Friday, October 31, 2014

Shot putting again!

I'm going to get more personal than usual in this post, and share some of my own history (as nobody but me reads this anyhow, there is no great risk involved in sharing) as the context it provides ties nicely with some of my recent concerns.

When I was a kid, I considered myself first and foremost a shot putter (well, maybe a reader, and then a shot putter, but reading voraciously was such an integral part of almost everybody around me that I considered it just part of what being human consisted in, and not something that set me apart). Because I developed Osgood-Schaltter syndrome (pain in the insertion of the patellar tendon) running was painful most of the times (and, to be honest, I was not that good at it), and being moderately big and burly putting the shot was a reasonably good fit for me, and I got acceptably proficient at it. Fron my early teens to my first year at Uni I trained it twice a week (basically lots of puts, plus some sprints here and there), lifted weights once or twice a week apart from that (just clean&jerk -w the awfulest technique you may have ever seen; bench press and squat -with no rack, so had to clean and press overhead the weight first; with an occasional snatch here and there), and competed almost every weekend when in season that lasted from spring to early summer, plus the odd contest in the winter months.

Because it is such a minority sport (kids that go to train athletics usually are lean, spry, and think of jumping & running, be it short distances insanely fast or long distances very fast, not the chubby kind that succesfully transfer most of their momentum to an iron ball or such similar implement) the competition was minimal, and I always did well, finishing most contests in podium positions and winning a couple medals in regional championships (both silver, one outdoor and one indoor). Not bad, definitely not outstanding and absolutely not national level.

Which was OK, as I realized soon I did not have the genetic endowement to shine (you need to be a real monster for that, once growth finishes well over 6 feet -I reached 6 by the nick of a dime- and above 240 pounds, when I never passed 190 then), and it never occured to me that consistent overeating and a much more systematic approach to weightlifting could have gotten me much closer to that "monsterness" that I thought possible (however, who that is not already wants to be fat & big as a teenager? I always prized myself of not caring about looks, or what others thought about my image -being an old fashioned rockabilly and all that, but may be excess bodyfat was just a beach too far). When I started my university career my puts had stalled for over a year (w a best put of 13m 41cm), I was becoming less and less competitive and I found rugby, so I stopped putting altogether when I was around 19 years old, and never ever putted again. In came an absorbing job, marriage, family, kids, as Zorba put it, "the full catastrophe"... some running (as Coach Rip puts it, LSD, "Long Slow Distance") once or twice a week not to completely crumble physically and the acceptance that my best days (fitness wise) were well behind me, such was the order of things and nothing could be done about it.

But when I was 36 I went to live to Mexico City, and the apartment we hired had a small gym with a few basic machines, a few treadmills... an a barbell w free weights. I started dabbling w the machines, as that is what I was familiar with (have had a few attempts at going to gyms in Madrid and Chicago, and "knew" that was the proper and safe and rational way to train), but the memories of grabbing a bar loaded with more than your own bodyweight and powerfully launching it overhead kept coming back every time I looked at the empty bar. Soon I was already using all the plates in the machines, and the heaviest dumbells in the rack (which probably weighted a paltry 20 kg or so), so I decided to give that poor, forgotten bar some use, and started searching in the Internet for some guidance on how to perform the basic exercises, and what kind of routines to use, and what I found blew my mind. There was a whole sport, called powerlifting, of whose existence I had previously not the slightest inkling, where people essentially my age lifted from the floor the equivalent in weight to a small car (and squatted and benched similarly ridiculous amounts). And there were lots of evidence that machines didn't do anything for you at all, but training with free weights had an almost miraculous effect (a little later, I found it nicely summarized -including the Zorba quote- in Dan Duane classic article for Men's Journal: Everything you know about fitness is a lie).

I've recounted elsewhere how in five years I went from a relative weakling dreaming of deadlifting what he once clean & jerked (100 kg) weighting at 94 kg with above 25% body fat to a robust guy who deadlifted more than twice his bodyweight, squatted 150 and bench pressed 110. 3 years later I was deadlifting 215, and clean & jerking 100 again (wheight was back to 92 kg, but this time  mostly functioning muscle that showed very apparently every time I went to the swimming pool or the beach). I got pretty absorbed in powerlifting and weightlifting, and thought that it was one of the most fulfilling things I had ever done (it still comes after being a good husband, good father and good son & brother), just for the fun of it. At that point I believed I had always enjoyed lifting, no need to do it for the sake of something else (like put the shot farther).

But then, a couple of months ago, I decided to try shot putting again... Almost as an accesory movement to help progression in the barbell lifts, as I wanted to get faster (mostly to be able to change direction after the 2nd pull in the Olympic lifts in less time, so I could end up moving under more weight), and that means using lighter weights, plyometric training (jumps, depth drops, depth jumps, etc.) and... throws. I asked my father to lend me his master's shot (only 6,25 kg vs. the 7,257 I would use in competition, and had used all my life, but you make do what you've got), went to the park in front of my home, drawed a circle 2,134 m in diameter in the floor (no toeboard, but again, you use what you have) and after minimal stretching I started putting again, 25 years after my last puts.

I'll be reporting in a following post how it went, and how it links with the evolution of my current training philosophy

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