Go! Fight! Win! Just Don’t Be Stupid

Particularly when lifting, I try to find a balance between challenging myself and risking injury. I know that playing it too safe will result in inhibited growth of muscle mass and strength, but going too heavy at least risks poor form if not actually getting hurt.

Murray Mackay
Photo credit: FlexNFit.com

It can be a fine line to walk and I tend to be a little “competitive” with myself, wanting to lift just a little more than I did before or pushing out one more rep on a lift than I did last week.

Then, when visiting the FitNFlexed website, I was astounded and more than a little concerned when I read the article Inspiration: On Crutches But Still Training!.

It seems 47-year-old Murray Mackay, an Australian government worker, was back training at the gym just shy of 2 weeks after his hip replacement surgery!

My wife had the same surgery quite a number of years ago, and I recall the long road of her recovery. She spent countless hours in physical therapy and performing specific exercises around the house. Today, if you didn’t know (and didn’t see the scar), you probably wouldn’t guess she had the operation.

But the idea of having a metal spike jammed into your bone in order to insert an artificial ball and socket for the hip is no minor thing. I’d really want to take care of it and make sure I didn’t go from bad to worse.

Do I think Mackay is crazy? Do you?

And if he doesn’t make these difficult trips to the gym?

“I’d be depressed” he admits.

“I’m having bad days as it is not being able to train 100%, but it makes me happy just getting up here and doing something.”

I can relate up to a point. I have to admit that I look forward to going to the gym each day, yes, even on “leg day.” It’s that sense of accomplishment and that opportunity to do just a little more than I’ve done before that really attracts me. There’s a lot about life I can’t control, but I can control my workouts and then watch how my body responds.

But like I said, there’s a balance between challenging yourself and risking (further) injury.

My wife listened to her physical therapist and let him craft a program to challenge her while also promoting healing and recovery. I hope Mackay is talking with someone and finding that balance, too.

But I guess you can’t keep a good athlete down, even (maybe) when he or she should stay down for a bit.

There’s a guy at my gym, I don’t know his name, who trains like a powerlifter. Several weeks back, I noticed he came into the gym with some sort of metal framework on one of his arms. He almost looked bionic. Then I overheard him talking with another guy who does a similar training routine, about how he broke his arm…while weight training.

I couldn’t hear everything, but it sounded like a compound lift went bad and resulted in the broken arm. Guess what? He was back in the gym and continuing to lift, even with that metal cast (or whatever it was) on his arm.

He’s had it off for a few weeks now and seems no worse for wear, at least from a casual observer’s point of view. But I wonder if hitting the gym so soon after a significant injury or operation is such a hot idea.

Derek Redmond
Photo credit: USA Today

And then there was this article.

You may recall the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, and particularly the 400 meter race when Derek Redmond, right at the beginning of his run, collapsed in agony in front of 65,000 spectators with a torn hamstring. He was effectively out of the competition…

…except he tried to keep going.

I can’t imagine the sort of pain he endured with each step he took. He refused to be called to the sidelines like, in my opinion, any reasonable person should have done.

Finally Redmond’s father Jim came onto the track. The race was over by this point, but instead of taking his son off the track and getting him some medical attention, the senior Mr. Redmond helped his son complete the 400 meters to the finish line.

The article ends with:

The crowd were (sic) on their feet, giving the brave Derek Redmond a standing ovation.

Although he finished last – Derek will always be remembered for being a champion.

A champion, that never quit.

I know both Mackay’s and Redmond’s stories are supposed to be inspirational, and I agree that on one level they are. Who isn’t impressed and touched by seeing someone endure a terrific hardship and yet never give up their dream or their goal?

I certainly don’t intend to demean either of these fine athletes, but there’s got to be a limit. Yes, “Never give up, never surrender,” but with the caveat that once you do become injured, especially as an older athlete, your recovery time will be longer, potentially much longer, than a 20, 30, or even a 40-year-old.

The bottom line is push and push hard, but don’t be stupid. Push yourself a little harder than the time before. Do just one or two more reps than the previous workout. Don’t try to jump from A to Z in a single, leaping bound. We can be strong, but none of us is Superman or Wonder Woman.

No, I’m not suggesting being timid. Like I said, it’s about balance. I’ll continue to workout and bias my balance a bit toward the challenge side, but I know my body reasonably well. Going from doing bent leg deadlifts with a 110 pound barbell, to 120, and then to 125 week over week and monitoring the effects is the challenge.

I’m not afraid of backing off with the weights or number of reps if I find I’ve taken too much on board. I’m even extending my rest period between sets from 60 to 90 seconds, both to assist recovery and perhaps to stimulate more muscle growth.

It seems a rest period of 90 seconds to 120 seconds is a safe bet, to ensure muscle hypertrophy isn’t hindered.

There’s no question more research is needed, but gradually reducing rest periods down to 30 seconds doesn’t seem to be detrimental to muscle growth.

So stick to the 90-120 rest period, and if you want to drop as low as 30 seconds, do so gradually, to ensure “dem gainsz” are not sacrificed and your muscle and fitness goals stay well on track.

YodaPick reasonable goals and then beat the heck out of them. Achieve and then set more goals and beat them to a pulp, too.

Go, confront the problem. Fight! Win!

-Edna (Brad Bird)
The Incredibles (2004)

No, we’re not superheroes, so we shouldn’t expect to lift railroad cars like Bob Parr. But putting our heads in a reasonable place and then pushing a little harder each time, we can still do more than we ever imagined when we started down this path.

Do or do not. There is no “try”.



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