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Fitness Resolutions

48 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Given the time of year, I thought it a fitting thread topic. Resolutions abound on January 1st, not least of which often includes something to the effect of "I vow never to do that again." Many thoughts also lead people to thinking about finally getting in shape or perhaps simply trying to change the shape they currently possess. The trick is to stay on that bandwagon rather than fall off as most people do until next January. To best do so requires a little bit of forethought and planning rather than going all out. I'm going to put down some of my own goals to perhaps help other people think about their own goals and perhaps create a bit of a buddy system wherein we can encourage one another to get there. If nothing else, I'm putting this down to commit myself to it somewhere other than in my head.

The shortest route to failure when undertaking a new exercise regime is to go too hard too fast without any sort of clear guideline as to what you wish to accomplish. So we need to establish some goals, both short term and longer term ones. We also need to determine where we currently stand so as to best judge how realistic our goals are. We also need to break down our goals into discrete segments with realistic and achievable time lines (read: the lower the level of overall fitness, the more conservative the goals and steps should be). Failing to do this won't necessarily prevent you from reaching your goals at all, but it will slow you down in getting there.

To start, let's describe me: 32 year old male, 5'9" 205lbs. I played football in high school and in a men's league when I was in Australia. I also was involved in downhill skiing racer training in my youth. I've also been a regular user of a weight room (with varying degrees of success) since I was 15. I love the weights and lifting heavy things and tend to skimp out on the cardio side. I can manage a 5km run in 30 minutes, but that's about my limit for now. I do walk well in excess of 10km daily during the week, with the number dipping closer to 5km on the weekends. I would describe myself as not strong enough, not quite big enough and a bit too pudgy. The reality is that I'm one of the strongest people I know, I'm plenty big enough and I could certainly manage to lose about 25lbs.

With a background established and current situation put forth, what comes next is establishing goals. The obvious long term goal here is better fitness, but measuring that is about as simple as establishing world peace; a noble goal but ultimately a meaningless proposition. The truth is that your goals will change over time as you achieve your previous goals and as your life changes and interests change. Establish new ones that suit your changing priorities and time demands/constraints, or at the very least set the goal of not backsliding into previous bad habits! For my purposes, I will break down my goals into three main categories, each of which will be broken down into more specific incremental goals along with a (hopefully realistic) time frame for achieving them. I should also hasten to mention that the focus should be on establishing and realising realistic (albeit challenging) goals, not on achieving them by the set time at all costs simply for the purpose of ticking the box on your checklist. Kinda defeats the purpose that way.

The categories will be fitness, strength and personal goals:

Fitness

Overall goal: I want to run 10km. I'm not particularly interested in doing so in a race setting (although I might change my mind to do just that), but definitely on a treadmill or around an indoor track as part of my training. As I said above,I can already run 5km provided I'm mentally prepared to do so. Doubling the distance to 10km can be accomplished in a couple of different methods, some may be more achievable than others. For me, I wouldn't consider my goal reached unless I was able to run continuously for 10km; I would view stopping for a breather or even walking for a short distance during the run as a failure to reach my goal. I could complete the requisite distance, but the important part for me is keeping it continuous.

How am I going to do it? Since my focus is on keeping the run continuous, I intend to gradually increase the distance I run until I can tolerate the full 10km. I will run 5km twice a week until I feel comfortable enough in doing so to want to increase my distance. Picking an equally arbitrary number, I will increase my distance by 500m. Depending on how well I'm managing with that, I will continue to increase my distance every second or third week. If at any point I find that I'm pushing myself too hard, I can just as easily back down and scale back my time line by a few weeks. Starting with my existing base of 5km and incrementally increasing my distance by 500m every two weeks, even allowing for a few setbacks I can conceivably be running 10km by June. Of course, given any conflict between this goal and any others I have, or even any Real Life intrusions, this time line may be somewhat affected. However, provided I put in the effort to achieve this goal, there is no reason why I cannot accomplish it. Hell, it would take a concerted non-effort for me not to accomplish it before the end of the calendar year.

Strength

Despite knowing I'm plenty strong enough as it is, I have plenty of goals to reach here if only to prove to myself how idiotically stubborn I am. Most of the goals in this category will be for me to establish new personal bests (PB) in various lifts. I've been using the same basic workout routine (in terms of which muscle groups fall on which days) for practically a decade but it hasn't been working well enough to my satisfaction of late and I'm currently in the process of rejigging things to get me back on track. As such, I'm not intending to provide any time component to any of these goals. The number (weight and/or reps at a given weight) will be the goal itself. I realise this kinda contradicts what I said at the outset, but I hardly claim to be a rational person. ;)

If you are new to weight training or looking for decent goals to set for yourself, the old standbys are the ability to perform a chin-up (or multiples thereof), a body-weight squat and a body-weight bench press. If you aren't there yet, you can do it if you approach the problem incrementally and systematically. Once there, you simply need to reset your goals to aim for higher weights or (more prudently) more reps at that given weight. I was able to do these things a few years back, so I've decided to go chase after far more absurd goals. Right now, I'm merely typing them out to put them out there and to act as impetus for getting me there. Follow my lead if you want to try and out-compete me for idiot of the year (how's that for a goal!) or maybe just laugh at me. I know I will be.:D

Incline bench press:

current PB: 225lbs/6-8 reps. Goal(s): a) 275lbs/1 rep B) 225lbs/10 reps.

Decline bench press:

current PB: 300lbs/3 reps. Goal: 315lbs/1 rep.

Chin-ups:

I can currently manage about 6 reps on my first set before I bail. I want to get back to a point where I can do at least 10 reps on my first set. Once I can do that, then it's time to start doing weighted chin-ups.

Military press:

current PB: 175lbs/3 reps. Goal: realistically I want to do (at least)1 rep at bodyweight. I've done it before, I will do it again.

Squat:

current PB: 315/6 reps. Goal: I want to do 1 rep at 405lbs all the way to the floor, not the half-rep I did once upon a time to make it my all-time PB.

Leg press:

current PB: last time I pushed it was about 810lbs/8 reps. Goal: 1000lbs ideally for a full set of 10 reps.

Deadlift:

current PB: 275lbs/5 reps. Goal(s): a)match my all-time of 395lbs/1 rep. b)405lbs/1 rep.

Cleans:

current PB: 155lbs/10 reps. Goal: 185lbs/1 rep, and then 225lbs/1 rep. Given the gym I'm in, this may be a pipe dream unless I get a personal trainer to help me with it.

Most of these are quite realistic, especially as they are at or near weights I've lifted previously. As I said above, I avoided any time lines for achieving these goals given that I'm in progress of changing my regimen to best suit my situation. I also need to find that place in my head where I can go to make this happen. "The flesh is willing but the spirit is weak" comes to mind. If I can strengthen up the spirit this won't be a problem at all.

Personal Goals

Goals under this heading can be any number of things that can contribute to your general well-being. No matter how silly it may seem, actually taking the time to list out and set aside a block of time to accomplish something or work towards a given goal can help your peace of mind and overall satisfaction with life.

When I was finishing up my undergrad degree, I really got into indoor rock climbing and bouldering. My uni had an excellent facility for both climbing and bouldering and I went climbing at least once a week and was bouldering 3-4 times a week, usually between classes. Of course, I haven't even put my shoes on in over five years. My goal here is a rather modest one: I wish to take the opportunity to go climbing/bouldering once a month.

Another common area most people want to change at this time of year relates to body composition. Most folks look at the themselves in the mirror and don't necessarily like what they see. Or perhaps they don't like the number on the scale when they stand on it. Like with any other goal, the most important thing to do is to analyse the situation: What is your current weight? What is your desired weight? Is this realistic and achievable? How do we break this down into the appropriate discrete steps?

For me, I currently tip the scale at 205lbs, but would like to see myself in the low-180's. I will be using this merely as an admittedly crude guideline and nothing more. As the vast majority of my goals require adding a good deal more muscle mass, simply going by the number on a scale is a recipe for failure and disappointment. If I wish to drop my total mass by about 20-25lbs, I would expect to decrease my fat mass by an amount closer to 30-35lbs while increasing my lean mass by 5-10lbs. Feasible and realistic, provided I go about it smartly. When I was playing football in Oz, I dropped nearly 35lbs in six months of training, two two hour sessions per week plus a game on Saturdays. At the time I didn't overly pay attention to what I ate (no more than I usually do) and drank like a fish too often for my own good. Since I am approaching this as a problem requiring a solution and not a mountain to overcome, I'm already most of the way to getting there. Two things will be key for me (or anybody attempting something similar): 1) acknowledge that this is a longer term goal, susceptible to fluctuations and setbacks and one that will take about 4-6 weeks before I notice much change, and 2) work to maintain a negative energy balance. What do I mean by that? Well let me tell you! Simply put, you should be aiming to maintain a neutral energy balance most of the time where energy in (through food and beverages) = energy out (through exercise and you know, being alive). If this equation is imbalanced where in > out then we find ourselves packing it on. When we find ourselves where in < out, we tend to b losing weight. I realise that this is a far more simplified version of what is actually going on and while how your body truly responds to these changes in environment is extraordinary, it goes far beyond what is needed here. Suffice it to say, this equation will cut it.

So how do we alter the balance of the equation in our favour? We can (and will) do it by manipulatng both sides of the equation. For the energy in side, make smarter food choices. Portion control, restricting sweets such as sodas and candies, reducing the use of cooking methods such as frying foods in favour of steaming, etc. You know, pretty much the same public health messages that we all are aware of and are blissfully content to ignore most of the time. For the most part, it isn't rocket science; it just requires the execution of whatever common sense you have. If you like the degree of control, you certainly can go so far as to count calories, but you don't have to. I've done it in the past and it certainly does work, but it requires a lot of effort and you can become a tad obsessed by it. The simple way is to scale back a bit on the most obvious things you're doing and just wait and see if there's any net change. If not, tweak it a bit further. Trial and error is the name of the game.

The energy out side of the equation is most easily manipulated through increasing your activity level. It doesn't always have to be perceived as exercise either. If you have young children, play with them for an extra twenty minutes when you get home from work. Not only will it burn some extra calories, but you will all feel better for having done so rather than sitting on your couch like a lump. Make the effort to go for a walk rather than watching the telly (or sitting at the damn computer!) all night. If you're more partial to social and community events, go dancing or play in a rec league for whatever sport you enjoy. Play in a competitive league if you're temperamentally more suited to that. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or maybe park at the far end of the gym parking lot and walk in rather than spend ten minutes driving in circles to get oh-so-much-closer to the door.

The key here is to manipulate both sides of the equation to double your impact. Some rough numbers to think on: 1lb of body fat contains 4086 calories. Therefore, to lose 1lb of fat, you need to expend 4086 more calories than you consume. A daunting number to be sure, but let's break it down to more manageable figures. If we are aiming for the low rate of 1lb per week, this correlates to an energy deficit of approximately 580 calories per day. Depending on the duration, intensity and type of activity performed, you can quite easily achieve this without even having to adjust your intake. For me, 30 minutes on a treadmill can net between 500-600 calories expended. If you're just starting out, a more reasonable expectation is to perform a variety of lower impact and intensity activities over the course of the day (yardwork counts!). These little changes over the course of a day can accumulate to 200 additional calories expended. If you also decided to forego your daily double-cap-extra-frothy-grande-latte with sprinkles in favour of a simple cup of black coffee, that should put you over the top.

To bring this rather long segue back towards myself, working from an expected weight loss in the 20-30lb range and a very modest rate of weight loss of 1lb per week, that would have me achieving my goal in late July/early August. With the intensity of my cardio picking up over this period of time, the rate of weight loss should also scale up proportionately. All of this is independent of any dietary changes I will be making. Rather than setting myself a tighter timeline that I may not be able to adhere to, I would rather be happy to reach this goal earlier than conservatively predicted. You might think of this as gaming the system, and I wouldn't be able to disagree. My game, my rules. So there. :p

Another concept you should probably be somewhat familiar with by now is Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI is little more than a diagnostic tool that is only directly useful in an epidemiological fashion. It creates a ratio between your weight and height that is used to classify you as either underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. These classifications have distinct relations to morbidity/mortality and incidence/prevalence with respect to a variety of health-related illnesses. This is plotted on a graph in a J-curve such that those in the normal weight category at are the lowest risk of developing weight-related diseases. The J-curve graph which underlies much of this is a population level statistic. It measures the relative risk of a subset of a given population and not what your particular rate of risk is. My BMI as calculated places me in the obese category. As a member of the subset of "obese" in this population, I am at a greater risk of developing a weight-related disease. However, my actual risk is more greatly affected by my genetic history and my lifestyle. Despite being heavier, I may actually be at a much lower risk level than a given individual in the "normal" subset. All in all, although your risk as an individual will not be greatly affected by your BMI, as a member of the population, it still would be a prudent idea for you to aim to get your BMI within the appropriate range. Just remember that it is a tool that you can use to your advantage in reaching your goals, but like everything else I have tried to say here, it is not a end unto itself.

I realise the inherent symbolism of starting things anew with the changing of the year. Clean slate and all that: I totally get it. I still think it's complete rubbish. Do it because it's the right thing to do with your life, not because it is now 2009 by some equally arbitrary measure as anything else out there. Bah humbug to me then, but good luck to anyone else willing to make a change. :D

Edited by Godot
Completed thoughts from last night.

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Thanks, Godot.

I have been trying to establish a workout routine the past several months. It consists basically of 3 sets of stomach crunches and two 20-pound dumbbell lifts. I started with 30 sit ups and 20 lifts, and am now at 40 sit-ups and 40 lifts per set.

While there's some added tone in the arms, I still have that unsightly belly fat 'round the tummy. I hear I'm supposed to try aerobics, but I have neither the time to run nor the desire to sign up to an expensive club. What do you suggest?

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Thanks, Godot.

I have been trying to establish a workout routine the past several months. It consists basically of 3 sets of stomach crunches and two 20-pound dumbbell lifts. I started with 30 sit ups and 20 lifts, and am now at 40 sit-ups and 40 lifts per set.

While there's some added tone in the arms, I still have that unsightly belly fat 'round the tummy. I hear I'm supposed to try aerobics, but I have neither the time to run nor the desire to sign up to an expensive club. What do you suggest?

No problem Cam. To start, what are your goals? It's pretty hard to give targeted advice without knowing what it is you wish to accomplish. Not that that won't stop me, of course. With the weights that you have to hand, you can (and should) do a large variety of exercises to tone up your arms. I presume that you're largely just doing a bicep curl. For a bit of variety with that, instead of just performing the curl palm up, change the positioning of your hand and try them palm down (reverse curl) or palm inside (hammer curl). Something as simple as that will change the stresses on the muscle as well as incorporate more of the forearm muscles. Furthermore, you should also be working your triceps. A couple of easy options: a kickback and a skullcrusher. To do a kickback, bend over putting your unoccupied hand against a table or chair for support. Your weighted arm should be elevated such that the upper arm is parallel with the floor. To perform the movement, extend your arm backwards. The only pivot point in this movement should be your elbow. The skullcrusher requires you to be lying on your back with your arms fully extended towards the ceiling, palms facing in. The only pivot point here again should be your elbow. In a controlled manner, bend your arms, bringing the weights down (more or less) to your eye sockets (hence the name of the exercise) and then extend them once again.

A final exercise for your arms will be an overhead press to work your shoulders. With your weighted hands at shoulder height on either side of your head, fully extend your arms above your head. Wash, rinse, repeat as necessary. You can do this one seated or standing, but it can be helpful to do it in front of a mirror to monitor your technique. To mix things up and keep them fresh, you can also play around with how fast you perform each rep, total number of reps, number of sets you perform and even how much rest you allow yourself between sets. All of this will somewhat determined by what your goals are and what type of gear you have available to hand.

As far as trying to reduce the belly bulge, situps will never do this. That is called spot reduction and it is nothing more than a myth. Simply put, body fat is energy storage. It exists in a format that is very difficult for your muscles to use, so when your body has an energy shortfall, some body fat is mobilised and sent to the liver in order to be converted to a more readily usable format. The body fat that gets converted is pulled from wherever it is most convenient for your body to get it from, not from the area that is working the hardest. I plan to talk about this more in the OP tonight after the kids are in bed, so I won't go into to much detail other tahn to say that the only surefire way to lose weight is to run in a caloric deficit. That is, expend more calories than you consume. To accomplish this, eat a bit less and exercise a bit more. You say that you do not have the time available to go for a run, but is there anything you like doing that you do have the time for? Or would b willing to spend more time doing? Recreational activities also count here, so it doesn't have to b exclusively in the exercise/workout mindset. Options abound depending on what you like and what suits your lifestyle.

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Thanks Godot. I think you're right about the desire for fitness involving evolving desires and goals.

I've now been no-longer-obese for ages; I'm beginning to get used to the idea of not being at all fat, and as it's started to sink in I'm starting to lose some of my long-built-up disdain towards exercise that was clearly, retrospectively, bound up with being extremely fat.

I still don't like it, really, but I do like vitality and life, and I can't deny that exercise brings it about. I couldn't, just now, do running or anything of that sort and pretend to myself that I was enjoying it, though who knows what I'll think in the future.

Since losing weight I also have realised, for the first time, how small I am. I'm really quite small, but hadn't thought about it before. I've been more aware of strength as it exists round about me, particularly in other people. A lot of teenagers seem to be considerably bigger now that I've lost weight. There's a sort of fearfulness for manliness when you get a Large Boys football top for your christmas (though I love it; because it's for kids it doesn't have the alcohol logo on it and so looks like a retro top - so good!).

As such, I've decided to shed my love of the moribund, and pursue life-filled-things this year. I've decided to go for exercise that will at once be invigorating, philosophical, and address my manly worries about finding myself quite weak. All that to say, I'm starting Shaolin Kung Fu. I've researched it and the sheer depth of thought that lies behind every physical action makes it entirely captivating. It takes years to be properly proficient, I realise, but I think it'll go a long way to developing the warrior spirit that I now think is essential to life, while at the same time addressing pragmatic issues like my complete lack of fitness, and relative weakness. Hopefully doing any sort of exercise should give me more energy to do the actually important stuff of love and life.

Doing it well, though, will naturally involve being actually commited, and taking things like supplety and speed seriously. As such, if you have any advice about any exercises etc I could do in my house that would be profitable in my new journey, I would warmly appreciate it.

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I have been lulled into believing I can get right at any time largely because I have... Well, seriously, when it calls for it ( like a professional opportunity) I manage to stick it through but apart from that, I don't have too much motivation. Its an on and off thing. "Working out" quickly gets boring for me which is why I'd like to learn to do something like boxing because it is more active and that keeps me from having to remember ( in mechanical fashion) a series of reps of different activities.

I know once you settle into a workout regimen, you will come to do it 'naturally' but I quickly get frustrated with doing x amount of situps, push ups, etc. That is, having to remind myself and keeping a routine. I'd rather do something more free form.

Last year I bought a punching bag and stuck with it for awhile but this year I'd like to get a trainer ( if I have the money to burn) and somehow incorporate a boxing routine into my schedule - for at least five times a week. A trainer for proper mechanics but also motivation ( I amuse myself at how ludicrous I probably look to a professional though I've watched training videos). My overall aim is to lose my (again) expanding gut and lose about 15 pounds. Ideally, I'd stay the same "size" but in better shape.

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I still don't like it, really, but I do like vitality and life, and I can't deny that exercise brings it about. I couldn't, just now, do running or anything of that sort and pretend to myself that I was enjoying it, though who knows what I'll think in the future.

In my experience, a lot of the motivation to doing something is to find a way to turn what you consider negative about an activity and turn it into a positive. I still hate to go for a run. That first kilometer sucks so much. But once you get moving along and once you reach your end point, you feel so bloody chuffed that it was worth it (retrospectively, of course). You can always invent a reason to not do an unliked activity. The easiest way to fool yourself into making running fun though is to grab a ball and some friends and go kick a the footy around. You still get the exercise, but you also have enough fun goofing off that you tend not to notice the exertion until the next morning.

As such, I've decided to shed my love of the moribund, and pursue life-filled-things this year. I've decided to go for exercise that will at once be invigorating, philosophical, and address my manly worries about finding myself quite weak. All that to say, I'm starting Shaolin Kung Fu. I've researched it and the sheer depth of thought that lies behind every physical action makes it entirely captivating. It takes years to be properly proficient, I realise, but I think it'll go a long way to developing the warrior spirit that I now think is essential to life, while at the same time addressing pragmatic issues like my complete lack of fitness, and relative weakness. Hopefully doing any sort of exercise should give me more energy to do the actually important stuff of love and life.

Doing it well, though, will naturally involve being actually commited, and taking things like supplety and speed seriously. As such, if you have any advice about any exercises etc I could do in my house that would be profitable in my new journey, I would warmly appreciate it.

This is fantastic news! It's also an ambitious goal, so hopefully you find it more rewarding as a result of the challenges and pain that you will suffer through and not get discouraged. And rather than make any sort of suggestions for you right now, I would think it better for you to take in a session or three and see/feel where you are most in need of improvement and then I can suggest the appropriate torture from there. Until then, just get out and try things to see if anything else grabs your fancy.

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Thanks for all this information and discussion, Godot. I just want to add one suggestion for those who struggled with motivation and the boredom of repetition: start using a record book. This is the easiest thing to do but will help hugely. Once you get used to maintaining one, you can use it to "dislocate expectation".

To explain, suppose you run for 30 mins on the treadmill. If you're like me, you'll keep looking at the timer and counting down how long you have left instead of enjoying it, if such things can be enjoyed. Rather than set the programme to stop after 30 mins, just put it on "quick start" and start running; when you get to 30 mins, instead of stopping make yourself run for an extra 30 seconds or so - whatever you can manage. Write the time in your book. Next time you run, remind yourself of the time and keep telling yourself you're just going to repeat it, but when you get to the end push yourself to run a little longer. This is called the dislocation of expectation and it teaches you pretty quickly that you can run further or longer. You can play around with changing the speed or incline to test yourself as well.

The same applies to weights and is probably more important there. The reason Godot knows how much he can lift is because he wrote it down. If you do the same exercises every time then it will be boring but if you use a log and try to push yourself a little further each time, you'll notice that your fitness develops. I remember a few years ago when I was lifting weights that I used a new training partner because neither mine nor his was in that day, so I had to adjust to someone who was lifting around three times as much as he. This guy told me to try heavier weights and it turned out that I could instantly lift twice as much as I had been, in all areas - I was stuck at the same level because I didn't write anything down and hence didn't push myself to do more each time.

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I have a "as seen on tv" chin-up bar that I use every day, doing between 30 and 50 reps over the course of the day. I also have a set of dumbbells from 5 to 45 lbs that I use occasionally. Other than that, I play lots of racquetball and do martial arts twice a week. I don't have any specific fitness goals, other than losing a few pounds (my weight and weight goal is similar to Godot's), but I would like to develop my upper body to the max. I don't know much about weights, though. Can someone put up a decent weight training routine that I could try out? I haven't bench pressed since I was in high school, but I do have access to a gym for heavier lifting.

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Just curious, has anyone seen that P-90X program by that Tony Horton fellow advertised on television; my brother, an insanely in shape young man going to college on a soccer scholarship, says it is an incredible routine...

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In my experience, a lot of the motivation to doing something is to find a way to turn what you consider negative about an activity and turn it into a positive. I still hate to go for a run. That first kilometer sucks so much. But once you get moving along and once you reach your end point, you feel so bloody chuffed that it was worth it (retrospectively, of course). You can always invent a reason to not do an unliked activity. The easiest way to fool yourself into making running fun though is to grab a ball and some friends and go kick a the footy around. You still get the exercise, but you also have enough fun goofing off that you tend not to notice the exertion until the next morning.

When I was young I was really good at football; tipped-to-go-professional good. Everyone took this very seriously and made me run all the time, and it ceased to be fun, and I gave it up. Played it for the first time in years a few months ago and it was great! Discovered that old joy. Forgot my bus fair though and had to walk home; like drunkeness the pain of football should kick in, as you say, the next day. Not so that day, that was sore walk; much fun though. Much fun. Might start playing football again regularly. For some reason I hadn't thought of that at all. Cheers!

This is fantastic news! It's also an ambitious goal, so hopefully you find it more rewarding as a result of the challenges and pain that you will suffer through and not get discouraged.

It actually feels like fantastic news. Historically I'm alright once I've overcome some, what appears to me like a philosophical objection and actually turns out to be pettiness, in persisting with things. I tend not to start them if I wont finish them. But it's going to be thoroughly challenging. I'm not elegant - kung fu is elegant. My wife, with her dancing lessons, is doing it too - so she'll hopefully keep me right. We've got an open day a week today; I'll stick a wee update in here.

And rather than make any sort of suggestions for you right now, I would think it better for you to take in a session or three and see/feel where you are most in need of improvement and then I can suggest the appropriate torture from there. Until then, just get out and try things to see if anything else grabs your fancy.

Many thanks; I will do! It's only a to-watch session this week; it'll start in earnest the following week. I'll see where I crumble and then ask you how best not-to-continue-to-crumble! :D

Thanks again.

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I have been lulled into believing I can get right at any time largely because I have... Well, seriously, when it calls for it ( like a professional opportunity) I manage to stick it through but apart from that, I don't have too much motivation. Its an on and off thing. "Working out" quickly gets boring for me which is why I'd like to learn to do something like boxing because it is more active and that keeps me from having to remember ( in mechanical fashion) a series of reps of different activities.

I know once you settle into a workout regimen, you will come to do it 'naturally' but I quickly get frustrated with doing x amount of situps, push ups, etc. That is, having to remind myself and keeping a routine. I'd rather do something more free form.

Last year I bought a punching bag and stuck with it for awhile but this year I'd like to get a trainer ( if I have the money to burn) and somehow incorporate a boxing routine into my schedule - for at least five times a week. A trainer for proper mechanics but also motivation ( I amuse myself at how ludicrous I probably look to a professional though I've watched training videos). My overall aim is to lose my (again) expanding gut and lose about 15 pounds. Ideally, I'd stay the same "size" but in better shape.

Another option for you (seriously!) is to get a Wii. Despite being motion-based, you can still exert yourself significantly while playing and get a decent workout out of it. Not to mention, Wii Sports includes boxing. ;)

As far as trying to keep it interesting for yourself, there's plenty available for you to do outdoors. I know you're in Alaska, but not whether you're rural or urban. Either way though, you should have relatively easy access to things like snowshoeing, ice skating/hockey, cross-country skiing. You could even have a go at dog-sledding! I'd suggest shoveling snow, but that hardly counts as "fun" for anybody; make a snowman instead.

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Thanks for all this information and discussion, Godot. I just want to add one suggestion for those who struggled with motivation and the boredom of repetition: start using a record book. This is the easiest thing to do but will help hugely. Once you get used to maintaining one, you can use it to "dislocate expectation".

To explain, suppose you run for 30 mins on the treadmill. If you're like me, you'll keep looking at the timer and counting down how long you have left instead of enjoying it, if such things can be enjoyed. Rather than set the programme to stop after 30 mins, just put it on "quick start" and start running; when you get to 30 mins, instead of stopping make yourself run for an extra 30 seconds or so - whatever you can manage. Write the time in your book. Next time you run, remind yourself of the time and keep telling yourself you're just going to repeat it, but when you get to the end push yourself to run a little longer. This is called the dislocation of expectation and it teaches you pretty quickly that you can run further or longer. You can play around with changing the speed or incline to test yourself as well.

A great way of looking at it! Certainly not what I've done in the past, but no doubt it works to great effect.

The same applies to weights and is probably more important there. The reason Godot knows how much he can lift is because he wrote it down. If you do the same exercises every time then it will be boring but if you use a log and try to push yourself a little further each time, you'll notice that your fitness develops. I remember a few years ago when I was lifting weights that I used a new training partner because neither mine nor his was in that day, so I had to adjust to someone who was lifting around three times as much as he. This guy told me to try heavier weights and it turned out that I could instantly lift twice as much as I had been, in all areas - I was stuck at the same level because I didn't write anything down and hence didn't push myself to do more each time.
Truth is, I haven't maintained a workout log in almost five years. I know my performance has suffered as a result too, so there really isn't any reason why I haven't gone back to it (I really should). What I like best about using a log is that you can track your progress from week to week and can tell when you've had an off day or not. Right now, I rely on memory alone and I know that it isn't prefect. I remember what my max lifts are if only because they are what I'm aiming for constantly and because I can remember just how hard they were and how much they hurt.

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I just bought a Wii for my other half (Christmas present), Godot! Funny. Wii tennis is particularly fun but the boxing is taxing ( the hit detection is screwy). I do concur on the effects though. It was surprising how bad my arms ached after night of boxing and tennis. As for the outdoors... Let's just say the winter is not my favorite past time and snowboarding and skiing leave me with headaches and back pains. Excuses, certainly, but winter sports do not entice me. I can slide down a mountain like nobody's business though. :-)

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I have a "as seen on tv" chin-up bar that I use every day, doing between 30 and 50 reps over the course of the day. I also have a set of dumbbells from 5 to 45 lbs that I use occasionally. Other than that, I play lots of racquetball and do martial arts twice a week. I don't have any specific fitness goals, other than losing a few pounds (my weight and weight goal is similar to Godot's), but I would like to develop my upper body to the max. I don't know much about weights, though. Can someone put up a decent weight training routine that I could try out? I haven't bench pressed since I was in high school, but I do have access to a gym for heavier lifting.

Assuming you have basic knowledge of movements and terms, here's a very easy to follow and very effective routine:

Monday: Chest - aim for four exercises, two pressing and two fly. Vary between barbell and dumbbell and machine.

Tuesday: Upper Back - aim for four exercises, two pulldown and two rowing. Vary between barbell and dumbbell and machine.

Wednesday: Legs, Lower Back - this day is the hardest. Perform two heavy squatting exercises (ie squat and leg press, or leg press and front squat, or hack squat and front squat, whatever.) as well as leg extensions and leg curls. Deadlifts for lower back, substitute back extensions for lighter days. For Calves, aim for 2-3 exercises, using both single and double-leg lifts.

Thursday: Shoulders, Traps/Neck, Abs - aim for two pressing exercises, vary between barbell and dumbbell and machine. Also perform isolation exercises for front, side and rear deltoids. Shrugs, use either barbell or dumbbell to personal preference. Perform your ab routine according to your capacity more than anything else. Start with crunches and variations on crunches, then maybe move towards movements using the cables.

Friday: Biceps, Triceps, Forearms - aim for three exercises for both bicep and tricep. Vary between barbell and dumbbell and machine.To speed the workout up as well as get a huge pump in the arms, I like to superset alternate exercises; use the rest time for your bicep to work your tricep and vice versa. Cuts the workout time in half. For forearms, you can work them either dynamically or statically. Dynamic movements are like wrist curls, whereas static ones amount to just standing there holding onto a heavy weight for as long as you can. I prefer static to dynamic if only because they are more sport specific to both weight training and rock climbing. Wrist curls add size but not much strength. Static holds require strength and endurance without giving too much size. Go with what suits you better though.

All in all, for someone starting out from scratch (or nearly from scratch), this basic setup can work wonders for years. Just vary weight loads, reps, sets and rest periods according to what best suits your goals and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish. If you are just starting out, I wouldn't suggest doing more than 3-4 sets per exercise around 10-15 reps per set. Any more than that (for sets or reps) and you'll probably hurt yourself.

Just curious, has anyone seen that P-90X program by that Tony Horton fellow advertised on television; my brother, an insanely in shape young man going to college on a soccer scholarship, says it is an incredible routine...
I've never heard of it before, but I did a quick google search. On the official site, the very first thing they say is "P90X is a revolutionary system of 12 sweat-inducing, muscle-pumping workouts, designed to transform your body from regular to ripped in just 90 days.You'll also receive a comprehensive 3-phase nutrition plan, specially designed supplement options, a detailed fitness guide, a calendar to track your progress, online peer support, and much more." My instinctive reaction when I read stuff like this is to assume quackery. I'm not denying that the workout can certainly be effective (pretty much any workout will be). Just that grandiose claims promise dramatic results in a short period of time are less than likely to be true. If you follow the plan to the letter, you may very well make it. More than likely though, the program is a bit harder than the average person is willing to commit to for the full ninety days and any inability to reach the goals of the program can be blamed on the user not following it correctly. Gradual progress is more effective for long-term behaviour modification, albeit less sexy. Short-term programs can be likened to get rich quick schemes: someone may be getting rich, but it ain't you.

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Thanks, Godot! This looks like a great program. When I start going through the first few months of weight training, should I give it 100% every time, or build up slowly? Each new week, is it reasonable to expect I should be able to lift at least the same amount as the previous session?

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I just bought a Wii for my other half (Christmas present), Godot! Funny. Wii tennis is particularly fun but the boxing is taxing ( the hit detection is screwy). I do concur on the effects though. It was surprising how bad my arms ached after night of boxing and tennis. As for the outdoors... Let's just say the winter is not my favorite past time and snowboarding and skiing leave me with headaches and back pains. Excuses, certainly, but winter sports do not entice me. I can slide down a mountain like nobody's business though. :-)
We got ourselves a Wii as well. I've only done the boxing once so far, but man were my shoulders sore. :lol: I particularly like hitting in baseball. I know it doesn't make a difference (or if it does, not much of a difference), but I can't help but swing with my all every time. Lats and obliques are a bit tender.

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Thanks, Godot! This looks like a great program.
Seeing as how it's been the basis of my workout for over ten years, I should hope it's a decent program. ;) Admittedly, I've kept it very simple and without too much fuss either than my working towards progressively heavier weights. About every 6-8 weeks or when my joints were feeling abused enough, I would ease off into a two week endurance rotation. Keeping the muscle groups on the same day, I would instead take two exercises per body part (instead of the 3-4 usually) and pump out 2 sets of 20 reps each. You should be able to do that in about 25 minutes, even allowing for close to a 5 minutes rest period. As far as weight goes, I was using the equivalent weight to a warm up set on a regular as my 20 rep weight. Some exercises it worked well, others... not so good.

When I start going through the first few months of weight training, should I give it 100% every time, or build up slowly?
For the first 4-odd weeks of the program, your primary focus is to learn the proper technique for each movement. If you look ugly performing with a lighter weight, you're going to seriously hurt yourself when the real weight goes on the bar. Also b sure to use a weight that you can lift 10-15 times, but reps 13-15 should be taxing. At first you're training your body how to train, so weight shouldn't be an issue. Believe me, you'll hurt enough as it is.

Once you're comfortable with the weight you're using, select a weight that you can handle for 8-10 reps. When you feel ready to try some heavy stuff (read: more mass and strength building) you should be aiming for a 3-6 rep range. For an idea of how that can work over multiple sets, I'll use what I'm planning to lift for my back workout tomorrow:

Wide-grip lat pulldown: warmup set of 150lbs X 10-12 reps, second warmup set 180 X 10 reps. First working set 195 X 6-8, second working set 205 X 4-6, third working set 205 X 4-6.

Seated close-grip row: warmup set of 135 X 10. First working set 150 X 8, second working set 165 X 6-8, third working set 165 X 6-8. I've kept the weight comparatively low here to reduce the chances of me cheating on the lift. If I have to cheat to perform the lift, the target muscles aren't the ones working. Cheating on a rep here and there once in awhile is going to happen; just don't make a habit out of it.

Close-grip reverse pulldown: Being warm enough by now, I'll just go to my working weight. Being tired, it will be less than if I were to start with this exercise. I'll aim for 3 sets of 4-6 reps at about 205lbs. If I'm feeling particularly strong or ambitious, I'll probably go 3 X 3-4 @ 225lbs.

One-arm row: I'll probably start with a 60lb dumbbell for 10 reps. If that feels too easy (which it most likely will), I'll probably go to a 70 or 75lb dumbbell. With this final exercise, I'm more concerned with the technique than with the weight, so I'll be aiming for 8-10 clean reps for each set after the first one.

Plenty of stretching before, during and after will see me finished off in under 45 minutes.

If I were aiming to test myself for 100% (aka 1RM), I would start out with the same warmup weight but be sure to include a good deal of gentle and deep stretching. I would also allow myself a minimum of 5 minutes between sets to recuperate, or even as much time as I felt was necessary. Second set would be at the same weight, but only for about 3-6 reps because I don't want to tire out too quickly. Third set would be using my final weight for 2-3 reps. Then I'd go 225 X 1-2, then 240 X 1. Every set thereafter would only aim to increase the weight by the smallest increment allowed by the machine (in this case, 2.6 and 5lb mini plates are available. The last weight that you can successfully complete 1 rep at will be your max. Don't push for 1RM's every time out because it is incredibly hard on your body, not to mention not being an ideal training mode. Given how hard it is, the one exercise would be your entire workout on that body part for the day. If you feel able to finish the rest of your workout after that, you probably weren't trying hard enough in the first place. :p

Each new week, is it reasonable to expect I should be able to lift at least the same amount as the previous session?
It is reasonable to expect some improvement somewhere in your workout every week, but not necessarily on all of it. If you notice a decent bump up in weight on your first exercise, by the time you reach the end of your final exercise you'll be too pooped to push for a PB there as well. And some weeks you'll go into the gym and find that you're struggling with your warmup weight. The decision you then have to make is to scrap your intended workout and do something else more suitable to your current capacity or stumble through it and potentially hurt yourself. For example, if your squat is really bad one day, why push it and maybe hurt your back or your knee? Drop the squats that day and maybe go hard on some lunges, or do some bodyweight squats on an exercise ball (while standing in the squat rack for additional support) as an alternate exercise. You want to see incremental weekly improvements, but more important than that is the long term changes. Use the short-term setback as motivation to blow it out of the water next week.

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Just a quick update: went along to the open day for the kung fu. It was really excellent. Starting on Monday. Will report back after then :)

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Just a quick update: went along to the open day for the kung fu. It was really excellent. Starting on Monday. Will report back after then :)

It's now been a week on, so how did it go?

Personally, I've fallen off the wagon somewhat. The wee one has changed her sleeping patterns such that I'm currently going to have to forgo an additional two hours of sleep a night or skip out on the gym. I know it's just a phase that she'll be through soon enough, but I'm bummed about missing my workout. On the other hand, we now have the WiiFit and have been working steadily with that. Despite being a game, there's still a fair bit of core and balance work involved.

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It's now been a week on, so how did it go?

Our first session was last Monday and it went brilliantly. Aspects of Tai Chi, Chi Kung, and Kung Fu are all intertwined in the training. The stances are very hard to maintain for any length of time, but strangely after two hours of the stance training, art of flexibility, fighting patterns and beginning of sparring you feel more energised than when you begun, even if you have slightly sorer legs. You can't beat stuff with names as poetic as 'Single tiger emerges from cave' ;). Since then Pauline & I have been doing condensed versions of the class each night (about 1.5 hours rather than 2) which, similarly, has been quite hard but really rewarding. As its traditional, internal, Shaolin Kung Fu, its entire Zen epistemology is intrinsically woven in all aspects, and though I'm certainly not planning on becoming a buddhist the philosophy fits perfectly for what you're trying to achieve. I already feel the benefits - the class wasn't on Monday there, and isn't on till Monday coming, but each day you train even yourself you notice a slight improvement in flexibility, stance, force etc. You also notice the effects in other aspects like general alertness etc. It's also massively intellectual - they have warrior/scholar projects which apply the same principles to fighting against other styles (boxing, kickboxing etc) as well as to other things as far removed as the art of negotiation. It's pretty all encompassing and pretty fun. I think I've chosen well as I'd already be bored by most things - enthusiasm for exercise over a sustained period is a somewhat mythical notion. :D

Personally, I've fallen off the wagon somewhat. The wee one has changed her sleeping patterns such that I'm currently going to have to forgo an additional two hours of sleep a night or skip out on the gym. I know it's just a phase that she'll be through soon enough, but I'm bummed about missing my workout. On the other hand, we now have the WiiFit and have been working steadily with that. Despite being a game, there's still a fair bit of core and balance work involved.

I don't think its ever falling off the wagon to look after your child. Their proportion of baby-size to baby-energy-demanded is dizzying. Looking after a child is supra-exercise, I think. You'll ease into into a comparatively mere three hours at the gym once her pattern evens itself out. I could never cope with one of those things, but I've heard they're somehow rewarding! :D The wifit it gets excellent reviews; I've only ever played the tennis drunk, and it was great!

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The workout plan is going good so far. The only thing I can't stand is the deadlift. :nono: Quick question: What's the best way to focus on increasing the size of my arms? I don't want my chest to grow much until I've had some results with my arms, so I'm sticking with lower weight for the bench presses and more weight for the bicep curls and tricep pulldowns. Will this do?

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The workout plan is going good so far. The only thing I can't stand is the deadlift. :nono:
This is good news Ludo(well, apart from the deadlift bit)! You may learn to like it (unlikely), or at least tolerate it. A strong deadlift will do wonders for strengthening your lower back as well as assisting the lower half of your squat. It's certainly in the top 5 for mass building. However, there are alternatives for strengthening the lower back. The two most common are back extensions and good mornings. The back extensions can b done with or without added weight as you choose, but the good morning kinda needs a loaded bar across your shoulders. It's not a highly recommended movement to undertake, but can work wonders if you go very light and proceed slowly. Get some technique advice from the guys that work at your gym if nothing else.

Quick question: What's the best way to focus on increasing the size of my arms? I don't want my chest to grow much until I've had some results with my arms, so I'm sticking with lower weight for the bench presses and more weight for the bicep curls and tricep pulldowns. Will this do?

I wouldn't back off the bench press all that much. Your triceps are a secondary muscle used in that movement, so they get hit pretty well already. When designing the workout split, I kept chest first and shoulders/arms as far apart as I could in order to allow the delts and triceps as much recovery time as possible.

There are two things you should focus on if you want to optimise size gains in your workout: rep range and type of movement. Hypertrophy (i.e. muscle growth) occurs the most readily when sets are performed within 6-12 reps. I prefer to go to the lower end of the scale because that also tends to maximise strength gains. Three working sets of 6-8 will be fine, assuming you have a sufficient training base behind you to reduce the risk of injury. There is essentially only two types of movements performed in the gym: isolation and compound. An isolation exercise is one in which only one joint is moving such as the preacher curl or concentration curl for the bicep, the pec deck for the chest, or side-lateral raises for the deltoids. Muscle growth does occur when performing this type of movement, but it's more shaping and certainly nothing like you see when performing compound movements. Compound movements are those that require the coordinated movement across multiple joints to complete successfully. These include the bench press, rowing/pulldown movements, squat, and yes, even the deadlift. ;)

With that in mind, there are some arm exercises that will outperform others in terms of mass building. I'll suggest a few here, but make no promises about their mass building capabilities. I do promise though, that they will hurt like hell.

Triceps

Close-grip bench press: grip the bar quite close together (your out-stretched thumbs should nearly touch one another) and perform the lift as you would a bench press only make sure your elbows come down close to your torso (when you perform a regular bench press, your elbows should go out wide when you lower the bar). The tight elbows and the narrow grip ensure that the majority of the stress is placed on the triceps.

Prone french-press/skullcrushers: the reason this one is called the skullcrusher should be obvious once you try the movement. Lying on a flat bench, grip your barbell (it's easier to use a pre-loaded bar or an ez-curl bar for this one) roughly shoulder width (or closer). Keeping your elbows in, bend your arms until the bar just about touches your forehead, then extend. For extra pain, once you're done your set you can narrow your grip and bang out a burnout set of close-grip bench press. It doesn't count as two separate exercises though.

Overhead extension: this one is the same basic thing as the skullcrusher, only your body position is different. Sit at the preacher bench backwards with the seat in the lowest position to give your upper back the most support. Extend the weight over your head, then lower it behind your head keeping your elbows in. You should be aiming to lower your arms to 90 degrees or less. You can do this one either with a loaded barbell (ez-curl is best) or a dumb bell, as per personal preference although both work great.

Dips: most gyms nowadays have a dip-assist machine which allows you to perform the movement but you can pre-select a counterweight so you're only lifting a proportion of your total weight. The goal here should be to progress such that you can do them independently without the counterweight. Eventually, you may want to do something stupid like weighted dips. If that's the case, don't add too much weight to your waist; I did over six months ago and sprained a ligament that attaches one of my ribs to my sternum. It hasn't affected my bench, but I still have trouble with dips (definitely no weighted dips for me for awhile). Now and again I can feel it out of alignment and if I stretch both arms above my head I hear the clunk of the rib popping back into place. It doesn't hurt (feels good actually), but people get weirded out over it.

Biceps

Standing curls: I like doing these both as a standard curl as well as a hammer curl. There's a higher risk of cheating by standing and by using free weights, but you also recruit many more stabiliser muscles in the process. You can also do these with a barbell, but you need to be careful to use an apporpriat weight. Too often you see idiots in the gym trying to push themselves doing back hyperextensions or even a partial squat/calf raise when they're supposed to be doing a bicep curl. Cheating like that on the last rep of your last set of your last exercise... maybe. But on reps 2-10 of set two? Nah. If you find yourself leaning too much, do this one with your back to a wall. Removes the cheating almost completely.

Preacher curls: done right, this one is an isolation movement although I've seen the odd person try to mix in some shrugs for a little extra momentum. Whether you're doing them with a standard, hammer or reverse grip, this movement works great.

21's: This one is done standing with a standard grip on a barbell. This exercise is split into three sections of seven reps each (hence the name). You perform seven partial reps from the bottom of the lift to the midpoint (arms at 90 degrees), then seven reps from the midpoint to the top and then finish off with seven full reps. When selecting a weight to use, pick on the light side and then drop an extra five pounds or so. I use approximately a third of what I would use for a standing barbell curl. Feel free to mix up the order in which you perform the three components so long as you do all seven at a time first.

Prone inverted curl: this one's a bit odd. In all my time at the gym I've only ever seen one other person try this. Usually just get some strange glances for it, but I like it anyways. The body position and motion is almost identical to that of the skullcrushers. The main difference is that you set your bench up next to a high pulley cable and you're working your biceps and not your triceps. Lying prone (face up) on the bench, grab the curl bar attached to the high pulley ( at rest, the pulley should be just outside your reach, so you may have to partially sit up to grab it). Keeping your elbows in, curl the bar until it just about touches your forehead. It will take some practice on your part to make sure that you don't hit yourself in the head too often. The trick here is that you want to keep your arms as stable as possible. All the movement should be at the elbow; you don't want any at the shoulder. Despite being an isolation movement as well, this one has the added advantage of keeping a constant load the bicep, in both the concentric and eccentric phases of the lift.

Since this started out as a "short" reply, I hope that answers your question. ;)

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Thanks again for the great advice, Godot! I really appreciate it. I never thought before that a gym workout could be enjoyable, but it really is. Writing down what I accomplish keeps me focused, which I might not have done without Hugo's advice. However, since I've just started, it's still more like finding out what I'm capable of rather than tracking definite improvements.

Before I read about these things here, I began to do a few exercises religiously--wondering what would happen if I gradually built up a routine of several exercises that I wouldn't slack on. So now every day I do at least 30 pullups (usually 3 to 4 sets to exhaustion), and every 2 or 3 days try holding the plank, aiming for a few seconds improvement each time.

To burden you with another question, do you think this is a good supplement to my gym workout to continue with this, or should I give it up to focus on the routine with each specific day for the different muscles? I'm worried about the pullups in particular. I'm not sure if they are really making me stronger (they feel easy now), and am concerned that they might just be taking away from my back workout at the gym, wherein I might powerlift for some real gains. The pullup routine sure seemed impressive when I started it, but I wonder if there is a negative side to this kind of 7 day a week exercise? Any thoughts?

Sorry to be such a newbie. This is my last question, I promise. At least for a while...

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Thanks again for the great advice, Godot! I really appreciate it. I never thought before that a gym workout could be enjoyable, but it really is. Writing down what I accomplish keeps me focused, which I might not have done without Hugo's advice. However, since I've just started, it's still more like finding out what I'm capable of rather than tracking definite improvements.
Sounds like you're enjoying yourself immensely, Ludo! Now about those deadlifts...

Kidding aside, you'll find that your motivation will change and evolve as you achieve and establish new goals as well as how you personally change over time. The trick is to keep it up.

Before I read about these things here, I began to do a few exercises religiously--wondering what would happen if I gradually built up a routine of several exercises that I wouldn't slack on. So now every day I do at least 30 pullups (usually 3 to 4 sets to exhaustion), and every 2 or 3 days try holding the plank, aiming for a few seconds improvement each time.

To burden you with another question, do you think this is a good supplement to my gym workout to continue with this, or should I give it up to focus on the routine with each specific day for the different muscles? I'm worried about the pullups in particular. I'm not sure if they are really making me stronger (they feel easy now), and am concerned that they might just be taking away from my back workout at the gym, wherein I might powerlift for some real gains. The pullup routine sure seemed impressive when I started it, but I wonder if there is a negative side to this kind of 7 day a week exercise? Any thoughts?

The negative impact that you could face here is called overtraining. Basically you run the risk of doing yourself more harm than good by trying to do too much. So I'd cut out the extra daily pullups and just concentrate on them as part of your regular routine. I'm seriously impressed though. After a decent back day, I doubt I could do more than four or five reps, let alone thirty. Hell, sometimes I don't even want to raise my arms above my head. If you can already do that many pullups that easily, mayb up the number you do in your regular rotation. If you do them first, try for 40. If you want to feel pain, do them last and hope for 20. You may even want to consider weighted pullups. Most gyms nowadays carry a weight belt that allows you to attach either a dumb bell or a plate to the end in order to torture yourself better. If your gym doesn't have one, ask them to buy one. If they won't (or until they get one) you can still do weighted pullups. Take a dumb bell, place the handle between your thighs just above the knee and squeeze to hold it in place. It can help to cross your ankles too.

As far as your doing planks regularly, I think that would be fine. If you find it detracting from your regular ab routine, than back off of them a bit, or try to incorporate them better. For a humbling experience, you could try doing your planks with either your forearms or feet raised on a small exercise ball. They're bad enough to begin with, let alone once you add an additional stability factor into things.

Sorry to be such a newbie. This is my last question, I promise. At least for a while...

Are you kidding? :D Ask as many questions as you want, as often as you want; I'm always more than happy to share what I know on the subject. Since this post should put me near 8000 words in this thread alone, your obvious worry should be how to shut me up... :lol:

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Hello. I meant to post to this thread much earlier, but I wanted to wait until I actually did something. I've spoken at length in other threads about creating obligations to oneself, so I share the hesitation over the term "resolution".

But I'm doing it. No weight training yet, but I've been given a bicycle and I've been riding it regularly. No need to "force" myself with this hobby, just sit on and go. I've been incrementing the amount of time and effort I spend on my bike. I'm between 40 and 50 pounds overweight and we'll see how well this works. I've done weight training before to good results, and I just want to get to the point where I can "see" them.

The overall goal for myself is a pretty high degree of fitness. In other words, I want to be able, physically, to do as many things as possible. I know that the training effect is only sport-specific, which sort of saddens me, but I have an idea in what direction I want to go in.

One issue I do have, however, is that I think at one point I put too much pressure on my left knee. It doesn't interfere with exercise, the only problem is if I put pressure on it at a certain angle it hurts somewhat. I'm just wondering, is this likely ever to go away? It's been with me for quite some time now, I'm just hoping that losing weight will cause this to go away on it's own. My biggest fear, health-wise, are my ankles or knees going out on me, and that's probably the biggest reason for losing weight.

On the plus side, even bicycling has meant a huge change at work. Before I was just tired all the time and that drained away all the motivation I had, and it looked really bad with the promotion and all. But bicycling has really given me a lot of energy that I never had before and I feel like I'm performing adequetely.

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