A bit about balance

I joked on Facebook yesterday that I have the shoulders of an 8 year old girl, but the legs of a mountain troll.  This sad admission came directly from the weight room and when I realized just how bad my upper/lower body strength imbalance was, I have to admit I was startled and disappointed.  Balance is one of my keywords for the year.  I don’t mean it as in “improving my balance so I don’t fall”, I mean as in physical (and mental) balance.

I have no scientific backup for this, only what I know to “feel” right for me.  I’m sure Zen Yoga masters could send me all kinds of info supporting this feeling and my muscle monkey buddies could send me likewise to support their side, but I believe that “I”, personally… as in… ME (not suggesting you… get it?), have gotten out of physical balance with my exercise plan.

When I got to Columbia, almost 7 years ago (good god… really?  …time does fly), I couldn’t run a mile.  I weight 240 pounds.  I was a mess.  But I vowed that since Columbia had so many opportunities for healthy lifestyle changes, I would take advantage of that and try to get my physical self back in order.  So I started running.  In the early days of a successful effort, I lost 40 pounds and went from zero miles to a marathon in just over a year.  I drank the Kool-Aid.  I was hooked.  However, the marathon broke me.  I was out for nearly all of 2008 with a stress fracture of the pelvis from running too much, too heavy.  This remains to this day an 800 pound gorilla in my life, just waiting to hurt me if I push too far, hence my bailout on marathons.  I know the only way to get rid of him is to be as light as possible.  I’m still working on that part…

But I digress… I met an excellent doctor who suggested the craziest thing.  Switch to triathlons.  DO WHAT?

Yup.  His reasoning was that the other two sports, being low impact, would take the pressure off my legs and pelvis.  Now, water, for me, was a threat.  The only thing it was good for, in my opinion, was keeping you from landing too hard on the rocks when you were drunk and fell out of the boat.  I was afraid of it.  He might as well have told me that if I wanted to learn to fly, the first step was to jump off a bridge.  But I thought about it (swimming… not jumping off a bridge) for a while and asked some people about it.  Before long I was swimming.  Once I got past the “controlled drowning” portion of learning to swim, I gained a grudging respect for it.  It took nearly 3 years to get comfortable and actually WANT to swim, but that’s where I’m at now.  But to get back to my original line of thinking, I’m not very good at it.  And I don’t know why.  However, the last two weeks in the weight room have given me some good ideas.

Granted, I need serious technique work.  My form sucks.  I get that.  However, my biggest problem seems to be… here it comes… ready?


As in, my legs sink really bad.  And yes, I’ve tried all the tricks and techniques to get up on plane in the water.  IF I do all of them at the same time and do them perfectly, it gets marginally better.  I have never felt my heels hit the surface while swimming.  That would be cool…

Now, back to the weight room.  Looking at my max lifts.  My upper body is weak.  Especially in comparison with my lower body.  I can leg press over 425 pounds, but I can’t do one chin up.  I can squat over 300 pounds, but my max for shoulder flies is 45 pounds.  My back is strong but I can’t do 50 sit ups at a time.  I could lift a Volkswagen with my calves but can’t do 20 push ups at a time.

See the problem?  NO BALANCE.  Why?  Because I have spent the last 7 years focusing on my lower body only.

I’m not interested in gaining a whole lot of mass in my upper body.  Goodness knows I have plenty of “mass” in other places.  But I do need strength.  I don’t ever expect to be able to lift equivalent amounts with my upper body to lower body.  That would mean I was bench pressing 250 pounds as a workout weight.  That’s ridiculous.  But I AM focusing on upper body and core.

Now… part two.  Strength is fine and yes, I’m working on it.  However, it’s not everything (sorry muscle monkey friends).  I am also horribly inflexible.  As I jokingly tell my son, it’s great to have a huge upper body IF you can still scratch your own ear.  I see too many people gain muscle mass without stretching and they get to a point where they need help putting on a jacket.  That’s imbalance.

SO…  I’m discovering a lot of imbalance in my life.  Not professionally… I love what I do.  Not family… my wife is the best and I’m really lucky.  Same with my kids (although I should spend more time with them).  No.  My imbalance is physical (and probably nutritional).  The good news is it’s the easiest one to fix… 🙂  Note I didn’t say it was easy… Just “easiest”.  And, yes, I understand that you can’t “strength” your way through the water so I will keep working on technique.  But it can’t hurt to shift some of my “mass” more forward in the water to help “balance” those troll legs… now can it?

And for the quote:

“Don’t be disappointed in the lack of results you get for the workout you didn’t do”


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