Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Things that strength training has taught me about life...

For the past couple months, I have been starting to take strength training more seriously. For one, I want to build muscle and not look scrawny (which is ironic if you knew me even three years ago) and two, I just want to be stronger. Even when I was 'big', I was still weak and have always felt that way.

To obtain my set goals, of not looking scrawny and building strength, I have been using body weight exercises. A simple circuit of push-ups, squats, pull-ups, and planks. Usually there is only a slight rest after one circuit, with only doing total of two for a day. Each individual movement is done to max, with different variations done to my level of fitness. An example is: only performing knee push-ups until I can do 50 in a row for two circuits (I know knee push-up right? Not as easy as it sounds and I have yet to get to 50 in the first set!) This work out is a slightly modified version of the Primal Blueprint Fitness. When we first started this fitness program, we followed it verbatim. Slowly, we modified the details (like always doing a minimum of two circuits, now we only do one on weekdays) and adding our own elements (like a hackie sac warm up...). So far it has been a good system, and works great on running and swimming off days.

The results have been pretty good. Starting to tone muscles, add a little bulk, and improving strength (noticeable by the increase in number of reps done to max). What was not expected was life lessons this non-gym fitness program has taught me. Sounds dramatic and exaggerated? Maybe. But I will list what I have learned at let you be the judge:

1. You can usually do more then you think. This is a surprise to me. Since our strength training plan requires us to work towards total muscle exhaustion, I keep over-shooting my expected max number of reps. Take for example pull-ups. I usually only think I can do three, but I have recently been able to push myself to 5. Not a dramatic number, but more then I expect. This is only a life lesson because when I start to do the pull-ups I ignore my expectations and push till I can't lift myself anymore. I usually end up having my muscles give in and fall to my feet pretty quickly. If I was to give in to my expectations of what I can and can't do I would never hit my true max and probably never improve. Not a bad way to live my life in the future for everything else I do, eh?

2. If you work at something, there will be improvement. I know this sounds like common sense. But when you first try the self assessment found in the Primal Blueprint Fitness eBook, well I have to say I felt week, unfit, and thought I would never accomplish any sort of improvement. I hated squats. I mean I loathed the thought of even doing 1. Now I can do 2 circuits of 50 and actually I am starting to enjoy the challenge they present, not to mention some of the results (including more strength while hill running and improved sprints). So I have learned (luckily by just simply enjoying some improvement) that no matter what challenge it is you face in life, if you work at it there will be improvement. Duh, right?

3. Excuses are lame, and it is better just to get it done. This goes for anything you don't feel like doing and any challenge you are about to face. Many days when I come home from a long day at the office, I don't feel like strength training. In fact, it is rare that I really ever feel like doing it at all. However, every time that I have gave into an excuse or just skipped a circuit, I set myself back or feel lame the next day. When I forget the excuses and I am actually accomplish my training I feel great and better for it.

4. I can do hand-stands with the help of a wall. That is either here nor there, but since we have been body weight training, we have been having office work out challenges. When no one is around we do max reps of push-ups, pull-ups (yea we have a improvised pull-up bar in the office!), or whatever. One day we just started seeing if we could do hand stands as a challenge and well the rest is history...How cool is it to navigate through life knowing you can stand on your hands? That question is open ended and there is no word limits to the answer.

As I discover more life lessons as my fitness regime increases I will add to this small, yet exciting list. I think these four should be enough to get anyone excited in beginning to develop a strength training regime of their own, or at least stand on their hands if they haven't yet (prolly should have a spotter if it is your first time since grade school). Also, for those out their grinding it out at the gym and dropping money on memberships, check out Primal Blueprint Fitness. You can get the eBook for free and you can do everything at home (just gotta a buy a pull-up bar, worth every penny if you stick with it).


  1. This is a really great post! I enjoyed reading what you've learned.

  2. I'm pretty darn impressed at the handstand! And love your stated goal of not looking "scrawny." Sounds like a great plan to follow.