This blog provides encouragement to people who are beginning training, returning to training, going through physical therapy, or recovering from injury. I'm not selling anything here, I just like giving, and getting, encouragement!

How to build bigger muscles

The first step to building bigger muscles is to admit that you want to build bigger muscles. This may sound simple, but for most people, it's not. Increasing lean mass, or building muscular size, isn't something that most people are comfortable talking about. Instead they talk about how much weight they want to lift, or use some vague term about "getting back in shape". So if you haven't wrapped your head around building bigger muscles, it's no use going to the gym, you're just going to waste your time, or probably just get hurt. But I think that I can help you.

The first thing you need to do is to measure yourself. You need a tape measure (the flexible kind that is used for sewing). And if you're squeamish about this, you have to get over it. Muscle building means increasing size, and so you have to look at what you have. Take your shirt off, and look at yourself, and measure it.

I like to call this a "taboo" subject. Most people are comfortable talking about how much weight they can lift, or how much they weigh, but it's taboo to talk about the circumference of your arms, or legs. And I understand. It's embarrassing. But you gotta get over it, because that's where you start.

To build muscular size, you're going to have to ask more of the muscle than it's accustomed to. And that's good news if you've never trained. It means that just about anything you do will build muscle. And remember that muscle sits under fat, so it can be happening without your being able to see it. So it's best to start off skinny, or lose your fat first before you start building muscle. That's only so you can see what's happening.

Seeing muscle grow on your body is a lot of fun. For me, the first time was in High School, when I discovered some strange "dents" along the top of my shoulders. I was so naive that I really didn't even know that it was muscle, I thought that maybe my bones were sticking out up there? Then in my late twenties, when I started doing squats, I could see and feel the muscles of my thighs grow. Girls commented on it. I had always had skinny legs, but doing a few squats made the muscles grow.

Now, in my fifties, I'm amazed to see so much muscle growth in my upper body. My chest is thicker than it's ever been, I have more muscle on my arms, and on my back. And I've started training legs, too, so they're showing more muscle.

I hope this helps. If you're Googling "Weight Lifting" or "getting in shape" because you're too embarrassed to Google "Muscle Building", you gotta get over it. Knowledge is power, and muscle.

Advantages, and disadvantages of a recumbent trike

Today is the second day I've had my trike, and I'm loving it. But, like everything else, it may or may not be for you.

I got mine because I have balance issues (vestibular difficulty if you want to Google it). I can ride a bicycle, but it's brutally hard for me, and I spend most of my time and energy just not falling. A three-wheeler just made sense for me, and I had never ever heard of recumbent trikes just a few days before I bought mine.

It's really just a glorified leg-powered wheelchair for me. I have no interest in taking it racing up the mountains of France, I just want to go over to the park. Mine will spend its life on my quiet neighborhood streets, where people will smile and wave to me.

Mine is just an ordinary one, but you can take it "off road", well, a little bit. It does fine on compacted gravel, and can even do grass, but it's tough (not recommended unless you have very strong legs). It's best, like anything with wheels, on a smooth surface like asphalt or concrete.

And you are REALLY, REALLY low. I mean like when you were a kid in a soapbox low. It's Ferrari low. I've owned a lot of sports cars in my day, and I like being low. So be sure to use the flag that comes with it, or if you're like me, you can swap it out (I like the American flag, although I may look for one from my Alma Mater, ASU).

To me, it feels more like riding a horse than anything else. If you've been on horseback, you know what I mean. It's virtually effortless, and you can stop under the pines. Actually, I think I was under pecan trees today. I'm going to look into getting some saddle bags for it (it has a rack in the back). I've also been riding with my baseball cap, because a brim is necessary for the sun. I've ordered a brim that fits on my bike helmet, so when I get that I'll use the helmet. You should always wear a helmet!

I love how stylish it looks. It's really just a glorified leg-powered wheelchair for me, but at least it doesn't look like that. As a disabled person I now understand why you see people in wheelchairs out in the street, where they really shouldn't be - it's wonderful just to get outside!

I also have a left side rear-view mirror on order, and it's an absolute must for this configuration. Of course, you still look over your left shoulder, but it's nice to be able to see through the back of your head (which is what a mirror is all about).

Make no mistake, a recumbent trike like this takes some muscle power. I will get a good workout for my quads, even at low speed. Even the slightest incline takes muscle power because you don't have your weight pushing down on the pedals, just muscle. I'm teaching myself to gear it down to 1 whenever I need to go up any grade, even a few degrees. And of course you push with the balls of your feet. If you have weak legs, or bad knees, I don't recommend this. If you're at that point you probably need a wheelchair, or a motorized scooter.

Why a recumbent trike is better than a bicycle

It's been many years since I've enjoyed being on a bicycle. A bicycle was my freedom when I was a kid, and even though I gave up childish things when I turned eighteen and got my first car, I returned to the joy of bicycling when I was 31 and got a mountain bike just for fun, mostly for riding along the canal (I live in Phoenix) and for a couple of years riding to work (which at the time was less than two miles away). I've always enjoyed the sense of being connected to the world, unlike being in a car, but not just dragging along, which is what walking feels like to me. Being on a bicycle makes me fly.

But there are a lot of challenges to being on a bicycle, one of which is simply balance, which for me became a challenge after traumatic brain damage many years ago. Balance is something we take for granted until we lose it. Yes, I can ride a bicycle, but it's brutally hard, and about 99% of my concentration is focused on not losing my balance. So I stopped doing it, for years and years.

Yesterday I got my recumbent trike, and rode it for the first time. This morning, at 5:30 am, I'm waiting for the sun to come up so I can ride some more. I haven't been this excited in years.

For me, of course, the biggest advantage to my recumbent trike to a bicycle is that it requires no balance. I fell off my bike a couple of times, and it hurts. And more than that, it hurt my feelings. I wanted to see the world, not struggle with balance and pain. And yesterday, as I sat in the recumbent, and pedaled around my neighborhood, I knew that I would be seeing the world differently.

From an exercise standpoint, a recumbent is similar to a leg press, using the major muscles of your legs, your quadriceps (thighs). I have a weak right ankle, that's easily jammed, so suddenly putting weight and pressure on it on a bike is terrible. That doesn't happen with a recumbent. I never need to put a foot down on the ground to stop. Your feet stay on the pedals. You can easily come to a full stop at a stop sign, with no worries about keeping the thing balanced. It has three wheels, it won't tip over when you stop, and like I say, you don't need to put your feet down on the ground.

I discovered yesterday that I should have gotten a mirror for the left side, so I have it on order. My head doesn't swivel around enough to give me enough visibility on the left for my comfort, so until I get that mirror I will be avoiding left-hand turns, or even moving to the left, as much as possible. In that way, the seating position is more like driving a car than riding a bike.

I was surprised to find that a recumbent trike feels kinda "squirrely". That's a term that sports car drivers use to describe a vehicle that's very responsive, and one that feels the road well. The lightest touch is required, or you get the feeling that it wants to zig-zag down the road. I'm keeping it at low speeds, but it can go much faster, and I'll wait until I get a better feel of the vehicle before I push it much. It doesn't lean like a bicycle or motorcycle on turns, but it feels better to shift your weight over in the direction of the turn, keeping your center of gravity in the center of the vehicle.

The sun will be up soon, and I'll be on the trike. Time for my morning Cheerios, and to put on some sunscreen. I'm really looking forward to the sunrise this morning!

Image at the top of this post: Terratrike Rover.