Last fall my knee was giving me grief whenever I went for a run, and when I asked my doctor about it he pressed, pushed and prodded my leg into different angles, suggesting that I muscle up a bit to alleviate the grinding kneecap. So I started the way anyone sets about doing things today, by checking what imaginary people on the Internet recommended. Metafilter has recurring threads on excercise and browsing through them one finds some regimes popping up more often than others. One of those is Starting Strength, a program devised by Mark Rippletoe.
The allure of the program is it’s simplicity — you do five barbell exercises over and over, and if you managed to lift the weights last time you increase them this time. It’s a beginners program, keeping the number of repetitions on heavy weights high so that you’re less likely to injure yourself. Also, it’s a comfort for me to give up the “ambition” part of excercising to a spreadsheet: You lift some stuff in a particular order and check the corresponding box if you succeed of fail, and you repeat this three times a week.
I’ve become such a cautious person lately that in addition to reading the book and lurking on forums, I wanted to start working out somewhere where people might stop me if I’m doing something horribly wrong. I found a club called Göteborgs Kraftssportsklubb (GKK) nearby and after a visit I started showing up at their prearranged hours; getting the hang of how not to cripple myself; difference is between barbells; this end toward enemy.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but GKK is a powerlifting club and I’m an odd duck out as a member cause the SS program is a mongrel of techniques — it’s not geared towards any particular sport but intended to make weak people less weak. So while most others in the club are focusing on powerlifting — squat, bench, deadlift — I’m doing powercleans and presses half the time. This hasn’t helped my assimilation into the group, but looking over my track record of “fitting in,” I’m doing OK.
As always, some people are convivial and welcoming while others seem annoyed at the intrusion, greeting me only by mistake. Mind, I’m not the only one, and there’s plenty of mute male bonding going on — adhesion by way of sweat and spotting each other — and I guess it takes a year or so before one’s enough of a fixture in the gym to hang anything worthwhile on.
One side-effect of training with GKK is that I’m no longer self-conscious about making noises; Sara has a video of me grunting unceremoniously, and I bark and wheeze at the slightest pretext. The main effect though, is that I can lift slightly heavier things than before. And I’m also more injured than previously, with pulled muscles and a busted rotary cuff and other such annoyances keeping me company. Judging from everyone else injury is part of the process and not something one can completely avoid, so best treat it as the occasional speedbump and adhere to rehab exercises.
Last weekend I tagged along to the Swedish championships in powerlifting as a photographer. 30 or so sports organized their championships during one week in Halmstad; there were gymnastics, badminton, and apparently castling is a sport now. Three days and as many thousand photos later I’m back home; it was fun but exhausting — except ten minutes of roller derby I only saw powerlifting. We had three lifters participating from GKK, one of which set a Swedish record and won her weight-class, which was exciting all round. I still need to do a final selection, but there’s a bunch of images up on Facebook if you follow these links: Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Every sport has it’s idiosyncrasies which get cemented over time; In the case of powerlifting it’s a compulsion for playing loud metal between lifts; MegaDeth, Manowar, whatshisface and angry druid. They keep having to turn the music down for the judges instructions, but most of the time it’s grinding guitars and someone shouting about war or hate or killing demons. I get that in a sport that is about lifting heavy things for a very short time there’s a proclivity for using powerful imagery, but after three days it gets a bit old.
Also, in a different setting you’d be forgiven to confuse some of the participants and trainers for rightwing bruisers, but without knowing anything about anyone I’ll give people the benefit of a doubt and guess that the Norse motifs are there to inspire strength rather than viking-based patriotism. The participants were predominantly whitish, but there were prominent exceptions and I didn’t hear any slurs regarding them — so perhaps I’m reacting preemptively and as a photographer judge people by their skin and projection.
At the moment, I’ve been to Slottskogsvallen 45 times, and gone from deadlifting zilch to 3×120kg, and feel that I’m getting the hang on the exercises — although I’m nowhere near techinical proficiency in any of them. I’ll give it a while longer before I start changing the program around too much, but will try to keep to something simple with checkboxes. Things only exists if you’re able to tick them off a todo-list, after all. For example, this here post being the “confess to grunting in public” post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Check.