By Crabby McSlacker
Strength training, alas, is still considered a crucial ingredient in the ever-changing recipe for a fit and healthy life. Omitting this key ingredient is like trying to make meringue with no egg whites–the results may be disappointingly gloppier than you were intending.
But it’s not just about looking more buffed or losing weight more easily. There are plenty of important health benefits from strength training that I’m too lazy to list. But trust me, strength training is good for you in ways that cardio is not! You need both.
Of course I realize that many people love weights and hate cardio. To me this is hilarious, like someone saying “no, I’ll have to skip that cupcake-tasting party this evening, I’ve been really looking forward to cleaning up all the accumulated dog shit in our neighborhood.”
There’s no accounting for taste.
Me, I loathe strength training. Yet I’ve been doing it pretty damn regularly for over 25 years.
From this you may conclude:
(1) I’ve figured out a couple of tricks to make it less horrible. And,
(2) I obviously need a few more tricks, or “loathe” wouldn’t be the first word to come to mind when I think about lifting weights.
So I’ll share of a few of my sneaky motivational tips and maybe some of you have some better ideas?
I need a “fun” goal to shoot for, something that is at least theoretically doable that I would LOVE to be capable of some day. Sometimes I achieve these, more often I do not, but it’s more about having something to motivate my ass to the gym.
My current goal is actually and old goal, one that I reached at one point, yay me! And then lost it again, damn it. What can I say? Life got busy and I let things slide.
Anyway, it’s this: I want to be able to master unassisted chin-ups and/or pull-ups again.
For some reason, in my twisted brain, this is a powerful symbolic achievement, saying “I’ve arrived” at a superior level of fitness. (Weird aside: the first analogy that came to mind: the ability to do these are like being handed “the keys to the executive washroom.” I never worked anywhere where there was an executive washroom. Do they really exist? Any other old farts have that archaic image lurking in the recesses of their brains? And where the hell did it come from, some old movie or something? )
I want my chin ups and pull ups back SO bad! But I suspect it’s gonna be a while. I’ll keep you posted.
Part of my motivational problem is that I tend to settle into a routine too easily, defaulting to my usual “favorites.” (And by “favorite” I mean the exercises least likely to make myself want to leap off a tall building rather than force myself to complete them.)
But there are many different ways to target the same muscles. Sometimes when you just can’t stand the idea of say, lunges or cable rows or lat pull-downs or whatever you usually do, doing the same thing a different way can seem a less hideous alternative. Plus, if you do something you don’t ordinarily do you have no benchmark, and no pressure to meet any particular expectation about performance.
Where to find ideas?
Well, the google, obviously. One helpful resource you might come across is the Ace Exercise Library but there are others, and YouTube is your friend in getting all sorts of ideas from all kinds of different folks.
Or, obviously, you could hire a trainer or take a class, which is an awesome solution for most people. For me, not so much. I have control issues, what can I say?
Another similar approach?
Become a Creeper and Stalk Personal Trainers, Instructors, etc And Steal Their Ideas
You don’t have to be totally obvious about it, but if you run across a boot camp at a park, or notice some interesting moves the personal trainers at the gym are teaching, or peek into a class or whatever, you may find some novel “functional” moves designed to torture your body in different ways than you are accustomed to. Give ’em a try!
Toys and Gadgets!
There are tons of these, from stretchy bands to expensive home gyms. Some of my faves: doorway pull-up bars, TRX-type gizmos, and of course, who can forget the not-so-world famous Crabitron?
Oh, and hurling and slamming medicine balls? Very, very cathartic in these troubled times.
Playgrounds and Other Outdoor Locations!
Take a few portable toys like a TRX or some stretchy bands and maybe a kettlebell if you’re not going far, and combine these with a body weight routine… then take the show on the road! You may find other “exercise equipment” to take advantage of in the form of benches, stairs, playground equipment, dunes, large rocks, logs, branches, etc…with a little imagination you can look like a complete ass just like Crabby does when attempting a playground workout.
If You Really Like The Big Machines, Fuck It, Go Ahead and Use Them
I know all the cool kids flock to the old school “iron” section of the gym, where the barbells and dumbells live, and there is a lot of huffing and grunting and sweating. I’m all for this in theory, and I usually do a couple of things there, but, well, my goals are not about being able to move a grand piano or win American Ninja Warrior. I want to generally be a little stronger, and look a little more athletic, and not injure myself too frequently. And I find the big machines that work one muscle group at a time in artificial isolation to be a lot more comfortable.
I have never been able to stand the feeling of a weighted barbell digging into my shoulders. So, screw it, I use the machines along with the other uncool kids, the seniors and the newbies, because otherwise I would probably not be doing any strength training at all.
Ditch Multiple Sets
The idea of doing something I’m already not crazy about 8-15 times, then sitting there doing absolutely nothing for at least 30 seconds, then repeating the whole thing over again and again?
Acck! Shoot me now!
But I do understand that you get better results if you keep taxing your tired muscles until they are SO exhausted and pissed off they simply won’t obey you any more.
However, there are some alternatives to all that drudgery. You can do your extra sets using a whole different exercise targeting the same muscle groups. Why not mix it up?
Or, even sneakier: you can do one set and still maximize the results.
Two ways I like to do this, and I often combine them.
1. If I’ve calibrated the amount of weight properly, my muscles give out at the end of a set and I can’t do anymore. But instead of taking a long rest period, I pause at the end of the set for say 5-10 seconds and, voila, I can do another rep! And then another. I keep with the brief pauses until I really really can’t do anymore. This way I’m getting several sets worth of the hardest reps, the ones I suspect are the most productive, without having to spend all day futzing around with easier reps and rest time.
2. If I’m on a machine with a pin I can easily reach, I start with a weight that’s way too heavy, do a couple of reps, then go down to the next heaviest, and keep easing up until I can get through a whole set. Again, this maximizes the Ugly Reps that are actually breaking down muscle fiber, and keeps me from feeling too guilty as I scurry off after just one set.
Yet it Still Sucks
So yeah, all this stuff keeps me from quitting entirely, but it doesn’t keep me from hating my “weights” days. So any ideas anyone is willing to share are most welcome!
Do you guys do strength training? Love it or hate it? Got any ideas for me?