2011-07-21

Physical Change

The more years you have spent exercising with some regularity (even if you miss a few months here and there), the more quickly your body adapts to exercise. I am not aware of any documented proof of this, but I have long observed this in myself and others. As a man who has worked out regularly, with no more than 6 months "off" at any given point from about seven years of age, I find that I can go from 0 to 100 much more quickly than people who do not have 20+ years of regular exercise under their belts. I have also observed this in other people I know.

It makes intuitive sense, but if this phenomenon has appeared in the clinical literature, I have not seen it. (If you have, please post a reference in the comments section!)

As a virtually lifelong distance runner, I have always had a gaunt, lanky frame. It comes with the territory - the more you run, and the faster you run, the skinnier your body gets. 

After my diabetes diagnosis in November of 2009, and my marriage proposal about a month earlier, I decided to focus on bulking up my upper body. Having never really asked much of my upper body muscles, I think it is safe to say that they were in a state of near-atrophy. My posture was bad, and I had no muscle definition to speak of. What little I had could be attributed more to an absence of body fat than a presence of muscle tissue.

It was then that I discovered Sean Burch's Hyperfitness book and exercise regimen. (You can read more about Hyperfitness from an "ordinary person's perspective" at the fabulous Food, Fitness, and Other Adventures blog.) First I read the book, then I adapted the exercises and principles to a more sport-specific workout regimen. The result was that I bulked up, and still managed to run pretty fast. (Hey, I even won a couple of races!) I felt incredible, I built up some much-needed upper body mass, and I looked a lot better, too.

I think one of the reasons I responded so quickly was my years of experience with exercise. My body knows how to change and adapt quickly, because I have often asked it to.

Fast-forward to May 2011, when I decided to start training for the Montreal Marathon. Again, my body started to adapt as soon as I started "asking it to." In less than two months, all that fantastic upper body mass had disappeared. I find myself once again to be gaunt and lanky, my posture changing, and my body taking on the general appearance of your average marathon runner.

On the one hand, I am very happy that my body adapts so easily to a wide variety of exercise regimens. On the other hand, dislike having to choose between running a great marathon and having good posture and a good amount of upper body strength. As my wife recently reminded me, I have set myself a goal of running the Montreal Marathon. I will achieve this goal.

However, I think in the future I will concentrate on maintaining a more overall level of fitness. Perhaps I will focus my running efforts on 5Ks and 10Ks, and do more Hyperfitness workouts. This approach conforms to my other upcoming goals, such as my much-awaited Solaris project.

That should give you a window into where Stationary Waves is headed in the longer term.