Insights At Holbox!

This article is more personal to me, because I believe that bodybuilding, weight training is a holistic approach to life and since we cannot separate ourselves from our environment, it is important to know outside influences that have internal responses.
Every so often there is a need to get away from daily routine, a spontaneous decision that says "I'm out of here." Living in Cancun, only having 48 hours of free time, my girl and I decided that a 2 and a half hour drive to the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula, where there is a small isolated island, called Holbox. A friend of ours property manages a Palapa resort at the end of the island. There are only handful of resorts on the water and our friends were at the last resort on the beach. Nothing but beautiful beach, not another soul around.

Finding A Treasure ...

I'm still a kid, love to explore so off I went through all 8 cabanas or palapa huts, picked the best one out, found a rustic kitchen with left over gas, just hook it up and make some hot tea.

At the farthest corner, behind one of the Cabanas, I found a semi-rusted Dumbbell rack with 12 sets of dumbells ranging from 15 pounds to 85 pounds, and much to my surprise an Olympic 45-pounds straight bar and two 45-pound plates, WOW!

At Holbox, where I found the weights.

If your truly a lifter, this is a treasure, within seconds I had already formulated my early morning training session, even after 43 years of lifting, I still get butterflies anticipating the next workout. By now it was getting dark, really dark, time for candlelight, stars, moon and the ocean. Hot tea, cool breeze and life is good.

The First Workout ...

Popped up early, tropical crows screaming, waves a calling, 5 a.m. hot tea, and off to the beach for morning walk. As I'm walking along this beautiful beach, not a person insight, words of wisdom jump around in my head. I love to read, not fiction, mostly the old masterpieces and the sciences. A mixture of physics and spiritualism: From DNA TO GOD.

As I'm walking, I'm thinking;

    Movement is the touch stone of health, ancient man moved from dawn to dusk. We still have need for daily, extensive, variegated exercise. The un-extended body is the unlived in body, the unlived life. Achieving a level of fitness is mostly a matter of letting the body to enjoy itself, like now.

I'm picking up my pace, just a little, I can feel the extra oxygen to brain (does wonders for your memory), the early morning sun is friendly, then comes the urge, a 40-yard dash increasing heart rate, deeper and faster breathing, more oxygen, legs are pumping and arms are moving. You can feel all stress leaving, you slow down to a brisk walk and feel your lungs.

I feel that the cardiovascular system is inseparable from the pulmonary system, i.e. heart and blood vessels, lungs. Exercise is designed to give equal emphasis to both systems.

The heart and the lungs are inextricably bound constant interplay: one cannot function effectively without the other. The oxygen your circulating blood carries is obtained through the lungs. Your heart circulates the blood through your lungs each time it goes through the familiar two-phase cycle of pump-rest, pump-rest. When your heart contracts, it forces blood through miles of blood vessels (equivalent to 4 times around the earth), contraction is followed by a rest period, and during this rest your blood fills your heart with just the right amount.

During exercise more blood than usual comes into the heart, which is stretched more; it then contracts more vigorously and pumps out more blood than before.

This is the heart's intrinsic way of exercising its muscle. The straightest route to cardiovascular/ pulmonary health is to exercise for recreation and re-creation. Choose an exercise that gives you pleasure, basketball, swimming, any ball sport, whenever I meet people my age who glow and are happy, I usually learn they are runners. Running unravels the knots compounded by demanding work or heavy commitments. And it's such an ego-boosting means of defining your ability to set and carry out fitness programs while maintaining your childhood exuberance. No wonder running is the most addictive exercise of all.

My own program is based on interval training. Begin with a fine stretching warm-up with emphasis on your feet, legs and thighs. From the old basketball days, interval training means you walk so many yards and run so many yards. You also vary your breathing-deep draughts, short puffs, and perhaps breathing through pursed lips. Never grimace with pain, no need to suffer. Select your own speed and increase it only as your abilities increase.

We were built to move, lack of exercise has created the No. one killer, the pandemic of heart disease. Also the lack of activity in our nation has created a 60 percent obesity in our society. My prediction is that diabetes will go pandemic (global problem), exercise is always prescribed. And the same goes for chronic fatigue, sepsis and fibromyalgia, all very active around the world.

The viruses of today are more active than the humans, they also jump from animals to Man. There are also psychological benefits to running, I haven't met many dedicated runners on prozac, zolof or paxil. Start off easy, remember easy does it, does it easy, and fun and laughter is what we're after.

A nice 35-minute run on the beach, which included a cool down walk back to the resort, a little hungry now no dinner last night. My general policy is no meals after 8 p.m, you get used to going to bed a little hungry. No protruding belly at 55-years old because of the no eat after 8 p.m. policy.

The Next Day ...

It is now 6:15 a.m, Sun is still friendly, time to eat, only a little, just enough to give energy and substance.

Oatmeal; every morning since the age of 10-years old, oatmeal in the morning. In Canada I ate it to stay warm, moved to Hawaii thought I didn't need the oatmeal since it wasn't cold. 1973, at the Hilton Hawaiian village, I met Jack La Lane and Jack said he is eating oatmeal for over fifty years and will continue to do so.

I like Jack, got a lot of respect for him and his friend Chuck Amundson. Jack is now 89 can't help but love this man. Years later, (1991), I did some research on the benefits of raw food diet compared to a cooked food diet.

I learned to eat raw oatmeal, soaked in fresh pineapple, orange or apple juice. I would pour the dry oatmeal right out of the box, into a bowl leaving enough room for the juice. Let it sit and soak. At least an hour or so. I prepared mine, before I went on the run on the beach. At home, where there is refrigeration, I prepare it at night about 10 p.m. and let it sit there until 4:15 a.m. when I arise. I'm usually in the Gym by 5 a.m.

That reminds me, so many years and 90 percent of the time I would train early as possible, at my time YMCA opened 5:30 a.m. I always got maximum results.

The male testosterone is peaking between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m, remember when you were 20 years old what happened at that hour. Then the best time for training is early morning.

I was anticipating the work out on the beach, it's not often one finds weights, outdoors by the ocean. Equipment takes a beating, salt air eats it up. I cleaned up the bar and the two 45-pound plates and a couple of light dumbbells and a utility bench with an incline option.

At Holbox, looking out at the ocean.

I put the bench in the garden and started dumbbell flies superset with dumbbell triceps extensions. Nice and easy for 20 reps approximately 45-pound dumbells, more stretch than intensity on the flies and 10 reps of triceps extensions. Next set, 55-pound dumbbells for 10 reps coupled with 10 triceps extentions. Two more sets of the same flies and tris! If I feel good, I'll go another 4-or-5 sets. Then I move to, a flat bench for, chest press with 85-pound dumbbells. How great it is to exercise in the outdoors in the early morning. Usually what I do here with the heavy dumbbells (100 pounds or more) is a 5 reps by 5 sets, feeling good, as a cool breeze brushes by my wet face, where's my little towel?

At Holbox, putting the dumbbells to good use.

Enough, of the dumbells for now, my hands were itching for the big bar. I took the big bar to the beach and found some level ground near the water. The ocean was calm, the sun warm, not hot. Dragged two 45-pound plates, a little rusty, so what? Good enough!

As soon as I touch the Big bar (45 pounds), my hands stimulated hundreds of memories, and the bar softly said, welcome back. I was 14 years old , Central YMCA downtown Toronto, downstairs in the animal room. Constant smell of sweat, men of all ages and sizes, respectable dirt everywhere, no mirrors, no carpet, metal everywhere, smell of straps and belts, I knew this is where the modern gladiator lives.

There they were, I saw, in person "Whipper Billy" Watson and Dick "The Bulldog" Brower, two of Canada's (Ontario) best professional wrestlers. It was first time (for me), Dick benched 435 for 5 reps, for months I couldn't stop thinking of that 435 lbs. Did I know that 12 years later I would bench a little more?

I love the big bar; warm up with a variety of movements only using the bar. Remember it's still 45 pounds.

  • First close grip (thumbs grip), standing upright rows to under the chin for 20 reps. Each movement is 20 reps, at least try to work up to 20, you can always start with 10 reps.
  • Second movement, biceps curls taking the bar all the way to the top of the head, hairline or forehead.
  • Third is, reverse grip front curls, as if you were to do a military press same grip.
  • Fourth is military front press, keeping up the 20 reps for each movement.
  • Fifth, is behind the neck presses for 20 reps, keep your back straight and tighten up your quads and squeeze your butt to insure stability.
  • Sixth, keeping the bar behind the neck, shoulder stance, do 20 squats as low as is comfortable. There you have it, 20 multiply by 6 different movements equals 120, then multiply 45 pounds and that's your work load

Great warm up, give it a try. Another routine is to the the same above sequence, but instead of only using the bar, add plates, start with 10-pound plates and work your way to the 45-pound weight. Take your time it will be a lot of fun.

I then give myself a five minute rest, some water and slip on the 45-pound plates. Mentally get ready for power cleans, from a deadlift position, raising the weight, turning wrist bringing the bar up to shoulder height. Slowly back down, increasing speed as you raise the bar up. Slow down, fast up. Nice explosion on the bottom.

At Holbox, doing some power cleans on the beach.

I have been doing this exercise for over 30 years, if you have serious back pain or present injuries, this exercise is not for you. Weak back needs other forms of rehabilitation before you try this exercise.

The NFL uses this exercise to test and gauge strength, speed, explosive power, endurance (you will be breathing heavier after the 3rd set).

I personally stay with the 135lbs, the bar and two 45-pound plates. I start with 5 reps first set, 6 reps second set, 7 reps for third set, 8 reps for fourth set, etc, etc. I try to make it to 20 reps, by stalking from 5 reps to 20 reps. Hard work, even cardio gets worked out. Do the math, 200 reps, fun and laughter is what we're after. At 28-years old I would do the power cleans with 305 pounds.

Normally this exercise kills me, in air conditioned gyms with recycled air, when you get to doing 14 reps, you need a lot of oxygen, in some gyms I couldn't get sufficient oxygen and got dizzy, nauseous, and it's hard to stop once you're on the train, however passing out is the ignorance of arrogance.

On the beach with plenty of air, fresh and clean, extra rest between sets, what a pleasure to finish. Absolutely exhausted, probably didn't eat enough, ocean bathing, not even swimming, just laying in the water. Fresh air, salt water and sunlight, don't forget the cold beer, you deserve it.


Pure air is a source of energy indispensable for the human organism's higher vital activity. Man's roots are his lungs. There can be no breathing without movement and no movement without breathing; without movement there cannot be life. The ability to train by the ocean, is rare indeed, so when the opportunity arises, like when your on vacation, spontaneous training sessions are wonderful little surprises to the body which encourages growth and thickness.

Power movements, incorporate multi-muscle groups, creates an overall strength and size. As a kid, I used this formula for size and power used to go up to 305 pounds, now, I'm lucky if I can get excited enough to do 205 pounds.

As you get older, one has to downsize a little. Example myself: At 45-years old I noticed my strength decrease about 15 percent, so dropped my weight 10 percent, from 269-to-242. I noticed a slight drop in strength at 52-years old, dropped a little more. Now, at 235 pounds and 55-years old I can still play basketball with anyone. Who knows at sixty years old? I know, I'll still be lifting.

Bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, all this can be a lifetime of enjoyment. Astoundingly, most people ignore the principle that only your increasingly robust enjoyment of life-not a weight chart, not a gym routine or an improved pulse rate. You can teach yourself to like it, for those who are beginners.

What a day, so far, good training, rest of the day reading and relaxing. Recovery is equally important, but that's another conversation at another time.

I'm trying to give you, the readers, an actual lifestyle understanding, a peek into my life and mind. This story was inspired by a weekend in Holbox, Mexico, May 1st and 2nd, 2004.

Thank you for your patience, it's been fun.

P.S. A good practice comes from a good philosophy, desire is what is needed.