Thursday, February 16, 2012

Not Your Typical Birthday Celebration - By Jim Duggan

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on August 17, 2007


This year I decided to challenge myself for my birthday. In years past, I would set a modest goal for myself- maybe a heavy set of 10-20 reps in the Deadlift, or an extra ten minutes on the Stairmaster. Nothing too extraordinary. This year, for some reason, I decided to really push myself to the limit. Maybe it was some of the inspirational articles I've read, or maybe even reading about some of the exploits of Jack LaLanne that got me thinking about doing something that I would not soon forget. After all, turning 43 years old is not that big of a deal. It does not carry the significance of turning 40, or 50. Nevertheless, I wanted to prove- if only to myself- that age is only a number, and that you are only as old as you feel. I don't like the idea of conceding anything to age- whether you're 23, 43, or 73, there's only one way to train and that's all out.

About a week before the big day, I decided upon what movements I would do. I would begin with a movement I hadn't done in a while- the Dumbbell Clean and Press, followed by a tire flip for reps ( many reps ), then I would do 45 minutes on the Stairmaster ( as opposed to my usual thirty minutes.) I would then go home and complete my challenge with an anvil curl for reps, followed by a one mile walk wearing a weighted vest.

On the morning of July 20, I awoke at 4:30 A.M. brimming with anticipation. I wanted to get to the gym early and avoid the crowd. I arrived at the Iron Island Gym at about 5:30 A.M. The first thing I did was 100 Sit-Ups. I usually begin my workouts with this movement as it warms up my entire body. I am not interested in developing ripped abs, I simply want to strengthen my mid-section so as to prevent injury. After the Sit-Ups and a brief warm-up, it was on to the first "event."

1) Dumbbell Clean and Press for Reps:
I had not done this movement in quite a while. What a shame, because it is one of those exercises that works your entire body, and involves practically every muscle group at some point. My goal was to use 85-Lb. Dumbbells for as many reps as possible. The first couple of reps were not too hard, by about the seventh rep, I was working hard. I was still going strong at rep number ten. I was able to complete another two good, clean reps before my form started to break down. Still I was happy with 12 good reps. After changing out of my lifting shoes, it was outside to the lot behind the gym where the tires are located.

2) Tire Flip for Reps:
This was the movement I was really looking forward to above the others. I had set a lofty goal for myself: I was going to attempt to do 43 flips using the 515 Lb. Tire. The actual weight of the tire was 518 Lbs., but why quibble over three pounds? I knew that this was going to be the hardest part of what I set out to do today. The first few reps were hard, simply because I had to get used to getting my body in the proper position. Once I got into a good groove, I was able to knock off reps in bunches. I was able to get to number 17 before I had to stop briefly to check the blood that was coming from one of my fingers. After a couple of breaths, I started again and was able to get to number 27. A few more quick breaths, as well as a chance to wipe the sweat off my forehead, and I was back in business. I was able to do another seven flips, to bring me to 34, and I was really pushing. It was at this point that I knew that I was going to successfully reach my goal. Nothing was going to stop me. Even though I was getting tired, I began to think of some of John McCallum's articles about hard work and pushing yourself. By the time I reached rep number 40, I still had some fuel left in the tank, and I kept pushing until I hit number 45. I felt exhausted- but very happy with the effort I had put out. I had reached my goal and then some. But it was no time to start patting myself on the back- I had a lot of work ahead of me. It was now time to go back inside the gym for the next challenge.

3) Stairmaster Gauntlet for 45 Minutes:
I began doing regular cardio work in my early thirties. Like most lifters, I find it boring, sickening drudgery- but it has to be done. Even though I will never grow to love aerobic exercise, I have learned to appreciate it. The health benefits are invaluable and impossible to ignore. I usually do the Stairmaster about three to four times per week, for thirty minutes. I prefer this exercise to running because it causes no stress to my feet, ankles, or knees. Also, since I am a New York City Fireman, climbing stairs is an excellent way to stay in condition. My goal for this day was forty-five minutes. Normally, fifteen additional minutes would not seem like a big deal, but after what I had just done, I was not looking forward to it. I simply went at a steady pace, and hoped that the minutes would fly by. Unfortunately, they didn't. They seemed to drag at a snail's pace. After what seemed like an eternity, the forty-five minute mark approached and I was able to complete about 5.5 miles ( approx. 260 floors.) Now, I would get a brief rest while I drove home from the gym.

4) 100 Lb. Anvil Curl for Reps:
"The American Manhood Stone," as it has been referred to in the pages of "MILO." I purchased my anvil about eight years ago. While I don't usually do curls with it, I have used it in conjunction with my headstrap to train my neck. Except for curls and neck work, there are simply not that many things you can do with a 100 Lb. anvil- unless you plan on going out into the desert and dropping it on the Road Runner. I simply grabbed the anvil and began doing curls with it. My goal was thirty reps. This movement actually went pretty well. Ten, then twenty reps flew by quickly. Before I knew it, I had my thirty reps and was looking forward to the last "event."

5) One Mile Walk with Weighted Vest:
The last exercise I wanted to do was a one mile walk while wearing a weighted vest. The weight of the vest is 84 Lbs. I had purchased it about a year ago, and had used it during the Fall, when I would drive to the beach and walk in the sand. Today I was simply going to walk around the neighborhood. The hardest part of wearing the vest is the fact that it digs into the shoulders, and makes breathing uncomfortable. During the last half-mile I was really beginning to get tired, but I figured that I made it this far, there was no way I was going to quit now. I couldn't quit anyway- there was no other way home. Aside from getting wet from a lawn sprinkler, which was kind of refreshing on a hot day, the last few blocks went quickly and I was finished.

One of the best things about setting goals for yourself is the satisfaction that you feel when, after having worked hard to achieve something, you accomplish what you set out to do. Articles by Dr. Ken, Max Bob, John McCallum, and others helped inspire me to do something different, difficult, and very worthwhile. Now, only one question remains: "What will I do next year?"


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