Page 3 of 5

You Are Only as Strong as Your Weakest Part

Getting into shape can stink, especially after so many years of not being active. You notice the mobility you’ve lost, the lack of muscle definition, and how things have become more difficult. Of course, most of it can be improved with enough time and effort and that’s what I’m working on right now. I’m building that foundation, so I can grow strong and sturdy.

If you have a crack in your foundation or you put up a load bearing wall wrong, this can cause issues in the future. Maybe your house isn’t so sturdy or maybe even comes crashing down on you. I’ve been focusing on some weak spots in my body, and I’ve been giving them extra attention. I’m okay with my quest for a healthier life being slow, but these are areas I need to see improvement a bit faster than the others.

1. My Lower Back
Lower back problems go back several generations in my family. We have been cursed with a lack of backside, which seems to go together with back pain. Add extra weight and inactivity to the mix, and I’ve spent weeks if not months of my life in various stages of back pain.

I’ve been working on it for the past seven or eight months though. I began a short walking routine at work, I’ve utilized my standing desk, and I stretch most nights. When I began working out regularly, I embraced the McGill Big Three, which I try and complete five nights a week.

Apart from some sciatica pain, my back has been feeling the best it has in years.

2. My Wrists
I have small wrists and they have always been weak. How weak? It’s not uncommon for me to wear braces at night a few times a year and the last yoga class I attended the teacher noticed how much I kept propping up my knuckles, she modified the class so I could stay off my wrists. Yea… not fun.

A few years ago, I purchased a set of three recovery balls. These silicon balls are made to increase strength and agility in your hands, fingers, wrists, and forearms. Surprisingly, they made a huge difference in my wrist pain. So, I’ve begun using them again, in combination with a Grip Master while at work, and I purchased a set of grippers that I use at home. My goal is to increase my grip strength, but also continue to strengthen my wrists.

At this point, I feel like my wrists and grip strength may be at an all-time high with just a couple of months of exercise in.

3. My Knees
As detailed the other day, I have not been focusing on strengthening my knee and it came back to haunt me. I forgot about a weak part, and my body reminded me that I needed to strengthen it if I was going to keep working on this foundation.

After hours of research, I’ve decided to approach my knee from a couple of different angles.

First, I’m going to invest in a high-quality compression sleeve to help “hug” my knee while working out.

Second, I’m dusting off the aerobic step and I’m going to work on completing workouts on it to help strengthen my knee.

Third, I’ve researched various physical therapy exercises which I intend on working into my workout. In a few weeks, I may make them daily goals (the way I use the McGill Three) but right now I just want to test the exercises and make sure they are strengthening and helping first.

And fourth, I’ll be modifying knee exercises going forward. I’ve been researching lunge modifications and I’m going to make some changes so that I don’t put that much pressure on my knee again.

I’m sure another injury will occur and remind me of some other part of my body that deserves some extra attention, but until then, this is my guideline.

My Arnold History

I love movies, always have, and probably always will. One of my favorite things to do as a young teenager was find a particular actor or actress, and then track down every movie they acted in. I’d utilize my hand Blockbuster Guide to the Movies (this was the 90’s, pre IMDB) to get a list and then I’d spend the summer bugging my grandma to take me to different video stores until I saw the entire filmography.

In the summer of 1996, Eraser was coming out and I couldn’t wait to see Arnold on the big screen. I’d seen Terminator 2, True Lies, and Predator, but I hadn’t seen much else he starred in. So, that summer Arnold was my focus, and I slowly worked my way through everything he had acted in.

I remember the two most difficult movies to find were Hercules in New York (his debut role) and Pumping Iron, which was out of print. I managed to find a video store that carried both, but they were the final movies I watched of his that summer.

It was hard to watch Arnold’s movies and not feel inspired to get into shape. Who wouldn’t want a body like his? I remembered the video we watched in elementary school where Arnold encouraged us to meet the President’s Council for Physical Fitness goals and I decided it was time for me to get into shape.

I began buying Muscle and Fitness magazines and put a large poster of Arnold on my wall. I picked up Arnold’s Bodybuilding for Men book and began studying it. Shortly thereafter, I ended up with a copy of Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding which I read like my life depended on it.

I was thirteen years old. I was staying with my grandmother for the summer, and she was supportive of these crazy dreams I had. I didn’t end up with a weight bench at her house, but I started moving more and dreaming of one day having a body to be proud of.

As the summer came to end, I returned home to my father’s house, and he was less enthused about my dreams to become the next Arnold. I was always dreaming big, and he wasn’t interested in that. My request for a weight bench was refused and I wasn’t disciplined or motivated enough to find alternate methods of pursuing this goal. I gave it up and went back to watching TV and playing video games.

I continued to watch most of Arnold’s new movies, but his political career was not something I was interested in. I’d thumb through my Arnold books from time-to-time and there was a short period around 2002 when I lost a lot of weight and was working out regularly that I thought I might one day get that body I was proud of. That did not happen.

Nowadays, I mention Arnold often. I’ve been inspired by him once again, thanks to his Daily Pump Newsletter and The Pump App. The other day he commented on a question of mine in the app and my wife couldn’t help but mention what a huge grin I had on my face. In a way, I feel like I’m picking back up where on a journey I began some twenty-six years ago.

This time the goal isn’t bodybuilding fame. No, the goal is to just be healthy and be in the best shape I’ve ever been. I want to pack on some muscle and regain my confidence. Maybe look somewhat like the man I was hoping to be back in 1996.

Rough Day, Domino’s Pizza, and Guilt

It’s been a rough couple of days. It all started Monday with the 4 AM trip to the airport to drop my wife off. I couldn’t get back to sleep, then tweaked my knee, then we were understaffed at work which meant I had to do more than my fair share. The dinner I prepared was horrible (I tried out hearts of palm pasta… I should have known better) and I was so ready for the day to be over.

Tuesday came and I was feeling better after a good night’s sleep, but things went downhill fast. The customers at my work wore me down and I became irritable. Traffic was horrible on the way home (and I have a super short commute) and by the time I walked in the door I was spent. I had all these big plans to get a workout in, but I was done. I walked the dog, sat down on the chair, and started to turn on Bosch Legacy. Then I thought about it, you know what sounds good right now? You know what will make everything better? A pizza.

I love pizza. I don’t have it all that often because my wife does not like pizza, but whenever she’s gone or working late, it’s not uncommon for me to slam down a frozen pizza. Of course, with my calorie counting, pizza isn’t usually on the menu anymore. I made a naan pizza over the weekend, and I’ve created some pizza-like bowls using cauliflower, but it’s not the same.

I rarely ever have a pizza delivered due to all the fees, but there was no way I was getting back out in that traffic. So, I went to Domino’s website and decided to go as healthy as possible with a thin crust pizza. Then, I realized I might as well get the two mediums for $6.99 each. I mean, I’m busting my calories, I’m angry, tired, and frustrated, so I just went all in.

Twenty-five minutes later, I had two hot thin crust pizzas at my door. One with chicken and pineapple and the other with green peppers. I did the math in my head, if I eat one whole pizza, I’ll end up 300-500 calories over my calorie goal for the day. Screw it, I thought.

I tried to eat slowly, but it’s been a while since I had pizza and I was hungry. I ended up eating a pizza and a half before finally putting the box away. Then I started thinking about all the hard work I just pissed away.

I shouldn’t have felt guilty. This is life. I’ve been incredibly disciplined, and this was a rare occasion, but I hate that I comforted myself with food (I’m sure that’s part of why I’m overweight to begin with.) and I hate that I couldn’t restrain myself to just one pizza. It just goes to show I’m better off in situations where I’m limited to just a couple of slices.

However, something did happen after I ate my pizza. I felt better. My energy came back, and my mood improved. Maybe having a bit more substance in me helped, and I decided that I needed to work for what I just ate. I went down to the garage and went nuts on the punching bag. Then I tested out my Walmart knockoff TRX which worked surprisingly well for $15.

I grabbed the kettlebell and did some one arm pickups and some basic swings, before hitting the mat and going the McGill Three. Then, I rolled over and decided to give the knee pushups a try, something I struggled with just two months ago, and despite my arms feeling like Jell-O after the punching bag and kettlebell, I was able to rip quite a few pushups with relative ease. That’s a big win for me! Signs of improvement!

I went back upstairs sweaty and exhausted, but I needed more cardio. I pulled out my dusty aerobic step and found a beginner video on YouTube. She may look sweet, but she kicked my butt all while smiling and encouraging me.


[Note: I don’t know much about Jenny Ford, other than I’ve seen her videos online and her energy gives me Melissa Joan Hart vibes. This was my first time watching any of them, and I got to say, she is by far one of the best aerobics instructor I’ve ever seen. I’m not coordinated and have no rhythm, but her directions and timing were almost spot on. I never felt lost, which is saying something. So, if you need someone who doesn’t just assume you have a dancing background and are great at mimicking what you see, give her a shot.]

Overall, I went to bed satisfied. Satisfied that I earned my pizza and got a great workout in. I also felt better after completing the stress cycle thanks to the workout.

Not every day is going to be a win. Every day is not going to be easy, but I’m showing up and putting in the work.