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The Diverse Paths of Winter Training

Don’t eat grease and sugar, and don’t stuff yourself. Train sensibly and regularly. Stay warm and dry.


Laree and I stacked a couple of cords of firewood under the eaves of the house, fuel for the long winter ahead. A robust pile, it conveys hope, comfort and abundance, savory elements needed to confront the wet and cold. The squirrels are particularly busy these days gleaning the bounty of the forest, and the shadows cast by the trees are longer and move more swiftly across the landscape.

It’s over, the summer. It’s here, the winter.

The odd truth is I love the winter and its rearrangement of time and weather and spasms of holidays and long talkie nights and the nippy days from which we seek shelter and relief.

Tonight I shall ignite a log or two and sit in flickering silence as I review my winter training scheme. Don’t eat grease and sugar, and don’t stuff yourself. Train sensibly and regularly. Stay warm and dry. Let’s see, what else? Get plenty of rest and be positive. No drinking, smoking or running around naked.

That’s a good start. I’ll save the details for later.

Some of us have big workout plans for the months ahead, commonly throwing on added pounds of mass and its accompanying power and letting the glossy definition temporarily hide in the overgrowth. Change of pace, change of purpose, change of procedure and change of person. I become a different character when I seek bulk over muscularity.

I wrestle with the first few pounds of mass vs. muscularity. Less muscularity—less grace, less precision, less care; more mass—more plodding, more snorting, more slop.

Ego! Image! Self-esteem! Get ye behind me, pride. I have work to do.

Once adapted, once a pinch of skin is accepted and my insecurities are numbed, the weight comes on willingly and is met with enthusiastic welcome. There’s might in that mass, and increased muscle development. There’s energy and repair and bruteness and a tad of fat. No, no, no.... Not fat...bulk, I tell you, solid bulk.

And so it goes till the spring.

Staying the course is enough, more than enough, for many striving bombers. Memories of last year and holiday madness, celebrations and visiting relatives remind us of the sheer luxury of hitting the weights regularly and keeping the diet from coming apart at the seams. Once we let go, give in and give up, we’re lost in the chilly fog, the blizzard, the storm. Three workouts a week, stay busy, stay focused, stay strong, and stay cool: the motto of a conservative and committed weightlifter. Inscribe it on oak, and hang it on the wall.

Experimenting in exercise, adventures in training, daring to work out as you’ve never worked out before: Now, this is a most desirable way to go. Commendable and exciting! Live and learn and grow, the style of leaders and champions and heroes. Few of us stray from the well-worn path. We do what we know, go where we’ve been. It worked before; it’ll work again.

Spare me the strain of repetition, the plainness of sameness, the pungency of redundancy. Where can we go wrong if we work arms only for the month? Does it make you nervous just to think about it? The dire consequences, jail time, excommunication, the stockade, public flogging, deterioration and shrinking, possible flab. Mercy! Throw in some stairs or uphill running to mitigate the fear, the doubt, the neurosis. They’ll blast the body according to your input, whether gentle or fierce.

Winter special: Standing barbell curls with full-body gusto, followed by back-supported overhead barbell triceps extensions—four or five sets of six to eight reps, a tad higher on the tri’s—are as good as gold and silver or iron and steel. Dig in enough with dedication and controlled velocity, and your whole body comes alive as the arms take on new size, shape, density and power. Don’t cheat. You know when you’re cheating: Form takes a nose dive and there are useless, forceless sections of any given repetition when accelerated momentum overwhelms the action.

You want truth and justice and honor? Superset the two alarming and disarming oldies but goodies, as we DJs say in the music industry. Rock on!

No, you’re not done. Low-incline dumbbell curls followed by dips and pulley pushdowns (four or five sets x 6-8, 8-15, 8-12 reps). We’re sneaking in some abs and shoulders and pecs and back and torso while we’re pretending to work arms only. Gotta think like a thief if you wanna get ahead in the world.

Can I go home now? It’s drizzling outside.

You might have noted that I mentioned supersetting as a method of operation. How many of you have supersetted—a lot, a little, never? Be bold. The M.O. is to get huge and ripped without standing around losing focus and wasting time. There’s nothing like supersetting once you acquire the rhythm and rhyme. Give it time. It’s sublime.

Seldom as a young lifter building muscle did I graze in pastures unknown to me. I’m a buffalo. I varied my program every six to eight weeks, a little or a lot, but never did I roam. Order and form and discipline and persistence, though hard to distinguish, were elements more important than the exercises, weight, sets and reps. I view the approach today as valuable and necessary and commendable for the time. I was a sprouting pro, a.k.a. a sprouting schmo.

Eye on the iron.

Today the fences have come down by force or persuasion—injury and time—and a change of venue and menu is most appealing and satisfying. I chew on what cud I can, when I can, and am thoroughly well fed. Nothing like experience and age to encourage trial and error, experimentation and investigation. The gym floor has become a stretch of open range.

Note: This has nothing to do with being put out to pasture.

I will have more wide-open-prairie training schemes to share with you in the months to come—to keep us connected, engaged, interested, curious, attentive and alive and learning and growing. We cannot let the metal weights drop to our sides clanging or our bodyweight creep up on our sides hanging. Who can bear it? Miss a workout, miss a month. Gain a pound of blubber, gain 10 and shudder. IM

Editor’s note: For more from Dave Draper, visit www.DaveDraper.com and sign up for his free newsletter. You can also check out his amazing Top Squat training tool, classic photos, workout Q&A and forum.

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