The Game of Life
There are days, I confess, when I just feel old.
Those days seem to accumulate when I’m about to publish a new book. Every little twinge in every little muscle fills me with dread that I’m some kind of fraud. If you could hear my internal dialog … well, okay, if you could actually hear my thoughts you’d get your ass to the nearest neurologist, and I wouldn’t blame you. But if I were to attempt to transcribe my thought process, and you happened to read the transcript, it would go something like this:
Great. Another abdominal injury. The guy who wrote a book about core training can’t keep his own damned core in one piece. What’s the matter with me? Maybe I’m just too old for this …
At some point I shut this pointless prattle down (I’m a big fan of thought-stopping). My go-to move is to remind myself that I’m 55 years old, I’ve been lifting weights three times a week since I was 13, and of course I’m going to tweak, pull, and occasionally tear a muscle. I’m never happy about it, but if nothing else it shows I’m still trying.
Then again, “trying” is the wrong word. As my favorite philosopher famously said, “There is no try.” I’m not trying. I’m training. This is one of my favorite passages from NROL for Life:
The hierarchy of physical training goes something like this:
1. Physical activity is everything you do when you aren’t at rest. It’s basic movement, with no goal beyond getting from one place to another.
2. Exercise is movement you do on purpose. It includes sports practice, jogging, yoga, backpacking, swimming, cycling, or anything else you think is important enough to take precedence over all the other things you could be doing at that moment. (New Rule #2a: If you can operate your cell phone while exercising, you aren’t actually exercising. You’re just proving you can walk and chew gum at the same time.)
3. A workout is an exercise session that’s deliberately strenuous. You start with the goal of working up a sweat, pushing your muscles and your circulatory system toward their limit, and giving your body a challenge from which it will have to recover.
4. Training is a system of workouts designed to achieve specific biological adaptations.
The more physical activity you get, and the less time you spend sitting, the better. Some of that activity should be purposeful enough to qualify as exercise. More exercise is generally better than less. A workout is even better, but there are only so many true workouts you can do in a week, a month, or a year. A workout that’s also a training session is usually best of all, because you aren’t just testing yourself to see what you can do now. You’re forcing your body to make adaptations that will produce better performances in the future.
I admit I should get more exercise. It really is wrong for a guy who writes about fitness for a living to spend so many hours sitting in front of a computer. But when it comes to training, I don’t have many regrets. Sure, if I could go back in time I’d change all kinds of things. Since I can’t, the best I can do is have a solid training session today. That’s how I felt about Monday’s workout, and how I think I’ll feel about Friday’s. The workouts change, but the goal remains the same: to get better at something.
That’s why Alwyn and I continue writing workout books. He’s always looking for better ways to train his clients, and I’m always looking for better ways to train myself, along with better exercises, methods, and techniques to share with readers.
I explain the genesis of NROL for Life in this excerpt on Facebook, noting that readers like you had to talk us into doing a book for older, increasingly broken-down lifters — that is, for people like me.
It’s all true. But it’s only part of the story. The part I left out is the ulterior motive I just described: I need new ways to keep my 55-year-old body from falling apart. That’s why NROL for Life has more exercises, more information, and more training options than any book in the series.
My internal dialog scolds me for saying such a thing, knowing I’m going to saying something similar about the next book, and perhaps the one after that.
In my defense, though, I mean it every time. Each book starts with a training program from Alwyn that surpasses its predecessors. Then I force myself to write a book that’s a worthy vehicle for those workouts. I do it for a living, yes. And of course I do it for you; there’s nothing more gratifying than hearing from readers whose bodies and lives have been transformed by the magic of a great training program. But I’d be lying if I failed to disclose that I also do it for me.
Sometimes I get a little too ambitious with these new programs, and force asunder parts of my anatomy that would otherwise have remained intact. But I’ll accept an occasional boo-boo if the reward is more ability this week than I had last week.
That’s a fair trade, I think.
If you agree, I hope you’ll check out The New Rules of Lifting for Life. I’ll thank you now in hopes that you’ll thank Alwyn and me later.