Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ad Astra Per Aspera

Paying the price: My friend, Bud Jefferies, perhaps the world's most impressive (drug- and chemical enhancement-free) strength athlete, steels himself to perform a 1,700-pound quarter-squat.

Time seems to accelerate as the years accumulate.

Compounding this cosmic injustice is the fact that progress in physical conditioning slows to a pace that makes continental drift appear downright sprightly by comparison.

Any gains that occur seem to disappear immediately unless extraordinary measures are taken to preserve them -- which, given the unfavorable gradient of middle age, means constantly improving one's performance against a background of general decline.

There comes a point at which -- as a character lamented in the last Indiana Jones film -- life stops giving and starts taking away, beginning, I guess, with the gift of vitality itself.

As I've noted previously in this space, my grudging and uneven descent into middle age has been marked by a number of anomalies. My weight remains a significant cause of concern. I've been plagued by a number of sleep disorders and generalized fatigue. There have been times that my joints have left me all but immobilized.

However, my measurable strength, in terms of one-rep maximums and high-rep power calisthenics, is not abating and may actually be increasing.

Take tonight's Workout of the Week, for instance:

Cardio -- Elliptical Trainer Sprint Sequences

20 minutes alternating -- in one-minute sets -- between 65-70% effort and full-out sprints

Lifting -- Bench Press

Warmup -- 45-lb. plate toss (literally tossing a plate in the air and catching it, then using it in various stretching exercises to loosen my shoulders and elbows)

135X12 -- close-grip






Now, I've commented quite a bit on the Bench Press in previous posts. I admit to being nearly monomaniacal about this marginally functional exercise, which is sort of a vanity lift.

I enjoy other lifts -- particularly front squats, power cleans, dumbbell snatches, and push-presses. But the bench press offers me a good measure of where I am in terms of raw lifting power and general fitness.

This is odd-object lifting: Yours Truly uprooting and felling a dead tree about a year ago.

It would be wonderful to resume a full-spectrum training program -- calisthenics, sprinting, odd object lifting (barrels/kegs, sandbags, stones, tires), weight lifting, martial conditioning (judo, wrestling, boxing, fencing -- all of which I've done in the past).

But with an ailing wife and six kids, not to mention growing concern over my employment situation, I don't have time for everything I would like to do, or even everything I think I need to do. But when I at least take the time to do something that makes me sweat and ache in useful ways, and gets my heart rate up for a sustained period of time, I'm offsetting some of the accumulating risk factors that tend to feed my anxiety and thus multiply their damaging impact.

I'm beginning to appreciate just how important sleep is, not only in the recovery cycle of a conditioning program but simply for sustaining one's health and mental acuity.

One training mantra of ironheads like myself is: "Lift big, eat big, sleep big." I've never had any trouble with the first two (the workout description above illustrates the first, the unflattering profile in the photo immediately above attests eloquently to the second), but the third has always caused me more than my share of trouble.

Even as a child my sleep was uneven; as a school-age kid I tended to be nocturnal, a trait I also see in my 11-year-old William Wallace. Before meeting Korrin I was a chronic insomniac. Now I my sleep schedule is hopelessly confused, and I'm grateful if I get five or six hours' worth of cumulative sleep, let alone a solid bloc of deep REM sleep.

I honestly think that if I could somehow solve my sleeping disorders, I could drop 40-60 pounds in a very short time frame, and nail a 500 lb. bench press within a year. Ah, if only....

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