In order for muscles to grow, you must first tear the muscle tissue. This sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it. But it is true. It isn’t until one hour after you work-out, however, that your body begins to repair the damage you inflicted on it at the gym. This period can last for up to five hours. During this time period, called the anabolic phase, it is important to fuel your body.
“Regularly consuming small meals and snacks of carbohydrates and proteins every two to three hours during the growth phases will help you keep your glycogen, amino acid and nitrogen levels elevated. All of these nutrients contribute to positive protein synthesis.”
One other important factor in muscle development is to get adequate sleep. Doctors suggest up to eight hours of sleep a night is adequate for your body to recover and repair itself. So don’t skimp on the sleep!
Interestingly enough, this whole process of muscle building reminds me of one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes:
“Experience is by industry achieved,
And perfected by the swift course of time”
(Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona)
In other words, you can’t gain experience if you don’t put forth any effort. And only through passing through the trial can you become stronger.
This makes me think about life.
What does tearing muscle fiber and random Shakespeare quotes have to do with life anyway?!
Well, here goes.
Life generally moves along at two different paces: slow and full speed ahead. When life is in the slow-gear, we don’t pay much attention to whether or not we are growing. We subsist in a comfortable state of unawareness, enjoying ourselves and the pleasures of life. But when life hits the skids, it is just as shocking as if we hit a brick wall.
There are some brick walls that we can see coming, but there are many that just appear out of nowhere.
Let’s call these brick walls transitions. When a transition comes, it tears apart the fabric of our daily life. The pattern that we were used to is suddenly disrupted. It’s just like the tearing of muscle fiber at the gym.
This throws our life into chaos. Sometimes this chaos is of our own design–choosing to have a baby, or buying a dog. These are transitions that you can plan and prepare for, but can’t experience until they actually happen. Right?!
But what about other transitions, like the death of a parent? Or the loss of a job? Maybe even something as simple as finding out that your deep freeze was accidentally turned off.
The point is–chaos. It is real. And it happens to the best of us.
And just like pumping weights at the gym, we can feel the effects of a transition. Instead of having sore muscles, however, we might suffer from a sore heart, stress, confusion, depression, etc. And for a while, that is okay.
It really is just like weight lifting, Remember how muscles don’t actually start to repair themselves until about an hour after the actual weight lifting? And so it is with a transition. We are thrown into chaos and confusion is the result. For a while, we can’t figure out the tops or tails of life. Understanding that it is okay to feel grief or loss or pain is important, I believe, in the healing process. When you know it is okay to “feel” than you don’t try to fight against the natural efforts of our body to heal itself.
However, there is a point where we have to accept reality and begin to move forward. Just like Shakespeare reminds us, in order to gain the experience, we have to do the work. We have to provide ourselves with fuel to grow.
Or, in other words, we have to start making sense of the chaos.
Let’s toss out an example that is near and dear to my heart.
I will never forget the day when I was released from the hospital with a newborn. As we buckled our first son into the car in his carseat, I was struck with such an overwhelming feeling of fear.
What if we failed?!
Thinking about that first day now, I laugh. But then, the fear and chaos were very real. For the first three weeks of his life, he screamed non-stop. It was through a very frenzied round of trial-and error that we discovered that he was simply cold. Here we were, sweating to death in the middle of a Virginia summer heat-wave and the poor kid was cold!
The Bard was right, though, “experience through industry is achieved”! And over time, I have come to consider myself pretty good at turning chaos into organized matter as a mother. I have learned to create routines out of thin air, and a full-fledged meal out of even less. I somehow figured out how to put a kid to bed in no less than 15 minutes: from teeth brushed to stories read to songs sung to zonked out. (I consider that my bionic power!).
If we want our muscles to grow, we must provide them with fuel. In the case of surviving a transitional period, the fuel we must choose is action. In order to make sense of the chaos and create a new normal, we must act. We must become a creator.
TAKE A BREATHER
The one thing that surprised me about muscle growth was the prescription of sleep.
Sleeping is often associated with laziness, but in reality, sleep is an important factor in human growth. In the sleeping state, our bodies can repair and build up our immune, muscular, and skeletal systems. Not getting enough sleep can result in: shorter attention spans, crankiness, higher anxiety, and impaired memory. Over time, the lack of sufficient sleep can add up and create mental, emotional, and physical fatigue.
It would seem that allowing our bodies an adequate amount of rest is really doing ourselves a favor.
And I agree. I think that it is the same with transitional periods. While we are learning to organize our own chaos, we must allow for periods of hard work and for periods of relaxation. We cannot expect that things should and will quickly fall into place. In fact, we cannot expect that setbacks and failures will not occur. On the contrary! We must plan for them.
One doctor, when discussing sleep and muscle growth, even recommended eating a snack of cottage cheese and whey powder before bed because the body would need more fuel during the night for muscles to grow at their optimum.
See, even doctors know that there will be setbacks in growth.
And the second part of Shakespeare’s quote speaks to this as well:
“…and perfected by the swift course of time.”
So you see, perfection, or a new normal, can only come through the passage of time.
IN THE END…
In the end, we will wake up one morning and we won’t even notice our sore muscles or stiff back. We might even forget that we went to the gym a few days ago. But when we go to open that jar of pickles, or lift our 40 pound child, we will notice that that wasn’t as difficult as it used to be. Our muscles will have grown, and we will have become stronger.
It is the very same thing for our own life. We will wake up one morning and realize that the pain is gone, but the lesson will be learned. We might not ever forget that we went through a transitional period, but we will know that we came through it to the other side–stronger and more capable of doing it again.
When my husband and I buckled our third child into the car on the way home from the hospital, I thought about the old us, five long years ago. I probably even laughed a little bit. I looked at our new baby boy with love and adoration–this was a baby to simply enjoy. Sure, there was a little bit of fear there, but that was because I was a little unsure about how we would keep his two brothers from killing him once we walked through the door.
This time, I was stronger. I was stronger because of all the muscle growth that had occurred through creating order out of chaos with each new transition I went through as a mom. And looking back, while it was the hardest thing I had gone through (and still is), I had learned, through the swift course of time, how to make order out of chaos. And that is a skill–maybe even a superpower–that I wouldn’t dream of trading.
So if you, like the rest of us, are going through a transition, just remember this great advice from old Billy Shakespeare:
“Experience is by industry achieved,
And perfected by the swift course of time”.
You should be pumping iron in no time!
Jessica Clark is a wife, mom, writer, runner, knitter, and proud Canadian. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Anthropology, and has been a student of people and cultures ever since. Right now she is busy studying the behavior and cultures of the people of Texas.