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The Not-So-Good Kind of Hurt

First a warning, this post is about something I like and most people don’t – exercise. Lifting weights, in particular. If fitness isn’t your thing, no harm done. You may move along with no guilt on your conscience. For the two people still reading, let’s talk about squats.

I’ve been seriously lifting weights for thirteen or fourteen years now. Sure, I worked out before that, but not with any clear understanding of how best to do it. I dabbled and saw some results, but then would get pulled away by life and lose them. These days it’s a part of my life and not something I’m capable of abandoning.

In all that time I’ve worked up to some impressive weights and accomplishments, including a peak in my home gym of 475lbs while squatting. That was years ago, probably between 2009 and 2012. I’ve squatted up to and over 400 since then, but squats and I never really got along. I suspect it has to do with my body mechanics. Leg to torso ratio and whatnot. I’m a lot better at other lower body exercises than any sort of squats – deadlifts in particular. And don’t get my started on front squats!

Last night I stretched and warmed up, then went for a light squat workout with 225lbs. Like always, I felt the pain instantly in my quads. It’s a jabbing and stabbing kind of pain, or maybe there’s a pinch or two in there too. Whatever the case, every rep at the bottom of my range of motion (I go as far below parallel as possible without falling over or sitting on the ground) my quadriceps yelp and squeal like baby pigs about to be turned into bacon. It’s not just unpleasant, it hurts.

So last night I went for a wider stance after my first set. A wider stance calls in more hamstring activation. I’ve got great hammies, strength-wise, so it should be a no brainer. Except my intent is to work my quads. In any event, the experiment was a minor success – my thighs didn’t hurt as much. They still hurt, but not as badly. It’s a problem and one I haven’t been able to solve in more than a decade – I just sucked it up and dealt with it. Power through, that’s always been my mantra. Even the times when I ended up injuring myself – but I’m getting wise enough to learn that maybe pain is a warning and powering through isn’t the best option every time. Maybe.

I’ll keep squatting for a few more weeks. Typically I go through a circuit of squats until they hurt so damn much I can’t do them anymore, than I switch to deadlifts or something else for my lower body. That will probably be the case this time too, but I’m not sure how invested I’ll be down the road to doing this kind of exercise again. Focusing on a wider stance the entire circuit might make a difference too, only time and hard work will tell.

After the squats I did a few sets of clean and presses. Only 135lbs, but I really enjoy doing power cleans and clean and presses. I can’t lift as much, but the explosive movement is fun. Not to mention the whole body exercise does great things for, you guessed it, my whole body. The only downside is the day after a lower body day has me wiped out and ready to take a nap at a moment’s notice.

Is there a message to be shared and learned here? Nothing obvious, only me willing to share some data for other exercise junkies out there. I like to think that somebody, somewhere, can learn from my trials and mistakes without feeling to consequences of poor decisions. I like to learn my lessons the hard way, it seems, but somebody out there has to be smarter than me!

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Why Cardio Disappoints

This post isn’t about books! It’s about another passion of mine – and one shared by few people: fitness. So you have been warned, read on at your own peril.

Longtime friends and readers (one and the same, as far as I’m concerned) know that I’m a weightlifting junky. A former competitive powerlifter, in fact. Not one of the super heavyweights that crammed anything and everything into their mouths either. I was a fairly lean powerlifter when I competed – and I was in the 242lb weight class (my highest competition weight was 232, usually I was 229 or lower).

Sadly, my competing days are over, courtesy of an injury caused by overtraining for a meet and not being as safe as I knew I should have been. Some major surgery to reattach torn tendons and muscle to a bone and I’m back in business, but never like I once was. These days I still lift heavy 3 – 4 times a week, but I don’t push myself as hard as I used to. That means I have to make up for the lack of work to keep myself looking decent with other activities. And that means including some cardio elements in my routine.

I read a few studies and educated opinion pieces long ago stating how weightlifting was better in every way for a body than cardio. Since I agreed with it out of principal, I took it as gospel and moved on. Many years later, I still believe that way and happily share such information when asked (no, I’m not the kind of guy who offers it unasked and pesters people). As I get older and my routine is changing to more health and maintenance based instead of trying to amass raw strength, I’m finding more and proof that supports what I’ve believed to be true.

I measure my progress in many ways. How much I can lift, how many times I can lift it, what the dude in the mirror looks like, what the calipers figure my bodyfat is, and what the scale reads. I hit the scale almost every morning and every night because what gets measured gets done. It’s those measurements that leads me to posting this blog and supporting my belief of why cardio is disappointing.

First a mild info dump, here’s a typical week for me:

Monday: Heavy Bench Press, Heavy Cable Rows, supportive exercises (curls, tricep extension, etc.)

Tuesday: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training – Clean and Presses supersetted with running on a treadmill)

Wednesday: Deadlifts / Squats / Rack Pulls (only one exercise, it varies by month), Declined situps, more arm and shoulder work

Thursday: rest

Friday: Volume bench press, volume lat pulldowns, supportive exercises (arm stuff)

Saturday: HIIT (same as Tuesday)

Sunday: rest

 

Every day, if possible, I try to get in some rollerblading or low impact cardio around my subdivision, typically 10 – 20 minute’s worth. I’ve ramped that up recently, leading to this post.

 

 

So Sunday, father’s day, my wife decided she wanted to start doing my 2 mile cardio with me. For me that means rollerblading around our subdivision several times (rather fast, I push myself and keep my heart rate in the 140 – 150 range). I’d also mowed my lawn today in the 91 degree sunshine, which takes about an hour with my push mower thanks to a couple of short but steep hills. So no weights on Sunday, just cardio…

 

On virtually any weightlifting night I will lose 1.5 – 2 pounds overnight while I’m sleeping. Doesn’t matter the exercise, as long as I work myself hard. Without fail I wake up lighter in the AM, although if I strain my lower body too much it can cause some inflammation in the muscles that takes a couple of days to wear off – the weight comes off over those couple of days though. On any day where I do cardio only I will lose .4 – .8 pounds overnight. Less than half what I lose when I lift weights.

 

Weightlifting works the muscle, breaking it down and building it back up. The building part takes time though, and also requires calories. That means burning calories, both to do the repair work and to strengthen the muscles. A workout will continue to burn calories for 1 – 2 days afterwards. Cardio, on the other hand, only burns calories while you’re doing it and, unless you bust your hump for more than 20 minutes, you’re only burning the calories in your bloodstream and not any stored fat. With weights, it’s a constant slow burn happening behind the scenes, which takes care of the calories in the bloodstream and then moves on to stored fat. My two mile rollerblading only takes around 10 minutes, so the only gain I get out of it is an improvement to my energy systems (heart, lungs, cardiovascular, and flushing water out via sweat).

 

So why not do long term cardio – 30+ minutes? Even if there weren’t studies showing the damage it can do to joints and muscle fibers, it’s f***ing boring! I’ve got way too many things to do to spend that kind of time. I’ll never run a marathon, and I’m okay with that. I ran a 5k once, by myself, and that was enough. I much prefer more intense focused training to keep my energy systems where I need them or close enough that I can ramp up sport specific training as needed (e.g. if I ever joined another hockey league). For those that do it and, somehow, enjoy it, I salute you. You do what works for you and godspeed, just as I’ll do what works for me.

 

If you’re wondering what HIIT is, it’s weight training done aerobically, for lack of a better term. In my case I do a set of 6 – 135lb clean and presses (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_OGoQ94mPQ, except I make sure I go all the way to the floor on each rep). After that set I hit the treadmill and run for 2 minutes. Ideally there should be next to no rest between exercises. For me I rest 30 seconds or lest just to catch my breath. My heart after the clean and press is in the 150s, typically, and then in the 140s after the run. Five sets of that and I’m done. Any compound exercise can be used – I’ve done squats, front squats, and bench pressing as alternatives from time to time, but I really like what clean and presses do for the body – it’s a full body workout and helps support every other exercise as well as general strength and conditioning.

 

So there it is, my rare workout post. Social media is a funny place – people get upset about others posting about working out, which baffles me. I encourage it, but I don’t want to upset anybody either (unless they deserve it, and even then I’d typically rather just save my time and walk away). Still, I got some great feedback on my workout posts a couple years ago, so maybe somebody can learn something from this and use it for their own good.

 

These days I’m floating in the 225 – 230 range, depending on whether it was a bad weekend or not. Last night I was 226.4 and this morning I was 226 (remember the cardio only yesterday). My bodyfat is in the 11% – 12% range and I can still bench 315+ and deadlift 500+. I figure I’m doing okay for a dude in his 40’s.

 

 

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Physics Is For People Who Don’t Believe

July 13, 2015 2 comments

This is not a post about my books. Not directly, anyhow. This is me being damn proud of myself. You see, four and a half years ago I tried to tear my arm off. I failed, but managed to rip the pectoral muscle off my arm and leave it flapping like a broken chicken wing. I was training for a powerlifting meet a month out. Bye bye competition.

I ended up having surgery to reattach the muscle, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I would never lift that much again. I moved a week or two after the surgery across country and lost my health insurance for a while. It was a kick in the nuts, to say the least, because I identified with being a big and strong mofo. Fortunately, I’d been studying my body and weightlifting for many years now and was able to self-rehab myself back to being within 85% of my prior maximum effort. Over time I accepted that. My books started taking off and I dreamed of a life where the pen was mightier than the bicep.

But I kept lifting. I wasn’t going to be a little guy or a skinny fat guy ever again. I would never compete again, but as long as I stayed in shape I could cope. So I did. Through a few more states and a few more moves I stayed strong and kept at it. And I got older. I peaked at 36, whether I wanted to or not. Now I’m 40 and I’m here to say recovery and a lot of other things aren’t what they used to be.

But I also managed to rekindle my love of picking up heavy things this year. It never left, but it definitely had a few lulls along the way. I’ve designed a new routine that works a lot better for me these days and allows sufficient recovery and, believe it or not, growth. I began to see gains that I didn’t think were possible anymore…but the iron never lies.

Last night I bench pressed a bar with only 15 pounds fewer than my competition best. AND I had enough left in the tank I wish I would have done 5 more pounds. I’ve given myself 6 weeks to meet and / or beat that prior maximum effort and I am positive it will happen. If you’re curious about what that means, I benched 390lbs tonight and I plan to meet or beat my 405lb lift that was a state record back in 2009.

That’s not the point though, what matters is that I’ve done a lot of crazy shit in my life. Some of it good, some of it not so good. Some of it… well, never mind (hi, Mom!). None of that stuff taught me the lessons that powerlifting has taught me. Lessons like how a determined human being has no limits. Physics and gravity be damned, if you put your mind to it you can do anything. Weight lifting, writing 12+ books a year, or doing anything you really want to. Hard work is the key. Hard work and determination. Heck, with enough hard work we might even be able to fix our government (remember, I write a lot of fiction).

 

Tonight’s lesson is this: F*** the rules, make your own.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Wake Up Dead

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s Monday morning. That and the fact that I woke up feeling like I hadn’t gone to bed yet are no coincidence. Monday mornings require an alarm clock set to go off before most clinically sane people wake up. So do the other weekdays, but there’s just a special kind of hell to a Monday morning.

So I staggered into the bathroom and did my usual morning routine. Mostly. This was a little different. Today’s routine involved not only shaving off a weekend’s worth of scruff but also a frank evaluation of the dude looking back at me. In the mirror- not some creepy neighbor watching me shower.

It’s been a heck of a year so far. By and large, 2013 has been a very positive year. Some ups and downs and a few troubles along the way, but by and large we’ve made good things happen. I’ve got a great day job, my writing is going very well, everyone’s healthy and happy, and aside from our ongoing housing issues with our landlord and landlady, life is good. But it’s been a busy year too, and that means there’s been a price I’ve had to pay. Other than sleep, that is.

The dude in the mirror directed his eyes downward and let me know, with a pointed glance, what the problem was. No, not THAT far down. No problems there, thankyouverymuch. I’ve had many weeks where I was lucky to make it to the basement to work out one time, let alone the 3 or 4 I used to enjoy. Between that and too much crappy food (junk food, eating out, etc.), I’m afraid I wouldn’t look presentable in a bikini. Then again, the leg hair and incongruous bulges might make the bikini an unpleasant viewing experience even if I was in the kind of shape I wanted to be.

So starting last night I’ve established a short term goal of two months to whip myself back into shape. Yes, I admit, this morning’s frank appraisal was planned. Normally I don’t like planning things because then the word “premeditated” gets thrown around, but this was an exception. I even took a pic in the mirror this morning to compare in a couple of months with the guy staring back at me. It should be a good time. The plan is simple, eat better and work out more. Nothing to it, right?

Actually no, it’s not difficult. So why haven’t I done it before now? First I needed to have a talk with my doctor. Not a “can I work out without dying” kind of talk, but rather the wtf is wrong with me kind of talk. He’d done some labs on me a month or so back and one of the many things he tracks has to do with iron. I give blood regularly and it turns out that can be a minor problem. Not life threatening by any means, but my body has a tendency to try and make a lot of blood. One of the reasons I give blood, outside of being a nice guy, is to keep my red blood cell count from getting too thick. Lots of those are a good thing, but too many can lead to complications including a stroke. And trust me, nobody wants to see me stroking out.

So I get bled out every now and then. Usually on purpose, although the occasional jack knife in the leg incident can lead to significant accidental blood loss too. My body goes crazy trying to replace that blood and it needs iron to do so. What it can’t get from normal sources it finds internally. It’s called ferritin, and that’s the iron stores in a person’s body. Mine, it turns out, was below the bottom end of the normal range.

Common symptoms of low ferritin include chronic fatigue / tiredness and headaches. Well I’ve had an increasing number of headaches lately and when I do workout I get exhausted damn quick. I was blaming it on only 6 hours or so of sleep a night, getting older, and the stress of a busy year. Mind you since I left the automotive industry my stress levels got a LOT better, but my crazy rental house situation is trying hard to fill the void.

I learned this stuff last Thursday (which was ironically two months ahead of schedule – turns out I drove from Novi to Lansing for my doc appt and I had the date wrong, by two months! My doc was due in for surgery but squeezed in time to meet me anyhow. Hell of a guy.). That night I picked up some iron supplements and also some other stuff he recommended to bring me back up to optimal levels. Now four days later, I’m already feeling back on top of the world. Last night’s workout only consisted of two exercises but I had the energy to take them all the way and would have done more if my kids hadn’t been wanting me to come and put up Halloween decorations with them.

So the new goal is this: 2 – 4 exercises per session with 4 – 5 workouts a week. I may even do a little cardio, although I can’t stand that stuff. I much prefer lifting hard and heavy. And no, that’s not a euphemism. As an example here was last night’s workout which felt great and left me wanting more:

Bench Press:

135lb x 10 reps (warm up)

225 x 8 (this felt really good and easy)

275 x 3 (could have done more but I was warming up for the next one)

315 x 1 (haven’t done this much in a while so I didn’t want to push myself too much. It felt good though)

315 x 1 (decided to do it again and I bet I could have done two, but the last time I really pushed myself while benching I ripped my pec off my arm and had to have surgery. My powerlifting career was ended so I can afford to minimize risks now)

Supinated grip lat pulldowns:

180 x 8

200 x 8

230 x 8

250 x 8

250 x 8 (good lifts all with the last set being difficult to do)

Most doctors, by the way, don’t check or care about ferritin. Or so mine says. I don’t care what he thinks of other docs, he does a good job with me. He even came recommended to me as one of the leading experts on men’s health. I’ve been seeing him for around 8 years now and I keep going back for more. Must be he’s doing something right. My only suggestion to people interested in optimizing their own health is to ask for a copy of any bloodwork you get done and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Google the tests and numbers to see what’s what and then ask away. If your doc doesn’t give you a satisfactory answer, maybe there’s a reason for that. I know I have yet to meet a general practitioner that knows much of anything beyond chicken pox, flu / cold, how to set a broken arm or finger, other basic ailments. That’s not a criticism, there’s a lot to know and it’s virtually impossible to keep up with everything. My criticism comes in when doctors discard something that they’re unfamiliar with or were told didn’t matter. But that’s a rant for another day. For now I only recommend keeping an open mind and being willing to look for a second or third opinion if you feel something’s not right.

I’ll post infrequent updates on how things are going more as a guide than as a narcissistic look-at-how-buff-I-am sort of thing. Will there be pics? I don’t know. Maybe, but probably not. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself. Sure I take the pics, but I reserve my vanity for myself. I’m the person I have to impress. Well that and my wife, but she’s looking better and better every day all on her own.

Enough babbling! There’s work that needs to be done and a group of unfortunate people stranded on Europa that have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. And that’s without considering the guy who appears to be a mad scientist that’s locked himself up in the laboratory…

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Death by Bench Press

January 30, 2013 Leave a comment

This is not a motivation post about busting my butt (or pecs / triceps, as the case me be) to overcome injury, weakness, or some other debilitating problem. This is about another bench press induced near death incident I endured minutes ago. And it turns out, upon investigation of other reviews, I am not alone.

First here’s the deal. I’m doing a 1 lift a day routine right now that’s pretty tiresome in spite of how easy it sounds. The gist of it is doing one compound exercise each day but really focusing on that exercise. It’s a three week routine, with 7 sets x 5 reps the first week, 6 x 3 the next, then 3 sets the third week (5 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps). The weight changes to be very challenging for each set / stage. I’m in week two.

So here’s how the night was supposed to go:

135lbs x 8 (warm up set, this doesn’t count)
225 x 3
245 x 3
275 x 3
295 x 3
275 x 3
275 x 3

Here’s what really happened:

135 x 8

225 x 3 (bench is a little shaky, wtf?)

245 x 3 (bench is very shaky! I flipped it over and tightened up the bolts on it)

275 x 3 (woah, the bench moved! I figured I pushed with my legs too move and scooted it up)

295 x 0 (unracked the weight so it’s straight above me and at the same time the head of the bench COLLAPSED under me. It wasn’t a total break, but I was at an extreme angle (see the attached pics). Fortunately I still had the weight straight up in the air so I was able to do a combined press, shoulder raise, ab crunch to get it back to the rests then I could climb up and figure out what happened.)

Was that a freakish incident? Hell yes! Could it have done serious damage to me? Well, who likes the idea of dropped 295 pounds on their chest or throat / face from 12″ – 18″ up. And like I said, I’m not the only person this has happened to. For my fellow lifters, do NOT buy the Apex bench pictured below.

I finished up the workout by switching to 6 sets of 8 reps at 90lbs for cable pressdowns. A far cry from a bench press but I’m temporarily benchless.😦

brokebench1 brokebench2

Now back to my regularly scheduled writing.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

Fearing Failure

Many years ago one of those goofy email quizzes came my way where you’re supposed to answer these generic questions then send it on to x many of your friends to get to know them better. 99% of the time  sent them straight to my trash bin, but my wife (girlfriend at the time) sent me that I decided to do. The question that sticks out was what was my worst fear. It didn’t take much time to answer it honestly: I fear failing. My steadfast belief is that I’ll never fail anything in life for lack of trying.

The sands in my life’s hourglass have poured long enough that I’m either getting wiser or more cynical. I had a touch of a personal epiphany while writing Devil’s Icebox a couple of weeks ago. What I came to realize I posited as coming from the main character – and at the time it did – but it came from me as well.  I wrote about fear and personal limitations. Tonight in the gym I believe I ran head first into that very same inhibiting wall.

In my “prime” (before I tried to rip my arm off at the shoulder), I could bench press over 400 pounds. RAW. That means without assistance from a shirt. I never had the chance to prove it in a power lifting meet due to the aforementioned incident while attempting multiple reps at 415. My best squat was 475, again without a squat suit. These days, a little over two years later, I fluctuate between being able to bench 315 and 350lbs (I did 365 with my assistive bench shirt). I can still work up to my max in the deadlift (550), and I’ve come close to 475 in the squat, but that factors into what’s stopping me these days.

My head is stopping me, I think. Having been through a catastrophic injury I have a sense of mortality about my joints / muscles / bones / whatnot. I am afraid of doing the same thing or worse to myself. I’ve come a long ways but I can’t trick my brain into recruiting 110% like I used to. Without that extra oomph, I can’t get where I want to go. I can’t even make the same kinds of gains I used to make. Is it wisdom gained from mistakes that stops me, or is it fear that’s holding me back from achieving what I want to?

Whatever it is, it’s upsetting and disappointing. Perhaps it’s a flavor of what the high school football star who turned into a used car salesman feels. The flip side of the coin is that it only applies to extreme weight lifting and not my desire to branch out and try other things (case in point my wife wants to make sweet potato black bean quesadillas in the near future and thought it sounds rather unpleasant to me, I like to try new things). I’m afraid of tearing muscles in my legs so I don’t squat as hard as I should. I’m afraid or ripping a pec so I don’t push myself on the bench. I’m afraid of losing my balance and falling so I don’t power clean as much as I probably could. Quite honestly, it sucks. But at the same time, I’m still walking without a regular limp.

For tonight at least it’s back to writing. We’ll see what the gym brings the next time I bring it to the gym.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Weight of the World

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Lest anyone feel concerned (or giggling maniacally at the implications), the title of this post is not meant to imply I’m stressed out or feeling burdened. Oh sure, 2012’s been a bit of a bear for me thus far, but with fresh challenges come fresh opportunities. This post is actually about fitness and health – though I’m not that guy who says you have to do this in order to achieve your six pack abs in X many days.

We (wife, kids, and yours truly) are planning a trip to Florida this summer. My wife wants to shave off a few pounds by then since we’ll be staying on the beach. I’ll admit, the winter has added a little insulation to me as well in my quest to get stronger. For those who aren’t long time readers of this blog, I’m a former competitive power-lifter who’s still struggling to return to the glory days, though I admit I will probably never compete again.

Anyhow, this post starts with my wife who recently had some redecorating and / or rearrangement done under the skilled hands of a surgeon. That was 4 weeks ago as of today. At the 3 week mark her doctor told her she was clear to do whatever she liked within reason, including exercise. So my wife decided she wanted to try out this P90X program, but she was worried I might not do it with her since I’m all about heavy weights and intensity whereas P90X is more of fat loss / cardio / volume based routine. Being the eternally supportive husband that I am (oh yeah, I went there), I pledged my full support and we tried it out starting last Sunday night.

The first workout was chest and back, then the 25 minute ab ripper routine. The chest and back consists of a lot of push ups and pull ups, as well as some bentover rows with either dumbbells or bands. We had neither at home (sold my home gym years ago when we moved out of Michigan and have been using public gym memberships ever since), so the back workout didn’t happen. Push ups though, well anybody can do those, so we did. Out of respect for the intellectual property of the creators of P90X I won’t go into detail, but I will say I was impressed with the routine. It really does kick your ass. As an example once a week I work on bench pressing and work my way up to 315lbs or more (I used to do more but there was an incident involving surgery and several months of downtime we I put myself through a custom physical therapy program that worked awesome, but I’ll probably never get back into the 400+ range again). So with that benching background, and the knowledge that I’m one of those crazy SOBs that pushes themselves to the limit and occasionally beyond (see mention of surgery above), I was sore and aching for a couple of days afterwards. My wife was in a similar condition, except for her it seemed she’d done some damage to the recent landscaping she’d had done.

She ended up talking to her surgeon and having to go back in the next day to get checked out. Sure enough, where tissue had been healing she’d strained it. Nothing too bad or damaging, but she was told to give her chest 3 more weeks of downtime to be certain. My wife was disappointed but this is another example of a lesson I’ve learned many times in life – it’s better to take a little extra time off to recover from whatever event (strains, pulls, breaks, illness, surgery, etc.) than it is to go back before your ready and end up needing a much longer time off due to an injury.

Now flash back to me – P90X is tough and all but I mentioned I’m a hardcore meat head, right? My original plan was on my usual gym days to do two workouts – my workout and then the P90X one later that night. My wife supported this and intended to join me. Well I was still aching from the horizontal pushing we did on Sunday night but I hit the gym Monday anyhow. And yes, it was my bench night. Since I didn’t get the back workout in I pushed myself through the P90X workout with proper gym equipment and also mixed in the regular bench press. I only made it to 295 that day – I think I could have hit 315 but without a spotter I didn’t want to have to roll that much weight down my chest. I learned from my prior mistakes – it only took a major injury to make it happen.🙂

And since my wife now has 3 weeks until she can try it again that gives me the time needed to prepare myself for the part of P90X that really sucked. Oh sure, it sucks in a good way (not THAT good of a way, mind you), but it still hurt like hell. The ab ripper routine is 25 minutes of abuse. Imagine yourself nailed to a wall in a spread eagle fashion before somebody reminiscent of Lou Ferrigno picks up a 16lb sledgehammer and hits you in the stomach with it repeatedly. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad but at the time I might have argued the point. The point is it’s 25 minutes of abdominal and other “core” muscle exercising. Not just a bunch of crunches either, though a few are tossed in here and there. I’d considered myself to have strong abs – you kind of have to when you’re deadlifting and squatting in the 400 – 600 range. Well here’s the difference between strength and muscle endurance. As a matter of fact I ended up straining either my sartorius or abductor longus on my left leg. Those are muscles in the front of your thigh. It resulted in my spending a day walking like I was 100 years old and suffering from a crippling illness. Oddly enough, after Monday’s upper body workout and a good night’s sleep I could walk fine the next day (still felt a twinge of pain though).

So then came Wednesday, lower body day at the gym. My wife, prescribed 3 weeks of taking it easy, decided she was going to spend 20 minutes on the treadmill then do some lower body stuff herself. Aside from demanding she go easy and not aggravate her injury, how could I feel anything but proud at her determination / motivation? Yeah, my wife rocks. You read it here first. So she did her treadmill then hit the leg press and did some bentover rows of her own.

P90X was behind me (for a little while, at least), so I was ready to get serious about squatting. Historically squatting and I have had some disagreements on and off over the years. One thing that’s going well for me in 2012 is squatting though – no problems with form or anything. I’ve been focusing on more volume up until last week and this one though, but transitioning back into intensity training was easy. My left leg still had that twinge in it but it was barely noticeable so I pushed myself. I worked up to 455 and knew that was my top end. Felt some strain with every set in my right quadriceps this time – the left leg was doing fine though. Later, after another exercise, I hit the leg press to get some good blood flow pumping and worked up to 7 plates per side (the leg press is at an angle and it makes judging weight accurately difficult, not to mention no two leg presses function the same – and a “plate” is 45lbs for those curious). After the squats I was sucking wind hard but I got ‘er done.

Last night I had a hard time sleeping because of the strain in my right quad. This morning I’m limping a little because of it. I want to blame it all on P90X, but the truth is that program is a good program for people motivated and dedicated to making it work. I was very skeptical of it – damn near every exercise plan that promises results in X many days out there is some sort of scam or gimmick. With the P90X you’re given 90 days, and that’s realistic. Give me 3 months and I can turn just about anybody into something noticeably and functionally different if they’re willing to do the work. I’ve helped friends and family do some amazing things in the past, including a 6 month weight loss totaling 100 pounds. I’m not bragging – heck, I’m not even a trainer for hire (I’d love to do that, I just don’t have enough time). I mention that to give credence to my believe that P90X will help a person willing to do the work, but the important part is to know your limits and not push yourself too hard, especially with exercises you’re unfamiliar with. This is stressed in the video but when it came to me I know my body’s limits – I’ve crossed those lines enough times over the years. Or so I thought. Turns out I found another line with the new (and torturous) ab ripper routine. I joked on Monday that I can deadlift over 500 pounds but I can’t pick my leg off the ground right now!

And for the record, back in 2009 I set state records in Michigan for bench pressing 405 pounds and deadlifting 550 pounds. I was in the 242lb weight class (I weighed 229 and 232 at the times) and lifted in an unsanctioned drug-free federation (Son-Light Power). Both records were beaten in 2011. :(  It is my goal to one day squat 500 (current PR is 475), deadlift 600, and I’m still struggling to bench 405 again even though it may never happen (I have worked up to 350 last year though).

Why do I do it? Why put my body through that strain and hard work? Clearly it’s beyond simply being healthy (especially if it’s caused me disabling injuries). It’s because I don’t want to be that guy who looks like he can pick up a car when it falls off the jack on a buddy, I want to be the guy who can do that. I want a mugger to look at me and my wife when we’re out on a date night and think to himself, “I’m not going to screw with that guy!” I was a skinny fat kid and I idolized superheroes and the king of 80’s action, Arnold Schwarzenegger (and I’ve always been a huge Conan fan, both the books and the original movies. The new movie…blah). I like being strong and I never settle for anything less than what I consider to be the best in life. I want my kids to look up at me and realize all the things that are possible to them if they work hard in life.

I may not be the most interesting man in the world but I do I offer this advice to anyone and everyone, “Stay hungry, my friends.”

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.