"It not wise to rush about. Controlling the breath causes strain.
If too much energy is used, exhaustion follows."
- Lao Tsu in the Tao Te Ching
Article courtesy of my other good friend with the initials L.T.
The usually busy Hartford Barbell weight room was empty. The reason -- 95 degree temperature with matching humidity and no air conditioning. I figured that most of the members had either skipped training altogether or opted to pay the guest fee at one of the racquetball clubs in the area. I found that if I pulled down the window blinds to keep out the sun, the room was tolerable.
Regardless, it was a training day, so here I was training. Thankfully, I was through with my squats and pulls. After changing into my second T-shirt of the day, I decided to take a shower break in order to make my final exercises more enjoyable.
I gulped down a cup of cold water, found an old copy of Runner's World in the closet, sat down, propped my feet up on the leg extension machine and started leafing through the magazine.
Adam and Mark came barging through the door, gym bags in hand. When they saw me sitting and reading, they laughed, and Mark shouted, "So this is how you train when there's nobody round to watch you!"
"I was lonely," I replied with a grin, "and waiting for someone to show up to spot me for my heavy curls.'
"Hey, I've seen guys spot for curls," he said earnestly.
"Me too,' I agreed, getting up from the chair, "and it makes perfect sense. You could really get in serious trouble getting stuck at the bottom of a heavy curl," I added sarcastically.
"Where is everybody?" asked Adam, scanning the room.
"Bailed out for an air-conditioned place?" I suggested. "How come you two aren't at the racquetball club where it's nice and cool?"
Adam answered, "I don't look forward to training in this heat, but I skipped so many times last year that my lifts dropped something terrible, so I swore I wouldn't do it again. Once you get used to the air conditioning, you can't come in here. Besides," he added somberly, "there are too many jerks training over there."
Mark had started his warmups, doing twists with the hollow metal pipe we use for that purpose. When he saw the magazine I had been looking through, he asked, "You still running?"
I nodded, saying, "Twice a week minimum. It's tougher in this hot weather, but I don't miss. I like what the aerobic work does for me."
Still doing his twists, Mark said, "I want to get started on some kind of aerobic work. I was out on the golf course Saturday and damn if I didn't get short of breath just walking around. Irene says I need to do something about this spare tire too." He stopped his twisting and clutched a wad of accumulated fat at his side.
"I've been running off and on for the last year, but I'm not sure just how to work it in with my weight training," offered Adam who was stretching out his hamstrings "I want to do it for my heart and lungs. I'm not fat like Mark," he added, laughing.
It was true: he was not fat. Adam and Mark were state policeman. Adam was quite muscular and very fit, weighing just under one-eighty at five-nine. Mark was taller by five inches and outweighed his friend by sixty pounds, a good portion of it being fat. Both were in their early thirties, married, with no children.
I finished my set of seated presses, then said to Mark. "Aerobic exercise is very important for overall health and fitness, and the older you get, the more important it becomes. Aerobic exercises work nicely with weight training. What sort of aerobic work did you have in mind?" I directed to Mark, who was standing directly in front of me, doing side bends with the metal pipe.
"I'm not sure," he replied, frowning. "That's part of my problem. I've tried running with Adam a couple of times, but every time, no matter how much I stretch or warm up, I get shin splints or my knees or ankles ache for days. I don't think a 240 pound person should be running," he grumbled.
"Tell that to NFL linemen," Adam remarked with a grin.
"Most likely you tried to go too far too fast," I said. "You shouldn't try to keep pace with someone like Adam, who's so much lighter than you. How fr did you run?"
Obviously, Mark wasn't sure, so he turned to Adam, who answered for him. "About four and a half miles."
"Hw many days a week?"
"We ran every day."
"That's too much to begin with. People who train with weights can often go out and run quite a considerable distance merely because they have strong legs from squatting and other leg work, but in the process they get other areas in trouble, such as their knees, ankles, feet and lower backs. It takes time to condition the entire body to aerobic work."
"So I should back off and go at it slower?" Mark asked.
"That's right -- and you have a good point about larger men not being suited to running. It's not necessary that you run. You have lots of other choices. There are exercise bikes, regular bike riding, rowing machines, the Nordic track, mini-tramps, Stairmasters, treadmills, ellipticals and even skipping rope, walking or swimming."
"Which is best?" asked Adam, who was about to do his bench presses.
"There is no 'best,'" I replied. It's a matter of what form of aerobic exercise fits our personality. I have a friend in Texas who hates running, but loves to walk and can walk almost as fast as I run. Many of my athletes at Hopkins enjoy swimming, and I know an older gentleman who swears by the mini-tramp. He works in a high stress job as a stock broker an told me that whenever makes himself get up early enough to bounce on the mini tramp for just twelve minutes before going to work, his entire day goes much better."
"Just twelve minutes?" asked Adam skeptically. "That doesn't seem like enough."
"According to authorities, it is. But consistency is the key here. In order to achieve aerobic benefits, you must exercise no less than four days a week."
"But you said only run twice a week."
"Sometimes I add a day and I also work out with the weights four times a week. There is no doubt in my mind that my weight sessions afford me some aerobic conditioning. Although there have been no formal studies on the benefits of squats, I do know that my heart rate climbs to the recommended training rate when I rush through my routine. It climbs when I do power cleans and power snatches or push through a circuit. Basically, for a weight trainer, I recommend three days of aerobic work to go along with his lifting."
"Alright. My main concern is this blubber. Twelve minutes a day and I'll get rid of it, right?"
"Wrong, You will gain many beneficial effects from twelve minutes of aerobic exercise, mostly for your circulatory and respiratory systems, but in order to break down stored fat, you must be in motion for at least thirty minutes. Some authorities say forty."
"I can't run or ride a bike for forty minutes!" Mark blurted.
"Not to begin with you can't. But you can slowly work up to it. Once you have decided on doing some aerobic work and selected the type of exercise you want to do, go about it very slowly. Don't try to keep up with anyone else or try to match your times with anyone else's. Don't compare yourself with anyone but yourself. Set sensible, realistic goals. Building a solid aerobic base can only be achieved over time, so there is no reason to get in a hurry. Figure that this is something you're going to be doing for the rest of your life and you'll realize there's no sense in rushing.
"I've found that strength athletes, lifters and bodybuilders often charge into an aerobic program with the same mental toughness that they carry into the weight room. Overriding the pain and pushing on through is not a good attitude when it comes to aerobic conditioning. In fact, the exact opposite if recommended. A strong will and an ability to bypass the hurt is a deterrent to progress. Aerobic fitness comes about by slowly coaxing, not by jarring. This takes place over time and there really are no shortcuts. Moderation and regularity are the keys to progress."
Mark sat on the edge of the leg extension machine, wrapping his wrists. He said, "Alright, let's say I want to get started on an aerobic program using the exercise bike. Irene's been after me to get one so she can work on it in ugly weather. How should I go about it?"
"The exercise bike is an excellent piece of equipment especially for heavier people. I have put lots of powerlifters on them and it works out nicely since it takes the pressure off the knees, ankles and lower back. It's very easy to monitor your pulse rate while riding. Start out doing 12 to 15 minutes two or three times a week. Again, it's very important to start slowly and increase gradually. When the fifteen minutes becomes easy, go further on one of the sessions. Eventually, you'll be doing two sessions for over the 35-40 minutes required to burn stored fat and one or more slower ones just for aerobic fitness.
"That sounds like something I could handle. How high should my pulse rate be when I'm riding?"
"There are several very good books available that will provide you with exact numerical charts as to where your pulse rate should be in relation to your age, bodyweight and so on. I've used these and found that I get the same results if I simply push my pulse rate up over 120 and maintain it between 120 and 150 for the duration. One way to push the rate up is quickly is to ride comfortable for the first four minutes, then tighten the pressure on the wheel so that pedaling is harder. It should be so tight that you are forced to stand, much as you would if you were riding a bike up a hill. Stand and pedal for a full minute and this will elevate your pulse rate considerable and quickly. Then lesson the tension and ride for another four minutes seated. It's a form of interval training and really gets the heart pumping. One minute out of every five, stand up and pedal hard."
"That sounds like one of the programs on the LifeCycle," Adam interjected.
"It is, but I was doing this before there were Lifecycles . . .
Note: I have a Starr article from quite a while before this one. In it he describes basically the same idea, his form of aerobic interval training. Where it is, I now have no idea. Maybe the guy who rode off on my exercise bike after breaking in knows! Unfortunately, he left the rim shot machine behind.
"It simulates going up hills and is much more beneficial than riding at a constant pace for the entire time. It breaks up the monotony of doing the same thing because you're always getting ready for that next "stand-up" period. With or without a rim shot machine. It may push your pulse rate over 150 for a brief time, but I think this is beneficial too."
"I bet," Adam said with a laugh. "You always seem to find a way to make a simple exercise harder, don't you?"
I ignored his comment, and Mark asked, "How can I check my pulse?"
"You'll need a watch or a clock with a sweep second hand. The best place to check your
Wait a second here. Notice how the aerobic gear is so vastly improved since the date of this article, 1991? Now, notice how there's more fat types out there than there were in '91? It ain't the bike, it's the rider. Note how much more attention people pay to their diets now? Note also how many more fat types there are out there since all these scientific breakthroughs in nutrition, supplementation, meal timing, etc. It ain't the fork, it's the fat fuck holding it.
"The best place to check your pulse is not in your wrist, but on your throat, next to your windpipe. Use your fingers and not your thumb because your thumb has its own pulse. Count your pulse for six seconds and multiply by ten. It's that easy. You'll even get so you can count the half beats."
Adam found his pulse, looked at his wristwatch, counted, then said, "I got 80."
"That's right at average and you have been doing some work. You need to be aware that the larger you are and the older you are, the faster the heart rate will go up when you exercise. So Mark, weighing a great deal more than you, Adam, will get to his recommended training rate much faster. Keeping this in mind, if you did an aerobic workout together, you'd have to do it at a different pace. It would be a mistake for you to run together because if you ran at a pace that benefited Adam, it would be too fast for Mark, and if it benefited Mark, it would too slow for Goldilocks, to say nothing of the three bears."
"I don't want to be seen running with that slob anyway," Adam admitted coldly. "How should I work my running in with my lifting?"
"I would run on my non-squatting days and I would do a light-medium-heavy idea -- one short, one medium, one long run each week."
"Alright, I squat heavy on Monday and medium on Thursday."
"Tuesday, do the short run, maybe two miles, Wednesday is a bit longer, maybe four, and you can do a four- or five-miler on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Something like that."
"I see what you mean. The running will probably knock the hell out of my squats.'
"Not really. Not if you work into it slowly and don't overdo it. For most people it does influence their squats negatively for the first three or four weeks, then it begins to help them. Running hills works the legs much like squatting."
Mark asked, "Will this aerobic work help my overall training?"
"Most definitely. You'll find that you recover much faster after a hard workout once you have built a strong aerobic base. On those occasions when you are rushed and have to hurry through your routine, you'll be able to do it so much easier without having to cut back on the weights or sets or reps. You'll discover that high rep movements become much easier to do, too.
"Jack King of Winston Salem, a long time friend, was an Olympic lifter and has turned to physique competition of late.
He is systematically winning all of the old-guy titles in his part of the country [and was the first physique competitor to be featured in Milo magazine]. He is a firm believer in aerobics and contends that one of his best abdominal exercises is not done in the gym, but out on the road when he does on of his long runs. He says that when he finishes a five or six miler his abs are more defined than they are after he has done a severe ab routine."
Adam finished another set on the bench, sat up and said earnestly, "I've always heard that aerobics are beneficial, but I've never actually understood just what goes on in the body. Do you know?"
I nodded that I did, thought on his question a moment, then began, "When air comes into your lungs, the oxygen is extracted from it in the form of hemoglobin inside the cells, then sent out into the bloodstream. When hemoglobin reaches the tissues, oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. Then the waste products are carried back to the lungs where they are flushed out. One of the greatest benefits of aerobic training is the fact that after time, blood volume actually increases."
"I've never heard that," snapped Adam. "Are you sure of that?"
"It's a fact. An average sized man may increase his blood volume by nearly a quart in response to aerobic training. Which means there is more hemoglobin. Which means there is more oxygen delivered to the cells and more carbon dioxide and waste products removed. This increased blood volume means an increased blood supply to the muscles, so you can easily see how it would help you in training. This improved blood flow or tissue vascularization also aids the number one muscle, your heart. A well-conditioned heart actually grows stronger and is able to pump more blood with each stroke. Aerobic training increases the size and number of blood vessels that carry the blood throughout the body. The efficiency of the lungs is another byproduct of aerobic exercise. It has been shown that during exhausting work, a conditioned man may process nearly twice as much air per minute as an out-of-condition man.
"Aerobic exercises have a relaxing effect on the entire body, which directly influences the digestive system. Conditioned men produce less acid in their stomachs, and exercise aids the muscles of the digestive tract in moving waste materials. There are numerous studies showing the relationship between physical fitness, mental alertness and emotional stability. A physically fit individual has a more positive outlook on life, more self-confidence and is more successful in whatever he tries to accomplish. A person cannot consider himself physically fit unless he does have a strong aerobic foundation."
"Enough! I'm sold!" shouted Adam in mock anger. "Oh, one final thing -- is there a limit on how far I should run in a week?"
"I've talked with a number of runner-lifters, and they all seem to agree that fifteen miles should be the maximum distance. Anything more seems to work against them, especially their leg work."
"Any vitamins I can take to help me breathe better?" asked Mark.
"There is. Vitamin E is an oxygen conservator so it's useful, and, since vitamin C helps strengthen the walls of the blood vessels, I believe it is useful as well. If you can get your hands on some vitamin B15, pangamic acid, by all means do so. It helps oxygen intake, but, since the FDA contends that it doesn't have any value, it isn't found in vitamins formulated in the United States. I also take B-complex vitamin and some multiple minerals about an hour before I run because they are water soluble and I sweat like a pig. They definitely help me recover better."
"I'll tell Irene to go buy the bike tonight," Mark said. "I'm tired of being chubby."
"So are we," Adam exulted with a laugh, then dryly added, "Would one of you come over here and spot me? I'm about to curl."
Enjoy Your Run-Lifting!