Thursday, February 27, 2014

Those Dratted Machines

Hundreds of deadlifts, back squats, rows, presses and more, all with heavy free weights, all injury free; and in a fit of foolishness, I get on one of those stupid gym machines and pull a muscle in my upper arm. I felt the twang as it went and stopped immediately. Luckily, the pain is localised and I was able to finish up my deadlifts and ankles to bar, but, it is ironic that someone who eschews gym machines as much as I do would get on one and, almost immediately injure myself. 

This my first week doing Alpine Center WOD's and it has been great. I'm enjoying working steadily and not being forced to rest between each set. By chance, three of the workouts I have done have featured front squats, bench presses, deadlifts and rows – all the same exercises I was doing under the Stronglifts routine, but I am using slightly less weight and moving through the sets and reps quickly. One day, the workout included dips. I have got weak on the dips as I have not done any for a long time, and my sports - kayaking and climbing - use more pull muscles than push muscles. In Nelson, I had a couple of home-made gymnastic rings that I hung from straps off my pull-up bar and I did dips all the time. But that was long ago and far away.

 Lake Nuga Nuga sunset, Doug Brown photo

Instead of just squeezing out two or three dips on each round, I figured I'd do the sets of dips on the assist machine at the gym. I often see people doing pull-ups on this machine and sometimes dips. As an aside, if you can't do a full pull-up doing negatives is a much more effective way to progress towards a full pull-up from a dead-hang than using an assist machine. The first thing I noticed when I got on the assist machine was that everything was in slightly the wrong place, which is always the way when you use machines instead of free weights – you get forced into some unnatural movement pattern. I shuffled back as far as I could to get in the proper position, but, in hindsight, I was clearly still a bit off, as that is when I felt my muscle go “ping.” Yeah, that's never good. I popped a tendon in a finger once on a bouldering wall and it did the same “ping” thing. Same thing when I tore my meniscus. 

At this stage, I'm not too worried. Although I turn 51 in a couple of months, I always heal quickly (good diet) and I don't expect to be out for long. I will, however, take a couple of days off bouldering, although, strictly, I could keep bouldering and just use one arm. I've done this in the past when I've sprained ankles, popped finger tendons, torn menisci (close to the sum total of all my injuries except for those sustained when I fell down a 15 metre cliff while canyoning in the Blue Mountains, but that is another story). All you do is take the injured body part out of the equation. It actually really helps with balance, movement economy and strength. 

But, I have plenty of other things to keep busy with right now. Our plans to be in Cairns until mid-June have changed and we will now be leaving at the end of March. This means we have all kinds of things to get done, like making new sails for our kayaks, getting our caravan inspected and re-registered and fixing various things that have broken – gear, like people's body parts, can go ping on occasion but can generally be repaired. 

Finally, I saw this picture recently on a forum I belong too. Mountaineers will instantly recognise Don Whillans, a famous British climber from the “hard-man” days when climbers drank too much, smoked, and ate crappy starch filled diets. The difference between Don Whillans and the unidentified tribal native of Gangotri is striking and demonstrates clearly that you can't out-train a poor diet. 

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