Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gym regimen - July 2010

14 July 2010
87kg, BMI: 25
"A1" workout: Biceps and Quads, 90 mins

Warmup: High-knees, lunges, jump rope, calisthenics/stretching... lots of stretching

Abs: Jump rope 2 mins, between each set
[Still taking it easy on the abs. I'm allowing my core to strengthen from the exercises themselves and, of course, jump rope!]

Leg extension: 12x @ 30kg, 10x @ 35kg, 10x @ 40kg, 8x @ 50kg

Decline leg press: 12x, 10x, 10-drop-8x, 6x @ 130kg-170kg
[10-drop-8x means that I did two reps at a higher weight and then did the last 8x at a lower weight. A drop set.]

Squat: 12x @ 60kg, 10x @ 70kg, 8x @ 80kg, 6x @ 85kg
[I did my best to squat deep, keep good form, inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Squats are one of the core exercise for BB, if not the core exercise, in many BBers' opinion, so I am content with small weight gains per set and per workout. I can tell shooting for the moon with squats is a recipe for hernias and ligament strain. Not a dish I care to eat, thank you.]

Barbell curl: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 27.5kg-45kg

Incline dumbbell curl (per arm): 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 12.5kg-27.5kg (?)

Hammer/Underhand curl (per arm): 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 12.5kg-27.5kg (?)

Cooldown: Leg extension: 30x @ 30kg; Decline leg press: 25x @ 100kg; Squat: 15x @ 40kg; Stretching


I've lost some weight but I know I've also put on muscle, so I'm clearly burning off fat. Probably because the humidity has been very high lately, and because I worked big muscle groups, I sweat like a pig for this workout (last night). On my last, cooldown set of squats, for example, my pants were so wet they air was getting trapped in them as I squatted, making my pants puff out like when air bubbles (...or farts?) are caught in your swimming trunks in a pool. It's not at all uncommon for me to have a sweaty lower back even while driving my scooter or for the back of my head to remain sweaty most of the day. I also occasionally have mildly sweaty palms and I don't know how many times I've woken up from a nap or a night of sleep with my shirt collar and chest moist with sweat. None of this bothers me--I certainly don't think I have hyperhidrosis or a hormone imbalance--since I've lived almost my entire life in subtropical climates. Sweating is just what the body does to stay cool and my body has been conditioned to sweat as soon as the temperature differential gets slightly too high.

I had an interesting epiphany last weekend, though, while chatting with someone at one of my birthday dinners. (I like to use "my birthday" as an excuse for any healthy social interaction to catch up with old friends and don't really think my birthday spans four days. :chuckle:) I mentioned to a young lady that I pretty much always sweat during the summer (unless I'm in a well air-conditioned room or store, of course), drink "copious amounts of water" (hat tip to Tim!), and require a good hour after a workout to stop sweating and finally be cool again. She promptly replied, "Oh, that means you have a good metabolism." I was struck: how true! I have always known my metabolism is fairly high but I have never made the link between that fact and my tendency to sweat.

Once, when I was about 14, I tried sneaking up on my mom while she was working at her computer. She didn't see or hear me slither into the room, but when I was encroaching as closely as I could, she suddenly sat up and turned around to spot me. She said, "I didn't hear you sneak up but then I felt heat radiating on my neck." Another time, two or three years later, I was waiting in my friend's minivan to drive another student to crew practice. It was a rainy day, quite muggy, so we had the windows closed and the AC on medium. As the minutes passed, he said, "Wanna turn it down there, Mr. Furnace?" I looked at him quizzically. "I can feel you all the way over here, man, and look at your window." My window, as well as my half of the windshield, was fogged up while his side was not at all. So I guess I have a pretty high basal temperature, which may explain why I love cold weather so much. (I know, I know, if I love the cold, why have I lived mostly in subtropical environments? :shrug:)

And then there is my once-notorious appetite. In high school, I was known to eat two or three pounds of spaghetti at dinner, an entire large pizza at lunch, half a box of half cream in one evening, up to four Snickers bars in a day, a whole gallon of orange juice in a day or two, and so on. One of my nicknames was "the trash compactor." None of this was very "healthy," of course, nor unique to me--my friends, most of whom were also athletic, and I occasionally had "eating contests"--but ti does show my history of an accelerated metabolism. When I came to Taiwan, I quickly gained a reputation As I have gotten older, my appetite has shrunk a great deal and I try to eat 4-6 smaller meals per day since these days I find "being over-full" to be on the most unpleasant and cranky-making feelings possible. I also have ethical objections to heavy eating, since I think it's not only globally perverse but also spiritually craven. By globally perverse I mean it is degrading to people in less materially advanced nations for places like the USA to have eating contests. If bloggish sermonizing isn't your cup of tea, watch the SNL parody, "Who Wants to Eat?" I remember one day in college my roommates were watching an eating contest, on FOX, I believe, and when I saw the sushi-wrap event (how much of a giant 6- or 10-foot sushi roll could they eat in one or two minutes?), the Scripture that immediately sprung to mind was from Philippians 3:

17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Notice how making the stomach into a god, and shameful pig-like gluttony into one's glory, is making oneself an enemy of the Cross. Notice also the emphasis in the latter verses on the bodily submission to and redemption by Christ. Christ does not merely "save our souls," but actually transforms our bodies. I have written before about the proper inseparability of "body and soul" in authentic Christian anthropology (e.g., here1 and here2 and here3 and here4), so I will not go on about it here[5!].

I don't like to chit-chat in the gym, but I also like to have some camaraderie there when I can find it. So, after my four sets and before my cooldown, "failure" set I got to know another English teacher a little better. We ended up getting into a small disquisition on why people go on living--and why people come to the gym. I know of a blogger who frankly admitted he often doesn't know why he goes on eating. Why live? He's a witty, intelligent fellow, but clearly he's missing something profound about reality. Existence itself is a good and even in the very act of 'questioning' our enduring existence, we prolong it. The curiosity to know 'why' we should go on living is itself the transcendent "bait" which propels us past that existential angst. This is why all philosophies based on despair and victimhood--namely, reincarnationist ethics and atheism--are parasitic on deeper, healthier wisdom based on the sheer goodness and gratuity of finite being. I go further by noting that Christianity is the only worldview which unequivocally says the world is good. Pantheism sees the world as an illusion to be overcome, Buddhism sees the self-in-the-world as a delusion to be purged, naturalism sees the world as morally and aesthetically neutral (and therefore not good), and atheism sees the world as a grave evil and the best proof against "absolute Good itself."

In any case, I noted in our little chat that, in many ways, we moderns aren't much different from our biological ancestors: we still spend the greater portion of our daily lives avoiding getting crushed or mangled, poisoned, or infected, finding food and drink when we're hungry and thirsty, and finding a way to make babies. These days such "evolutionary roots" are taken as arguments against human dignity, but the point is that human dignity consists in finding meaning and order in the lowliness of life itself. Had our ancestors--indeed, all previous organisms--not had a transcendent intuition of the goodness of enduring existence, none of us--none of this--would be here. If you can't enjoy obtaining food, finding rest, and furthering the species, then I would say you can't enjoy anything. The only difference between humans and other animals is that humans grasp how to propagate life in more than material ways. To find nourishment in the Body of Christ even while starving, to finding peace in the numinous love of God even while in prison or war, to protect truth and beauty themselves for their own good by passing on truth and beauty to the young even while never spawning children of your won--these are quintessentially human acts. If our culture could regain the humble simplicity of "the art of living" I venture that the Gospel qua "the art of living forever" would not seem so strange after all. Yet it will always be a scandal to natural humans insofar as it perpetually calls for the subjugation of those daily exigencies to the eternal exigencies of knowing and loving the Good, despite what it may cost us in the "here and now."

Readers may recall that I recently wrote about how my fitness regimen is tied up with my ongoing efforts to deepen and revitalize my spiritual life (i.e., here1 and here2). It seems I am not the only Catholic who defends the spiritual utility of BB (bodybuilding) for the spiritual life. I am hoping to purchase Kevin Vost's Fit for Eternal Life and see how it can help in my quirky theosis.

But I digress.

To be brief, the sense I make of my sweating and my metabolism is this: When we exercise, we break down proteins, which releases amino acids (out of which proteins are built). In the process of "deamination" the amino group is released and the carboxyl group is used to make carbohydrates for fuel. Meanwhile, the nitrogen (in ammonia) in the amino groups gets sweated out. So I believe there is a direct link between metabolism and sweat, insofar as metabolism is effectively the breakdown of proteins, a breakdown which is accelerated during heavy exercise.

Since I didn't work my chest last week, I will do my "A2" workout tonight and move the "A3" Quads/Back workout to Saturday. Stay tuned.

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