• I've never tracked workout volume for strength training before. It is a simple concept. For an exercise, multiply the number of repetitions by the weight raised in each set. The sum of the results for all the sets is the volume of that exercise. It is a basic, unflinching metric of work performed. Decreasing rest periods between sets decreases the volume the athlete can achieve. Increasing sets, repetitions, or weight lifted increases the volume. I find that increasing goal repetitions or weight lifted often decreases my volume on that day for that exercise. If I have achieved 5 sets at a particular number of reps, I will increase the number in the next workout. However, I can often not sustain that increased number across all sets. Likewise, an increase in weight lifted often causes a drop in reps sufficient to drop the overall volume. But these are anomalies. With consistency, I increase the number of repetitions at the heavier weight with the goal of hitting 5 sets of 12.

    The volume number sets a metric that the athlete must focus on raising. I'm beginning to see the impacts of improperly managed components of my life affect my strength when I let them intrude. With body, as with mind, consistent improvement can only be achieved by focus on desired goals. If you divert this focus to other things, let other things intrude, the metrics will show it.

  • I realize I much prefer a 3 minute rest between sets over 2 minute rests. I get a lot more intensity waiting that extra minute. Furthermore, my total volume is greater. Granted, that extra minute adds up to a full 12 minutes over the course of a workout. Sometimes on a weekday morning, I just don't have the time.

  • We've entered spring. In my quest to return to marathon fitness, I'm changing my training emphasis. I'm dropping the separate leg and upper body workouts 6 times a week and adopting a full body 3 times a week routine. As I try to increase running mileage, there is always a tension between my leg strength work and my need to have them endure miles. With the current scheme, I'll do my legs on non-running days. I was finding that both running and do leg strength work on the same day was really making me tired. Hopefully, by splitting them, I'll have more recovery time for both.

    I do not see all this as optional. I am convinced that the leg work prevents running-related injuries: dead lifts, high load heel raises, good mornings, and split squats. There's some peer reviewed science to back me on this as well as personal experience. Additionally, the dead lifts, along with a more knowledgeable core routine, have me hefting wet mulch bags with more strength than any time in my life, including when I was an active duty Marine. The upper body work is not optional either. Progressive muscle loss begins in the sedentary population in their mid twenties. By their 60's and 70's they are either emaciated and frail or obese and hardly able to move. They tell themselves that they are the inevitable result of age and genetics. These are lies we all tell ourselves. Muscle loss is discretionary. Sarcopenia is reversible. Epigenetics is more powerful than genetics.

  • On the weekend, I typically grant myself the luxury of waiting until sunrise to run. The winter’s long nights and sparse sunlight weighs on me and the weekday predawn runs add to the emotional load. I find that running after dawn, even on a cold, overcast, Maryland winter’s day is a relief from the darkness.

    Today was a bit different. I spent the first hour padding around the house, first taking the chihuahua out, then making coffee for Denise and me. I took the time to grind her coffee beans to make that first cup of coffee specially good. I turned up the heat to 74 F and had humidifiers running in both the basement and the second floor. Denise got up and settled into her chaise with Peanut in her lap. I fell to updating various exercise note that I often do not have time to do during the work week. We were very comfortable in our shell, isolated from the predawn 27 F darkness.

    Comfort. It appeals. Evolution scientists tell us that we probably have an instinct to be comfortable. It conserves life-ensuring energy. It saves calories for lean times. Studies show that the more people exercise, the more likely they are to be less active the rest of the day. This often stymies exercisers who are trying to lose weight. The 300 calorie run or 150 calorie weight work out is easily offset the rest of the day by being less active and, perhaps, indulging in a food reward.

    I sat typing on my laptop in the warmth. My mind wandered. Comfort. Comfort means lack of movement. Lack of movement means slow atrophy of everything that keeps us healthy and alive. Muscles weaken and lose their innervation. Tendons and ligaments weaken. Motor function declines. Mitochondria shrink and disappear. Metabolic pathways that produce energy become sparse. Chromosome-protecting telomeres shorten, increasing the rate of the aging process. Lean mass declines; adipose mass increases. Quality of life declines. Morbidity increases. All the symptoms we mistakenly associate with aging increase their presence. George Sheehan put it succinctly: “You don’t stop running when you get old, you get old when you stop running.”

    Hunter-gatherers do not have the luxury of being comfortable all the time. Hunger will inevitably intrude on indolent repose. Its bite is far worse than any desire to stay at rest, inspiring movement and the search for food. This search or hunt can become pleasurable in itself. Fit humans engaging in prolonged activity are often rewarded when their bodies release endorphins that decrease any pain and increases the sense of positive well-being. This enables the hunter or gatherer to continue effort for longer than he/she would feel inclined. We have evolved to enjoy the feeling of effort, as well as the feeling of no effort.

    I dragged myself out of my repose, along with Denise. We went for 3 miles just before the crack dawn. It wasn’t comfortable. I ran another 3.1, after after leaving her at home. It was dawn and I worked harder. The sunrise always raises my spirits. Greater effort, pounding heart, lungs sucking air…it felt better. Elevated post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or after-burn, is greatest after more intense exercise. Likewise, so is the morphine-like endorphin high.

    Now, as I type this, I’m comfortable again. I’m more comfortable than I was while I was sipping my first cup of coffee as I am at mental peace. My mind knows that my body is now repairing itself. My experience of satisfied mind and strengthening body are optimized by being comfortable.

    Some references:

  • American processed food companies are systematically poisoning America for profits. Witness sugar. Sugar is added to everything. There are 13.5 grams of sugar in Enfamil Premium baby formula.They start early because they know sugar is addictive. If you can get babies and kids addicted to this stuff with no nutritive value, you'll have them for life. I invite anyone with any doubts about whether sugar is addictive to do a search on "sugar addiction" on Google Scholar. There are no guidelines for sugar consumption for babies, but the American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 9 teaspoons (36 grams, 150 calories) of added sugar for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams, 100 calories) for women per day. If an adult woman's maximum recommended intake is 25 grams, what on earth are we doing feeding the stuff to babies? Interestingly, the average American consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar a day.

    Think about it. The limit is 9 teaspons or 150 calories per day. 2 tablespoons of Jiff contain 2 grams of added sugar. Two slices of Sunbeam bread contain 3 grams of sugar. Add two tablespoons of Concord grape jelly and you get an additional 13 grams of sugar. Finally, wash it down with a can of Coke at 39 grams of sugar and you have just poisoned yourself....or your child. There is no safe consumption level for sugar sweetened beverages. In the nutrition science world, they are so notorious that the term is abbreviated to SSB. Try a Google Scholar search on "sugar sweetened beverage".

    I started checking nutrition labels years ago to avoid added sugar. Finding any kind of packaged food without added sugar or salt is nearly impossible. As an aside, try doing a Google Scholar search on "salt addiction". To become sensitized to your sugar intake, try adding up the grams of added sugar in your foods. I was amazed.....

     

     https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/target-5-sugar-baby-formula/1949543/

    https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars

     https://www.myfooddiary.com/foods/7261702/welchs-concord-grape-jelly

  • It’s not often that I have to search my will for the drive to workout. Today is one of them. The last thing I wanted to do this morning upon awakening was to exert myself….strenuously. I missed training on Tuesday and Wednesday, thoroughly due to my lack of planning and discipline. If I missed today, I knew I’d feel like a total slug.

     

    33 dead lifts and 48 pull ups later I’m thinking: “this is a hell of a rude way to wake up!” Is it more masochistic to be down here doing this? Or is is more masochistic to blow it off? And deal with feeling like emotional crap for the next 24 hours until I get a chance to redeem myself? I see the effects of lifetimes of inactivity on people 20 years both my junior and senior. The payoff for continuous movement grows with the passing years. I realize that the cumulative effects of a sedentary lifestyle grow almost geometrically with age. This is particularly evident in comparisons between typical people and lifetime athletes in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. I use the word “typical” purposely. While it may be typical to be sedentary, it is not normal, or healthy. Ralph, my 80-something early morning friend, sometimes runs with me for a couple of miles…...in the hills…..at my pace. He took up cardiovascular training in his early 40’s and has been at it ever since.

     

    In recent years, the medical research community has been getting more vocal about the need for exercise. The current thinking is that not exercising is second only to smoking in a ranking of the worst things you can do for your health.

     

    Ok….so pushing weight in the pre-dawn is not masochistic, but bend over barbell rows supersetted with bent over dumbbell flies are. I’m standing by that assessment. By the end of 5 sets, my rear delts are catatonic.

     

    So the moral for the morning? There has to be one. Despite burning eyes, mild headache, and feeling generally like a rag, I managed 20,845 pounds in my full body compound dumbbell routine today, vice 19,330 on Monday. Despite that every rep, every set, and every exercise movement felt harder, I squeezed out more volume for each movement.

     

    Never were truer words: “Just do it.”