Pushups in the sunlight
I marched in the Gay Pride Parade. It was summer, about 1995 My roommate at the time was gay. This was back when I first got in New York City in the mid nineties when security was a lot more lax in terms of public events, so we just kind of walked into the parade and joined up with everyone and walked down the street and it was fantastic, tons of fun!
I will never forget the Roxy float because the Roxy float had all of their go-go boys employees on the float dancing to house music dressed in bikini bottoms, like little Speedos, and their bodies were absolutely unbelievable, spectacular. And I remember thinking “my god, I want to get a body that’s worthy of getting up on a float.”
They didn’t have anybody up there that was scrawny or fat or whatever. Fit, fit , fit guys and it blew me away. I was like “Dammit. I’ve got to get up there! I mean… I’ve got to get a body like that. How do I do that?”
And that was part of the commitment that I had already started. I saw what I wanted, I knew what I wanted and I went after it. And the reason why I bring it up, I’m just trying to illustrate a point here, and that is that almost fifteen years later I still have not relinquished my commitment to obtaining a body like that and as a result of that desire I am enjoying some of the best health I’ve had in years and years and years and I’m probably the fittest that I’ve ever been.
And being that fit is part of the commitment that I am really, ultimately, grateful for having made and having stuck to through thick and through thin.
You know, workouts aren’t always exciting. As a matter of fact, frequently they stink. Working out is hard. It’s difficult. If you’re doing it properly it should be painful. Not painful in like a joint kind of sense, but painful in a sense of “Oh my god! I’m pushed to the edge of what I think I can do.”
I typically get like that before a leg day. Before I have to train legs I know it’s going to hurt. I don’t want to have that big heavy weight on my back to do squats or I’m nervous about getting under the leg press with five hundred pounds on it, but all those feelings are important.
It’s important to recognize the difference between not wanting to work out and lack of desire to workout.
One is because you’re just not properly motivated because you haven’t been thinking about what you want to obtain and the other is not wanting to work out because your nervous system is really stressed out. You’ve worked out too hard, you haven’t gotten enough recovery, you haven’t eaten properly, you haven’t slept enough, your body still needs more rest and your desire is pushed too low.
You have to determine which of those things it is and once you get to your workout you have to make sure that you are adequately pushing yourself. And when I say adequately pushing yourself, what I mean is you’re pushing yourself the proper amount. You must be striving for a level of intensity that you did not meet in your previous workout, so each workout is building on the last.
You are trying to get better, trying to get stronger, trying to get more powerful. It means you have to ask your body to do something above and beyond what it was capable of doing previously. This might mean, and this is a very subtle movement: adding a few extra pounds on the bar. It could be as simple as doing an extra set. It could be as simple as doing an extra repetition or two.
Just enough. You need to get just enough to stimulate your body to say “okay, that’s new. I’m not used to that. That means that I have to push harder. And – and if this is going to be the normal requirement then I’ll have to build more muscle right?”
So that’s what you’re striving for. Within your workout you have to be able to ferret out that quality of motivation and make sure that you’re not succumbing to the icy grip of fear. And I say icy because it slows you down, it makes you cold, it makes you slower and frozen. You don’t want to be frozen with fear when approaching your workout and that’s why I’ve talked about using the analgesic of a mental image of the most powerful body that you could possibly possess: strong, fit, beautiful, excellent. The kind of body that wants to be on a float, on a Roxy float in a Gay Pride Parade or whatever… you know, it doesn’t matter, the cover model for a fitness magazine… or whatever you feel like, it doesn’t matter as long as it personally motivates you.
You have to use that because your body will tell you: “I don’t want to do this. This is going to be hard. I don’t want to breathe heavy. I don’t want to feel the pain in my legs. I don’t want to feel the pain in my glutes. I don’t want to be heaving for breath. I don’t want to…”
When your blood pressure gets elevated, when your heart gets pumping, when your lungs are gulping, gulping, gulping for air it’s painful, it hurts and the only thing that can assuage this pain is your desire, your desire to become better than you were the day before. It’s critical that you think of your working out in this manner.
I recently had a client ask me “How come it’s not getting any easier?” I said I know it isn’t getting easier, do you know why? It’s because I’ve been gradually making your workouts harder. Just when you think it would be getting easier I’ve made it harder. She said really? I said yes, if you think back to when we started, the things that you were doing were not nearly as intense as the things that you are doing now. It’s important to remember that and it’s important to remember that because if you’re working out properly it will always be hard. It will always be difficult. It will always be challenging.
That’s the point. The only thing that gets easier about working out is that you become more comfortable with the discomfort of working out. Invest a little mental preparation before your workout. Get the fire stoked. Use a little visual imagery. Get the imagination engine fired up. It turns on the central nervous system. It prepares the muscles for what you’re asking them to do. It prepares your spirit for what you’re asking it to do: To strive. To rise. To reach. These things are critical, absolutely critical.
If your workout is a good workout, if it’s the correct workout for you, if it’s challenging for you, if it’s written the right way then you should have a bit of trepidation before your workout. Each one of your workouts should frighten you just a little bit. “Oh man, I’m not looking forward to this. This is going to suck.” If you can do that you are on the right track. Then all you have to do is manage a few of those workouts and get used to the rhythm of it. It’s going to be stressful, it’s going to be difficult, and you are going to struggle (oh man!).
And then you’ll become more comfortable with the idea of pushing harder and pushing harder, trying to get better, trying to get stronger but guess what? All the cards are stacked against you! Aging, general decreases in hormone production, not getting enough sleep. Crud, now we are in trouble.
Eventually maintaining your body through working out is going to dominate your life. That’s good. You want it to.
Your main priority should be to make sure that you’re adequately cared for, you have shelter, you have good employment (right?), you’re spiritually satisfied, you feel like you’re contributing or whatever that means to you, you feel like you’re participating, whatever that might mean to you… and after that nourishing your body, exercising your body, then optimizing your body for performance. And I don’t care if you’re an accountant and you sit at your desk eight hours a day. Optimizing your body for performance is the key to health and happiness and longevity.
You know it works! It really does!
It’s super, super satisfying! You know me, I’ve been regaling you with tales of skateboarding and snowboarding and rolling around town and going crazy and – and finding out that I have stamina. Finding out that I can recover faster. Finding out that all this working out is paying off because it’s developed the foundation for me for an active lifestyle and I’m loving that, absolutely loving that!
What’s not to love about it? Activity is freedom. The motion of your body is freedom. More fit is more powerful, stronger. It’s freedom. It’s more ability.
The more able you are, the freer you are and the freer you are the better you feel. And I’m not saying you’ve got to chain yourself to the gym. I’m not saying you should eliminate your entire social life and forego all pleasures in order to obtain the one pleasure of working on your body. I’m not saying that.
I am saying if you dedicate yourself to the mental imagery of the strongest, most powerful you that you can be you will put your choices on automatic and those automatic choices will lead you to more and more challenging workouts and you will eventually reach that place where you will have sacrificed as much as you’re willing to sacrifice in order to gain the satisfaction that you’re willing to gain… and what could be better?
What could be better than that? Nothing!
So really, ultimately, this little pep talk has really been about accepting the fact that working out sucks. It’s hard, it hurts, it’s difficult. If it’s easy and you’re going to the gym and you’re not getting results or you’re working out outside and you’re not getting results or whatever you are doing… if it’s easy forget it, it’s over.
It’s got to be challenging. You’ve got to get to the end of that and think “oh my god I can’t believe I just did that.” And you should be able to accomplish that in the gym within forty-five minutes at the most. And it’s exciting! It’s exciting!
For example, on Friday I was doing my arms workout and I’ve been trying to balance out my arms to make my triceps bigger and what I realized is that it’s very easy for me to lift heavy biceps. It’s much more difficult for me to lift heavier weight with my triceps. All sorts of problems occur. If I’m doing a rope pull down then the amount of weight I can press down with my triceps is getting to the point where it’s starting to pull my body off the floor, it’s starting to pull me off my balance so much that it’s hard to control the weight, it’s hard to get a full contraction in and feel like I’m really digging deep into the muscle tissue.
So what did I do? I just added and extra set. In my circuit I did lateral raises, bicep curls and triceps rope in the overhead position. So for every one I did of the shoulder lateral raise and the biceps curl, I did two triceps extensions. I did my ten reps, took a thirty second break, did another ten reps just to insure that I was digging into the muscle tissue, very simple. I just added extra sets. So I did six sets instead of just three. This was adequate enough to stimulate the muscles beyond what they were normally used to doing.
They’re used to doing just single sets in a rotation. See how simple that is? Just a simple, little change is enough to create a level of intensity that will propel the body beyond what its accustomed to doing and into that realm of “oh, this is new, I’d better compensate for this.” That’s the voice of the muscles by the way…”oh this is new.” And that’s what you want.
Stimulating your muscles in this way will insure that the stimulation pulls available dietary proteins into the muscle for rebuild and repair. That’s what you want to do. Does that make sense? I hope it makes sense.
Oops. I started off wanting to throw down a few practical tips just to make sure that you’re getting the kind of results that you want to get and we ended up in a more motivational story. I think it is just because I see so many people missing the simplest thing in the world… choice. I see so many men and women my age “getting older” like their body is this thing they have no control over. I don’t mean control like some kind Orwellian 1984 control, but when a person takes the time to learn about how their body works and what kinds of stimulation produce results then they are working with their body and guiding it’s ability to respond to resistance training and in effect controlling how they live.
I tend to talk and think in these terms, in ethereal, spiritual, and motivational kind of terms and I try to infuse my clients with the same level of this desire: To get up on a float in the gay pride parade.
I also realize everyone needs practical information so that you can actually go and do something in the gym or wherever it is that you’re working out and make whatever adjustments you might want to make to your exercise or diet in terms of creating a better a result. Most of us I think are looking for that fat loss result. We want to be strong, but mostly really we want to look lean. I mean you could argue that the majority of the country doesn’t want to look lean. They’d rather look humongous or even slightly overweight because it seems like that’s what everybody’s doing, but if you’ve read this far then you’re definitely on the side of “I’m looking for lean” and that means you’ve got to make adjustments and you’ve got to make sacrifices.
Just a quick word of warning: If they tell you it’s easy, if they tell you it’s fast they’re all selling you lies. They just want your money. I’m not trying to sell you lies. I’m trying to tell you the truth: It’s hard, it’s difficult and it takes time.
The results are immeasurable, the satisfaction worth any price, if you can make the kind of sacrifices that are going to produce results. So in order to obtain the kind of results that produce a leaner body you’ve to make the adjustments to your diet and your exercise program and the easiest adjustment you could probably make is to insure that you create a fat burning environment.
Which we will cover next time. In the meantime… Begin to notice how you are feeling about where you are at. Are you satisfied? Have the countless choices you have made to end you up in front of these words been the kind of choices that reflect inward to a sense of pure satisfaction?
A revolution is afoot. People all over the world are participating in making the kinds of choices that lead them inexorably towards freedom, ability, and satisfaction. Are you one?