Friday, August 24, 2012

Let It Grow

     My wife Christy has a blog about gardening here in the desert. She shares her observations on what plants work and what plants don't and what it takes to make anything grow in such an arid place. She has even roped me into the whole gardening thing.  The little kid in me jumped for joy last week when my pumpkins took hold. It's become a part of my life now. 

     Every morning when I wake up I go and water all the plants in the backyard, I watch how much they've changed from day to day. The bamboo can shoot up over a 24 hour period, by a foot in some cases, while other plants show more subtle changes. The twenty minutes it takes to check everything out is incredibly Zen. I can't think of a better way to start the day but there is a second part to my morning ritual.

    After I have finished my adventure in horticulture, I work out. A few hundred turns of a jump rope and several dozen reps on the free weights and I am soaked to the bone with sweat. I did this almost every morning and it was almost as meditative as the watering. But there was a problem, I was exhausted even before I started and I found myself splitting my workout into morning and evening just to get the effect I wanted.  While this is not necessarily bad (athletes call these two-a-days), I knew I was pushing it and pushing it can cause injury and burnout.

    Now it might seem that plant care and muscle building are two disparate subjects but they have more in common than I have ever thought. If you water a plant too much, the roots rot and the plant just dies. If you water too little, well I think that is obvious. If you water just right then you get growth. If you add some nutrients to the soil occasionally, you get bigger and stronger plants. You might have to water a bit more when you first plant so that the plant can adjust to the new environment.

    Well after my muscles adjusted to their new environment, I continued to "over water". I went through a week of being sore here and there and I knew from experience that it just wasn't a good thing to be sore all the time. Sure you can expect some soreness because that's how you get growth. As muscles are pushed and prodded they tear apart like string cheese. This damage causes your body to release its own personal Emergency Medical Techs (hormones and blood cells) to come and repair it all. The harder you push a muscle, the more time it takes for the repair to be finished. Not only do the body's EMT's repair the damage, they rebuild the muscles fibers and nerves in the area and add some reinforcement. I imagine they do this because they get really tired of doing this shit over and over and maybe if they overdo their job, they won't have to come back. Besides, they have other work to do besides building muscle, they have to take care of cuts and bruises.

   Now imagine being cut deeply on the palm of your dominant hand, you are going to go grab a tennis racket or a pick axe just as soon as you pop on a bandage, right? Of course not. But this was something I had to learn, I suppose. My muscles needed rest or else they weren't going grow, especially as the lifting gets heavier.  The key is to figure out how much rest or, in the plant analogy, how much water is needed to sustain growth. Also there has to be some calculation for how much nutrients the "soil" needs.  Well, there is one and it is the following: 1 gram of protein to 1 pound of body weight. It's pretty simple. We could go on about other nutrients but that is the essential one. Without protein as a nutrient, growth is very limited.

    I've always tried to follow through on the protein but now I make sure I space my workout days so that my muscles can get the full benefit of what my body is trying to do. At first, I worked a muscle group every other day or so. Now, I am working a muscle group every 4 or 5 days depending on how I feel.

   With plants, I have noticed that rain water is excellent for growth. I would stand under a drainage pipe if I thought it would do the same for muscles but alas it does not. At least, I think it doesn't. Hmmm something new to try.

    So I have passed the one month mark plus a week of this challenge and I am very happy with the results thus far. I can see muscle growth and I have become much stronger. So much so, that I have had to buy more weights in the last month, what I had wasn't cutting it. I have completely given up on weighing in because at this point it feels counter productive and the mirror always tells the truth anyway - if you let it.



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