Long time no see, dear readers. I’ve been up to a few things in the time that we’ve not seen each other. I’ve been working out at the gym regularly for a few months, now. And I must say, I was surprised at how fast I got into good shape. I haven’t lost much weight – I’m still at 230 lbs – but I can do a few unassisted pullups, which is pretty rad given my weight. Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t been making some observations. You might think D’uh when you hear about some of these observations, but just admit it, you’ve taken these facts for granted and not wasted a single thought on the implications. Well they’re not wasted thoughts. Thinking is never a waste of time.
You might have noticed that you barely break a sweat with ‘easy’ excercises. It’s not the same as resting, because you are exerting a measure of force, expending energy. And after a while, the muscles at work will feel exhausted, and you will nary be able to move your muscle for a while. This is sub-equilibrium action. Your muscle itself (i.e. the mitochondria in your sarcoids) can do the entire breakdown operation from Glycogen to CO2 and H20 for ATP used in muscle contraction. You will produce a small amount of waste heat, for which minimal transpiration is sufficient – no formation of sweat beads. On your way up to equilibrium action, while your muscle could still support its own action, it is becoming more economical for your body to outsource energy production, as it is easier to transport large amounts of O2 to your heart and liver than to your extremities. What you’re beginning to experience is lactic acid buildup in your body, as your muscle shifts from aerobic to anaerobic mode. Of course, Oxygen still arrives at your muscle, so unless you hold your breath for a protracted period while working out (5-30 seconds, depending on your level of activity) your muscle will always retain a portion of aerobic activity. But as soon as anaerobism sets in, you will begin to form sweat beads. Your cardiovascular system is now doing two things: it is absorbing more oxygen from your environment via your lungs, and transporting a secondary energy source, lactic acid, through your body. Lactic acid has a way of upsetting your blood chemistry if it builds up too much. As an amphoter, it can absorb as many protons as it gives up, up to a certain concentration, but your body wants to break it down or bind it. Since your muscles are active beyond the point of self-sufficience, a buildup is hindered by glucagon, the antagonist of insulin, and is breaking down glycogen from your liver to supply your muscle with fresh glucose. The liver in turn uses lactic acid from your blood to power itself. The Brain and the Heart can also use lactic acid for power, and they are also (ideally) always perfectly oxygenated, though the Brain will likely steal a good portion of the blood glucose, because it’s a very greedy organ. Though you may not be able to keep up this semiaerobic activity indefinitely, you’ll get in some good exercise that works towards strength as well as endurance, but your process itself is becoming more inefficient concerning burned calories/mechanical work. My aerobic equilibrium weight for one-handed bicep curls is 8 kg, at which point an estimated 60% of nutritional energy used above resting operation is transformed into mechanical work. One bicep curl moves the 8 kg weight 60 cm from the resting to the top position, which means 78.5N*0.6m = 47.1J of work for 78.5J or 11.24 calories (physical calories; 1 nutritional calorie is 1000 physical calories). To burn a single nutritional calorie, I need to repeat this action over 40 times! Wait. Did he just say 40? According to my calculations, 1000/11.24 is almost 89! Good catch there, reader! When you’re doing ANYTHING with weights, you don’t just drop the weight in a free fall, but you ease it down gently. For most of the way while setting the weight down, you are counteracting the force of gravity, which means you have to exert a force over the way of the weight. No acceleration downward means equal force to gravity upward, and you are expending 11.24 calories both ways! So almost 45 repetitions it is. There is another equilibrium point approaching upward, the anaerobic equilibrium, after which your muscle can, under no circumstances, cover your expenditure of phospatised adenosin through carbohydrate breakdown. Your overall efficiency drops drastically on your way to that point, likely down to 15%. I currently reach this point with single-handed bicep curls at 24kg. The length of my arm is still 60 cm, so for the upward motion I work 24kg*9.81m/(s*s)*0.6m = 141.26J, but now I’m expending 941.76 Joules up and down each, or 449.5 physical calories for a cycle. Aside from using a hell of a lot of energy, and most of that going to waste, there is also a real chance of hurting yourself. Minor muscle injuries make the muscle grow. Major muscle injuries which can be the result of this high level training will throw you back by months, maybe even a year or two – I’ve seen it happen to other people at the gym. Also, gym training radically alters your metabolism. If you’re injured, or quit for any reason at all, your body will need time to adapt, and your protein anabolism will turn into fat anabolism, and your catabolisms will shift accordingly – in layman’s terms, your muscles will shrink and you’ll get fat. On a systemic level, there are strong parallels between physical and economical exertion. For everything that can’t be produced locally, from food to electricity, the economic loss in transportation increases exponentially with the rate of coverage fallout. With climate damage entering the factors that make up economic gradient, a finer meshed production network seems preferable over concentrating as much manufacturing as possible into a select group of countries and regions. Trade, travel and exchange are undoubtedly pillars of our progress as a human civilization, but without a habitable planet, and we are in the process of reducing the habitability of our home, there will be no human civilization to progress.