Saturday, June 29, 2013

How to get bigger forearms

I woke up to a Saturday morning that was in stark contrast to last Saturday morning. I couldn't find that sparrow from last week either. So I settled for breakfast at Ferrara's, where I noticed more than a few patrons glancing at my forearms. A train of complex thought led to this quick post (it would have been a slower post with my old keyboard).

It is not a forearm training article. There's plenty of those online. This is just solid, generic weight training advice for the fellow who is just getting (back) into training. And don't forget to inspect the graphic at the end of this post.

The lifting program

Objective: Improve cardiovascular capacity, posture, burn chow better, increase or introduce mobility, stimulate the lymph system, put a healthy sheen on your skin and strengthen the whole body. We are going to accomplish all that by starting off with one really tough exercise and then doing a handful of relatively easier ones. Let's not worry about nutrition at this point. I am assuming you are not wallowing in sody pop during day time and beer at night. I do recommend a single quality protein shake every day as this will aid in building muscle and thereby greatly reduce soreness after a workout. Also, and here is a fantastic supplement, drum rollllll....fish oil. Gobs and gobs of it. You have to want it badly. A single suspicious looking pill, as the doctor recommended, won't cut it.

Warm-up

If you have made a brisk 5 minute walk to the gym, don't spend too much time on the warm-up. You will be doing warm up sets with each exercise and that is sufficient at this level. I know there are some camps that advocate training with cold muscles, their argument being that if a lion were to jump you on the corner of Boylston and Exeter, you wouldn't have time to stretch before fighting for your life. Well, in several decades on this planet, I have encountered a few mice but nary a lion. So...ignore those idiots, take your time and work things in. Once warmed up, you can stress your body hard with the weight training that follows.

But do a few of those joint-loosening type exercises though. You know, neck rolls and such...if they are not too much of a bother. One other exercise I strongly recommend at this point is the back-extension. Adjust the bench so that you are not hyper-extending your knees. The first time I hyper-extended my knee on this exercise, that knee was stiff for three days. If I had put a hand out, I could have made some easy money. Anyway, do a couple of easy sets on this exercise, just enough to introduce a little warmth into the lower back and hips. Visualize engaging everything from the ankles to the neck and you eventually will engage them. If the exercise is uncomfortable, do bird dogs instead. Again visualize using your whole body to do the exercise. You need to get your glutes and vertebral column warm and ready before the weight lifting part.

Stretching

Again, don't spend half your day here. You are not a cheerleader intent on sucking her own toes. But don't go the other extreme and not do any stretching either. If you remember some stretching moves from bygone days, work them in. If any feel uncomfortable, don't do 'em. As your mobility improves with weight training (and it will, if you stick to it), you can gradually work those back in. And don't overstretch. Just take your limbs and whatnot through whatever range of movement is available in the area, hold the stretch for a few seconds, release the stretch slowly and move on to the next one. Stay aware of what you are doing.

The workout

Your first exercise will be the squat. If you can't squat, try any of the following variations: trap bar dead lift, step-ups, squats on hack machine or just do free squats (no barbell on back). If you want to go climb stairs, that's fine too. But a movement where you flex both at the knees and hips while on your feet is essential. By itself, the squat can help you reach your objective. So if you get a call from the state house requesting your immediate presence to resolve an issue regarding a political candidate and an intern, you can leave the gym knowing that you had already put a good workout in.

Do six sets on the squat. The first set is a warm-up set designed to introduce a little warmth in all the right areas. The second set is also a warm-up set but you push the reps a little harder here. The third and fourth sets are warm-up sets intended to help you find that groove. If you are like me, your knees should start feeling nice and smooth at this point. Put a little bit more weight on the bar for the next two sets. Do enough reps until you start to breathe hard and then stop. As your cardiovascular system strengthens, you can start playing around with set/rep schemes more. But just keep your head on until you get to know your body better.

You will eventually work up to eight sets on the squat over a three month period, the length of this program.

After the squat, do four sets of each of the following exercises. Consider the first two sets as warm-up sets and use the same weight on them. Increase weight on the third set and stick to that same weight for the fourth set as well. Your goal here is not to set strength records but do obtain full, quality range of motion in the muscle group you are exercising, awaken your ticker and get that blood moving.

Leg curl
DB bench press on incline bench
Seated cable row
Standing DB shoulder press
Neutral-grip lat pull down
DB shrug
DB curl

Finish of with two more sets of Back-extensions or bird dogs.

You will not be doing any direct work for the triceps, forearms, calves and abs...for the time being. This is a three day a week program (example: M-W-F or Tu-Th-Sat). Rest time between each set is enough time to catch your breath. Don't dilly dally between sets or play with your smartphone. Listen to what your body is telling you. You can subtly observe the hot chick doing Hindu push-ups if that will keep up your interest level on your own health and well-being. But don't stare. Good luck!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

To the little girl who broke my heart

What a beautiful Saturday morning! It was around 9.50 AM and I was sitting by the greenway just across from Salem street as usual with my latte and chocolate croissant from the Boston Bean coffee company. I would have to go back to my place in 30 minutes to pick up my laundry...and then think of something else to do for the day. Little did I know that a change will happen in my life in about an hour. I engaged a sparrow for about 10 minutes during which time the little fella consumed a good chunk of my croissant.

A little less than an hour later, I was sauntering along the harborwalk toward the waterfront. I got to the dog park and the area was packed as everyone was out under the sun. What other "birds" were in store for me this day! By the dog park, a rather slim young woman almost slammed into me.

Hmm, must be European. Too young for me though.

"Excuse me", I said and started to walk past her.

A tiny voice spoke in my ear.

"Excuse me", I turned and looked at her...must need directions.

"Yes, can I help you?"

"I need 15 dollars to get on a bus to Springfield, VT. I am only 15 years old and have no money. Can you help?"

She looked healthy.

"How did you end up here?"

"I came to see my aunt in South Boston and..."

I barely heard the rest of what she said.

"Sorry I can't help you"

I kept walking toward the waterfront. Why do people always ask me for money?! The hell if I will let myself be ripped off by some kid. A few seconds later, my walk slowed as a slew of thoughts started in my head. What if she was telling the truth? 20 bucks is nothing for me. Usually the homeless people who sidle up to me...well, I know for sure who they are and have no issue pushing a buck over. But that girl? Come to think of it, there was a certain dignity in how she asked for help. Maybe her aunt couldn't help her and, with no one to turn to, she is going back home. What's in store for her back "home"? What did she say that she came to see her aunt for? Don't women leave these little towns and try to make a better life elsewhere? I remembered those other women (older, of course) who had said something along the lines of "Please don't go" after those brief moments when I engaged them in conversation on day trips through...Goshen...Lancaster...Orleans down in the Cape. They had wanted me to pay them attention, just a little attention...and I had been too self-absorbed to comply.

I felt overwhelmed. I am not supposed to feel this way with all these years of experience behind me.

Fuck. Come on, man, you are supposed to know your own mind by now.

I stopped right by where the MBTA commuter boats leave, stared at the ground for a bit and turned. People were milling around for their harbor boat trips. I only had a few dollars on me. Maybe I can get some cash from that ATM next to the Starbucks and find her.

Find her?! I came back to the dog park and looked around. How the hell am I going to find her in this mess? It seemed half the women barely wore anything while the others all wore a gray t-shirt just like her. The day looked bleak.

I started to walk looking for her. I stopped by Joe's to ask the hostess.

"Excuse me, did you see a young woman in a gray t-shirt walk past?"

"Sorry, there's a lot of women who walk by", came the response. Weirdo.

Dejected, I started walking home. I stopped at the ATM to withdraw a few twenties. No, this is not right. I must find her and help her.

Let me go back and scan the area next to Tia's.

Faneuil Hall.

For the first time in my life, I wished I were taller. I jumped onto a bench and gazed between the buildings. People were staring at my suppressed anger. The hell with them!

Maybe somebody else helped her. No, no, you are going to see this through. Find her! She may not have eaten all day. Now I was really concerned. I remembered the low voice. She might have been hungry too when she spoke to me. I hope I won't find her passed out somewhere. That was some of my darker memories growing up in India...people passed out by the roadside. But American women were stronger, right? And now I am supposed to be an American. Am I?

Downtown crossing.

My t-shirt was soaked from all the scurrying around. Okay, maybe somebody did help her. In that case, she might be off to South Station to catch that bus.

Ok. South Station next.

What if she sees me and freaks out? Maybe I will leave three twenty dollar bills near her. Then I will give her a smile and just walk away. Yes, that's what I will do. I will have to do it in such a way that some enterprising cop doesn't spot me and book us both for "abnormal" behavior. I don't want to make more trouble for her. And if she didn't take the money, fine. Let somebody else have it. I don't want it.

She wasn't in South Station. I went out to a couple of buses and jumped up and around. No, no buses to VT.

Maybe she was really an older woman posing as a young girl.

No, don't make an assumption like that. She really needed your help and you didn't help her.

I stood on the pavement with my mood at an all time low and all my pride squeezed out of me. Unsure of what to do, I slowly walked back to my place. It seemed like a forever walk. And my eyes were scanning for her...always scanning...

Close to home, I couldn't bear to go indoors. Maybe I could spot her if she walked past me. I sat down at a doorstep on Commercial street. After an eternity, I walked across the road to the baseball field, sat down on a stone bench and buried my face in my hands.