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Seasonal Training

Dave Draper in Lord Love a Duck

I've adjusted to the time change, agreeing reluctantly it's okay that it's dark at five in the afternoon. It rained the first time this year, and already I'm finding mild comfort in sweatshirts as I stack dry firewood beneath the mantle. Scenes of reading books, holiday planning, stocking the pantry and hibernation haze my seasonally suppressed conscious mind. "Take more vitamin D to supplement the sparse sunlight ahead," I mutter to myself like a prisoner walking down a long cell-bound corridor.

What? Am I nuts? Me, from New Jersey who knows snowdrifts up to his frozen, cherry red ears and ice that sets you in uncontrollable motion to collision or freezes you in place till spring? Winter in Santa Cruz is a brisk breeze. I will embrace the less summery months and emerge in the spring a better person, smarter, stronger, leaner and more tempered.

The plan is as simple as the clouds that separate us from the brilliant sun. I shall exercise vigorously every day and I shall continue my wise eating routine. This plan in place, I am confident my remaining steps will be well placed and sure. What a relief. How basic it all is; I can get on with my life with energy and enthusiasm.

Regular exercise and healthy eating beget discipline, liveliness and a glowing inner and outer presence. They provide crispness to the mentality — alertness and awareness — and a natural force to the demeanor — confidence and carriage. These are not bangles of conceit but solid articles of character. They don't provide the means to walk on water but they enable you to swim faster than everyone else.

Why do I write as if none of the readers follow the precepts foremost to quality existence? After all, I'm a positive person, hopeful in mankind. Here's why: I see more people intending to do well in fitness and health yet floundering after the first tests of perseverance. Too many distractions, excuses and softness and not enough encouragement and inspiration fill the TV screens, newspapers and daily conversations. I'm here to drag you into the wonderful world of oxygen, lean muscle and functional might. Somebody's gotta do it.

You who are firmly entrenched in your diet and exercise don't need my help; you are your own best instructor with continual practice, observation and resourcefulness your most attentive partners. You grow as the grass grows in fertile soil. But, what about your fatigued and heavyset neighbor? Where does he begin?

A friend of mine asked what two exercises I would do if I were starting out for the first time. Good question. It was established that fifteen minutes of vigorous cycling and sufficient mid-section work was included. I thought for a moment and decided the standing barbell curl and close-grip bench press are a superior combination. I offer the same advice to any beginning weight trainer, returning buff or intermediate looking for a let up, not a lay-off.

My guidance is supported by logic. What do you think?

First, the heart and lungs are cared for with the bike work; the legs are empowered as you apply technique and the metabolism is directed toward improvement. The mid-section work further fortifies the cardio activity, the muscle building, metabolism and internal and external resistance. These are essential to life and high-performance function, to say nothing of exhilarating.

Second, the choice of two exercises is not a poor man's routine; it's a brainstorm (inspired by a woman, no doubt). You have two powerful exercises to greet and wrap your arms around rather than an awkward selection to overwhelm and defeat you.

Third, you are willing and able to concentrate all your attention and might on the pair of movements that promise to build attractive muscle and useful strength. The stretch of time is welcome and comfortable, no room for overtraining or interrupting your life beyond the gym. The time begins, remains and ends focused, a treat in a scattered world, another benefit of incalculable worth.

Fourth, no prolonged learning curve to overcome or intrude upon your demand for action and results. One exercise is pulling and the other is pushing, both are balanced, straightforward and simple. Logical movements, whose execution is uncomplicated yet open to personal expression that determines their broad advantages.

Fifth, two exercises affording a wide range of applications and engaging a symmetry of muscle groups maintain the trainer's interest and assure him or her of continued, balanced muscle and power progress. The standing barbell curl, done with a moderate weight for sets of eight repetitions, work not only the complete biceps region but place significant resistance on the torso-stabilizing back muscles (erectors), traps, upper back and shoulder cage. Grip and forearms are substantially involved.

The close-grip bench press demands muscle and power from the front shoulder areas, the triceps and the chest in a reasonable proportion. The network of remaining upper body muscles is stimulated in complimentary balance.

This combination is for men seeking power and mass or women hoping to add sleekness to their body and ability to all sports. Superset the curl with the press, perform high reps or low, mix and match, ten sets of ten reps of each, six sets of six reps each. Your choice, have fun. The diet — the food intake — controls your weight and quality of muscle.

Sixth, you are quite likely to stick to the clean routine and clear goals and see improvement that will inspire you to vary and add exercises and character to your new love affair — truly getting fit.

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