02-25-13 - Random Unconnected Thoughts on Exercise

Some things I've been thinking about for a while. I got motivated to write because of Thatcher.

O. It's really hard to put in a hard workout as an adult. I'm not trying to look good anymore, and it doesn't really feel physically pleasurable the way it used to, I don't get an exciting "pump" or a good rush, I just feel tired and sore. It's pure willpower now, I work out because I know I have to in order to feel like a decent human being, it's like taking my medicine. But I guess almost everything in life is like that as you get older, you know what you have to do, you just suck it up and do it, you're an adult.

It's really hard for me to put in a good workout without either sex or rage. When you're a teenage male, you divert a lot of that excess sexual energy into workouts. Part of it is a subconscious belief that the girls are going to love you if you just get muscley (which is mostly absurd, partly true, but certainly not a good return on your time invested), but more than that it's just a good use of all that physical energy, and it makes your body feel great which you can appreciate because of the constant sex drive.

I also used to be constantly full of rage. I was mad at everyone and everything all the time, and one of the better outlets for that rage was to do pushups. Now that rage is mostly gone from my life; when my nominal friends make snide off hand put-downs, I just get depressed now, not angry. In many ways anger was good, it gives you energy, it fires you up to go fight or exercise or write or change the world. Our modern society is so anti-anger, it wants to strip the power and virility from men, and that doesn't always feel great. In any case, it makes getting fired up for a hard workout much harder.

O. When I was in college I had the great opportunity to workout with some friends; we were pretty close and able to do the whole yelling at each other in the gym thing. It was fantastic; stuff like "get hype! one more, this is pussy weight, you got it!". When you're lifting and some dude is cursing at you, it sort of fills you with rage for a second, like fuck you shut up you asshole I'm lifting here, and that rage is great for giving you a boost of energy to finish the rep. I miss it and thank you guys.

O. I suspect that part of the reason I have so many injuries in shoulders and back is because of my youthful exercise program and lifestyle. I did basically no exercise through high school, and was spending tons of time on the computer, and then in college started working out and mainly did pecs & abs (pushups and crunches type stuff). The result was a disfunctional kyphotic physiology. My chest was fallen forward, and my shoulders were rounded forward so they really weren't being used right; I then did front-contracting moves that only made it worse, or at least didn't help.

If you're a young person, I highly encourage you to work now on forming a better body pattern. Life is long, but youthful body patterns are hard to break. Far too often when kids decide to get in shape they go and do bench presses and curls. If you are a typical nerdy programmer youth, what you need is to first get your functionality sorted out, do mainly back exercise and full body dynamic exercise. Swimming would be ideal. Don't start doing heavy front-body lifts until *after* your shoulders are naturally being held back. It's very tempting as a youth to focus on pecs and abs and biceps because you can make big visual gains very easily, but that's not what you need. You have to think of youth as building your foundation that you will have for the rest of your life; the growth-spurt phase for men is a unique opportunity to set up your posture and body shape, your bones and tendons will not move around very easily later on.

In the past few years I've been trying to get back into working out following my various injuries. One of my goals has been to do zero exclusively front-body exercises. No pushups or bench presses, no crunches of any kind. The backbone of my workout is dead lifts and squats (various types). I do front-body stuff only as part of full body movements (I'll do things like burpees). I try to do some back-isolation stuff too, but god that stuff feels horrible and it's hard to find good back-only moves.

Once you're older and have certain muscle firing patterns, it's incredibly hard to fix. I've been trying for 5+ years and have made only slow progress. I still can't do things like throw a ball, because as soon as I try to throw something hard my body instincitively fires the muscles in the way it learned when I was a teenager, which involves yanking my shoulder into some weird forward position that's painful now. That instinctual muscle-memory stuff is really hard to fix, so try to get it right early.

O. French fries (and potato chips) are junk food. Why exactly? What's unhealthy about french fries? Years ago people would have said "the fat"; Now people might say "the carbs"; both answers are retarded. There's nothing inherently wrong with french fries. They are a source of a large amount of empty calories. If that's what you need (eg. you just rode a stage of the TdF) then fine, eat the hell out of them. But chances are you didn't, so you don't actually need 1000 empty calories. The actual unhealthy thing about french fries is that they are just too damn delicious, which makes people eat more than they need. (and they're extremely calorie dense, so it's easy to keep eating a lot after you are actually full).

O. Ab exercise has great benefits aside from looking better. It makes you more aware of what you're eating. (exercise in general makes you less eager to overeat, but ab-consciousness even more so). It makes efficient pooping much easier, you can squeeze your body down like a tube of toothpaste. It's great for posture and takes strain off the back; proper posture comes from lengthening the front of the stomach and tucking the rib cage down. It's great for sex, both in being able to move your body and also for arousal and orgasm control. I believe that deep squatting is similar, it's great for the pelvic floor and man muscles, it makes me feel like a younger man.

O. If you're having trouble with your back squat form, do front squats. I couldn't do back squats for about 3 years and tried various other things (hacks, fronts, overhead). Now I'm finally able to do back squats again comfortably and my form is *way* better than before. Front squats make you keep your head up, your back very vertical, and your knees wide. It feels really good when you do it right. I don't think you can just add fronts to your normal back squat routine, you have to completely quit back squats for a year to reset your memory of how to do the movement.

O. I've become a believer in the benefits of "light movement" (which as an arrogant youth I mocked for its uselessness). This is not for weight loss or for muscle building (aka "body transformation"), it's just to feel better. For someone who's sort of stiff and injured and constantly in a bit of pain, it's enormously helpful. Active stretching is a great thing to do, things like yoga or even Jane Fonda era aerobics moves. My goal is to do an hour of light movement every day; I average maybe 5 minutes.