Firm stuff.

Five AM on a Saturday…and I’m sitting in the massive “big-box” health club, on one of about TEN lat pull-down machines, desperately trying not to puke.

It’s a moment, and all I can think of is that I unraveled myself from my warm, willing, naked woman, rolled out of bed, and ventured out into a cold rain just to do this.

At this moment, I can’t imagine why.

Fortunately I tend to work out in a fasted state…blood sugar management, insulin levels, fat burning…it’s supposed to benefit all those things, depending on which school of nutrition/exercise you are paying attention to on that particular day. Today it helps with…well…NOT “tossing my cookies” all over the rubber coated floor and gleaming machines.

No, you shouldn’t work out when sick. Thing is…I’m not sick. I’m broken, and working on the repairs.

It’s a lot tougher than it looks.


I started the morning with 30 minutes of endurance cardio. High incline treadmill, at whatever pace required to get my heart-rate into the desired range. Today I’m shooting for a sustained 80% of my max. Maximum heart rate is an age-related definition of what’s advisable…basically 220 minus your age, and then the 80% of that…and maybe a little fudge “bump up” factor since…yanno…I’m not *cough* old or anything…so around 140 beats per minute or so is a good endurance workout for me. Hit the treadmill, crank it up…and once I hit the heart rate range, go for 30 minutes. Warm up and cool down don’t count for the time.

Fun, right?

I hate cardio actually…I find it boring, mundane, and the like…it’s a grind…but on the treadmill I can stick in the headphones, crank up the tunes, turn off my brain, and just rock it out. It’s a necessary evil…or required good…depending on how long I want to keep kicking up dirt in this world.

So far so good. Cardio done. 300+ calories burned. So much for a light warm up….

Now it’s time to get to work.

Usually this is when I’d go pick up heavy things and set them down again…over and over. More cardio…of a sort.

Strength training = moving iron.
Cardio = moving iron…faster. *That’s* the cardio I like.

But not today.

Today I’m going to stretch and bend and twirl my arm around in little circles and do other very “non-grunt-worthy” twiddly bits that would no doubt seem silly to any of the serious “on a mission” folks that show up at the gym at “O-stupid-thirty”…if they were worried about it. But that’s the cool thing about serious folks at the gym. They’re serious…and they expect whatever you’re doing…is serious to you too.

They don’t need to know why.

The faithful reader may remember I had surgery on my right shoulder in January for catastrophic injury to my rotator cuff muscles. Multiple full tears, retraction, atrophy, abrasions and the like. A four hour surgery and six months of PT got it to a usable state, so in August, we repaired the other one…which turned out to be in even worse condition. Five hours of surgery on that one.

I started PT on the left one last week…and of course, am continuing the exercises on the right one as well. On TOP of the scheduled therapy sessions, I spend at least an hour a day working the shoulders. I’ll be doing this for months…as in “double digits” of months.

It is painful. There’s a line…I have to continually explore to find…between “stressing it so it will grow stronger” pain and “tear something up” pain. It’s an edge…and though it moves around, I’ve become quite familiar with what it feels like.

I have a lot of endurance, and a high tolerance for pain…but the deliberate infliction of it upon myself makes me queasy, and eventually nauseous. There’s a hard limit to how far I can push that.

I touched that limit today.


First up, a rather long bout of mild stretching. I have to be quite careful with the left shoulder. Tendons were reattached to the bone in LOTS of places and I’m endeavoring to keep them there. I can be a little rougher on the right (which has had 8 months more to heal). Then several exercises on the right to stress specific muscles. I was perhaps 40 minutes in when I hit the lat pull-down machine.

Light weight, but high reps…it’s perfect for stretching the shoulders, particularly the newly surgified one) to their range of motion. The better arm can control the motion, and the lesser can “ride along” in the areas it doesn’t have any strength.

Thing is…all of it…every last exercise on the shoulders…is pushed right to the edge of the “good” pain. Every motion. Every rep.

It’s NOT intense…not in the way pulling hard weight is…so I tend to skip much rest between sets. The “light” work feels like I’m wasting my time in the gym, and in retrospect, I find that funny…since I’m far beyond caring what, if anything, any other gym goers at this unlikely hour would care about the weird stretching and odd use I’m making of the equipment.

But I still feel the lack of intensity. It’s required…if I tear these shoulders up now it’s unlikely a good repair will be possible, so I MUST do this AND “take it easy” for a while. I know this.

Still tastes like failure.

The final set of lats did it. Pushed me over the edge on the “queasy” threshold. I sat there, breathing hard, occasionally retching, white as a sheet, and recovered my composure. Those of you that have experienced this state probably know that my fondest wish at that moment was that something would just kill me and get it over with.

It would be another 5 minutes before the desire to live returned.

Yeah, it was a moment. And I’d left my woman’s arms to put myself through it.

This is when you figure out what you’re really made of…and you understand despite your doubts and failings, it’s pretty solid stuff.

Or stupid stuff. I mean, I did leave my warm and willing woman to be here…now.

So, you may have to pardon me the sudden and intense inclination to take the next person that lets me know how weak my character is…and break him or her in half.

I won’t, of course. I’m made of firmer stuff than that.

Or stupider…

I’ll see you on the road.

Daniel Meyer

You can read more about my fitness journey here.

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