Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Journal of Getting in Shape #2

The journey gets more interesting. There are so many different ideas about "the right way" to work out, that it almost turns the science into an art-- or a religion. I have no intention of becoming a preacher, so I will stay away from the debatable parts. But there are things that most people agree on. Here are some that I have now experienced for myself.

Planning is a good thing. The way most people work out, is to do whatever they think of as exercise from when they were growing up. Some people think aerobics and turn to Tai bo or running. Some people remember push-ups from gym class and vow to do sets of them every day, etc. Such things have benefit, but in most cases, it is only a small fraction of the benefit one can get from a well planned use of their time. 50 push-ups per day, for example, is no where near as good for you as 50 push-ups every 3-4 days with rest in between.

Rest is very important. Muscles don't grow when you exercise. They grow when you rest after exercising. And, it takes 3 to 4 days of rest. This is why planning is so important. If you exercise your arms and shoulders on Monday, you should not exercise them again until Thursday at the soonest. Do legs or abdomen in the mean time. But it's not just the individual muscles that need rest. You also need real relaxation and plenty of sleep. It takes a lot out of your body to build muscle. If you tax your body too much on other things, it will put muscle building on hold.

Appropriately planned exercise feels good. If you loath exercise, it is probably because you have had bad experiences in the past. Usually this is related to doing too much, too quickly, or with bad form. For your first week of a new exercise program you should not work any muscle to the point of fatigue. Start very slow or you can easily find that the next day you are nearly crippled with stiffness and pain. But in as little as a week or two, you can start testing your limits on the safer exercises.

Protein suppliments are good. Building muscle occurs when the body repairs damage done to muscles during exercise. When muscle cells are pulled apart, the body builds them back stronger. And muscle is mostly made of protein. This protein is delivered via blood. And there is a window of about an hour after exercising where the body is especially active in trying to use protein from the blood to rebuild muscle. You could eat a can of tuna and a raw egg before and after your workout. Or, you could have a whey protein shake right after your workout for a similar effect.

Progress can happen very quickly. After your first week or two of a real sustained effort, you will feel noticably stronger. You will have a much easier time finishing your reps. In another week or two after that, what took you an hour to do with many breaks might start taking you 30 minutes or less. Soon, you can be essentially continually lifting through a series of several exercises with only a few seconds of rest between sets. And you will know your own strength as relates to the weights, so each different exercise will be dialed in to give the muscles involved a really good (but not overdone) workout. I have a feeling it gets better from there, but I'm not there yet. This is about week 5 for me.

To be continued.


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