2014 would mark the 23rd year of my working out. I started at the young age of 15, with a lot of enthusiasm, a spark in my eyes and a pair of rusty dumbbells.
I sure have come a long way, since, and during my journey, have learned some very valuable lessons both about bodybuilding as well as life in general.
In this post, I’d like to focus on an area, that most are hesitant to talk about. Mistakes!!!
There is a saying that “Good Judgement comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgement” (Will Rogers). And in my journey of physical fitness, I have committed a lot of those, and learned from them in good measure.
Although I’ve been hammering at it for more than 2 decades, I have to admit that the last 6-7 years have been the most significant in terms of learning and understanding the mechanics of bodybuilding and how the body really works. Probably because, I have moved away from being a young boy, advancing towards middle age, more rapidly in the last couple of years. And the manner in which my body responds to training has also changed.
While I have not let the pace drop at anytime in all these years, I did end up making a few errors, that left me out of action for a couple of days (sometimes weeks). Here are a few of those, that I share here, hoping to help other strength training enthusiasts out there.
- Completely ignoring flexibility/mobility – Funny thing here, that I kept reading a lot about flexibility and mobility and always assumed that I am very flexible. In many ways I was, but slowly I was noticing that regardless of what exercise I did, I was not able to make any improvement on my legs. I ended up experimenting with just about anything. For instance, I workout in a gym that is not equipped with a squat rack. So I started to do box squats. I was lifting fairly heavy weight but still I was not getting the phenomenal results that I should have got. Eventually I realized that what I actually suffered from was tightness in the hip joints accompanied by a weak core. This in turn resulted in ineffective squatting and reduced leg strength. I have suffered lower back muscle spasms a couple of time while doing stiff-leg dead-lifts, a couple of times.
The fix: I started to include hip stretches like the pigeon pose and planks to my warm up routine. This has really helped me to regain flexibility and hip joint mobility. It has also contributed to some improvement in my lower back.
- Ineffective Cardio – Over the years, the treadmill and stationary bike are two pieces of equipment that I have grown to dislike (I know there are people who swear by it and I might get some disagreement, but I will go ahead and share my experience). I wrote a short post about 2 years back, sharing the routine I was following back then. Eventually the body learns that the treadmill is an artificial simulation. So is the stationary bike. It gets used to it very quickly and then stops responding altogether. You only get exhausted and sweaty even, but do not get the cardio benefits that you expect. I have tried doing different combinations on the treadmill. Tried doing HIIT on the stationary bike, 2 minutes slow, 1 minutes fast x 4-5 times. Nothing seemed to have the desired effect. I was not getting fitter. I was definitely getting stronger, thanks to my overall strength training program. But I was losing my agility. Very recently, I went for a vacation and slipped and fell like a sack of potatoes. I hurt my knee and has become fully functional only last week. That is when I realized that in my quest to become stronger, I had almost completely forgotten about speed and agility.
The fix: I went ahead and bought myself a bike. Riding my bike for about 25 minutes in the morning, before entering the gym has worked wonders. The whole experience of fresh morning breeze blowing on my face is magical. Perhaps, the outdoors is what I was missing and more than anything, it was the boredom of the treadmill/stationary bike, coupled with the stale air, was taking its toll. I have been riding for all of 8 days, as of this writing and I am already feeling amazing change in my leg strength and overall flexibility.
- Not paying attention to my body’s voice – Our body has some very subtle ways of telling us about how things are. It is in our best interests not to ignore those signs. I have realized that the many things that I used to do in my teens and my twenties, are getting difficult to do now, because the body simply refuses to recover from injuries and falls, as quickly as it used to earlier. As I gradually ease out of my 30s, I need to pay more attention to joint health (something I pretty much took for granted for several years) and overall flexibility. The key to being strong and mobile is to modify my workouts with my changing fitness needs. I am not training to compete in the next Mr. World. I am training to stay functional and fit and injury free. Every single time I try to go overboard, my body lets me know in no uncertain terms that it has to stop. The several incidents of lower back spasms, that I have endured, stand testimony to this. They have more often than not, happened due to a workout that was done without adequate warmups OR perhaps on that morning, I was sleep deprived and was not fully alert and so on. Accidents and injuries always happen when the mind is not 100% focused, due to fatigue. For the past 2 years or so, I have started to give myself adequate amounts of rest and recuperation time, whenever I met with an accident. In effect it has actually sped up the healing process and I am back in action after a shorter downtime.
Bodybuilding / strength training is a very interesting area of engagement and also one that demands the utmost focus and concentration from the participant. Mistakes are made even by experienced folk and the key is to take a step back, and learn from it. More importantly arming oneself with adequate information is of paramount importance, before starting any new workout program. Have you made a mistake and learned from it too? It’d be nice if you would share your experiences in the comments section.