Day one, and dumbbells. I’ve never worked dumbbells. I tried for a short while during the Marines, but because of the insane difference between my left and right arms (due to my very large birthmark birth defect) it is difficult. I lose strength faster in my left arm than my right. On fast runs of three miles my arm would go dead, a piece of meat hanging by my side. That is only on a run, not lifting weights.
The examples given in Body for Life, the magazine, and the Success Journal, all tend to go toward dumbbells. I know the arguments for and against free weights and machines. But I decided to give it four weeks of dumbbells. Not a machine to be used, except for legs extentions.
I planned my workout, going conservative with the weights. Boy was I wrong… I was still too heavy. I wasn’t that much off for my chest exercises and a little tweak will put it in range, but the rest of them were way off. The most notable ones were the shoulder press. I’ve never done shoulder presses and in the last few attempts at BFL my shoulder exercises were the shoulder machine… if I did them. If there was one exercise that I skipped on it was shoulders. What a dose of humility I had to swallow today, struggling with the weights in an unfamiliar movement and all of my attention was on what I percieved to be the looks of others in the gym while they silently mocked my attempt. It doesn’t matter that nobody said a thing to me, made any motions to give me this impression, it is the what I projected out there and it had the same consequences of making me entirely self conscious. I almost quit the shoulder exercies and moved on, but I kept at it, finishing the number of sets, even if I didn’t change the very low weight and went to failure each time. It was bad enough that some guy was doing military presses behind me, large stacks of plates on the barbell, but I am thankful that I was already finished with my exercise when an attractive woman came in and proceded to do well controlled sets with 40 and 45 lb dumbbells in each hand. Sheesh. A dose of humility to be sure. When I switched to the triceps workout I was doing the seated tricep extensions and this felt unnatural to me again. Without a weight at all my elbows wanted to flare out instead of staying near my head. I did several reps without any weights just to try to get the form in my mind. But while all of this was going on, my corner of the gym, over on the end, became the popular spot. A trainer and a new member was next to me, the very strong woman was to my left, a guy and girlfriend team was behind me, and at 7 o’clock of my position was a guy doing military presses. As if I didn’t feel insecure enough, off to the left, two benches away, was a guy that I nearly had to kick out of Divas a year ago, doing dumbbell presses with more weight than I could do. It was obvious that out of the 8 people around me, five of them were experienced lifters. My highpoint of the day didn’t come on the sets (as per the Body for Life program) but for my sticking there for those sets. My guesses for poundages were way off and so I didn’t have very good form, in exercises that felt awkward to begin with. Yet I know that it is an adjustment process. My next upper body workout (Friday) will take all of this into account and I’ll adjust.
Tuesday night I read over some issues of Muscle Media, over the Body for Life book, and over the Success Journal. I was going to make shoulders my goal for the workout. I would, if nothing else, have a good shoulder workout, using dumbbells. I was also going to stick to dumbbells. Perhaps my sticking with machines all this time has been more harmful than good, and if my performance Monday is any clue, it has.
Oh yeah, one weird thing. when I got home from work Monday night (actually, at 3:00 am Tues morn) and I was getting ready for bed, I took off my shirt and brushed my teeth. But I was somewhat taken aback at my veins. I could see the dark, chalky blue color of my veins in my chest, along my arms, in my groin area (where the femoral artery is most accessible) along my back, my legs, everywhere. I was quite surprised. I didn’t feel odd, I felt great. I had hit all my nutrition goals for the day, had only one cup of coffee, and lots of water. What gives? So I took immediate action… I got into bed with a book and read for 30 minutes before sleep. (grin)
Tuesday morning my phone rang four times in the hour and a half before time to get up. Grrrrr. When I finally unplugged it (after checking the messages) the messages on my service were all a computer beep.
Cardio day and I got on an eliptical thingy. The Body for Life program says 2 minutes level 5, 1 minute level 6, 1 min level 7, 1 min level 8, 1 min level 9, then back down to level 6 and repeat the process three more times, with the last “hill” moving up to a level 10 before a cool-off period. All of this for 20 minutes and if done right it can be benefitial (more than an hour long aerobics class) and quite difficult. Oh yes… it is. I was sorta feeling my way around the machine, but I think that I have my levels too high (that my level 5 is actually a level 7) and when I hit level 9 on the third hill I almost did myself in. But I gritted my teeth and bore down on the machine and going for it. What kept me going was determination and judging from the remarks written by Bill in his book, that might have been my level 10. It took me my levels 6, 7, and 8 to get my wind back half way before attacking the summit once more. I don’t know what a level 10 is on the aerobics part. Why? Because I’m a Marine and we are told from day 1 that if you are still conscious… then you can keep going (usually running, usually with boots and a pack on). On our physical fitness tests where we have a 3 mile run we are told that “if you aren’t puking and trying to keep your consciousness when you cross that finish line, you didn’t run fast enough” and I took it to heart. I only puked once from a run, but lots of times I was nearly ready to drop and give up the ghost. In my mind, for me to hit a 10 on the aerobics portion is to wake up lying on the floor and looking in the faces of people at the gym asking me if I am okay. That is a 10, anything else means that I still have something more to give, some more strength, and from my experience running with a Drill Instructor on my ass yelling at me, I know this is true.
And this leads me back to my thoughts of last night. Lots of times I’ve had thoughts when I go into the gym of “damn, those guys are so big, they can lift much more than me, and I’m a Marine and I can’t lift that much.” It is an easy trap to fall into. This is defeatist attitude automatically. The Marines root for their powerlifter team that competes against the other services (their pictures are posted in most Marine Corps gyms) but this isn’t what makes a Marine. I remember several BIG men of Arnold stature not making it in bootcamp, going through the “non-hacker” platoon to get discharged. It was a shock for me, a 150 lbs at the time, to see these giants of muscle in the non-hacker platoon, usually because of an injury. Yet there is a trait that does make a Marine (several actually, bearing, courage, dicisiveness, dependability, endurance, enthusiasm, integrity, initiative, judgement, justice, knowledge, loyalty, tact, unselfishness) stand out.. and this “don’t quit”. What was going to make me a Marine in this situation was not that I could lift the entire gym (or am bullet proof), but it was that I was going to assess the situation, adapt, and overcome (if get shot, patch the bleeding and continue forward to the objective). What was the problem? Dumbbell workouts were new to me and heightened my insecurities and imbalances in strength levels. These imbalances were due to 1, not working out on dumbells much in past 10 years and thus not having the supporting muscle strength for stability as well as the muscle memory for the pathways of movement, and 2) the difference in blood flow of my left arm compared to my right arm, increasing the natural difference of strength between the two sides and making working with dumbbells even more difficult. Plan of attack, lower weights to, if need be, ridiculous levels to build up the muscle pathways in memory and bring the supporting muscles up to speed. Remember what Bill says in his book, it is the quality of the workout, not the quanitity. Supporting actions, 1) read up on exercises and physiology of the shoulder (because this is the worst of my groups, the weakest link in the chain and a major distraction to overcome in a workout) and 2) visualize my future body constantly until it becomes a reality. I am continually amazed nearly every day how I will notice some behavior or trait of mine and how it was part of a visualization of the past. Visualization works even if the visualization is positive or negative. (on a side note, the years of my overly melodramatic visualization of myself as the lonely hero has indeed turned out true. Only recently have I begun to visualize myself in a different light).
Time for meal number 1. It has been an hour since my aerobic workout (took me 20 minute to fully recuperate… I kicked my own butt big time!) and begin my day. To put it lightly… I feel GREAT.