A Pause in Training Intensity

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The fruit on the plum tree is gone, having served the appetites of the local deer, blue jays and black-furred squirrels. The towering redwoods are picking up seasonal winds, scattering dry foliage to the forest floor and casting lengthening shadows across the front deck. Temperatures have dropped. So much for the summer, which I long for all winter.

Today, as the summer fades and the cool, cool, cool of the fall draws near, I suggest a cycle of short and lightweight training sessions. It’s been a busy summer and surely you could use a short break to adjust to the seasonal changes and assess yourself.

And at this point I’m reminded of those who haven’t been in the gym since high school and haven’t a clue where their sneakers are, never mind the bench press and the squat rack. They, too, may want to listen closely.

Training success is all about timing, motivation, evaluation and finessing the variables -- one’s complicated self and life -- to get things going and keep them going. Not exactly a walk in the park, this exercise stuff, though in many ways as delightful and more rewarding. It just requires the application of commitment, discipline, understanding and guts, but where does one find these missing pieces and lost parts? The closet, the attic, the garage, the junkyard?

Clue: You gotta have heart.

Ready or not, my scheme for brief workouts offering relief, readjustment and recompense goes something like this:

Now is the right time for the installation of the 12-minute aerobic routine, preferably of the HIIT (high intensity interval training) variety, which for this warm-up is best accomplished on the stationary bike; you get to sit and it’s low-impact, familiar, safe and it works. Zoom, zoom, zoom. Revolutions and revelations. The treadmill works for short runs; around a few blocks near the gym works, too, if you can keep away from speeding cars.

Of course, some combination of crunches, leg raises, rope tucks and hyperextensions for five steady minutes is very productive -- supports the aerobic input, the mind and the torso.

As this pause in training intensity is brief -- one or two weeks, whatever it takes to accomplish the purpose of renewal – we’re permitted to work out loosely and, I dare say, randomly. In other words, whatever we choose, whatever strikes our fancy, daily and back to back: no order, no pressure and no stress.

One rule: There will to be pushing and pulling each training session. No leash, I’m afraid, allows us to wander too far, out the back door like an alley cat -- wonder what’s on the other side of that fence… mischief, a perch for dozing, food?

Of course, the same focus is practiced, recruitment of muscle studied, pace observed and perfection of form accomplished. A nice burn and pump is sought, minus the unyielding intensity and dreary multiple sets.

Combined, push and pull movements do the job we need done; pushing engages the triceps, shoulders and some pec, while pulling works the bis and back. Our purpose is to stimulate the muscles and the mind -- active relaxation to release creativity, renew appreciation, stir inspiration, excite perception and remind us of the fun of lifting metal. Take the heavy out of the iron for a week and replace it with the light of the solid steel. Next time we bump into heavy, it’ll be like an old friend.

Pushing and pulling comes in all forms and is ideal for the superset technique. You can make your own match, as any two exercises fit under our loose parameters. What you don’t hit today, you’ll hit tomorrow or the next day. Look at you, you’re grinning and floating on air.

My favorites:

Chins and dips
Wide-grip bench and wide-grip chin or pulldown
Press behind neck (PBN) and pulldown behind neck
PBN and seated lat row
PBN and side-arm lateral raise
Close-grip bench and standing barbell curl
Curl and dip
Barbell curl and lying or seated overhead triceps extension
Leg press and leg curl
Squat and straight-arm pullover
Leg extension, leg curl and calf raise
Front press and side-arm lateral
Bent-over row and pullover
Cable crossover and rear delt lateral
Cable crossover and close under-grip pulldown
Cable crossover and seated lat row
Seated lat row and dip
Fly and bent-over lateral raise
Dumbbell press and pullover
Seated dumbbell alternate curl and two-hand overhead dumbbell triceps extension
Wrist curl, thumbs-up curl and pulley pushdown
Reverse bent-bar curl and pulley pushdown

And the list goes on, some tougher than others; some more balanced, all effective at the moment of performance according to the performer. Pick one or two for three to five sets of any number of reps you darn well desire. You’re in charge; you’re the chief, the captain, the champion.

Too often we lose our perception when our training slips from entrenched to entombed. One day we’re training hard and with purpose, and another day we wake up and the workouts are in a dark hole -- worse yet, they’ve been there for who knows how long. You’re get buried when you’re not lookin’ -- when you’re just doin.’

I’m not crazy about layoffs. A day here and there, a long weekend, somebody’s wedding or funeral (may he rest in peace) is okay, but a layoff is mind-bending. Good for the joints, no doubt, but tough on the rather frail tinhead. They say layoffs lead to gaps.

Bombers have nothing to fear. We have wings and a throttle and limitless space filled with air. We know what to do. Fly.

Thank God for today… Dave Draper


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