On Any Given Sunday: Building Muscle, Learning Pauses

Garage workout, push-ups, granada, nicaragua, personal fitness, training, jan 2018

Today when Chris and Bertina come by in the morning, Chris looks right, then left, and hands me a baggie of white powder.

Don’t jump to conclusions, he deadpans. I laugh. This is so Chris. You’re doing more now, and you’re asking more of your body. You need to feed your muscles, he says.

He explains that he’s brought me the good stuff. Protein powder that has 23 grams of protein per scoop. Talk about the good goods! I am to put it into a smoothie with whatever I want that makes it taste good to me. Chris emphasizes that it is a supplement that is an addition to the regular foods I consume and is not a replacement for anything.

Overall, I should be thinking about a dietary routine. He recommends using the app “My Fitness Pal” which will calculate a lot of dietary considerations for me based upon my height, weight, age, etc. If I don’t do this, there is the danger that I will start to lose weight if my body has to go digging around inside for energy resources.

I am paying close attention. Weight loss definitely runs counter to my goals to add weight and build curves and is a real fear of mine in regards to my personal fitness journey. Too much fitness is almost as bad as not enough fitness, but I don’t feel that I am yet showing any signs of slimming down. Actually, I have been hopeful lately that I am filling out more. I have gained five pounds that seem to be sticking around and I am grateful for their arrival. My clothes are tighter (this is good!) and I feel stronger, more capable, more solid.

I am still injured with my sciatica but amazingly there is almost no limit to exercise I can do regardless. It’s easy to move around the injury and to find any number of movements that feel okay. I think that there is a learning lesson in this not only in finding the patience to let things heal in their own time, but also the practical discipline to identify what is still possible to do in your program.

It is better to do some kind of exercise even if it’s not everything that I would ideally hope to cover and keep my workout routine going. My body needs the activity and the blood flow. I also sense that an injury is a predictable reason why many people suddenly, then perpetually, stop working out after they have established a regular fitness program.

As an aside, I have forgotten to mention that Chris and Bertina have discussed and shared with me what they want me to do to help me with my form. They intend to focus on exercises that add muscles and mass to my glutes and hips and that tone my arms and back. If you never have had a team of experts weigh in on how you are going to achieve your ideal figure, let me tell you that it is awesome! They understand perfectly what I want to do and they actually know how to do it!

Today, Bertina runs through some of her familiar strength training exercises with me. Small adjustments make big differences in the effectiveness of the movements so she is always on the lookout for perfecting form, (especially if I am revisiting an exercise that I have done before). Today when I lunge and my knee touches the ground, she reminds me to keep it up higher where I can feel it is much more work to sustain.

Garage workout, lunge twists, granada, nicaragua, personal fitness, training

Today, we are working with some hand weights while we squat and lunge to build and sculpt the upper body and at the same time increase the challenge to the lower body to come up and down. I have a tendency to try to use my shoulder and neck muscles when I pick up weights and move them around. It is a common temptation for one group of muscles to want to come in to assist another group of muscles to carry a load, but for several reasons hunching up the neck muscles to assist the arms is an important habit to break.

Garage workout, rest, granada, nicaragua, personal fitness, training, jan 2018

Firstly, although the weight that we are using today is quite light, it won’t be so light later down the road. As we start to add to the challenge with additional pounds there is a real danger of straining neck and shoulder muscles that never should have been involved in the first place.

Secondly, Bertina explains to me that every time we do engage these muscles we are wasting energy that is better spent on using the ideal muscle group that we are targeting. Before we begin another set of lunges with arm twists, she has me stop and put the weights by my side.

Breathe deep, she instructs. Relax. Move your shoulders around.

I am instantly reminded of footage I have seen of boxers loosening their necks and shoulders as they jump rope, swing at the punching bag and while in the ring. It’s true! Relaxing one area to strengthen another is a conscious exercise that I will have to remember to do.

For similar reasons, Bertina often tells me between sets to sit down and rest. It feels at first like down time is cheating, as if I am supposed to be doing something to keep the hour productive. But I eventually find out that she is right. Relaxing all your muscles for a period of time rejuvenates your body for an upcoming set and I find that the rest results in more successful movements.

Not all personal fitness techniques are intuitive and and it is really incredible that I am coached and corrected along the way. An hour of daily exercise can certainly help to build the body that I want over time, but that same hour engaged in disciplined exercise is amazingly better spent.