PUMPING IRONY: All Shook Up

A week of shaking up my workout routine left me with some very cranky muscles and lots of opportunities to listen to my body.

Most fitness experts will tell you that it’s a good idea to shake up your routine from time to time, because your body gets accustomed to whatever punishment you’ve been doling out and gradually adapts. I tend to think of adaptation in general as being a fairly elegant skill, but apparently it’s not in this case. The more you do the same thing, the less good it does your body.

I don’t tend to pay much attention to fitness gurus, but last week I inexplicably decided to shake up my exercise regimen. My plan was this:

• Monday: Into The Pit at the gym and lift some heavy iron.

• Tuesday: Do my normal morning bodyweight/kettlebell routine.

• Wednesday: Shoot hoops.

• Thursday: Afternoon yoga.

• Friday: Back into The Pit.

• Saturday and Sunday: Recovery.

So Monday morning I announced to My Lovely Wife that I was headed to the gym after work. She gave me a skeptical look, but waved me onward as I lugged my gear out to my bicycle. And later that afternoon, I headed downstairs to the tiny gym in the basement of our office building. There I reacquainted myself with my old friend, the Elliptical Death Machine, for a 10-minute warmup before the main event.

My morning workout does a good job of getting my hearth beating — especially the four sets of pushups (80 total) between various sets of kettlebell flinging — but I have to admit that 10 minutes on the old EDM did a better job of firing up my pistons; it quickly had my heart rate up into the 140 range. I was lathered up in a hurry and ready to pump some iron.

The Pit used to be a bit intimidating, populated as it is by beefy young people with sinister tattoos who hoist serious tonnage, but I learned a while back that if you pretend you know what you’re doing — move purposefully from one exercise and set of hardware to the next — nobody’s going to kick sand in your face. I like to run through some weighted squats and lunges between various upper-body presses, rows, curls and the like. The difference between The Pit and my home, of course, is that The Pit has heavier stuff to lift than my 20-pound kettlebell. I was curious about how it might feel to work with 30- and 40-pounders, so I ran through a 30-minute routine with these as my burdens and left the premises feeling pretty good about myself.

That good feeling lasted until I awoke Tuesday morning, feeling a little stiff. So, instead of cranking through my normal 20-minute workout, I settled for 30 creaky pushups. By Wednesday, my Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness had shifted into something closer to Delayed Onset Muscle Shrieking. So, instead of shooting hoops at the gym, I settled for a quiet bicycle ride with MLW after dinner.

We’ve been outfitting a rain garden in our backyard with a few larger stones salvaged from a construction site up the alley, and Wednesday night after our bike ride, I spied a couple of larger specimens, which I pulled from the dirt pile and rolled up the alley into our yard. I’d guess they weighed in the neighborhood of a hundred pounds each, enough to feel like I’d accomplished something noteworthy as I settled them into the rain garden. MLW was quite impressed.

As you might expect, I was greeted Thursday morning with extremely angry muscles, which were only slightly appeased after 90 minutes of yoga that afternoon. My planned recovery shifted forward by a day. Aside from my customary bike ride to and from work, I mostly sat still, hoping not to aggravate anything.

All this goes to show that you have to be patient and accepting of the way reality can throw you off track, regardless of how carefully you plan stuff. As it turned out, I did end up shaking up my routine last week, which I suspect wasn’t really a bad thing — no matter how much it hurt. This coming week I may do something altogether different. Like not make a plan at all.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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