Friday, June 09, 2017

gym goals

I'm still setting up my gym routine. I've been to the gym (again) to review what equipment it has and to get some ideas on how to proceed, so here are some scattered thoughts. Feel free to chime in in the comments section. I know I can be grouchy and growly when people submit unsolicited suggestions and advice, but in this particular case, I'm all ears (or eyes, I guess, since I'll be reading your comments).

1. General evolution over time: machines → free weights → bodyweight.

Most weightlifting veterans curl their lip at the use of Nautilus or other machines for weight training. They have a point: the machines do most of the hard work for you by guaranteeing that your movement—as when doing a bench press, for example—glides along a preset track. You don't have to work on your form; you don't have to use stabilizer muscles to make sure you're on course. In a sense, machines make things a little too easy... which is why I'm starting with them. Over time, once I've gained confidence, I'll move to free weights, which may mean that I'll need a spotter to watch over me so I don't crush my own trachea while trying to bench 700 pounds. Bodyweight exercises are, these days, considered the apex of weight training, with many people on YouTube insisting that you don't even need to join a gym. I'll stick with the gym, but eventually, I'll want to graduate to doing raw pushups, pullups, and other equipment-free exercises.

2. Get to the 200 club with regular bench press before starting on pushups.

I have zero confidence in my ability to do pushups. What I want to do is build myself up to the point where I can start doing them, so that means putting on some muscle mass to compensate for the fact that I'm so heavy. Once I can legitimately bench 200 pounds in free weights, I'll move over to pushups.

3. One legit pullup by the end of this year.

There are many pullup videos on YouTube, but the one that caught my eye was this one, which espouses a regimen for total beginners that somewhat mirrors what I did by myself when I lived in Switzerland. The basic idea: first, just practice hanging from the bar because you need to firm up your grip strength. Once you master that, you can move on to negatives, i.e., starting from the high position of a pullup, then slowly letting yourself down, with gravity doing the work while you use your various pullup-related muscles to resist gravity's downward force. After plenty of negatives, you can then try to do your first legitimate pullup. If I can do even one pullup by December 31, I'll be a happy camper. Back when I was a young'n in Switzerland, my personal best was seven full pullups.

4. 20 legit pushups by the end of this year.

I suspect that, by the time I reach the 200 club (i.e., the ability to bench 200 pounds at least once using full range of motion and proper form), I ought to be able to blast out a few pushups. From there, it'll be a matter of working my way up to, say, 100 pushups... but that's not a goal for this year.

5. Primary goals from greatest to least priority: weight loss, strength, endurance, flexibility, balance.

Targeting weight loss means targeting my most obvious problem—the problem that gives me the most grief here in Korea, where people feel no compunction about telling you how fat you are. So yes, there's a social benefit to be gained from losing weight: people will stop giving me shit. A great example of shit-giving is one of my building's security guards. Before my trans-Korea walk, he tended to be stoic and taciturn, and he'd tell me on occasion, just out of the blue and apropos of nothing, that I needed to get exercising to lose my gut. I always had to bite my tongue because he had a paunch himself. After my walk, though, the guard heard my story and suddenly became all smiles and effusive praise, repeatedly saying "Daedanhaneyo!" ("Wow, you're great!") and the like—all because I now look visibly thinner. Not thin, of course, but less fat. Like it or not, Koreans often judge by surface impressions. (Not that we Americans don't, of course!)

Another benefit of weight loss will be an increase in energy, which will be nice, especially given my desire to pursue some creative projects. When I'm tired, I'm not creative at all. My head shuts down. When I'm happy and jazzed and ready to go, the brain cells are on fire, and ideas erupt from my skull like the ravening evils from Pandora's box.

Strength, by which I mean the gaining of certain abilities as well as the gaining of muscle mass, is important mainly for long-term reasons. Many studies show that having good muscular strength later in life can prevent many unnecessary injuries. Increased muscle mass will also mean increased metabolism, which will help keep the weight down even when all I'm doing is sitting in an armchair and just breathing.

Endurance is important to me because of my love of long-distance walking. It may also become important to me if I decide to take up boxing, which will involve being able to last more than a round or two in the ring.

Flexibility and balance both have long-term benefits, but I'm also thinking about the martial arts. Both taekwondo and geomdo are demanding in terms of both flexibility and balance, so improving these qualities will be crucial.

Moving on...

I have absolutely no clue what goals to set for shoulder, core, and leg exercises (I'm not looking for six-pack abs, but a flatter stomach would be nice). Squats will have to fit into this paradigm at some point. The Zen Dude Fitness guys do a lot with squats and lunges as part of their HIIT-inspired jump-rope routines. I may try to shed my timidity and bring the rope into the gym. The other advantage of jumping rope in the gym, instead of outside in the park (or the parking garage), is that the gym's floor is smoother, thus leading to less wear and tear on the rope... or so the Zen Dudes aver.

Much to think about. Suggestions welcome. I promise not to growl.

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