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muscley pics
the obligatory double-bicep pose

Things one does to amuse oneself between sets....

side pose with shirt has its share of massively muscled and ripped bodybuilders and it has its share of massively muscled but somewhat less ripped powerlifters. As you can see, I'm not either of these, but weight training has been an important part of my life for a long time. I've never been one who puts on muscle quickly or easily--never had those amazing "beginner's gains" I hear about from other people who have just started hitting the weights, but every year I manage to do a little more than I did before. As long as I lift heavier weights, bike a bit faster and farther, gain the ability to do a few new things, and learn just a little bit more about how the human body works and how to make it work a little better, that's good enough for me--at least for today; no guarantees on what it'll take to satisfy me tomorrow.

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Even though I've got far too much fat and nowhere near enough muscle to be on a stage anywhere doing something like this, I still like being able to see some muscle definition here and there. It may not be up to competitive standards, but it's me, and that makes a big difference.

top hat

I still think it's fun to watch, especially while performing an exercise. I don't worry a lot about whether it would look silly to someone else when I'm doing things in front of the mirror and watching the effects the various exercises have on how my body looks and moves--I look good enough by my own standards that it helps keep me motivated.

cable curl

Even if sometimes it takes a looong time to see much in the way of results, at least I do still see them, and I figure that as long as it gives you that extra urge to grab a hunk of naked steel and squeeze out one more set instead of grabbing the towel and wandering off to the less-challengining realm of the shower, you're gotten another step further in the game.

from the NYM cover

Developing a taste for watching your own muscles shake and strain while you're struggling against the weights does have its advantages--it's cheaper than going to the movies and you don't have to worry about long lines or the high cost of popcorn covered with simulated butter.

Weight training is a way of focusing your concentration. It's a very sensual experience, being able to put all your attention into just one movement, maybe even just one muscle, and for that moment, just feel that one specific motion with all of your being. It teaches you a lot about how your body works and feels--and how other people's bodies can work and feel. I suppose it's like your flesh has its own language, but other people's bodies speak it too. Besides being a very intimate kind of connection to your own body and how it moves, you can change how the exercise feels and, to some extent, which muscles it's targeting just by thinking about it differently.

So being able to watch all these various parts move under the skin goes along with that; muscles don't just extend and contract, they're actually quite complex in how they move, with tiny ripples and jumps and quivers that you can watch through the skin and a lot of them are divided up into diagonal bands or other shapes that all move a little bit differently when you look closely, even though from a distance it all seems like one smooth overall motion.

I've been lifting weights since I was fifteen, so by now I've been doing weight training longer than I haven't. When I was eleven years old my arm was broken in a trampoline accident--unlike most accidents involving trampolines, instead of landing wrong on a trampoline, the trampoline landed wrong on me. As far as I know, there is no "right" way to drop a trampoline on someone. The results weren't very pretty.

When my arm did heal, I still had a pretty visible dent where the edge of the trampoline had landed, and for years that arm always hurt whenever it got bumped or twisted--but after couple of months of weight training, my arm stopped hurting and it's never bothered me since. After a few more months, I'd stopped spraining my ankles several times per year--and with how much quality time I'd spent before then limping around wearing Ace bandages, that was enough to keep me hitting the weights from then on. I must have had dozens of sprained ankles as a child, but after I met my first standing calf machine, I never got another.

back in the dark
I think my body just takes a little prodding to keep it in line. Hitting the weights hard is one way; serious, long-distance, hard bicycling is another, though both of them seem to convince my body to improve itself in different ways. Hard biking and hard weightlifting both demand a lot from you, but they're almost totally opposite in how they feel and what you have to do to keep pushing your limits.

A few years back, I'd managed to have an accident that spun one of my feet around; the sound effects were interesting and I could tell right away that things were not as they were supposed to be, since I was pretty sure that my leg didn't bend like that before. Years of heavy weight training strengthens more than muscles, it strengthens bones and soft tissues like ligaments and tendons.

Usually this kind of accident tears up the ligaments in the ankle, which tend to heal slowly and often poorly because of the nature of the tissue and its poor blood supply. I think it's because of all my years of lifting that my ligaments were so strong that even the distal end of the tibia (the big bone in the lower leg) sheared off instead of tearing the ligament, and that's actually much to be preferred. It took me about two weeks after the last surgery to restore mobility to my ankle joint for me to gain more function, strength, and range-of-motion than most people regain after two years. One leg still has some pretty huge scars on it, but they work the same now.

this scar was only makeup

One of the things I often say about strength training is that being stronger and having greater endurance simply makes life easier. It makes having fun easier and keeps your physical limitations from getting in the way. Every year, I find that fewer and fewer things are difficult and that it gets even harder for any unfamiliar activity to make me feel at all sore the next day. Even if I still manage to make myself sore anyway, I seem to recover faster and even bruises and scrapes fade away faster than I remember them doing when I was younger.

You probably won't see me on a stage anywhere next year either--at least as a bodybuilder or a powerlifter--but I'll be a little stronger, I'll have pushed myself a little farther. Sometimes it's more important to enjoy the journey than it is to have a particular destination in mind.

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