What do you know now?

Learning from your own screwups is good.

Learning from other peoples’ screwups is better, because you maximize your knowledge pool, and avoid the inconvenience of being an idjit yourself.

Some years ago, the folks on the newsgroup misc.fitness.weights were asked the following question: What do you know now that you wished you’d known five or ten years ago? Here are their responses and ruminations about training and life in general.

1. Squats are good. 2. The high-carb, low-fat diet is evil. (Krista)

That I needed shoulder surgery. (Sgt. Robo)

That PeopleSoft, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. stocks were going to do what they did. I’d have a hell of a nice home gym now, and a bigger house to fit it in. (Erik Przekop)

One, Dell’s stock would indeed be worth more than the paper it was written on, and two, people fuck up. It’s the way humanity works, so don’t be disappointed in people if they show anything less than perfection. Other than that – no regrets. (Sandeep De)

Ten years ago, I was an awkward, nerdy, wanna-be-athletic fifteen year old. 1) I wish I’d known that accepting my body for what it is is a good first step, but it’s possible to feel *good* about it. 2) I wish I’d punched my first boyfriend on the nose when he said I was fat, too big, too small, too buff, too anything whatsoever. 3) I wish I hadn’t quit track & field because I was the slowest girl on the team. Number 3) has a lot of meaning for me in adulthood because I still have to remind myself that if I stick with things that I think I’m bad at, I will eventually persevere. Being competitive (with oneself or with others) and having drive should be a source of motivation, not self-abuse. (Viki Selca)

That overtraining is not something that only happens to professional athletes. I wasted a *lot* of time thinking that my plateaus can only be broken by training more and more often. (Timo)

1. I wish I would have known that people in the in gym really don’t give a fuck what weight you are lifting. 2. Diet/Nutrition are more important than lifting. 3. All out 100% intensity/focus is more important than the # of lbs. lifted. (Paul Isley)

Five years ago: 1) That I could work out in the MIT weight room for cheap and no one would hassle me and I’d *like* it – and I’d probably have gotten really lean, considering that I could participate in pig-outs with my hubby and not put on weight (although he did.)
2) That I would end up getting divorced in 1996, so buying a house in 1994 would turn out to be kind of a lame idea. Ten years ago: That I didn’t have to keep trying to make things work with the boyfriend who didn’t respect my feelings and was driving me crazy. Also, that the sex wasn’t all *that* great. (This guy didn’t end up being my hubby, btw.)(Terra Cholfin)

1. That you don’t diet according to soc.support.fat-acceptance methods (e.g. starving yourself, exercising for insane amounts).
2. That it doesn’t take a huge amount of work to do well in school, and you can have a good social life simultaneously.
3. There are more important things in life than money and yourself, respectively.
4. In almost all areas of your life, no matter how good you are, there will always be those who are on a par or even better with you … one must learn to accept this and simultaneously work hard enough to succeed. (Matt Staples)

1. You don’t have to workout 2 hours a day 5-6 days a week.
2. 5-6 meals a day is optimal.
3. Hot Stuff sux.
4. Weider is full of it. (Brent Lee)

1. Eat 5-6 meals a day.
2. Get my EFAs.
3. Lift heavy with a routine centered around squats, deadlifts, bench, rows, dips, chins.
4. The proper time for High GI carbs.
5. Protein and fat are not evil.
6. How to sing in key.
7. How to write songs.
(Watson [the pencil neck] Davis)

1. Don’t follow the routines you read in Muscle & Fitness.
2. You CAN make gains training each bodypart once per week.
3. You can’t diet and gain mass at the same time.
4. I wish I knew I’d have back problems, I would have taken steps to avoid it.
5. Don’t be so damned impatient! (Steve [SRF])

I wish I had known that you DON’T have to make the gym your second home for many hours every day just to see slow, barely noticeable results. (Jim [Opus])

I would have known to stop killing myself by being fat and eating potato chips by the bag. I would like to have known how much better it feels to be healthy than to be obese and sluggish. (Alicia Snow)

I wish I’d known: 1. That sex isn’t worth screwing up large parts of your life over. It’s OK and all, but not worth some of the things one does when younger.
2. That it’s easier to STAY lean than to GET lean. (Steve Gallagher)

10 years ago: I wish I knew what good beer was instead of drinking Bud and Tennet’s all the time when I was stationed in Scotland. 5 years ago: I wish I knew that a high carb/low fat diet was completely counterproductive because two years later I started putting on weight when I let myself go during my undergraduate days. (Jonney Grunnet)

That I should have paid attention to the way my parents turned out….and taken better care of myself sooner…..instead of off and on for 15 years made it a life long commitment. (Steven S.)

1. Stick with the basic, compound exercises. Set after set of “concentration” movements doesn’t really accomplish as much.
2. If progress is slow with lifting 3 days a week, 4 or 5 days a week doesn’t really make it that much faster. (MTL)

That the stock market would continue to go up, and up, and up. That in a flash all that I thought was important can mean nothing. That I have the inner strength to endure more than I would have imagined. (Tom “Bionic Weightlifter” Fortunato)

1. That I didn’t have to accept being fat.
2. That insulin controls more stuff in the body than I had thought previously.
3. That ECA was as effective for me in the fat loss department as Redux.
4. That female bodybuilders worked really hard to look as they did and even though my genetics predispose me to great muscularity, I wouldn’t look like Ms Olympia if I worked out with weights. (K in Cali)

1. That “what you weigh” DOESN’T MATTER in regards to looking good and being in shape (maybe then I would’ve worked on getting my then 125-pound body leaner rather than dieting stupidly,
slowly gaining 45 pounds, and *then* coming to this conclusion. Ironically, I look better now at 155 than I did at high school at 125).
2. That no one is actually thinking, “Whoa, look at that fat chick trying to run!” (or if they are, fuck ’em… they don’t dare say it out loud.)
3. Dating someone that you think “they’d be perfect if only…” is a bad, bad move.
4. Trust your gut feeling when applying for/deciding to accept jobs. (Cindy Alvarez)

As far as training… I wish I knew these rules: Keep your workouts under an hour; 3 exercises per body part. Between 3-5 sets per exercise. Be sure to do bench, squats, and pullups. Be sure NOT to do anything behind the neck or anything that puts stress on your shoulders. Ignore the guys who scream in the gym. Ignore the guys who lift massive weight with piss-poor form. Don’t ask the guy behind the counter for training advice. Cardio in the morning before breakfast to lose fat. To get abs, you have to lose fat, not do more sit-ups. Work every bodypart once a week (not every day!). Get used to working out alone. You won’t always have a training partner. As far as nutrition… Drink distilled water. Eat lots of egg whites and don’t eat the raw yolk. Bad bad bad. Get a good multivitamin. Don’t shop at GNC!!! Don’t ask the guy at GNC for supplement advice (unless it’s about steroids). Get a good whey protein powder. Drink lots and LOTS of water when taking creatine. Get enough sleep. Avoid olestra like the plague. (Duncan Meskill)

That good form really does matter. My lower back reminds me every morning now. (KEV5699)

1. Lifting weights leads to fitness far more surely than any other physical endeavor.
2. High carb diets are just ridiculous (Krista said this too, but I have discovered this on my own as well, so I offer it here)
3. When I think back on all the countless episodes in my life that pissed me off so bad or worried me so sick that I thought I’d never, ever forget them….I can only remember two or three of them. Why can’t I learn from that?
(Chris Cardone)

– You must eat to lose fat
– Fat is good
– It is possible for me to see my abs, if for only 3 days last summer
– 20 rep front squats ROOL… and they make me DROOL
– Lift weights for me, be myself for the ladies
– Sometimes you just need to quit trying so hard
– A LOT of people are on anabolic steroids
– I didn’t have to be a fat ass for my entire life, however I do still have to be an ugly motherfscker
– You donut have to do cardio to lose fat (thank freaking god)
– Don’t worry about everyone around you
Oh yeah, one I learned today:
– DONUT EVER, under any circumstances, no matter how low on food reserves you may be, eat an entire can of pork and beans for breakfast.
(Kevin Haggerty)

Weight lifting is an evil addictive hobby leading to body growth and a complete change of lifestyle. On a more serious note- everything is relative so just learn to compare yourself to your own history and goals…nobody else’s. If you learned you had just 5 years to live and had to change your life to do the things you wanted then you are not living, but existing though your life. The little things are what count- the seemingly big stuff means shit.

WRT weight lifting: One does not need to look strong in order to be strong. In retrospect I cannot believe how truly weak and pathetic my body was before I started weight training.
The common misconception that weight training is for dumb people is *so* untrue. No- I don’t listen to my own advice most of the time. 🙂
Benefits I have gained from training:
1) I find it *much* easier to carry grocery packages these days
2) My back problem is no longer
3) My posture has improved
4) I’m mentally healthier and more even tempered since I have a place to
release any stress
5) Moving furniture is no big deal
6) Not only can I eat more – I SHOULD and it’s good for me.
7) FAT is not evil and it’s very essential. I’m actually paying money for quality FAT.
8) So-called medical experts and nutrition experts cater only to couch potatoes and are to be ignored at all costs.
9) Proper physical form and mental focus is a common theme which works for many things…martial arts being just one example.
10) What could be more elemental than learning the basics of body mechanics and proper leverage?
(Dean Harris)

1. People make things too complicated. The longer I’ve trained the simpler it gets.
2. Women like men with muscles.
3. So do men.
4. Protein rules.
5. The strongest guys in the gym, are normally the biggest.
6. It’s never fast enough.
7. Training abs makes negligible difference to definition.
(George Whyte)

1. That most people can’t help it after all that they are stupid; therefore, they are more tolerable (genotype vs. phenotype) (thank you, EO Wilson :),
2. That it is fun to lift more weight than many of the men in the gym,
3. That there is still a today after today,
4. That chocolate muffins have a soul. (see upcoming article in Annals of Improbable Research, “Molecular Biology of the Chocolate Muffin: A Review”), and
5. Reality is merely a figment of our imagination.
(Elzi Volk)

We (well, actually, I) tend to forget just how out of shape John Q Public Couch Potato is. Weights indeed may be the quickest means to some sort of fitness. How many JQPCP’s
are going to swim even 5 miles a week? What have I learned?

1. I am (or can be) athletic. I’m not a complete klutz.
2. Circuit training is idiotic.
3. Deadlifts rule.
4. Correct squat form.
5. Speaking of 4, an important thing in weightlifting is form, form form form and form.
6. Nutrition is 99%, mental is 99%.
(Tom Morley)

1. I am not indestructible.
2. Build good nutrition habits early, so you do not have to fight to develop them when you start to slow down.
3. I am not indestructible.
(Eric Midkiff)

1) Fat is our friend, carbs are our enemy
2) Lifting is not just work, but can actually be fun. Make it so.
3) Lifting *IS* 90+% mental. Attitude & Focus is *EVERYTHING*
4) A regular routine and schedule for your lifting is very important.
5) Don’t worry about what other people can lift. Lift for yourself.
(Kevin Clements)

I’ve been training less that two years, so forget the five or ten year thing! In no particular order, and with no deep meaningful insights…
There is no absolutely essential lift. If you can’t do a lift safely and without pain, forget it and do a different lift. It’s taken me a while to accept this.
Not all protein powder tastes like skunk discharge.
Don’t try to work through an injury.
Always carry a decent deodorant in your gym bag.
Don’t take all the advice you’re given. Some of it may be complete nonsense. Learn to discriminate.
Don’t be afraid to look like an idiot in the gym, if you’re trying something different or unconventional. Really, no-one else gives a shit.
If you need help, ask for it. If you can help, do it.
Never arm-wrestle a Rwandan mountain gorilla. This is just an instinctive thing with me.
(Stephen Mulholland)

The first 10 things that I can think of that I’ve learned:
1. Don’t try to step up onto the deadlift platform with a bar loaded with 2 plates a side unless you’re very strong and have great balance.
2. I’m not very strong and my balance ain’t so great, either.
3. You can rip the butt out of really loose shorts when doing heavy squats… but go ahead and finish your set.
4. If you continue to get really, really sore on a routine that you’ve been doing for a few weeks, you might be overtraining.
5. If you’re hungry, you’re not eating enough… even if you’re trying to lose weight. IOW, hunger is not a good indication of dieting success.
6. Every freakin exercise hits my shoulders so they don’t need a lot of direct work.
7. 20-30% fat in your diet is low fat.
8. My wife Audrey roolz.
9. For the most part, machines suck.
10. The form of any exercise can be improved simply by keeping your
lordotic arch.
(Watson Davis)

Specific to weightlifting and its accessories.
#1 has got to be:
Lifting free and heavy is fun, challenging, and enjoyable. [I was always so sure I would hate it, I put it off forever. Then when I finally tried it, it was like instant second addiction (it could never supplant soccer in my affections, heretic that I am).]
#2: You are not a better woman just because you are hungry and didn’t eat. [I was dismayed to discover I had unconsciously developed a totally warped relationship with food and recently had to
unlearn my bad non-eating habits.]
#3: Water Water Water [It does a body good, in so many ways.]
#4: Athletes are not ‘average’ and as such should learn to view skeptically government recommendations that really apply to average couch potatoes, such as how to exercise, eat, sleep, and take vitamins. The follow on to this is: The professionals earning their living in sports are not the only ‘athletes’ in this world. If you want to perform like an
athlete, you must train like an athelete, you must eat like an athlete, you must BECOME an athlete, even if it’s only in your own mind. [Still learning to consider myself an athlete.]