When last I wrote about exercising, I was contemplating joining the exercise facility at my employer. I joined shortly after that post, and for the most part haven’t returned to our local YMCA since. I’ve found it just way too easy to squeeze a workout in during the day, in between meetings, instead of eating lunch with co-workers. I also had big dreams of what frequent weight lifting would do for my appearance.
My employer has a new building within walking distance of my current desk. The building opened today for employees to browse around. I went down to the new fitness facility (only $15/month!) to check it out. It has lots of nice stuff including a decent selection of free weights. After browsing around, one of the trainers asks if I have any questions. I wasn’t going to get snobby about it, but since he offered, I asked, “Yeah, do you have any way to do weighted dips?”
“Oh, weighted dips? Um, well we’ve got the dip assist machine over there.”
“No, I want to add weight, like with a dip belt.”
“Hrm, um not really. But if you want to be creative, you could put two benches together and put some plates on your legs.”
“Oh, I suppose. Aren’t those called ‘bench dips‘, or something like that?”
“No, that’s what I do. Those are dips.”
My current max workout weight on dips is body weight plus 75 pounds on a belt around my hips. After supporting my legs on one end, I’d have to put like 100 pounds of plates on my thighs to get that load on my shoulders.
I’ve turned into a gym rat–I walk into a brand new (very nice) facility, and the first thing I ask about is a piece of equipment they don’t have. If I get a membership (I think I’m moving to a not-so-close building soon, so I might not) I’ll have to buy my own dip belt.
I started “consistently” exercising nearly a year ago. My first “Fitstart” session as 2/12/08. Its official–with my enthusiasm ADD, this is one of the longest interests I’ve had in a long time. This is a summary of my year (nearly) of working out at the local YMCA.
I started with the Fitstart program in February. Looking back on it now, its an adequate program for its goals–to be easily applied to a majority of the population, and help newcomers feel comfortable with a wide range of equipment. I met someone a couple of weeks ago who had a very different experience with the Fitstart at her YMCA, and she was working (as a volunteer) to improve it. I have the e-mail address of her daughter, so I really should follow up to see how its going.
Shortly after I finished Fitstart, I started designing my own routines based mostly on free weight movements. I took inspiration from a number of books along the way. I would have used the routines proscribed in the books, but I didn’t feel comfortable with either squats or dead lifts, and those were a significant component of most of the books I read. Instead, I’ve substituted lunges, Bulgarian split squats, and leg presses to get the lower body workout. Nearly a year later, I’m ready to pay a trainer at the Y to help make sure I’m using correct form on squats and dead lifts. I haven’t set an appointment yet, but I’m gonna. Really.
Below is a plot of the number of workouts I’ve completed in each month of 2008. My goal is to work out 3 times per week with an occasional week off (so an average of 10 per month). Some times that is tough. I was away from home a lot in June and July. I don’t know what my excuse is for August. I just know we had a great summer.
November’s number includes three workouts while we were in Vermont–on three of the days were were there, getting a little twitchy, I decided to do pushups and lunges. I was able to do 100 pushups on two separate days, and 80 on another. Since it only took 4 sets and about 30 minutes to get to those numbers, I was pretty pleased. December was rough, what with the holidays, and a little personal surgery.
Some accomplishments of note:
- In September, I mentioned some early frustration I’d felt with the lat row exercise. I’d peaked at 90 lbs in mid April. In the September post, I’d moved the cable row (an equivalent exercise) to 140. The last couple of times I’ve done the cable row, I’ve done a set at 160. That’s an impressive stack, if I do say so myself.
- I started doing chin ups in mid May. At that time I was using the Y’s assisted chins/dips machine, with about 40 pounds of assistance. I was able to do three sets of 8. Now I’m doing chin ups unassisted, and 2-3 sets of 8-9.
- I started doing dips in mid may. At that time I was using the Y’s assisted chins/dips machine, with about 40 pounds of assistance. I was able to do three sets of 10. Now I’m doing dips with 40 pounds ADDED. Today I was able to do 3 sets of 6-8.
- In May I started doing lunges with 2 30 pound dumbbells. Now I’m using 2 55 pound dumbbells.
- A couple of years ago I spoke to my doctor about some lumps that had developed on my legs. They were big enough to be seen if I was wearing shorts, but they didn’t hurt or have any discoloration. She told me that since I used to have very muscular legs, that they were due the atrophying of my quadriceps (I forget the name she told me). Those lumps are now almost entirely gone, and only I can tell where they are by touch.
One of the frustrations I’ve felt in my reading is that there isn’t much attention paid to age effects. I know I’m not a young buck any more. I know that the most significant gains will be experienced by men in their late teens to early twenties. But at 38, can I still expect to experience strength and muscle growth? I’m making strength gains, but frequently I’m left to wonder if those are due to muscle growth, or due to neural adaptations (learning how to make use of all the muscle fibers). The biggest evidence I’ve got for not gaining muscle, despite the gains described above: no weight gain. At the end of Fitstart, I weighed just over 180. The last couple of weeks (even with the holidays) my weight has been the same. Is it unreasonable for me to expect to have gained a few pounds of muscle after nearly a year? Or am I stuck simply fighting the effects of a desk job and sarcopenia?
Today, I accomplished something in my exercising that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do: I impressed my brother-in-law.
Theo is a big guy. He outweighs me by 70 pounds and most (OK, a lot) of that is in muscle. Since I started lifting weights, he and I’ve talked about what I’m doing, and how his work outs compare, etc. I don’t mind telling him the weights I’m working with because I know he’s stronger than I am. Its really not a big deal. I don’t feel like I’m competing against him–we’re just sharing common experiences.
Last weekend at our kids’ family birthday party, Theo and I were talking about lifting, and I mentioned the progress I’d made recently on dips–that I could do body weight+45 pounds. He was impressed and confided that he didn’t think he could do a single dip. We then worked out that he has 70 pounds on me, and I quickly figured there was no way I could do a single dip with 70 pounds strapped to my hips.
Today was a 4×4 day (four sets of four reps) so the weights tend to be the heaviest I lift. I looked at the dips apparatus and thought “do I dare even try one dip with 70 pounds?” The preivous time I had done 4×4 on dips, I had completed 4 sets at +45, failing to make the last rep in the last set (so I did only 15 total reps at +45). Twenty five pounds sounded like a big jump, but I convinced myself that I would try to complete just one.
I stepped up, strapped the weight around my hips and got into position, elbows locked. Much to my amazement, I was able to complete 4! I was astonished. The next set I backed the weight down to +50 and got through it without too much difficulty. I decided to really push myself on the final two sets and completed them both at +60. So, thats 4 at +70, 4 at +50 and 8 at +60. Wow.
I sent Theo a text message to brag a little: “4 dips @ BW+70!”
His reply: daaaaamn hercules