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Exercise and Strength -- Seasonal Creativity


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This week we had our first visit of long-puss weather; that is, grouchy mornings, grim skies, cranky temperatures, terse afternoons and nasty night falls. It wasn’t long before I noticed I was grouchy, cranky, grim, terse and nasty and wearing a long puss. Driving to the gym was a treat. I did not want to go; I was stiff, I was listless, uninspired and truculent, but I wasn’t about to skip my cheery workouts.

Attitudes are adjustable and behavior controllable. The weather might be dreary and unchangeable, but you can refresh yourself by rising above displeasure, thinking clearly, focusing on hope, emphasizing the positive and deemphasizing the negative, confronting challenge, appreciating your abilities, being thankful for all things and, of course, blasting it with vehemence. The gloom is merely a thin vaporous cloud between you and the glow of the sun, and no match for grins, smiles and laughter. I know that, you know that, yet we need to be reminded.

Walking into the gym on days such as these is like swallowing dear ole’ Granny’s medicine. It has to be done. It’s bitter, goes down slow and mean and we dare not spit it out. Ah, but there’s more. The first set is like setting broken bones, the second set is like pulling teeth, the third is like walking on fire and the remaining bad boys are not exactly easy. None of them are easy, they’re not supposed to be, and soon you’re on a roll. Before long you’re rockin’ and rollin’ and recallin’ why you come to this place and do this stuff. It warms your body, brightens your mind and restores your soul. It causes the sun to shine and gives light to the darkness.

I’m just making noise and talking out loud, bombers. I felt a recognizable slump in my heart, mind and back at the first sign of fall and winter and reacted by submitting, a natural involuntary reflex. I momentarily considered the first steps down a long, cold and slippery path: Bulk up (get fat), crawl into my sweatshirt (conceal the body) and keep the mittens handy (get comfy), slow down, seek power and low reps (withdraw), hunker down and lick my wounds (hide out), save my intense training for next spring (procrastinate), remind myself everyone gains a few cold-weather pounds in the off-season (excuse), greet the holidays with open arms and mouth (overindulge) and forgetfully allow my gym membership to lapse (neglect).

Simultaneously, as if in reaction to my reaction, I felt the need to respond with action before I submitted to my weak reaction. Or, to put it another way, I decided to ignore convention, resist conditioned response, reject society’s choice, stray from the norm and part from the way of the masses. It was very close. I’d plow a different road.
 
In the flash of the moment I concocted PASS (Principle of Always Spring ‘n Summer), an imaginative year-round training methodology. The weather will not dictate my training, eating, attitude and behavior any more than I shall dictate the weather, its temperature, precipitation and capricious nature.

In truth, I’m plowing the same old road -- the one that works -- restoring it, clearing it of debris and loose grave. That’s different! What more can I do?

Change the methodology? Not much. You think there’s something more than the fundamentals? Train 3, 4 or 6 days a week, every bodypart twice a week, 1, 2 or 3 exercises per bodypart and 3, 4 or 5 sets of each exercise times 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, depending on training level or goal. Done! Tweak occasionally. Train hard, eat right and grow.

Improve the technology? Hardly. One cannot fix that which is not broken. There are a couple of dozen or so uncomplicated basic exercises that can be mixed and mingled for maximum growth, and should be taken advantage of for suitable periods of time to gain the maximum each movement has to offer. Developing and extracting the most from any exercise requires weeks of progressive- resistance repetition -- three to six or eight weeks -- as form, groove and overload are sought. Excessive performance needs to be avoided – when movement becomes stale and weight or reps become stagnant -- and this determined by the inner guide within each lifter. Instincts are more reliable than dear old Granny’s medicine.

Hasten the training? What’s the rush? Besides, haste makes waste. Training pace should match the lifter’s personality, unless he or she is a slug, in which case he or she needs a personality adjustment, as well as strength and health restructuring. Move according to your healthy instinctive drive and not according to the hands of the clock or the mutts around you. Be comfortable, focus, push hard and grow. Do it again and again. It works.

Lengthen or shorten the workout? It’s not the size or duration of the training; it’s the quality and intensity that counts. Too much time on the gym floor does not necessarily mean lots of work or too much work completed. Keep the training to the point, crisp, determined and free of loose, floating time. Stop gabbing. Concentrate and prepare for the next set. The only one you fool is yourself. Too little time suggests hurry, insufficient weight-load per exercise, not enough exercises, sets or reps or exercise substance. Think, feel and confront yourself: I’m here. What do I want? Is this enough work and am I training intensely enough? Listen and learn.

Old Chinese proverb: You only getti outti what you putti inni.

Increase or decrease the load? Time has a way of dictating that variable and it’s in the hands of the lifter to invest maximum muscle intensity in all exercises, each set and every rep. Therein lies the correct effort to exert.

There is, however, much to be said about true bulking up -- heavy workouts, heavy yet healthy eating, and consistent and dedicated training intensity -- to achieve muscle size, density, balance, shape and power. Mostly a guy thing, it works for the committed musclebuilder. And the grumpy months are the months best suited for this broad and robust training approach. Getting huge intentionally is fun. Did I mention this is for guys mostly?

I’m not bound to sameness for the sake of sameness, or out of fear of change, or like some who are bound to millstones or bad habits. There are only a few entrances to the castle or fortress, shed or pup tent, or whatever your dwelling place resembles. Why repel from a hovering helicopter, dig an underground tunnel or access the structure by storm with an armored vehicle when the front, side and back doors are wide open? They might not be original, but they’re handy. What the heck. Don’t knock, just barge right in. Honey, I’m home!

Apply the obvious movements -- the nuts and bolts of musclebuilding -- but be creative in your training approach, your workout engagement and your exercise execution. Be totally present; expect much from every exercise, set and rep and don’t regard them as redundant, imitative and dull, or as tedious work that must be done. These are the tools that build the body and you’re the skilled and calloused worker wearing the hardhat. Push that iron, lift that steel.

You think you’re focused? Focus deeper, so deep you feel each exercise, set and rep as if they were hot flesh, warm blood and flexing bone. You feel pain? Don’t fight it, chase it away or try to ignore it. Concentrate on the fierce condition and, if it is not a black and blue preamble to injury, grasp it and know it and pursue it till it takes you to the end. Pain’s a bully, but knows its way around. Riding its back affords the only shortcut I know.

You have better things to do? What’s more important than improving and protecting your health, strength and character in a world where these are rare, yet absolutely critical to life and limb -- yours and your family’s and your community’s? You can’t buy them; you can only earn them and, thus, deserve them.

Have you noticed when you fly high enough and long enough you forget where you’re going and where you’ve been? Good thing my craft is no larger than my imagination and I can land it anywhere and on a dime.

Heads up, bombers, I’m puttin’ this baby to bed... Dave Draper

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