A physical activity that I really enjoy is weight lifting at the gym. I have been going on average three to four days a week and have learned a few things about avoiding injury first through trial and error and then by seeking professional advice. I find that lifting weights regularly makes me feel better day to day and also helps me get to sleep at night as long as I go regularly. I think it is important to stress that this feeling better is personally the most important aspect of weight lifting and it definitely outweighs most other activities in my life that contribute to my happiness.
I noticed that my body will quickly adapt to different workloads, in the past I was going five days a week for about 1.5 hours and recovering in time for the next day. Right now going for about 45 minutes only three times a week gives me the same positive benefits but it does take me longer to recover after each session.
Early on probably 6-7 years ago when I started to push heavy weights I ran into nerve problems by failing to stretch and warm up with lighter weights first. The problem first appeared in my elbow where the Ulnar nerve was not sliding properly through a protective sleeve as it normally does. It was tugging and causing a great deal of pain. A physical therapist fixed the issue in thirty minutes but I have to get massage therapy every year in areas around my neck and arms for this reason. I have found that stretching and doing a set of weights at 50% of my max before full weight reduces these nerve problems.
Another common injury I experience is more unique and unlikely to affect many others but I will cover it anyway. I have very weak tendons and this does cause joint problems. Normally your tendons hold bones into a controlled track as they move but in my case it is easy for them to slide out so that the joints don’t track properly. This mostly applies to my knees, hips, elbows and shoulders. As an example your knee joint can rotate forward and back as well as rotationally allowing your foot to point left and right. But in my case just a little bit of force will cause my tibia to rotate to the side left and right. This means that I can not use a leg extension machine at all even with light weights. Because the machine isolates your knee so effectively slight imbalances in other leg muscles pull the joint to one side or the other and I end up with joint pain for several days. The solution is to do free weights and in the knee example this means squats and deadlifts.
It is probably useful for others in general to use free weights in addition to machines because it helps strengthen surrounding support muscles to give you more balanced strength. If you overuse machines it can be easy to rely on the hinge and push on one side or the other overdeveloping one side of the support muscles. When using the joint in daily activity it will tend to be pushed to one side and cause joint pain.
I have found an efficient way of developing muscle mass is to do two or three sets of ten or fifteen repetitions at the maximum weight you can safely lift. This is only after warming up with a set at 50% of course. In some cases I will break up second sets into parts because I can’t physically to them in a continuous set. I will test my maximum by adding weight in small increments, if I can’t push more than five repetitions I will back off on the weight. If I experience joint pain within twenty four hours of lifting I will also reduce the weight at the next session.
This makes effective gym sessions very quick. After cycling through three sets of each muscle group i’m about fourty five minutes in and I just leave.
My recovery time varies depending on how frequently I stress the muscle group. If I was going to compete in a sport that used certain muscle groups I would work the area daily or alternate days at 100% of my capability. I’m not too motivated to increase my absolute physical strength at this point in my life, I just use the maximum safe weight to make my sessions efficient for time. If I wanted to though I would do more research in that area and be very systematic with training strategy and diet.
Going forward my current goal is to increase the strength of my shoulders as they are a current weak spot. I’m using twice as many exercises that focus on the shoulders as I normally use on other muscle groups to achieve this.
Schedule, Price and Clothing
I find what works for me is to go to the gym after I finish work. After I get home walk my dogs, eat then head out to lift weights.
The gym I go to only costs $20 per month and since there are so many around it makes it convenient from a location perspective. I used to lift free weights at home and I find the gym makes it easy to isolate muscle groups that would be a challenge without all of the machines and cable pulleys. The separate location also makes it mentally easier to push through a session.
I bring running shoes and plain shorts and t-shirt. I have tried exercise breathing clothing before but I usually don’t like the way they fit and they are more expensive anyway.
I used to compete on a cycling team and prefer the stationary bike over a treadmill. Hopping on a bike and riding outside is by far a better experience but it also requires maintaining a mike and changing with breathing cloths, shoes, helmet does take extra time. I will usually do ten minutes of cardio at the beginning of a session. I do walk about an hour a day in addition to the gym. This means that my level of cardio ability is very low but that is by choice right now.
It is a good idea to stretch daily and it helps with mobility, circulation and reducing risk of injury. It is the unexpected fall or collision that can cause injury if your body can’t move or have the strength to dampen the impact.
I have plans for new goals in the next year so I will post more as I get started and see how it goes.