Fitness, Focus, and Your Career

Summary: What I do to stay fit. How fitness helps your career. And my weight training journey. Plus a gratuitous bicep flex photo. It’s my selfie.. I also answer the question, what is the best exercise you can do.

First, let me state this for the record. I’m going to make a few statements about the “best exercise” for rapid and ongoing results. I’m going to temper it below because there are some who take umbrage with such bold statements.

Second, this isn’t as cool as Henry Rollins essay, “The Iron & The Soul” – I highly recommend it. This is just some details about weight training and fitness – my perspective.

The best exercise you can do

I get asked by a number of people, “What is the best exercise I can do?”

When asked this question, I often ask the asker.. “What do you like to do?” If they respond, “I love walking. I could do that every day.” Then I tell them, “walking is the best exercise you can do.”

My mom loved tennis. Up until and even during her decline with cancer at 84 years old, she played tennis or paddle tennis four times a week or more. She also walked every day, did yoga, etc. Bad ass for sure. The point is, she was passionate about tennis. And she was fit because of it. Tennis was the best exercise… for her.

So.. if there is something you like to do, don’t worry about what the optimal exercise is, focus instead on consistency and diet.

A word about diet

For the most part, this isn’t complicated. Portion control. Fruits and Veggies are good things. Anything that leans too strongly one way or another is probably just a sales job. Did I mention portion control. If not… I should.. Portion control, It’s important! And finally, don’t forget to control your portions.

I like lifting weights

I’ll cover my regimen, briefly explain lifting weights versus cardio for weight loss plus, and then explain some of my weight training journey.

Today’s regimen

I’ve been lifting weights or doing some sort of resistance training for 25 years! Wow! 25 years!

For the past few years I worked out at my house – no gym. I did push ups, pull ups, dumbbells, etc.

Recently, however, I made a change and joined a gym again. I wanted access to some machines that would help me with my core and my legs. I’ve dealt with lower-back spasms since I was 18. Because of that, there are free standing weight training exercises I WILL NOT do.

I do a 3 day a week routine at the gym, where I split out and focus on major muscle groups on each of those three days. Here is my routine.

Day 1 (Monday typically): Push exercises.
Chest, tricep, shoulders.

Day 2 (Wednesday typically): Pull exercises.
Back, bicep, (plus 1 shoulder exercise – upright rows.. it’s a pull).

Day 3 (Friday typically): Legs
Uh… legs

I do my core and abs every day to a greater or lesser degree based on how I feel.

Everything is superset

Supersets.. that is where I do a series of exercises without taking a break until the series is complete. This does three things. 1) it pushes me to failure. 2) it provides a cardio lift.. Hey.. I said I don’t really focus on cardio in the gym but I still believe in cardio fitness. 3) My workout takes less time – and I don’t get bored. I mention NOT getting bored later too.. It’s an issue.

Today’s (pull day) superset:

  • Dumbbell curls (bicep)
  • Wide arm Lat pull downs (lats)
  • Close grip cable pulls (upper and lower back)
  • Upright rows (shoulders and upper back)
  • Reverse flies (machine) – back and shoulders
  • Rope cable pull down (abs, obliques, core)
  • Back extension bench (lower-back, abs, core)
  • then stretch and short break – repeat

That’s it.. Depending on the series, I go through it 3-5 times. Today was 4 times. Next week, when I do back again, I may start with Close grip cable pulls and adjust the order based on how I feel. I may add a different exercise or substitute a different exercise. I don’t over-think it.

I do something similar for push day and for leg day. A variety of exercises, strung together in a series.. and I try to mix it up to confuse my muscles. Plus, I don’t want to get bored.

Yoga plus

I’ve added yoga one day a week. I really enjoy it and am MUCH more flexible for the effort. I’m in love with my yoga instructor.. she’s from Laos and mostly I love her accent as she says, “stretch… strettttcccchhhh…   stretttttcccccchhhhhhhhhhh…”. Namaste bitches!

I also ride my bike and hike with my dog from time to time. That is cardio for the body and soul in my opinion. Just plain enjoyment of the outdoors.

Schedule and focus

I try to get to the gym between 5 and 6am. I am usually up between 4 and 4:30. I try to be done in less than 1 hour.

My morning routine on gym days looks something like:

  • Wake
  • Make bed
  • Coffee
  • Short meditation (5-10 minutes)
  • Review/preview work (yesterday’s and what’s on tap)
  • Breakfast
  • Gym
  • Tea
  • Work

The Benefits of Fitness on Your Career

  • More energy: yeah.. using more energy results in being more energetic
  • Better attitude: dealing with conflict, pressure, co-workers, deadlines is all improved
  • More confidence: more than confidence in your appearance, you will feel more confident across all of your functional areas.
  • Command respect: I don’t mean the macho – don’t get sand kicked in your face kind of respect. But, being fit does command some respect. You still have to be good and you can’t be an asshole.. it’s part of a package.

On top of all of these, sticking to a schedule – including fitness – helps you feel more in control. Why? Because.. well.. you are more in control.

Weight training vs cardio

Now.. if your goal is to lose weight and get fit in the fastest method possible (optimal), weight training is your answer. Period! No questions! Not even close! You can do two hours of cardio 5 days a week and NOT get the benefit of 45 minutes of weight training 3 times a week. Sorry.. that’s just the impact breaking down and building muscle has on burning calories.

Get on google.. find the studies. Do NOT take my word for it.

Again.. I’m a pragmatist.. because, if you HATE weight training (assuming you’ve tried it for 21 days consistently) but LOVE cardio, optimal is trumped by what you love… Do what you love! Enjoy it! With proper – or even just decent diet – you’ll be in amazing shape.

My weight training journey

As indicated, my weight training regimen has modified over the years. I push less weight these days with more reps.. most of the time. Meaning, I don’t lift as heavy as I used to. I’m 50 as of a couple weeks ago. My goal is leaner muscle mass and less bulk. And because I tend to bulk up fairly quickly, I’ve changed what I do.

I started weight training in my early to mid 20’s. I always did pull ups and push ups (lots of push ups) and was in good shape. But for years many of my friends called me popeye! Why? Because I have very large – almost bizarre – forearms. They were larger than my upper arms. Creepy right?

I’ve been asked by guys in the gym what I did to get those forearms. I tell them, I had a dad with big forearms. It’s a genetic anomaly. I take no credit. Of course, there are more crass answers and I’ve used those as well. I leave that up to your imagination you sick dog!

While working for Blue Cross I met a guy named James. African-American. BIG DUDE! Actually, played some professional football. Seriously.. he was jacked! I referred to him as James “the arms” Mosby. We became friends after a basketball game where he blocked my shot about 3 times in a row. I told him, “Hey.. don’t you know the big black athletic black dude isn’t supposed to block the short white dude trying to take a shot.. it’s rude!”

He responded, “Maybe the short white dude needs to learn not to come into the lane where the big athletic black dude is standing.”

Point taken.

Either way, we went to lunch a few times and I told him I wanted to start weight training. He set me up with a pretty aggressive 3 day split, 4 days on, 1 day off. I went from about 170 lbs to 215 lbs in 7 or 8 months. People thought I was juicing.. and I don’t mean Acai Berry. I wasn’t – never have.

I appreciate that I had James to give me guidance as I started lifting and during my initial push. His no-nonsense, go lift some damned weight and don’t talk about it, attitude was perfect. I’ve lost track of him and have no idea what he is doing these days – although, I’d love to thank him again for the information and the push.

That base of growth – and my body type – means that even when I take considerable time off, I notice a HUGE difference after 4-5 days back in the gym. It’s nice.. but then, of course, the real work starts.

As for my bicep selfie.. yep.. that’s me at 50. First and last bicep selfie.
matt-bicep

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