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Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Golfer's Guide to Fitness

I know, I know... it's January and you've already been inundated with ads for elaborate fitness programs using expensive fitness equipment. You may even have had a few good laughs. My favorite so far (and I can't remember the name of the product, although I don't doubt that it works) actually teaches you how to get in shape by pole dancing. This one is sure to be a favorite among the men, who will never get in shape themselves but will spend hours watching the women try it!

The fact of the matter is this: Almost any program will help you get in shape if you approach it intelligently and then stick to it. What you need to know is how to choose one that's right for you.

Over the next few days, I'm going to teach you some general info about the different techniques you can use to get in shape. These techniques are the basic principles that different workouts are based on; learn to recognize them, and you will immediately know whether a program fits in with your goals or not. Not only that, but you will be able to create your own workouts, so you won't get bored doing the same thing day in and day out.

Today I just want to teach you a basic workout principle that even many experienced trainers don't know. That principle is: Muscles rebuild in stages, and you must allow one stage to finish before beginning another. Otherwise, you'll just tire yourself out.

Here's a scenario many bodybuilders would recognize: You head to the gym and do a tough workout. The next day comes and you still feel slightly tired but not much, so you go do another workout. You keep working out every day or two, thinking you're getting plenty of food and rest, but not seeing any gains. Finally, you injure yourself and can't work out for a month. Guess what happens? Your muscles make a noticeable, measureable increase in size even though you aren't working out! What happened?

This diagram is the best way I know to explain it. Assume your existing muscle is at the level of the thick black line. You work out hard enough to tear down the entire gray area, to the thin solid line at the bottom. (And no, it is wrong to say exercise builds muscle; it actually tears it down, then proper nutrition and rest cause it to grow back bigger and stronger.) If you get that proper rest and nutrition, the muscle regrows back bigger, to the level shown by the upper dotted line.

How Muscles Rebuild

Most people don't allow enough time for this to happen. The muscle may have only built back to that dotted line in the gray area when they start working out again. Most people believe this new workout will now cause their muscle to rebuild to that thin solid line above the original dotted line.

Sorry folks, it doesn't work that way. The muscle will only grow back to the original dotted line. You must let it do its full recovery before the next workout; otherwise, you just keep tearing down the same muscle fibers over and over. That's what happens to the bodybuilders in my example above; they never gave the muscles time to recover until they were forced to by the injury.

This is also why skinny people have so much trouble gaining weight. I struggled all my life to gain weight; then, at age 45, after learning this little fact and how to tell when you've got it all in balance (don't worry, I'll pass that along later this month), I put on 15 lbs of muscle in 10 weeks without adding a single inch to my waistline. I was training at Gold's Gym, and it absolutely blew my advisor's mind. I still remember him staring wide-eyed at the before and after figures he himself recorded, even while he kept saying it was impossible for me to do that at my age! I consider that one of the great successes of my life.

But it wasn't a miracle; I just learned how the process works. You can too.

Starting tomorrow, we'll look at the basic training methods available to you. Of course, as usual, all the standard disclaimers apply: Do this at your own risk, I'm not a doctor, see a doctor first, yadda yadda yadda. You know the drill, but I'm reminding you anyway.

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