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Maintaining the Strength

Friday, December 07, 2012

I've blogged before about the fitness maintenance puzzle: How much is enough? As with maintaining weight, there is no easy answer of what to do. There probably is no single answer that will work all the time.

I think I've entered a new phase of rehabbing my bad foot. I'm less focused on how the foot feels day to day, and more focused on doing things to promote general fitness and reduce the chance of future injury. Today's agenda was, get in a long walk (because it's a non-running day) and lift weights. I got that done, but perhaps not in the optimal way.

Right after breakfast I went for a 5.2 mile walk. The idea was just to walk, not to push it. As is typical, I started out slow then got faster as I warmed to the task. Ended up taking 76 minutes to walk 5.2 miles, for a typical to slightly slow average pace. Ideally, I should have been slower; but it appears that I'll get away with this one.

Then I took a nap. I was tired, and I don't know whether it was because I woke up too early (half hour before the alarm, and decided not to roll over and go back to sleep), or didn't eat enough carbs early to support that long walk. Whatever. After the walk, a nap, and a shower, it was pushing noon. Half the afternoon went away to running errands. Eating healthy has me making a lot more trips to the grocery store than I used to.

Just before dinner, I got my act together to lift weights. The idea was to just do three major lifts. For the legs, I did deadlifts. For the push exercise, I did standing dumbbell shoulder presses. And for the pull, I did weighted neutral grip pullups. That's it. Three sets of each, with a little bit of play around the edges. I worked hard enough that I should feel the DOMS tomorrow, but I didn't work up a sweat.

Time was, when I deadlifted a challenging weight for 3 sets of 8 reps, I'd be dripping in sweat. Yeah, it was in a gym that was warmer than my basement is right now; but most of the issue was that I was overweight and not a runner. There have been more changes to my body in the past year and a half than just shrinking the waist and butt to fit into the same size jeans I wore in high school.

And that's a bit of an attitude issue. Since I became a runner, I can do 3 sets of 8 deadlifts at a challenging weight without working up a sweat. I can feel in my legs and arms that this is all I can lift, but my cardiovascular system isn't terribly worried by it. Because I'm not working up a sweat, it doesn't feel like I was doing anything.

Intellectually, I know this isn't true. I deadlifted almost 25% more than my body weight, for 3 sets of 8 reps. Then I threw on 20 more pounds and deadlifted 136% of my body weight for 3 reps. The shoulder presses weren't as impressive in terms of weight lifted, but they were challenging enough that I could only do 9 reps instead of the desired 10, 2 out of three sets. And adding a 10 pound plate to a dip belt kept me from getting to 10 neutral grip pullups for the second or third set. I was working hard enough for this to be real strength training.

But it doesn't feel like I did anything, because it didn't challenge my cardiovascular system. Half the point of this blog is to remind myself that I did enough, even though I feel like I didn't do that much.

The good part about this is, it makes weight lifting more time efficient. Lift, stretch, hydrate, done. Total elapsed time, less than an hour. Got the important lifts done. Tomorrow I won't lift heavy, but I need to be sure to get some kettlebell work in to keep my core strength up.

There are a gazillion weight lifting training plans out there, and I'm not following any of them. I'm kind of winging it, doing lifts I already know how to do, trying to get to the weights 3 times a week and do enough to keep the muscle I have. If I develop a bit more strength, that's good; but it's not the ultimate goal. Maintenance is the goal. That, and avoiding running injuries.

But maintenance is not steady state. I think I'll be living with strength gains and strength losses for the long haul. If I can keep the losses small, I'll be content with small gains that just get back the territory lost.

And that might not be the final answer on how to maintain muscular strength; but it's the answer I have today. And it's good enough for me today, this week, this month. I'll worry about finding a different answer when this one stops being good enough to get me to maintain my strength.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • NWFL59
    So what strengthening exercises do you do specifically for your foot? emoticon
    1928 days ago
    Weight lifting is still a mystery to me. I'll work up a good sweat warming up on the treadmill or elliptical and then even though I feel like I am using maximum effort with the weights it still feels like I am cooling down.
    1928 days ago
  • RG_DFW
    It seems to go along with changing up the workouts. I'll do certain lifts for a while, then change up things.
    1928 days ago
    I can't stand walking slow either.. it drives me crazy and just feels unnatural. Great pace on your walk! With ST, if you feel your muscles working, you're succeeding. It's not about raising heart rate, breathing and sweating like cardio is. The challenge is to feel the burn in the muscles you are targeting. And it sounds like you are doing that well with your routine. Good luck with maintenance!
    1928 days ago
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