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Transformations by Jim Ganley

Sun, Feb 16, 2014 at 10:30PM

The pathway to fitnessland is not as straightforward and simple as we would like.

On the contrary, it has already been shown that there are many obstacles on the road from fat to fit. The obstacles listed previously are external, such as family, friends, and co-workers. The more insidious obstacles originate in the mind. In many instances we lack faith in ourselves, and sadly, this lack of faith may trace its origins back to our formative years when well meaning parents and teachers told us not to bother trying. 

“Don’t go out for pee-wee football, Johnny. You’re too little,” a well meaning mother may say to her son. “To play football you need to be big and tough.” So Johnny grows up thinking of himself as a wimp.

“Don’t sign up for that class, Susie. High school physics is for really smart kids,” a concerned father may say to his daughter. The implication here is that Susie is a dim bulb. Unfortunately, if we hear enough negative banter from people whose opinions we trust and respect, we’re likely to adopt those beliefs, though untrue. It’s as though many of us have been programmed to fail, not only in fitness, but in a number of other productive endeavors as well. 

It would appear that the common thread running through all of this may be fear of change. In essence, a well designed fitness plan will induce a number of changes within the body. Many of these changes are taking place at the cellular and molecular level. For example, someone exercising consistently on a program of aerobic and progressive resistance exercise will increase their fat burning enzymes as well as increasing the number and density of their mitochondria, powerplants within the cells which give us energy. The muscle fibers themselves will synthesize a major contractile protein called  myosin and, according to some research, the existing fibers  may split, forming daughter cells, thus increasing the number as well as the thickness of myofibrils. The nervous system will adapt to brief, intense effort by learning how to voluntarily recruit a higher percentage of muscle fibers, switching on more motor units within the muscle.  The heart and lungs will become more efficient, processing a greater volume of oxygen with less perceived effort. Also, the body will be able to tolerate higher levels of a fatigue chemical generated during intense effort known as lactic acid via increased production of chemical buffers such as bicarbonate ions. Additionally, the body adapts by decreasing the time needed to clear lactic acid from the blood. This explains why the well-trained athlete can muster the gumption to outrun a team’s defense to score the deciding touchdown. Lack of it explains the legions of misled spending hours hanging around the wellness center talking about food and how they hate to exercise. Metabolic conditioning is the term for this particular positive adaptation, and it is developed when following a well planned program of exercise. No magic pills or bedtime stories. Simply intense, well focused effort, followed by nutritious food and sound sleep.

Former Mr. America and Mr. Universe, Dave Draper has summed up this process rather nicely. LERG. Lift, eat, rest, grow.  Dave is also credited with, “The secret is.....there is no secret.”

Back to changes. As our body changes, so does our psychology. Having an outlet for pent up emotions and anxieties has proven to be a genuine safety valve for many. This may have something to do with the neurochemistry of the brain. The prevailing theory is that regular exercise trains the brain to respond by producing mood altering chemicals known as endorphins and encephalins. This is supposedly responsible for the “runner’s high” reported by so many involved with running events. Bodybuilders seek the giddy sensations associated with getting all pumped up. Someone new to exercise may have to persist for several months before able to arrive at  this state, though most grow discouraged and quit long before this is achieved. 

Feeling good about ourselves will translate into feeling better about our family, friends, and co-workers, making our lives more enjoyable in the process, and less likely to become upset over trivial matters. On a grander scale, the small changes can grow into visible changes such as better muscle tone, trimmer waist and hips, and a higher energy level.


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