Hello again, I decided that I would, again, talk about something not entirely videogame related, even though I wouldn’t exactly call myself an expert, nor would I call what I do a “craft” either…but it works. Maybe if I was more motivated, had more time on my hands, money too…well, I guess we’ll get into that later.
So why SHOULDN’T you take workout advice from me? A little background about my physique. In 7th and 8th grade, I was in wrestling at a plucky 95 pounds and about 6 foot tall. See, despite being a huge gamer, I also had an intense metabolism as well as legs that never seemed to wear out and would often ride my bike around for hours.
As soon as I dropped wrestling in 9th grade because I wasn’t able to keep up with the conditioning (and I wasn’t exactly a very good wrestler either), I started gaining weight. By the time I entered college, I was up to 175 pounds and now 6’2″. Of course, for my age and height, that’s perfectly fine, but I really didn’t have any muscle definition.
Fairly accurate description of me in a singlet back then
I began to get interested in working out because, well, everyone else was getting girls and I wasn’t. When I started realizing how much I enjoyed working out, it became a passion, but unfortunately in 2000 and most of 2001, I really didn’t have access to a regular gym. In fact, it wasn’t until about 2005 that I had access to my own workout room where I worked out daily.
Of course, by that point my weight was becoming an issue. I had gotten to over 200 pounds and was starting to hate the way I looked. Everything was going swimmingly…then my daughter was born. I’m not saying it was her fault, but it meant I had to move my weights since I had previously been using her room to work out in.
I tried moving them into the kitchen, but that didn’t really work out. Fortunately, in late 2007 I had access to a workout center at my job. Unfortunately, I was at about 230 pounds at this point. I started developing routines and doing a good job of it, then as I started to get depressed by the overall suckage of the job, I started not going…then I got fired.
I got Wii Fit in 2010, but hit 240 pounds and had a difficult time trying to get the weight back down. Finally, in 2011, I got a new job and started going to a local athletic club…then I got horribly sick toward the end of the year and have had a persistent cough ever since. It’s now 2013 and I go around 260 pounds these days…so yeah, I can totally understand not accepting my workout advice.
However, every time I go to the gym, I improve. How do I know this? How exactly do I improve? How does that even work, given there have been times where I’ve been months between workouts? All of those are exactly the reason I think you should read on.
Motivation, Passion, and Dedication
One of the most important things you can adopt about working out is a passion for it. You need to enjoy the things you’re doing to and for yourself. If you never develop that, then it will always be “work.” This is kind of hard for me to explain because I just naturally enjoy it. I love it when I improve and don’t get discouraged when I don’t.
Really, motivation and dedication are the tricky parts and I say that because those are the areas I struggle most. “I don’t have enough time to work out,” “can’t I just skip a day,” “but if I work out then I won’t be able to do X later”…these and any one of a number of other things often go through my mind as petty excuses for not going.
The truth is even if you go and just do two quick exercises, it’s better than nothing. So really, saying you don’t have time isn’t a viable excuse. Now…if your gym is on the other side of town and you literally only have 5 minutes free before work, okay, I get it. However, most of the time I justify not going when all I have is an hour…which is plenty of time to work out.
Dedication is especially important because if you’re consistent then it becomes routine. Look at it like this. Pick something boring. Let’s say reading a chapter out of a technical manual. Now, every single day, right at noon, sit down and read the same chapter. Do it until you can virtually recite it to yourself verbatim. Why? Because it’s boring, annoying, and establishes a routine.
The good news with working out is it doesn’t have to be boring or annoying, but you do have to be consistent and that is very tricky. One common trick is to get together with a group of people to work out on a regular basis. Yet another trick is to keep a calendar with a set goal on it. What I do, however, is visit Fitocracy and keep a workout journal, which I’ll talk about more later.
The first thing I do when I get to the gym, after signing in, is I put all my crap in a locker, then I weigh myself. I set a goal each month of what weight I want to be. If I’m over it, I know it will be a circuit day. If I’m at or below it, then the day will just be a normal workout. Circuits are pretty easy to do, but require time, depending on how you have yours set up.
My circuit works as follows: I start by walking a mile, then I hit the ab crunch machine, then I do any machine of my choice, then I hit the elliptical trainer (or treadmill if my feet are feeling alright), then ab machine, then my choice, then elliptical, then ab machine…until I wear out. What’s the purpose of this?
First of all, constantly hitting the ab machine, but doing so in small bursts, means my abs will be sore one way or the other by the end of the workout. Second, I’m doing constant cardio. In fact, often once I start to get tired, I’ll take a one minute break, then do another mile walk. Why? Because often by just doing that, I’ll get my energy back.
…and I’m back in the game
The whole “my choice” thing doesn’t do much for my other muscles, but these days are meant to focus heavily on my abs and cardio so that endurance, weight loss, and abdominal development begin to occur. So what does a “normal” workout entail? Upper body, lower body, upper body, lower body, upper body, lower body, etc.
Really, these days it’s not about the cardio or abwork because I’ve already met my goal. On these days it’s about pure raw strength development from all angles. I don’t do “leg days” because my leg exercises are incorporated in ALL of my workouts. Period. So based on this, obviously I hit my goal quick and most of the month is spent doing pure weightlifting, right?
Well, no. I’m 31 now and both my body and metabolism operate differently than it did in my 20s. Many times I’ll hit my goal, then despite my best efforts, my next workout day, which could even be the very next day, I’m over my goal again. It’s an annoying experience to be sure, but the good news is regardless of my size I’ll always be in good health with this plan…provided I can keep myself motivated and not get horribly sick again.
Improvement, Punishment, and Boasting
So how exactly do you improve? What I used to do was go to the gym, put the weight on what I thought I could do, attempt it, then move on until I cleared out all the machines. Yeah, that’s fine and all, but you never really know if you’re improving and you have no backup plan for if you aren’t. And if you don’t know whether or not you’re improving, then you don’t know if it’s time to move on.
Nowadays I keep a pad of paper to write on it what I did, how many reps I did, etc. Not only that, I reference the previous workout day to see what I should do, how I should be able to perform, and what to do about not being able to perform at that strength. That seems awfully esoteric, so let me provide a quick example.
Let’s say on the previous day I started my bench press at 200 pounds, only hit 3 reps, then at 195 I hit 2 reps, then at 190 I hit 2 reps, then at 185 I stopped at 3 reps. You might wonder why I would track it like this, but I’ll explain later. So today, I know that I need to hit at least 4 reps at 200 pounds or it’s punishment time.
Not quite what I mean, but it feels like that sometimes
I can tell this is already confusing, so I’ll explain now. Most weightlifting enthusiasts agree this if you’re shooting for raw, bulk muscle, that you should be doing anywhere from 8 to 10 reps of an exercise. Also, if you’re going for lean muscle, you should be doing anywhere from 12 to 15 reps. What’s the point?
Well see, the happy medium to this is what I call a baby dropset. A dropset is when you start at a weight you know you can’t do at 10 reps, keep going until you can’t do anymore, switch it to the next weight down, keep going until you can’t do anymore, switch it to the next weight down, etc. until you absolutely cannot do the exercise anymore.
This leads to extreme muscle exhaustion, but has been known to help weighlifters break through tricky plateaus and get quick, constant gains. So what I do is impose a 10 rep total, but start at the previous day’s starting point, unless I was at 5 reps. In other words, if I was at 200 pounds X 5 reps, then so on and so on, today I will start at 205 pounds to see how many reps I can pound out.
So what happens if I don’t clear at least 200 pounds X 4 reps, which would be an improvement on the previous example? Well, I receive “punishment,” which is doled out by extending the max reps to 15 instead of 10. Why? Because it gets my muscles more used to the exercise over time, which increases the endurance of the muscle group overall.
So what if I still don’t improve the next day? Then 20 reps or if I’m really pissed, then a full dropset. Either way, at some point I’ll break through the plateau and usually the next few workout days are that much easier for that muscle group as a result. The workout journal serves an additional purpose: Fitocracy.
Fitocracy is an online workout journal of sorts where you enter what you did on your workout and it gets scored, where your score can then be seen by your friends, group members, and even cause your profile to “level up,” which really doesn’t do anything above and beyond boasting, but it’s still pretty fun.
There’s also an extensive knowledge base there, lots of great people to motivate and help you out, and in general it’s just a fun place to go to regularly to see how you measure up, even if only against yourself. If anything, at least it’s a solid way to keep yourself motivated about working out.
Recovery, Soreness, and Yoga
So now we’re going to talk about one of the main reasons people just plain stop going to the gym altogether: pain. To be specific, muscle soreness and tenderness the day after. There have been times where, depending on the severity of the injury, I can’t work out a specific muscle group for a month or so.
But there are a few things you can do to prevent these types of injuries. Firstly, learn the proper form of the exercise FIRST before really pushing forward and doing more of them. If there’s anything at all off about your form, then it’s going to be especially worse on higher weights. You have to be as close to perfect as possible.
Secondly, protein. Now, we all do muscle powder, but proper nutrition is key as well, which I’ll talk about more later. The most important thing is especially if this is a normal workout day, you really want to ramp up on the protein after you’re done working out. If you can, grab a steak, really wolf down a bunch of protein powder, and get as much meat or other high protein foods in your system as quickly as possible.
If this doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will
Third, coffee. What? Yes, coffee. Coffee has been known to improve metabolism and the warm entering your bloodstream will help calm you down as well, which will assist in accepting the protein in your body quickly. Now, I’m not saying take out a pot of coffee. Even one cup of coffee will suffice.
Four, a warm, not HOT, shower. The steam and warmth from the shower will help soothe your aching muscles quickly…and you won’t stank, which is a plus. Five, midol. Look, stop laughing. Midol has powerful painkillers AND a muscle relaxant within it. Six, and I know I’m going to get some weird looks here, beer.
Not just any alcohol, but beer. Not only will it aid in calming you down, but there are lots of starches and will help dull some of the pain. And finally, yoga. Normally I would recommend stretching, but why do just any old stretches when you can do yoga? Granted, you shouldn’t overexert yourself here, but you should do what you can so you don’t lose your flexibility as you recover.
Furthermore, any day you simply can’t work out, whether because you’re injured/sore or because you simply don’t have the time, you should be doing yoga to promote flexibility, balance, proper bloodflow, calmness, and overall wellness. Look at it this way, would it hurt to gain more flexibility, even if you’re looking to become some champion weightlifter?
This is another part I struggle with, so I won’t say much here, but that’s okay because it also kinda goes without saying. Having proper nutrition is key to any good workout because it ensures you have the right amount of energy, your organs are operating properly, your muscles are ready, and you have an overall positive outlook.
And yes, it could assist in weight loss. Really though, you should be concentrating harder on cardio and higher reps if you’re really looking for weight loss, but eating right will assist this process as well. I’m not a sports nutritionist or dietician, so I can’t really go on about this at length, but it comes down to understanding your own body, what it wants, and what it needs.
Eating right will ensure proper health and safety in and outside the gym at virtually all times. It can also be expensive. And that’s really all I gotta say about that.
Really, that’s all I got. Working out is not a hard thing to do, but staying consistent is. Just by tweaking small things you do in and outside the gym, you can ensure constant, continued success. Consistency is key and if I had more of it, I would consider myself an expert on this subject. Expert or not, however, hopefully I’ve provided at least something you can use in your future endeavors.