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MTS is Real and Not a Laughing Matter
July 29, 2003

You train hard and eat right and are nice to kids, yet you feel like a bowl of mush. There is nothing more revolting. The mirror is no help whatsoever and either your jeans shrunk in the laundry or your body stretched in the bottom. This can go on for only so long before the kids are in for big trouble. The right eating goes next, then the training and soon you find yourself shopping for a large-screen, wafer-thin HDTV to hang on your wall, or worse yet, a comfy new recliner. This is not a solution, it’s a catastrophe.

That mushy feeling attacks everyone regardless of gender, breed, DNA, level of accomplishment or time invested in the pursuit of strength and health. The pros get it, police officers, Greeks, librarians, mobsters and agoraphobics. It’s widespread, indiscriminate and sometimes chronic. I get it every 10 minutes, have since the spring of ‘59.

Mushy, otherwise known as deflated, flat, shallow, soft, loose, spongy, horrible and rotten, is part of the muscle development experience and is attributed to more than one phenomenon, and generally a combination of many. As is most of the information I offer, the following is my best guess as to the causes of MTS, the mushy tissue syndrome:

I warn you. Some of the following facts are disturbing and have been invented.

1) Inadequate eating often results in low blood sugar and the cells have neither fuel nor sufficient nutrients to accommodate robust cellular activity, tissue repair and recuperation. The failure to supply the body with a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and ample vitamins and minerals reduces its health to suboptimal levels and that feeling of pumped well-being is compromised. Classic MTS.

Smart eating -- ingesting the right foods at the right times -- promotes health, strength, energy and full-bodied cellular repair.

2) Don’t starve the muscle to lose the fat. Exercising and dieting with the primary goal of losing fat might cost you precious muscle. Seeking sharp abdominals, thin skin, deep cuts, vascularity and trimming the body of all fat does not contribute efficaciously to muscle density and fullness. Train to build muscle and you will lose the fat and avoid MTS.

Is your body weight low -- too low -- naturally, by choice or by oversight? Are you dieting down, missing pre-workout meals, low on your total daily calorie requirements? Check your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake. Feed your body well and consistently to prevent the mushy tissue slumps.

3) Lack of adequate water intake is another direct cause of MTS. Muscle cells perform healthfully and enjoy an anabolic environment when they are well-hydrated and well-nourished. They fail or die when shortages are extreme.

Energy levels and tissue responses depend on plenty of water all day long. Do not underestimate the importance of H20 in life and muscle tightness. Carry a bottle of water wherever you go and drink up regularly.

4) Overtraining or intense training is evidenced by loose and untoned muscles within 24 to 48 hours. The hard-worked tissues are yet to fully recuperate and that gratifying tight and full feeling is temporarily forfeited as you rebuild. A fact of muscle-making life, dear brother and sister, face it and deal with it. This doesn’t mean a layoff or a rearrangement of your training is necessary. Greedily welcome the ongoing condition of muscle repair, say thank you and move on as usual. The sun will set and the sun will rise again. Blast it tomorrow as you did today.

If you periodically fall asleep at the wheel or have trouble recalling your name, then and only then should you consider foregoing one or two workouts. Eat, relax, stay warm and get some sleep. You’ll wake up fresh, solid, bold and mighty in a day or two.

5) Temperature extremes, either slightly too hot or too cold for one’s comfort, can effect one’s fullness or flatness. The human organism is sensitive to hot-cold variations and makes adaptations for survival. Restrictions in blood flow and heart-rate modifications prepare the body for supportive action. Hence, a change in muscle tone is not uncommon: puffy and loose when warm or shallow and flat when cold.

6) Stress plays an important roll in one’s healthy daily performance. It prompts the addition of adrenaline, the action hormone, to our existing chemical mix and prepares us for strong action in a tough environment. Undue and excessive stress, however, introduces cortisol, a catabolic hormone, into the system and commences an expenditure of muscle as fuel in the name of survival. Further, heavy stress causes restriction of the capillary system and inhibits the free flow of blood to the finer muscle fibers. Muscle pump is limited and life looks glum.

Anxiety and nervousness do not promote the vascular, pumped musculature one craves.

Be strong, be courageous and be tight.

7) Insufficient sleep or rest contribute to the drawn and weak condition that depresses the trainee. Achy, listless and rundown describe the tired muscle maker. Fatigue of the mind, weariness of the spirit and exhaustion of the body negatively affect the response of the muscles. Too pooped to pump.

8) Mood and attitude have a definite effect on one’s wellness and full-bodied vigor. The musclebuilder feels hard, ready and tight when his or her spirits are high. Again, the body chemistry, glandular system and hormones, the electrical system, neurotransmitters and pathways are in cooperative balance. The vast complex is under control; the captain is at the stick.

Gloom and depression are invariably accompanied by a sluggish and droopy creature. The muscles hang onto the bones as the body leans against posts, walls and tabletops. The tank-top uttering “Who cares?” and “Woe is me” does not a ready and well-honed body build.

9) Excessive subcutaneous water retention and bloat due to excessive salt or carbohydrate intake is another condition to avoid when seeking health, muscle growth and a happy, pumped-all-day experience.

10) Too much aerobic activity or daily busy-ness will interfere with muscle rest and muscle recuperation, resulting in an over-worked system unable to perform efficiently. One must learn to pace one’s self. The body’s not tired or malfunctioning, it’s just too darn occupied.

11) There are biorhythms that mysteriously affect the human being; at least they’re a mystery to me. Everything can be in order, nourishment, hydration, attitude, training, rest and ease of living, yet the body is off 45 degrees. The footings for a record-setting workout are in place, but the muscular system is silent and unmoving. Intensity and a good pump are clearly in the training plans, though an isolated, indefinable discomfort causes suspicion.

My body feels sort of… umm… mushy. Oh, well.

The hand on the bar is like cold liver on cold steel. The weights travel from the rack to the chest rapidly and they return with unbelievable effort, one rep feeling like the last of 10. Sitting upright, baffled and disturbed, the thought of continuing the drudgery for 90 minutes is utterly unbearable, almost frightening. The muscles are flat, like the poor bugs on a well-traveled windshield. Ugh.

The room loses its color and takes on black and white and gray tones. Geometric shapes replace people and things. Distinct sounds become white noise in the distance. Standing up is now a willful effort and a walk in circles to gain comportment and perspective produces spinouts. A vacant look at a passing stranger for help, a wring of the hands as if grinding in the chalk and an elongated stare through the wide-open double glass doors leading to the wonderful outside world offers enough time for a thousand thoughts: get me outta here, I can’t go on, life’s short and cruel, anthrax, go, stay, go, leave now and regret it forever, anything is better than nothing, blast it.

An audible sigh followed by a flop on the bench confirms victory or defeat, depending upon the occupant of the body. Another set leads to another and action begets further action begets circulation begets pump begets inspiration and, lo, the see-through exit doors to freedom. Another cycle, another day, another workout.

12) Sometimes we get too close to the subject and can’t tell a good day from a bad day. We want all good days, and any day that is not a super day is a disappointing day and misinterpreted as a bad day. Privately, we fret and it’s human and it’s erosive and we must stop. Get real, step back, grow up.

Maturity is not a replacement for being young at heart; maturity is understanding our youngness that we may enjoy it now and retain it forever.

13) Sometimes it’s not in the body but in the shirt you wear. I intentionally wear a size too small to guarantee that true-to-life muscular sensation. Call it cheating if you want, but it’s worked for the last 10 years, ever since I turned 50. Childish outbursts, lasagna, an outdoor shower or a good hair day often improve my deflated condition. Laree takes in a matinee and popcorn, alone.

I glory in the splendid days and am enriched by those days that are far less than splendid. I tolerate the days on end that load my shoulders and heart with the heavy things of life. I endure them with hope, and savor their bittersweet taste another time.

The pump comes and goes, bombers. Brothers and sisters in iron and steel are here to stay.

Be cool, glide on… DD

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