By Jay Diamond
I’ve taken a few months off… off the gym, off this blog. Nice to take a break for a while, nice to be back. It’s always hard to get back into the gym when you’ve been out for a while, and that’s the subject of this blog. Rebuilding…
Over the last year, I’ve been doing much more Olympic-style weight lifting… bigger weights, free weights, and solid technique (built up from no weight). That’s been putting more stress on my body than ever before in my life, so when I started having pain in one hand, I started adjusting. Then one day, I noticed a protruding bump on one knuckle. A trip to the doctor and an x-ray later revealed something my friends have been telling me for year… that I had a screw loose.
I mean I literally had a screw loose.
A clean break more than 20 years ago resulted in surgery and 2 screws in a finger. The top one had started to work its way out, presumably exacerbated by the increased joint stress. I’m inclined to believe that my body has become so strong that it was pushing all of that weak stuff (like steel) out of my body.
That’s my story, I’m sticking with it. Once the screws were removed, two holes were left in the bone. The human body has an amazing capacity for repair, and 6 weeks later enough bone has grown in to begin weight-bearing exercise again, so the rebuilding process begins.
Redoing anything is difficult, but as anyone who’s lost a file due to a computer crash can attest, rebuilding the file is easier the second time. You’ve already thought-through the process, you’ve made and corrected some mistakes, and so the new process is much more efficient. Bodybuilding is no different. It’s difficult – but it should always be difficult since that’s what builds muscle. You cannot pick up right where you left off, forcing you to take a step back, drop some weight, shorten your workouts, and start climbing the ladder again. The good thing is that you can rebuild differently, fixing the weaknesses, building new strengths.
Going through the process, I’m reminded that you don’t actually need to take a break to do any of this. You can use a logical construct known as “the outside view”.
A strategic inflection point in the history of Intel Corporation acts as a great example. Andy Grove and Gordon Moore were managing a sinking company in the 80s. The Japanese were killing Intel’s primary business – memory chips, with a price war. It was clear to everyone that the business was in trouble, but companies have a very difficult time walking away when most of their revenue comes from a single product, even if the fate of that product is inevitable.
Grove looked out of his Silicon Valley window one day and asked “If the board threw us out and brought in new management, what would that new management do?” That was the impetus to get out of the memory business and into the microprocessor business, which eventually turned Intel into the biggest semiconductor company in the world. (You can hear Grove and Moore talking about their experience here). They did it by stepping out of their shoes, looking at themselves as if outsiders.
That logical shift is not only valuable in business but in many aspects of our personal lives. We all get stuck in ruts, know it, but can’t shake the comfort of familiarity. The outside view can be used in bodybuilding to get to the next level of fitness.
That’s where I am today- rebuilding. Back extensions are at about half the weight when I stopped… but I’m back to walking tall. It’s a struggle to get through 3 sets of 10 TRX pushups, but I see improvement every time. Dumbbell chest presses are shaky, but I’m back to doing peck-pops. I’m working on form over weight – something that was getting sloppy when I took my break, and adding a few new exercises to fill some gaps (like wrist curls). My workouts are down to an hour, after which I’m exhausted.
I feel the strength coming back quickly and it feels great to be back in the gym… and back on this blog.
Jay Diamond writes the VitaminJ blog on evidence-based fitness & bodybuilding. Jay is the founder of Reason4Reason – a skeptical activist group based in the San Francisco bay area. He holds dual masters degrees in engineering and business and has managed both startup companies and hundred-million-dollar programs for Fortune 50 companies. Growing up in Canada, he performed magic, studied science, and became aware of the skeptical movement. Jay has lectured around the world on science & technology, business, and skepticism.