Follow Your Nose

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Follow Your Nose One big trick, you'll notice as you roar through your 50s and 60s, is maintaining workout intensity while you necessarily diminish the load and lighten up.

The second trick is to accept the lighter approach, though you may mentally struggle to lift the weights in the lighter category. Certainly, you're not weaker, nor are you less strong; it's that the gravitational pull has oddly doubled and tripled due to the interaction of global warming, the rising cost of energy and the 21st Century's unique accelerated passage of time -- a complicated physics thing informed scientists assure us.

The third trick (they are unending) is to continue to care with passion, though you are bound to light weights and the pursuit of being carefree, mature and secure. The latter three states of mind are the biggest tricks of all, headliners for any good Vegas magician.

Others tricks include forgetting the development of 20-inch arms, ignoring the quest for ironclad pecs and dismissing the need for coconut delts. These are, after all, childish and meaningless pursuits (he lies like a rug).

The following dissertation, also known as gobbledygook, is not about slowing down or giving up. We refuse to release our chalked grip from the deeply knurled barbells; we resist surrendering the clanging dumbbells to the rack and no one can pry our clenched fist from the cool frosty mug of a good protein shake. Though we're a tricky bunch, we cannot let go.

Training intensity, like a devoted shadow, follows us everywhere. Thus, muscles flexed and wills set, we apply our well-tuned Instinctive Training Technique (ITT).

Instinctive training, what is it anyway? That's easy. It's doing what feels right because it is right.

Everyone has instinct, that inner knowledge or sense that guides us from the moment we appear to the moment we move on. Some have greater access to the reservoir of instinct than others and apply the precious feature freely day by day. These same people, though good-hearted, are less likely to walk the line and fall in place. They are the honored rebels who march to the beat of a different drummer. Uncomplicated, yet not simple, they respond to their gut feelings. They risk. They take chances. They stand apart.

The trouble is, a lot of folks go about life applying what they think is instinct, when in fact it is the other inner force common to man: stupidity. They come to a fork in the road and choose to go straight... into a sprawling oak tree. Instinct, or intuition, is a higher intelligence and brave and frequent application is its honing process. Coarse in its premature stages, it needs to be called forth, tried and tested regularly before its effectiveness is smooth and sure.

Instinctive training is not as simple as you think and it's not for beginners. Instinctive training is training according to your gut feelings... following your nose.

Why didn't you say so? Getting a simple answer from you is like pulling teeth.

Let's face it, you can't walk into a gym and expect to train immediately according to your instincts, your gut feelings. You need sufficient time under the iron and steel to gain the cloistered knowledge, and this varies with the individual. Some's got it, and some's ain't. Give it a couple of years of attentive training with gains and losses, plateaus and injuries before you can rely on your inner self to direct the action.

And remember: Be prepared for a handful of mistakes, wrong guesses and cheating to sharpen your early instincts.

Occasionally, what appears to be an intuitive move is an outright evasion of the real work that should be done. Example: How come you don't squat anymore, Joe? I see. Your gut feeling tells you squats cause shortness, bowed legs and flat feet.

Here's a mistake, if you ask me: You ache all over so you take the day off. Legs up, TV and a bowl of edibles... Borderline cheating... mmm... probably full-on cheating. Be strong. A dab of discipline, a pinch of passion and a whiff of warming up and you can expect the best workout ever, accompanied by a gratifying pump, self-discovery and a personal record. These are the times the body, mind and soul grow... and the smile, slow in coming, is ear to ear.

Wrong guesses come in heaps: Tris are sore from a monster arm workout, so you skip shoulders -- too much pressing. Wrong. There are lateral raises in various directions, there's that warming-up trick, there are shrugs to work those closely associated trap muscles that you neglect and there are bungy cords for long-overdue rotator cuff training.

I always liked a semblance of order in my training, sufficient prescribed overload and knowing the general direction of the plan. Though I'm a full-fledged bomber, I don't like winging things. That freeform training stuff works for hot-shot kids (say, under 30) and for staying in shape if you're in shape, but it doesn't aggressively build muscle. Shooting from the hip -- it's fun but I only have 11 toes and I want to keep them.

Give yourself a routine you can count on for two-thirds of your workout and improvise the remaining one-third according to your instinctive needs. That'll do it... usually. If it doesn't, you'll know it and have to hold a moistened finger to the gym air. Which way to go becomes obvious by the coolness of the prevailing breeze. Go forward without fail.

A typical day at the gym: Essentially it starts long before you arrive. There are telltale signs indicated by aches, pains, stiffness, limited range of motion and fatigue, which need careful evaluation. Often these are just good body-awareness factors, part of the constructive musclebuilding process and weightlifting life. Admit it, there's nothing more gratifying than the prevailing soreness from an intense workout.

However, pain that is not gratifying needs to be evaluated. Ah, here we return to your instincts. This pain, malaise or negative feeling might be the precursor to overtraining, illness, tendonitis, joint damage or something more serious, any one of which is a threat we dare not tempt. Not again, thank you. Note the problem with appropriate concern, as one notes one's thirst or appetite or body temperature. As the workout approaches, your casual mind -- the near-conscious subconscious data-processor -- is at work resolving the issue as we follow your trusty nose, your intuition.

Have you ever noticed the more you try to explain a simple thing, the more complicated it gets? To totally lose us in the dense jungle of steel, allow me to take us down several odd trails blazed by my former machete-swinging instincts.

Let's imagine I enter the gym wary of the gravitational pull it is capable of exerting and find a still corner to unload my gear. I simultaneously scan my body, my mind, the environment and the equipment, determining my next move, a place to commence. The exit does not register as a possibility; neither does the juice bar or the clutch of revelers seated on the Swiss balls. A list of checks streams through my head and I rapidly dispose of them: where do I feel good, where do I hurt, and how bad; what muscle groups am I scheduled to do, what do I need to do, what do I want to do and what shouldn't I do; what did I do recently, what have I done excessively and what have I neglected; how's the time, the energy, the motivation and the attitude; what equipment is available, where will I find training peace and training engagement; what equipment and exercises are attractive -- frightening. I need some water.

I want to grow, and grow fast. This cannot be done (needless to say), but that doesn't stop me from trying. So I blast it. More is better, right? Wrong, but that doesn't mean I buy into the pastel ideology. Here I am, a mound of burning insertions, ravaged joints and throbbing tendons, but don't expect me to roll over and play dead.

Throughout this imagined week of training, I do copious amounts of pulling: bentover rows, deadlifts and one-arm rows; there are pulldowns of various descriptions, lying pullovers and seated lat rows and all versions of the curl for bis. Some days, though pulldowns are listed in the program for lat building, to perform them would be a mistake. The insertions connecting the lats to the rest of the body are threadbare. (I do not like the sound of “threadbare” when describing my bodyparts.)

Here's where I stop and modify the workout according to my needs and capabilities. “What can I do,” I ask, “to forge ahead, yet not abuse the body's mechanics, overtrain the muscles, enflame a hotspot and otherwise make my life miserable?”

The now-reliable gut feelings guide me to press-behind-necks as a primary movement, supersetted with close-grip pulldowns with abbreviated extension and tight contraction as a secondary action. The alteration is mild, yet sufficient to save the body and save the day.

When the instincts are busy at work -- scanning and filtering data -- warm up the target area with light weights, high reps and concentrated form. You just might adapt to the pain, discover a workable groove, work around the limitation and achieve a significant intensity of input.

Look closely: This is instinct in action.

When you feel fatigued, grumpy and burned out, but a layoff is about as acceptable as a knockout in the first round, practice favorite combinations to stir the juices, regain spring in the legs and revive the hand-eye coordination. We all have choice routines that are undemanding and highly rewarding. They're like rabbits in a hat. Pull the furry little creature from its hiding place and let 'er loose. Some days, light weights and perfectly clean reps with deep appreciation and no expectations are the answer to weary bones.

When the bench press doesn't go up, neither do the spirits. What else is new and who cares? Go light, save the workout and save the shoulders. This takes more courage and control than continuing with a heavy weight that refuses to move.

Another option offered by the unseen inner coach is to change the grip to a medium or narrow placement. Not easier, but it's different in effect and veils your expectations. Better yet, go over to the dumbbell rack where real men and women train. Your instincts tell you so.

Incidentally, there are not-so-incidental dips and cable crossovers and pullovers, ya know... follow your nose.

The dark silence tells me I'm alone. I did it again; managed to fill the air with a bunch of words that made more sense when concealed in the alphabet. Time to roll the doors shut and switch off the lights. Hangars can be a lonely place at 3 AM.



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