"By leaving pride out of the equation and approaching things honestly and with patience, a return to the gym can be successful and exercise can once again become part of your everyday life"
by Michael Sztym, "Old Dawg"
There comes a time in everyone’s life when the things they WANT to do take second seat to the things they NEED to do. Life transitions through its different phases quietly, unobtrusively, until suddenly we find ourselves neck deep in kids, mortgages, car notes, 50 hour work weeks and no where near enough time for the things we enjoy.
Invariably sacrifices have to be made and, in many cases, the gym/lifting find themselves on the proverbial cutting room floor. It starts out as simply a week or two off just to take care of some pressing matters or maybe to finish that big project at work. That turns into a few more weeks and then a few more and suddenly we find ourselves sitting in our favorite chair resting a beer bottle on our semi-circle like belly that would give any woman in her 8th month of pregnancy a run, or rather a waddle, for her money. Plainly put we have somehow become that guy we always used to make fun of. The day of tight abs and broad shoulders has given way to the days of not being able to see your ankles without the cunning use of mirrors and we can’t help but ask ourselves, “How?”
At this point, there are generally two paths taken. The first is the path to acceptance and surrender. We simply convince ourselves that we’re too old, too busy and ultimately too tired to make the effort to reclaim what has been lost. We surrender to the overwhelmingly tangible reality, poignantly illustrated by the fact that our Levis now say 42/32 instead of 30/32, that we’ve gotten older and married and in that process lost that piece of our identity. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It simply is what it is: one more brother in the lifting game falling to the wayside. Sad? Yes. But part of the game none the less.
The second path is that of redemption. Disappointment sets in first, then depression, then anger and finally resolve. That little fire that resides inside you, that drove you to the gym in the first place, is some how rekindled and you find yourself rearranging schedules, bringing a post-work meal to work, eating it in the car on the way to the gym and then grabbing a workout before you even set foot at home.
For those who have resigned themselves to path one, there isn’t much to be done but pour some of our protein shake onto the sidewalk in recognition of our fallen homies. For those who have chosen path two, however, getting started takes more than simply diving into some old workout you’ve memorized. It’s true, the basics remain ever constant. However, your body has not. Many at this stage fall victim to denial and pride, dig out some old college football workout scribbled hastily on a piece of crumpled notebook paper 15 years prior and head off to the gym. Four days later, they still can’t bathe because they can’t lift their arms and, according to doctors orders, are supposed to remain in bed until they can once again place weight on their injured knee. The question then arises, “How DO you get back?”
The answer is both simple and yet very complex. On the surface it a simple answer, “Just like you got in to start with: one step at a time.” However, what does that really mean? That’s where the complex part rears its ugly head. Here is an attempt to simplify it all.
The old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is positively suited toward fitness. Its so true, in fact, that we can say, “A good physique isn’t built in a day, or a week, or a month, or 3 months.” The first step to getting back in shape is to BE PATIENT. 8 months of sitting on the couch, eating your wife's fabulous cooking and indulging a bit too strongly on the beer does not go away in 3 weeks. The majority of returning lifters that fail to make a comeback fail because of impatience and pride. Three things stay in the car when you walk into the gym: your cell phone, your troubles and your pride.
One of the most important steps to getting back successfully is to start small, baby steps. Tell your pride to go take a seat and allow yourself to set reasonable, attainable goals. Small successes are tremendously important at the start of a return to the gym. But how do we even know where to start? One way is with baselines. Baselines represent your current physical condition. It doesn’t matter what you used to be able to do all that matters is what you can do. Establish what you can do in two ways: One rep max’s and max-rep max’s.
The one rep max is rather self-explanatory. How much weight can you successfully lift, without any assistance, one time? The one rep max gauges power and strength. Max-rep max is important because it gauges stamina. Take 60% of your max bench, for instance, and record how many reps you can get before you reach failure (failure is defined as an inability to continue the exercise without assistance or sacrificing form). For example, if your max bench was 225 for 1, take 60% of that, which is 135, and record how many reps you can do before you reach failure as described above.
These become your baselines. You gauge your progress by how much, and how quickly, these numbers change. Many choose to establish baselines for the following “staple” exercises:
Bench press (flat) or seated machine chest press
Bent over row or seated decline machine row
Squat or leg press
Choose which ever exercises you feel fit your comfort level most readily.
By establishing baselines, you establish a metric against which progress can be measured. By leaving pride out of the equation and approaching things honestly and with patience, a return to the gym can be successful and exercise can once again become part of your everyday life. As always check with your physician before starting any exercise plan and always factor in your personal limitations.
Always remember, slow and steady wins the day.
Michael Sztym, "Old Dawg"
Natural Bodybuilding at its Finest - Lift for Life.com