Saturday, November 2, 2013

Getting Old

When I am deployed I always have time to work out. Whereas in the states I always have more important things to do, and physical fitness is relegated to whenever I can make the time, on deployment there are long periods of time where there is literally nothing to do except work out. Then of course there are the deployments where there is no time at all, but that is a different story.

So thursday morning I did a solid sprint workout, trying to get my run time back down to the sub 6:30 mile range. I was feeling pretty good, but I had deadlifted the night before. Not necessarily the wisest thing ever, to jump straight into two-a-days and to sprint the morning after a deadlift routine. Sure enough, I pulled a muscle.

Not a large muscle, like a hamstring or a quad or anything like that. No, I pulled a very small, almost inconsequential muscle in my lower abdomen, right in the flex of my hip. It doesn't hurt very bad except when I do one very specific movement, which is try to bring my left leg from behind me underneath my body to in front of me. Given that I am a biped who gets around by walking, however, I do this with an astonishing degree of regularity, i.e. every step. As long as I am just walking it is fine, because I don't let my leg go that far behind me, but even a single step of running hurts like the proverbial Dickens.

So there you have it, just one tiny little pulled muscle. No big deal, right? When I was 19 I would have taken a weekend off, come at it hard on monday and been fine. Now, at a few months shy of 29, I am having to be wise, unfortunately. I have to cut back not just the intensity of my workouts, but even the style. It is only a small muscle, a small injury, but you use that muscle for virtually every exercise that involves tensing up your core (which is pretty much every exercise worth doing). More importantly, a weakening of that muscle leads to an increased risk of hernia, which I do not need right now.

So there I was tonight, in the gym, spending an hour working just biceps, triceps and forearms. I have not done an arm workout in years. I despise isolation exercises, ones that only use a single joint, or pair of joints. I eschew the body building notion that every muscle needs to be trained independently and sculpted to the max. That is vanity and a waste of time. I don't have time for that. When I go to work out I am focused on one thing, and one thing only, and that is increasing my work capacity. Sometimes that means I practice martial arts, sometimes I practice moving my own body, sometimes I practice moving other heavy things, but I despise workouts that are focused on cosmetics. My goal is function, healthy body mechanics, and the ability to do useful things.

Unfortunately, all of those heavy, multi joint lifts or dynamic body movements or martial arts techniques involve the core, which means they stress that particular muscle, which means they retard healing, so there I was, curling.

Then, to make matters worse a buddy that I sometimes lift with came in. He is a big guy. Huge. He proceeds to start a leg series, squatting and leg pressing. I really wanted to get rid of the curl bar and the cables and all that girly stuff and throw a bar across my back, but I refrained. I did not jump into the squat workout.

It seems I have invested my pride in the kind of workout I do. Every bit as foolish as the "beach muscle" lifters that I presume to despise, I have taken pride in not being a "beach muscle" lifter. So when beach muscle lifts are all I can safely do, it irks me. It stings my pride. Therefore, it is probably good for me. I need the humility of realizing that even functional fitness is not my goal, and therefore needs to be surrendered. God had other plans, and therefore I must cease my grumbling, my superiority complexing and my feeling sorry for myself. It is an opportunity to remind myself that I am mortal, strength is fleeting, and I will grow weak and die someday. This is my first acute sports injury, at 28 years old. I am doing really well so far, but it is all down hill from here, and I need to be detached from my physical abilities, because God is going to take all of them away eventually, once they have served their purpose. Let them go. He is the only strength that matters.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:10-11


  1. On the subject of TOB-

    My brother recently said to me, "I get fulfillment from working to take care of you, Mom and Jen (his fiance)." This made me think of a few of your posts about true manhood, and it being a way of life, not just being breadwinner. I have been perusing the TOB audiences and looking for more in-depth reading material on christian manhood bound up in TOB. Do you recommend anything?

    1. Emily,

      There are three books that come to mind off the top of my head. The first is Fr. Larry Richard's "Be a Man." If I remember right (it has been three or four years since I read it) it is not very TOB oriented per se, but it does provide a very faith-filled and dynamic view of manhood.

      The second two are by Jason Evert "Pure manhood" and "Theology of his Body/Theology of her Body." "Pure Manhood" is more in depth and probably more in line with what you are looking for, but "Theology of His/Her Body is also excellent for its balance view and the fact that it is extremely concise and easy to read.

      Also, a few years back I was searching for a book about manhood and TOB after reading John Paul II's "Man and Woman He Created Them" and not finding any at the time, I wrote my own called "What Every Man Needs."

      Hope this helps.
      In Christ,