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Coping With Reality


I had a rare cold this past week, and because of it I missed a week of workouts. My experience has shown that if I attempt to “work through it,” I always end up extending the life of the cold and having very perfunctory workouts, not to mention the potential for spreading the cold around the gym.

The week of enforced “leisure” underscored the role that the workout plays in my life. I missed it as much emotionally as physically.  The scheduled workout is part of my anchor, my stability.

For me, the workout is true re-creation, the freeing of the mind from the daily stresses. In a sense it is meditative. Bodybuilding is not a mindless activity; it is not like using the treadmill or elliptical while watching TV. Effective bodybuilding connects the mind and the body in the classic Greek athletic ideal.

Restarting after the week off has to be tempered. I don’t jump back into my regular workout. I do my version of what Arthur Jones suggested—a full-body workout with six to 10 exercises, using dumbbells or barbells for one set of each exercise. It takes 15 to 20 minutes, tops. I want to prepare my still-recovering body with just enough intensity and duration to make me feel as if I’ve trained but not enough to make me really sore. The goal is to acclimate with as little soreness as possible.

I do the same workout the next day but with increased intensity and duration, adding both weight and reps. It’s like moving from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end. This break-in period can be three to five workouts, where each one is progressively more demanding. I find that if I try to shortcut the process, I usually pay for it.

Anytime I miss more than one workout, especially on squats and deadlifts, I need to take one step back in intensity or I will be sore. I know it is in vogue to train each bodypart only once per week, but that simply doesn’t work for me. Maybe it’s my limited ability to recover, but when I work out like that, I am always sore—not something I enjoy.

My current schedule is to train for an hour four times per week, hitting each bodypart twice per week. The hour includes some cardio after my weight workout. I also do mild stretching afterward, being very careful not to overdo my range of motion. My present split is Mondays and Thursdays: shoulders, chest, biceps and triceps; Tuesdays and Fridays: legs, back and abs. I have used this split many times in my life, and I find that it hits the sweet spot between stimulation and fatigue and soreness. The main thing is that I enjoy the process.  IM

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