Did you get the reference?  Old-school baseball fans will.  🙂

Normally, I would be in cruise control mode going into a prep phase in just under 2 weeks.  I would be training hard but holding back a little bit so that I don't screw something up and injure myself before prep starts.  Not this time.

I have this odd motivation this year that I didn't have last year and may not have had for a while.  I wanted to prep last year but wasn't overly excited about it.  This year is different.  I don't know if it is my new surroundings being here in southern Florida or knowing that I have put last year behind me and brighter things are on the horizon.  I am not sure but I like the feeling.  I might also just be excited that I can compete where no one knows me.

My legs are stronger than they have been in well over 5 years.  That is not to say that I am putting up poundages that anyone would be impressed with - but I am.  I know what I have been through with my back and I am incredibly excited to be able to really push my legs for the first time in YEARS.

I have no aches or pains right now or little pings that are concerning me.  That is not to say that this won't happen along the way during prep but at least right now I am feeling pretty damn good.

I also have little to no irritation in the gym right now like I had in Colorado.  In Colorado it would be busy in the gym even at the time I train every night (9pm to 11pm).  I would constantly have to change my plans for exercises due to someone using a piece of equipment or having a piece of equipment broken as that happened frequently.  There are only a handful of people in my new gym during the time I train so this has lessened my stress levels considerably and I just genuinely am enjoying the training.  Plus, Mrs. Skip is back in the gym with me and I much prefer training with her vs. by myself.

I am also coming into this prep arguably in better condition than last year - not that I was in "bad" condition starting my prep last year but I am just saying that I am in better shape now - smaller waist and slightly bigger legs.  And my tan is on point and that is incredibly important.  🙂

I am also focussing on my transverse abdominis during this prep and have actually already started a protocol that I feel might help the turtle-shell effect that I have been dealing with for a while now (as I have aged).  Let me elaborate:

As my back started to get worse over a handful of years ago, I also at the same time noticed more rounding out of my abs - especially lower abs.  I at first figured it was just weak abdominals but concluded that this wasn't the issue because my ab development is pretty good.  Though I thought it might be the TVA, I wasn't convinced that I could actually train the TVA to the point where it would help my situation.  I figured that the TVA was trained during ab exercises and that was about it.  

I know this sounds simple (and to some, silly) but I figured that it wouldn't hurt to start doing vacuums to see if this would help my situation.  I honestly thought it wouldn't do a damn thing but committed to it, anyway, just to eliminate it as an option.  I found out that I was dead wrong.  They worked very well.

It has only been about 3 weeks and I, oddly enough, do the vacuums when I am lying in the tanning bed.  I do this because I am doing nothing while lying there, anyway, and it is one less thing I have to do at the gym.  In only 3 weeks I have noticed some obvious changes:

1.  I have an easier time controlling my midsection during non-gym hours.  This means that just walking around or sitting in a chair, I keep my midsection tighter.  

2.  My midsection is tighter and more contracted more in my hips while doing leg and back exercises where my "core" is involved and this keeps my lower back more stable making it less vulnerable to an injury.

3.  My waist is smaller.  It isn't leaner but smaller in that it isn't as rounded out as it was before I started doing the vacuums.

I have also, in addition to starting the TVA work, only been doing 2 ab exercises in the gym.

1. Rope crunches


2. What I call "Skip Plank/Crunch"

View: IMG_0116

For this exercise you hold the crunched position for a 5 count and then lower the abdominal wall to the floor and back up.  This is 1 rep.

These 2 exercises not only never bother my lower back but they also "feel" the best in that I am directly hitting my abs hard as hell and during the Skip Planks, I am involving even more of the TVA.  When I started doing the Skip Planks I could only do roughly 2 or 3 reps and I am now up to sets of 10.  These are clearly increasing the strength of my abs and TVA and in turn providing the benefits that I listed above.

What impact will the TVA work have on my midsection come show time?  Hard telling.  However, even if there is minimal change in how my midsection looks, I know that the increase in strength and hip stability will decrease the likelihood that I will have another lower back injury.  This also equates to being able to use more weight for leg exercises and back exercises (rowing) so my legs and back will also benefit.

I want to remind you that it has only been 3 weeks so if I have seen this kind of change in only 3 weeks, I have high expectations for what will happen after doing this for 20 more weeks.