I always start the week out great and then peter out at the end. Actually, this week, I petered out on Tuesday. Lifted Sunday (yay me), did cardio on Monday, and then slept in until five a.m. on Tuesday. Just not enough get-up-and-go to drag my bones out of bed by four.
I also remembered that my legs were killing me during cardio on Monday, most likely because of back squats on Sunday. They weren’t super-heavy, but heavier than anything I’ve done since getting sick and having surgery.
That’s how I convinced myself to be lazy on Tuesday. My legs needed to recover. But I felt horribly guilty, so I made myself get up before four on Wednesday to do more cardio. Legs felt better, I noticed that my heart rate wasn’t getting up as high, and my recovery HR was lower. Maybe this stuff is working after all.
So today was a lift day. That’s probably the only thing that made me get out of bed, but I’m glad I did. My wife was already out of the house and headed to work when I got ready to leave for the gym. Everyone else was blissfully asleep.
I arrived at the gym’s parking lot about four minutes or so early. The place was still dark. Hardly any cars were present. Just Joe’s truck and a couple of other vehicles parked way back in the lot.
I saw Joe walk up to the doors and that’s when the lights came on. I hopped out of my car, went inside, and headed to the weight room.
I had to spend several minutes (as usual) fixing the bench press station so it had the right weight plates present and correctly organized (for me). Looked at my workout log and the weights I’ve set for goals this week, and then got to work.
Here’ what happened next.
Main Lifts 5/5/5+
Barbell Bench Press
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg (warm up)
2x 130lbs/58.967kg (joker)
2x 135lbs/61.235kg (joker)
1x 140lbs/63.5029kg (joker)
Barbell Bent Over Deadlift
10x 135lbs/61.235kg (warm up)
5x 245lbs/111.13kg (joker)
3x 255lbs/115.666kg (joker)
1x 260lbs/117.934kg (joker)
As usual, my left front delt still gave me problems, though I don’t really notice it after I’ve warmed up. I did my first working set just fine, struggled with the last rep on the second working set, and really struggled on that last rep on my 5+ set. In fact, 5 reps was all I could manage.
Looking back in my log one week, I did 120 pounds as a joker set and only did 3 reps. Maybe I got a little too ambitious. Technically, all I had to do was 5 reps to hit the minimum goal, but it’s still minimum. If I couldn’t do 6, maybe I was aiming too high, or rather, too heavy.
Anyway, my three joker sets were exactly the same as last week. I managed 2 reps at 135 but only got a single out of 140. My bench press has always been one of my weakest lifts, so I’ve got a challenge ahead of me.
While I was doing bench presses, Mr. “I curl in the squat rack” came in. I noticed earlier this week during one of my cardio sessions, that he had stepped into the squat rack again and curled. No one called him on it as far as I could tell. I wasn’t looking forward to the experience myself.
Fortunately, I wasn’t put in the position to be tempted to talk with him about it. He stuck to dumbbells, doing supersets for his chest and back for a fair amount of time. Then he switched off between barbell bench presses and cable back rows. He actually looked like he knew what he was doing today.
I started deadlifts and even the warm up makes me breathe hard. The barbell didn’t actually start feeling heavy until my second working set and I did manage 6 reps for my 5+ set at 230 pounds.
I was a tad surprised to be able to do 5 reps for my first joker at 245, and matched my final joker from last week by doing a triple at 255. I wanted one more joker, but 255 felt pretty darn heavy, so I only increased the weight by 5 pounds and barely managed a single at 260.
I say “barely managed” because about halfway through the lift, I felt myself almost stall. For a split second I thought I was doing to dump the rep, but I kept on going and made it all the way through.
But that was it. I was done.
I also noticed that my lift is uneven. The left side is coming up before the right on a number of my reps. Just like my bench press, I must be pulling harder with my left side. Got to correct that.
After “curl in squat rack” guy, a young couple came in. He was dressed appropriately for the gym, but she was totally in her street clothes including a light jacket. It was obvious they were boyfriend/girlfriend, probably fairly early in the relationship, and he was introducing her to his workout routine (Awwww, how cute).
He demonstrated and then took her through dumbbell concentration curls, the hack squat machine, and cable back rows (probably more than that, but I wasn’t watching them constantly…I have to do deadlifts sometime).
Another regular guy came in as well as a woman I never saw before. She impressed me by doing reclining barbell skull crushers. Yeah, pretty light weight, but she knew what she was doing. She wasn’t one of these cutesy Barbie dolls. She was there to work.
I thought about doing cable ab crunches again, but all the available cable stations were being used, so I settled on bodyweight reclining leg lifts on a mat for my ab work. Going out to the main area of the gym, I saw both big firefighter guy, and tall, formerly broken foot guy both doing cardio. When I started my ab work, they went into the weight room and started lifting.
I’m going to switch gears and mention an article by Mike Tuchscherer I read the other day called You Don’t Have “Plenty of Time”. I figured it would be about the older lifter, but Tuchscherer is only 31. Hah!
Here’s the key point:
Now I’m 31. Don’t take this as an “I’m so old” manifesto – I know better. I’ve said it before: I’m convinced that my best lifts are ahead. But 10, 15, even 20 years doesn’t seem as long as it once did. And from this vantage point I can see how, though people who say this are well-meaning, the “plenty of time” perspective can be insidious.
What’s the harm in ignoring good nutrition (which you know is important for recovery and thus your progress)? “I’m super busy this week, so I’m just going to have to cut back on sleep to get the whole thing done.” “There’s no time for the supplemental work this week.” It all has a cost. But no big deal, right? You’ve got plenty of time.
“Plenty of time” is a fat bankroll, and you’re buying drinks at the bar. “Plenty of time” is wasted training cycles when you weren’t taking care of business. “Plenty of time” is failing at the little things, but it’s cool because it’s NBD. “Plenty of time” is spent before you know it. “Plenty of time” isn’t.
I’m very aware that in my life there are more days behind than there are ahead. For older folks, we really need to pay a lot of attention to that, especially in terms of maintaining and improving our health.
Once an older athlete lets himself or herself go, it’s harder to get what we’ve lost back. In fact, if you wait too long, you’ll never completely recover your former performance and state of strength, endurance, or whatever other factor you use to measure your health.
I’m just one week into my second three-week cycle in strength training after a whole month off due to illness. I feel fine, and I can tell I’m slowly recovering both endurance and strength, but it is slow. There are no promises that I’ll be able to get back up to where I was before, let alone surpass my previous PRs.
All I can do is hit the gym week after week and keep pushing.
One worrisome sign is that this week, I could only do 5 reps during my 5+ set for my overhead press and bench press. For both my back squat and deadlifts, I did 6 reps for the “plus” sets, but I may have erred and put the weight for overhead and bench presses a tad too high.
Both of those lifts have my meager triceps in common, so it would probably be a good idea to throw some bench dips and other assistance lifts into the mix.
I’d better get on it quickly. I don’t have a lot of time to waste, at least that’s what Mike Tuchscherer says. Maybe I should keep that piece of advice in mind the next time I’m tempted to skip the gym, too.
There is no education like adversity.