. If at any time you asked me how many we had done, I would mumble something and try to change the subject, because I would have no idea. If my friend Moosebutt didn't keep track, I would probably just walk until they closed the track and kicked me out. Or maybe I'd put 7 marbles in my right pocket and move one over to the left pocket after each lap. Or use M&M's and just eat them. But I'd probably mess up because I have completely surrendered my logico-mathematical apparatus to others when I exercise. And I blame that on letting J2 count for me for so long. Gotta get my arithmetic mojo back.

5. OK, the most embarrassing admission is that I slipped on the ice yesterday and fell down again. But this time it really was because I was coming to the aid of a woman. She needed help moving. She also had a landlord that needed to re-engineer the way the gutters dripped water into a big sheet of ice right by her car. This time, although I did feel it a little in my right hamstring, it was my left knee that caught the brunt of it. After I iced it and kept it elevated for most of the morning, I thought it was going to be OK, but oh my how it did tighten up last night after sitting down for an hour or so in a normal chair. So last night and today I've been trying to deal with swelling and some pain. Summer can't come soon enough for me.

So there you are, the exciting adventures of Me, Mr. Physical Fitness, during the last couple of weeks. I've maintained my weight, but I'm sure my muscle mass will soon start to suffer if I don't get back to it soon. Tune in again for regular reports on my own Special High Intensity Training program. It will be everything you've come to expect from me.


So J2 asked me, "Are you ready for the best biceps workout you've ever had?" Given that he was personally present for most of the bicep workouts I've ever had, I assumed he was in a position to judge this. And it didn't really matter whether I was ready for it or not. My only choices were to participate or to make a run for it. So I nodded weakly and set my teeth.

Turns out there's a new machine. Well, new to me. It was actually an old machine that J has moved out of the gym for a while, and brought back when J2's wheedling and pleading finally got to him. Apparently it's J2's favorite machine. High entertainment value, I imagine.

This is a biceps machine that lets you put the weights in three different positions so as to provide the most resistance at the beginning, middle, or end of the contraction (or combinations thereof). We did all five recommended combinations: beginning, beginning-middle, middle, middle-end, and end. I recognized that it was getting hard near the end. I can't remember now if I finished all five sets or if J2 let me off the hook a little. I do remember that I assumed I'd be sore.

I was sore, but that's not the most memorable part. The most memorable part was trying to shave about a half-hour after the workout. The only way I could accomplish it was to rest my left arm across the top of my stomach, put my right elbow in my left hand, and use that support to keep my right arm in the general vicinity of my face. I honestly couldn't do it without support.

I thought of Moses, having to keep his arms up in the Battle of Amalek so the Children of Israel would prevail.

Where were Aaron and Hur when I needed them?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

As I believe I explained at one point, I actually started this whole blog thing to record my progress. I guess I envisioned something like:

"January 15. Did 3 sets of 20 reps with 10 more lbs. on each machine. Men applauded; women swooned. 6.34 oz. sweat lost. Noticeable growth in left deltoid."

Or some such drivel.

Anyway, you can see what it's become. But in the spirit of trying to keep some of the original intent alive, I will report that I have seen some numbers on my bathroom scale that I haven't seen in a very, very long time.

Now, I happen to know that my bathroom scale is a lyin' sack of spit.

The Common North-American Prevaricating Scale

I no more weigh what my bathroom scale says I do than I can fly to the moon. I know this because I am always shocked and annoyed when I go to my doctor's office and his scale adds 10 lbs or so to what I weighed just that morning. "Clothing, water-weight, breakfast," I tell myself, but I am also a lyin' sack of spit. I know my scale measures light. About 8 pounds lighter than the scale at the gym, as near as I can tell.

Oh, but it's a sweet little lie, and it is so encouraging. I like to think that somewhere, in an alternate universe, that number is correct, and I'm actually somehow really that weight. So I keep the scale around for the little lift it gives me. And I use the scale at the gym for a little dose of reality.

But all of them agree I'm down somewhere around 15 - 20 lbs from when I started working out -- more, if you count a few weeks before that. And that is the unvarnished truth. So, hats off to J, and J2, and M, and the rest of the crew. It's working, and I'm happy. No lie.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dazed and Confused

Muscle Confusion. That's the key to building muscles, apparently. You gotta shock your muscles into growing. Keep 'em guessing. Don't let them get complacent. You want your muscles to sleep with one eye open, and even then, you want them to be thinking "No, that's just what he WANTS us to do." You want them jumpy, nervous, constantly on guard. No sleeping at their post.

Enough metaphors.

Anyway, I'm assuming all this was the theory J2 was enacting yesterday when he introduced me to about 4 dozen or so new exercises, all of which were described using phrases such as "a more advanced version of that one you already don't like, you know, the Killer Deltoid Atomic Grunt." It seemed fitting that one of these new exercises had me on my knees, with my hands behind my head -- sort of like just before the cuffs go on and the cop asks you "What were you thinking, boy?"

Well, it worked. My muscles are confused, to say the least. As an illustration, this is how skeletal muscle looks under a microscope, assuming your microscope produces images taken from science Websites:

On the other hand, this is how my muscle fibers would look under a microscope today:

Clearly, we've gone past confusion to utter chaos. These muscle fibers are obviously asking, "What happened? Why me?" Other muscle fibers might look like this:

These muscle fibers have circled the wagons, and are hoping they'll just be left alone for a while.

So anyway, it worked, J2.

I'm sure if you were to read Chapter 7 ("Getting Out Those Frustrations") of the Personal Trainer's Guide to World Domination, you would see something like:

Should your trainee show the least bit of comfort with their training regimen. and particularly if they should ever yawn during a training session, explain about Muscle Confusion and the importance of Shocking the Muscles, and initiate Shock and Awe Campaign #6 (See Chapter 9, "Destroying the Will to Live").

Well, you did a good job, J2. You can be King of the Gym for this week. And I'm working on that yawning problem. Really.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Little Set-Back

The plans for sculpting my new physique hit an unexpected snag last week. Monday morning on the way to work I dutifully stopped at the gym to do some cardio while the Divine Ms. B did her weight training. She went on ahead of me and I was just opening the back door of the car to get my clothes before going in when --

A Great Disturbance in the Force

BAM! -- down I went on the ice. OK, the above picture may be a little over-dramatic. But that's what it felt like. It probably looked more like this:

-- but without the briefcase.

Anyway, my wife heard my noises, and went to get help, and J came out helped me in, and determined from where I said it hurt like #@!! that I probably tore my hamstring. Anyway, he iced it up, and after a while the Divine Ms. B took me to the Insta-Care for X-rays and all.

Yup. Torn hamstring. Maybe a torn adductor, too. The doctor and nurse became my very best friends by offering me some drugs before the X-ray. Three shots in the opposite hip. I loved each of them.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, and to do honor to the many forensic-medical shows currently on the air, if my body were to be examined at this point the report would read:

Significant bruising on right posterior thigh, consistent with tearing of hamstring and adductor muscles. Also some bruising of left gluteal muscle, consistent with being shot in the A$$ with a pack-saddle.

Anyway, it took me out of circulation for a couple of days, and although I'm now up and around, limping on my right leg from the hamstring, and on my left from the injections, I still can't operate a brake or gas pedal. So I'm pretty much at the mercy of the Divine Ms. B to get me around.

Tomorrow, I'm going back to the Gym to start some rehabilitation, and to keep my upper body in some kind of shape. Can't say I'm looking forward to it. If they're not nice to me, I'll show 'em my bruise.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Protein Jungle

It's a jungle out there.

Protein supplements are an essential part of building muscle, as near as I can tell. So if you've embarked on the Odyssey, you'll be in the market for protein powders, bars, salves, sprays, whatever, to get you the total daily allowance of protein (after the regulation six servings of chicken breast, of course).

And there are a LOT of people out there who want to sell it to you, with come-hither ads:

Any health-food store worth its Black Cohosh capsules will have 20 or 30 different brands of powdered whey protein.

They might even have a few protein bars.

Heck, any supermarket will have at least a dozen protein bars.

There are choices to be made, folks. My object has been simple: find the protein source with highest ratio of protein to carbs or fat. Shakes are better than bars in general, but sometimes bars are just quicker and more convenient.

But there's one more variable to be factored in. The Divine Ms B brought it sharply into focus a couple of days ago. We had purchased an assortment of bars to sample and examine carefully their various offerings of protein, carbs, fat, etc. As she took a bite of one, she said,

"You know, if someone gave this to me, and said, 'Here, I found this, but I'm not sure if it's food or not,' I wouldn't know what to tell them."

Yeah. Not all of them are what you call tasty.

I'm happy to report that, for the time being, we found one that has pretty good ratios and would probably be identified as food in a blind taste test. So we're happy. And you can get it at Costco.

The research continues.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Beyond My Poor Power to Add or Detract

Sometimes, someone comes along and just writes a perfect blog entry for you.