Unintended consequences.

The next post in my fitness blog where i talk about things that we hadn’t thought about or expected to happen.

Last week in the fitness blog i was bemoaning the fact that after 10 days consistent effort and a good eating pattern that i hadn’t lost weight : in fact i had put weight on , oh and that on top of that i felt completely beat-up.   Then last night i was re-reading some training text books about free weights training notably those that covered advice for absolute beginners. In one statement which i will paraphrase here it says “to put lean muscle mass on what you have to do is some hard exercise and eat plenty of protein and then enough carbs or fat to drive muscle growth”…..so numb-nuts here has completely missed the point that what i did during those 10 days wasn’t to lose a load of ‘weight’ in hopefully visceral fat but instead just tipped myself into an anabolic state , oh, and ran out of steam at the end too.    It wasn’t my intention to be driving muscle gain at this stage, merely to preserve what i have during fat loss, which isn’t something that everyone gets right anyway.    I did think that maybe it might be useful later on once i got the fat under control to deliberately put some lean mass back on but i certainly hadn’t thought about it being an inevitable consequence at this stage.

Nor had i expected that what might happen at this stage is that i seem to be getting a lot fitter now really quite quickly in terms of measureable outcomes , not necasarily my overall weight but in terms of what i can actually do. Last week for example i did consistent sets of 30 press-ups set after set and this week did one set of 40.  Then this week i got a 90kg deadlift and pulled a set of 9 chin-ups.  I even did a couple of sprints that felt half decent.  At the moment i may not be losing much weight although what could be happening is that i am both losing fat weight and slightly gaining muscle weight (maybe density) and what might happen is that i have a sudden drop in overall weight when i cut back on my diet again this week and go ‘clean’ for a week.

For a while i have been thinking about this idea of unintended consequences in regard to fitness training in the context of people i observed training at the gym.  In the days that i trained at the posh gym i spent a lot of time in the small strip of space along one wall that was the area given to free weights.  The rest of the huge space was given over to the various weights machines but mostly to rows of static exercise bikes and treadmills.  The physical set-up meant that i spent far too much time in front of a mirror ! and accidentally watching what was going on behind me in the main space.  There was this one time when i was doing my workout later than usual : about lunch-time and as i started my routine i noted 3 ‘ladies’ come in and plonk their ample behinds on a row of exercise bikes, spin the pedals for all of 5 minutes and then sat there yakking while i heaved and grunted manfully in the corner.  About an hour later when i had finished a punishing routine and had a swim i caught up with them in the bar where they were having a well deserved lunch after their exhausting workout.   Anyway i’m not here to whinge about the ladies who lunch or the pretty-boy doing his bicep curls in the squat-rack (i’ve actually caught that on video) rather that during the year i spent at that gym saw  what i think was vast amounts of wasted time.

I posted once before about being in the gym just after new year, by then i would have been there for over a year myself.  The day i am thinking about was busy with new members which is fine except for a middle-aged couple who looked totally lost. They both had shiny new kit and trainers and each tried a bit of this and a bit of that : a few minutes on a treadmill, a few spins on the exercise bike and then the bloke started to have a go at some weights machines and finally came to where i was doing my routine and got himself under the barbell where i had been bench-pressing.  I must have been doing a coupled exercise routine, don’t remember what it was.  Now i have never been strong on the bench (long levers) and only had 60kg on the bar.  Anyway : matey gets on the bench, somehow unracks the bar , drops it onto his chest and is then pinned there !    I seem to remember that after rescuing him i suggested that some time spent with one of the gym staff might be a good idea.

Neither of these are the story i was specifically thinking about in this post though.  For a lot of time at the gym i used to try and get there early so that the gym would be mostly empty and i would be able to set up my space without anyone else trying to get on the same kit.  That meant that after a while i tended to see the same people who had similar time routines for training and several of those were junior doctors that i recognised. I never did quite get the etiquette right about saying hello but there again i hate anyone speaking to me when i have a loaded barbell ‘hot’.  What i did tend to notice was that several of the mostly female doctors tended to do the same routine every time….usually a set amount of time on the treadmill or exercise bike and then they were gone.

Distracted once again : ok so this time i will try and stick to the original idea.  Up until a few years ago i had never but never heaved a loaded olympic barbell off the floor, nor tried to get down ‘ass to grass’ and squat one either.  I had often done some lightweight weights work when i was trying to be a better climber but most of that was on static machines.      The unintended consequence that i actually wanted to try and finish the post with is the winter walk a few years back where this madness all started.  At that time most of my training routine was allied to my bushcraft and expeditioning so walking with load was a major part of it.  For several years before we got our cottage i used to go out like i do now and scavenge deadfall for firewood.  On the fateful winters day i had set out along my usual route and had briefly paused on a slight rise before dropping onto a trail.  It was then that i had a ripping/snapping sensation in one calf as my gastrocnemus muscle tore.  It initially felt as though i had been shot : something like an air pellet but it wasn’t.  Once i could get up and hobble home with the aid of a quickly acquired piece of hazel i worked out that something had torn badly and that was what the good people at the A&E said.  The total unintended consequence of my planned day walk was several weeks ‘off-legs’ then weeks and weeks of rehab and then learning for the first time how to train with free weights.

Not what i intended at all.

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