Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mindfulness Strength Training

I first heard about slow lifting protocols around 2007 or 2008. I was reading articles about muscle physiology by Doug McGuff. Those articles don't appear to exist anymore, perhaps superceded by his 2009 book, Body by Science. At the same time I had happened upon Adam Zickerman and Bill Schley's 2003 book, Power of 10. I quickly then found that Fred Hahn, and Michael and Mary Dan Eades had also written a 2003 book on this topic, The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution.

Here are the fundamental concepts behind this powerful paradigm.

  1. Strength training is the most effective and efficient exercise to improve the biomarkers of health that best represent youthfulness, including muscle mass, bone density, body fat percentage, cholesterol/lipid profiles, metabolism, and aerobic capacity.

  2. Slow speed strength training is safer, more effective, and more efficient than lifting faster. It's safer because it minimises the effects of momentum and gravity, and allows you to respond immediately to any signals of damage, rather than finding yourself having already pushed through to injury by the time you are aware it is happening. It's more effective and efficient, because it engages all muscle fiber types to their maximum.

    Following this protocol typically takes 15-30 minutes once or twice a week.

    In fact, it is so effective, that trying to workout more often would not allow sufficient rest.

Naturally, I was intrigued and excited by this idea, but at that time there were no facilities in or near Boulder offering this kind of training. I did start a slow lifting free weight routine at home, but what with the myriad things in my life, it was difficult to keep up.

Not to make excuses, but I do a lot better in the exercise department when I have scheduled commitments, especially with a social component. It's been easier for me to go to a group class of traditional lifting where I know I'll be missed if I don't show up, than to keep to a schedule just for myself in a busy place with constant distractions and demands.

I also tried doing it at the YMCA using their machines, which worked for a while. Even a schedule to go to the gym with no social component works better for me than staying in the house! Still, it was frustrating, because it took so much trial and error to get the appropriate weight on the machine, and if I got it wrong, I basically blew my chance for the whole week.

What I really needed was an expert to guide me, who knew how to tell what weight was right and when to increase it, to know which muscle groups to work, to take care of the timing, and to watch my form and focus.

Last September I decided on a whim to see if any local places had appeared since I last looked, and to my great delight, one had!

I've been working with Chuck Bystricky at Inform Fitness since October 2015, and I couldn't possibly praise him too highly. He is knowledgable, enthusiastic, and experienced. He has answered my every question about the protocol or my specific training with as much depth as I desired (and I'm quite the geek). His passion and sincerity are clear.

As to my "results", not only do I feel stronger, I have lost some 10 pounds, and am a smaller size than I was last time I was at this weight, a year and a half ago. I'm going to have to buy new pants, because my current pairs are too loose. Poor me.

Slow lifting is intense! That suits my personality just fine. This quality has led me to start calling it Mindfulness Strength Training.

Unlike regular lifting I've engaged in before, I can't start my reps and then daydream about something else. It takes a purity of focus to think of nothing except feeling your muscles. It also takes a willingness to keep engaging when the "burn" sets in. It's not exactly painful, but it's not comfortable, either.

You have to take every exercise of every workout to its fullest. You stretch your ability to its limit. To do otherwise would be a waste of effort. It reminds me of the concept of deliberate practice, a method for attaining excellence most studied in the area of music performance.

I love it. I always leave the studio feeling fantastic.

Thank you, Chuck.