Sunday, May 28, 2017

One plus one

When I arrived at university there was a trick some upper year folk played on the frosh.  They knew that we had high school math sorted out but most of us were still quite intimidated by the prospect of university math so they told us that the real math we were going to learn had stuff like this in it:

x(x-x)=(x+x)(x-x)  (factoring, which we knew worked)
x=x+x  (cancelling same terms on both sides)

The idea behind this was to leave us all dumbfounded that high level university math proves 1=2.  Of course the problem with all of this nonsense is that you can't divide both sides of an equation by (x-x) to cancel the terms because dividing by zero is not allowed.

I don't remember if I figured out right away what the problem with the equation was.  I do remember that I was sure that there was some kind of simple trick and I just had to figure out what it was.

Because obviously 1 does not equal 2.  (Incidentally, I am anti axiom of choice, if it matters.)

But sometimes 1 does equal 2.  Just not in math, only in humans.  This week I finally reached a new benchmark in my quest to look like Chris Evans; I am now twice as strong as I was when I started lifting weights.

I am ... not there yet.  That man is too pretty for words.

But I can bench about 280 pounds, which is double what I could at the beginning, and close to the goal I set for the year of getting to 300.  When I started out I figured I would just lift weights and I told Wendy that I wasn't going to start chugging protein drinks and doing steroids, nothing crazy... just regular ole hard work.

It turns out that regular ole hard work only gets you so far.  Eventually you realize that you have plateaued and you need to do other things to continue along the path.  First I started eating eggs, tons of them, in an attempt to get more protein in.  That helped.  Then I upped the frequency of workouts to 5-6 times a week, and that helped.  A month ago I decided that it was just too much of a pain in the butt to eat all those eggs, and moreover while I need a ton of protein but I don't actually need all that food, it is kind of wasteful, so it was time to buy protein straight up.

Now I am chowing down on protein powder every day.  Although my methods of measuring progress are inaccurate at best it seems to have helped.  I am increasing in strength at roughly the rate I was back in the beginning in terms of pounds / week, and I think I am packing on mass at a similar rate.  That second metric is a tricky one as I don't actually have a bathroom scale so I only check my weight a couple times a year.  Best guess is I have increased my mass by 10% or so.

That I can lift twice as much while only being 10% heavier feels strange.  I know that most of my mass is in organs and bones and such that don't contribute meaningfully to strength but I still look at my body in puzzlement wondering how it can do these new things without actually being all that different.

I am definitely not going to start doing steroids though!  Initially I was not into the protein powder thing because I felt like it wasn't pure somehow.  But that is silly; there is nothing unhealthy about protein powder and it helps my body repair itself faster when I have beat myself up.  Since I am in the business of beating myself up I had best help my body fix itself.  Steroids are a totally different thing of course because they have actual negative side effects that are terrifying.

I do totally get how people end up doing steroids though.  It is that progression and plateauing thing again.  It feels so good to be making gains, doing better, putting up bigger numbers.  Each plateau sucks, and each new step that pushes you back into big gains is wonderful.

After years of changing your diet, buying protein, focusing your life around effort and pain, is it so hard to imagine that you might take another step to regain that feeling of progress?

In the past the idea of using steroids was unthinkable and I couldn't figure out why anyone would, barring being in serious competition for cash like the Olympics or professional sport.  But lots of random people use steroids who will gain nothing from it financially and that always puzzled me.  Not anymore though.  I get it.

Still not going to take that step, but I understand those who do.

It kind of blows my mind when I look at world bench press records to think that after all the work I have put in I am still only benching 26% of the world best.  People do some pretty amazing things.  So do drugs and special equipment, of course.

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