I subscribe to Cosgrove’s Blog – so I got the email this morning.  Since it is an Ad – I’m sure Cosgrove will not mind me sharing it.

Dear TNT Man,

The following is the intro chapter of our newest book “The New Rules of Lifting for Life”

I’m Not a Geezer. I’m You.

Almost every day I get an e-mail that starts like this: 

“I’m ____ years old, ___ feet, ___ inches tall, and I weigh ____ pounds. I’ve been working out ___ years, with a combination of ___ and ___, but recently, I haven’t been able to do ___ because of ____. Here’s why I’m writing . . .”

Unless Microsoft has a new template for letters to fitness-book authors, virtually everyone who writes to me for the first time feels compelled to begin with these details. The order changes, but the uniformity is uncanny. The simplest questions about how to interpret workout charts, or whether it’s okay to do one exercise instead of another, begin by telling me how old my correspondent is, along with his or her height, weight, and workout history.

I used to skim past the age/size/circumstances boilerplate so I could get right to the questions the reader wanted me to answer. Eventually, though, I realized I was misunderstanding my correspondents. Sure, they wanted answers to their specific questions, but there was a reason for the windup before the pitch. All of them, in one way or another, were asking me a different question entirely:

“I don’t look like everyone else in the gym. I’m older/heavier/gimpier. But I still want to work out. What should I do?”

In my early years as a workout-book author, when I was more invested in the binary thinking of the troglodyte wing of the fitness industry, I took offense at questions like this. What does age have to do with anything? After all, I was in my forties, and I did all the workouts in my books with great success. If you were overweight, it was your own damned fault for eating too much and not exercising enough. And individual circumstances? Come on! You either want it, or you don’t.

Then I turned fifty, and . . . well, I used the introduction to the previous book to describe in bloody detail the calamities that befell my suddenly middle-aged body. It’s the reason I wanted to write The New Rules of Lifting for Abs: I needed to do something different, so I experimented with a new workout template and experienced remarkable improvements. Then I discovered that my coauthor, Alwyn Cosgrove, was using a similar template with his clients. They were coming to him in worse physical condition than demographically indistinguishable clients had just a few years before, so he changed his system to spend more time on mobility, core training, and metabolic conditioning, with less time in the weight room.

We wrote a book for a new type of exerciser: a man or woman whose body is starting to break down, or who has developed one type of fitness (strength, for example) at the expense of everything else.

That said, we also wrote NROL for Abs with the idea that we were producing a book for a broad swath of fitness-conscious readers. If you’re serious about exercise in general and strength training in particular—and if you’re especially interested in developing a lean, strong, athletic physique, highlighted by a flat and muscular midsection—that’s the book for you.

Age? Size? Circumstances? Hey, none of us is getting younger, and we’re all actors in a unique movie of life. Rough economy, complicated relationships, weird times all around.

And yet, as I wrote the manuscript in late 2009 and early 2010, the e-mails kept coming in. The details were always different, but a common theme emerged: “After doing X for years, I finally realized I’m too old/too fat/too different for X. I need to do X-minus something, or X-plus something. But what?” Sometimes the circumstances described by the reader came on suddenly, like an injury or illness. But most often, it was a gradual and grudging acceptance of the reality of age or weight or singularity. As someone in his fifties, I realized I had more in common with these special-circumstances readers than I did with the undamaged ones I’ve traditionally addressed in my books.

I asked myself some tough questions. Where’s the book for someone who’s middle-aged? Where’s the book for someone who has a lot of weight to lose? Where’s the book for someone who’s not like all the other readers? Where’s the book for someone like me—or, perhaps more important, for someone like my coauthor?

The Fight of His Life

Las Vegas, summer 2005. I met up with Alwyn at a strength and conditioning conference, where he was a presenter. We had mostly finished work on The New Rules of Lifting, our first book together; it would come out in six months. A lot had happened to both of us since we started the book two years earlier. For one thing, Alwyn had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma, undergone chemotherapy, and come out with a clean bill of health. For another . . . well, next to cancer, the rest doesn’t really matter, does it?

Alwyn and I were having lunch with our friend Chris Shugart, an editor at T-nation.com, a popular bodybuilding site. It was the first time I’d seen Alwyn since his diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. He looked great, and felt so good that he told us he was thinking of fighting competitively again.

In his youth, Alwyn, a native of Scotland, had won seven national titles in tae kwon do, and was a two-time bronze medalist at the European championships, where he represented the UK. Despite the fact that he was a few years and one major illness removed from his peak as a martial artist, he was restless. He wanted a new challenge. “You have to remember,” he told Chris and me, “I was still winning when I retired.” At that moment, in his early thirties, Alwyn was 90 percent athlete and maybe 10 percent cancer survivor.

He never got a chance to resume his fighting career. Stage 4 cancer returned with a vengeance, and as Alwyn points out, there is no Stage 5. He checked into UCLA Medical Center on June 6, 2006 for a stem-cell transplant, an operation that completely dismantled his immune system and built a new one from scratch.

When he came out of the hospital, he was 100 percent cancer survivor. It took years to recover his strength and athleticism. He’s never fully regained his ability to perform long, difficult workouts, and now it takes more time to recover from one workout to the next. Combat-sport athletes are notorious for their ability to manipulate their own body weight, but cancer had taken that away. He could maintain a stable weight, but his body fiercely resisted any attempt to lower it. Every aspect of his athleticism, even his flexibility, was suddenly, dramatically different.

The athlete who was thinking about a return to competitive tae kwon do at thirty-three was a middle-aged man at thirty-four.

Sizable Concerns

So that’s where we start The New Rules of Lifting for Life: two longtime lifters who know what it’s like to be forced by age or circumstances to change their approach to training. I had the luxury of reaching midlife the old-fashioned way—by pretending my age didn’t matter until well past the point when it clearly did—while Alwyn got there overnight, courtesy of a deadly illness and a miracle of modern medicine. But we’re both there now, and our first goal with this book was to provide a training system for people like us.

But what about item #2? What do we have to offer those who want to lose weight? I’ll admit this right up front: I started NROL for Life with the idea that it would provide a useful guide to weight loss, in conjunction with the training program. After all, lots of readers of the first three NROL books told me they shed pounds while doing Alwyn’s workouts and following the nutrition and lifestyle advice. Alwyn and I, it seems, had found a solid middle ground: We could help people lose weight without making it the sole focus of our books. I wondered what would happen if we made it a bigger part of the package.

Alas, almost from the first day of research, I realized we couldn’t say anything with the prescriptive certainty you’re supposed to have when you write about weight loss. The math and physiology only appear simple if you refuse to acknowledge complexity. There are too many individual metabolic variations, and they’re too poorly understood. Then, when you look at weight loss from the behavioral side, you see an equally complex set of variables. Finally, good luck to anyone who tries to separate where physiology ends and behavior begins.

This would be really depressing except for one fact: People do manage to lose weight and keep it off. I know some of them, and I’ve probably corresponded with hundreds. Their secret? They figured out how they gained the weight, and did the opposite until they lost it. They can describe the process in simple terms, but it doesn’t take much digging to get below the surface and see an infinitely complex set of personal, familial, and circumstantial variables that they learned to master over time. Exercise is always part of it, of course—too little before, the right amount now. But the desire to work out, the knowledge to do it productively, and the self-discipline to do it consistently were part of a long, often frustrating struggle to change physiology and behavior. 

I don’t think a diet or training program produces weight loss, any more than a hammer produces a house. It’s the person. The best workout or nutrition plan in the world won’t work unless it’s used by someone who’s ready to reorganize his or her life around the goal of losing weight. Even then, it’s almost never simple or straightforward.

Intelligent Design

So if NROL for Life isn’t a weight-loss book, what is it? More than anything, what you have in your hands is a workout book for people who like to work out, who enjoy challenging themselves with new exercises, new routines, new ways to get results. It’s also a training program for men and women who want something they don’t yet have—less fat, bigger muscles, more strength, more energy, more confidence—and are willing to work hard to achieve it. Finally, it’s an exercise system for those who want to work out, but for various reasons don’t. Maybe you’re recovering from an injury or illness, and don’t know how to modify a workout to fit your circumstances. Maybe you haven’t found the right program, or don’t feel confident that you understand the mechanics of training. Alwyn and I can’t give you the motivation to show up and work hard, but we’ve done everything we can to pack NROL for Life with as much useful information and instruction as we could include without turning this into a multivolume encyclopedia.

About that information: 

If you’re looking for something so easy to understand that the entire thing can fit on a single page, this isn’t the program for you. Not only does it require hard work once you get to the gym, it demands some effort on the front end. We ask you to choose your own exercises, based on detailed instructions, and fit them into the template Alwyn provides. Nothing here is beyond the comprehension of an adult who wants to train and whose mind is open to new information. But there is a bit of a learning curve.

You may wonder why we bother. Why not just tell you what to do? That’s what we did in the first three NROL books. What’s so special about this one?

The book may or may not be special; we’ll have to wait for the reviews. But you are. From our earliest conversations about NROL for Life, Alwyn and I set out to create a product for readers who’re challenged, in some way, by their age, weight, or circumstances. We had two choices: Either we could imagine a composite of a challenged person, and have Alwyn design a program for that fictional reader, or we could assume that only individual readers truly understand what they can and can’t do.

Obviously, we chose the latter. Our choice requires you to read carefully and follow the steps to assemble your own workouts, based on Alwyn’s template. In return, you get a program that’s fully customized to your individual strengths, limitations, needs, and goals.

But what if you don’t have any limitations that require customized workouts? What if you simply need workouts that work? Even better. You now have the tools to create a program that moves as fast as you do. Get all you can out of an exercise, then move on to one that’s more challenging. You don’t have to wait for the next stage of the program.

This is how Alwyn designs programs for his clients at Results Fitness, the gym he owns with his wife, Rachel, in Santa Clarita, California. It’s the first time he’s opened up the playbook to show readers his methodology. You get more than a bunch of workouts. You learn how to customize any workout, or create your own from scratch. You learn, in short, how to be the trainer you’ve never had.

The Standard Disclaimers 

Every workout book has some version of this boilerplate on a page demarcated with a Roman numeral:

“Not intended as a substitute for a physician’s advice”

“See a doctor before starting a program of strenuous exercise”

“If you experience rapid weight loss or extreme muscle hypertrophy, be sure to give the authors credit”

This time around, the standard disclaimers are more than legal indemnification. Alwyn and I beg you to exercise genuine caution before launching into this program. If you haven’t worked out in a while, please get a checkup. If you’re seriously overweight, please talk to your doctor about the program before you begin. If you’re recovering from an injury or illness, please make sure you’re cleared for training.

We ask you this because we have no intention of treating you like a weakling or invalid. No matter your age, your weight, or your circumstances, we want you to train hard, and to enjoy the benefits of hard training. We want you to do everything you can without fear or limitation. You’ll customize the program to match your current abilities. But that’s just the starting point. We want you to put your current abilities so far in the rear-view mirror that you’ll forget you were ever in the shape you’re in now. We want you to be stronger, leaner, faster, and more athletic than you thought possible at this stage of your life. We just want to make sure you get there safely, with as few setbacks as possible.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about how we’re going to help you do this.

In Part One, I lay out the challenges as we currently understand them. Chapter 1 explains the goals of training while debunking some of the misconceptions common to men and women of a certain age.

Chapters 2, 3, and 4 look at what our bodies can and can’t do as we get older, how and where we’re most likely to get injured, and why it’s so ridiculously hard to manage our weight in middle age and beyond.

Part Two is the reason you bought this book. It has more exercise choices, information, and advice than any of the previous books in the NROL series. It explains every part of the program in full detail. 

Part Three tackles the challenges of weight loss, explaining how we got here, the mathematical and physiological impossibility of traditional weight-loss advice, and the importance and challenges of weight maintenance following a successful downsizing. We’ll wrap up with an easy-to-remember meal-planning system that can help you reduce calories without sacrificing nutritional necessities, along with some sample meals to put it into practice.

That’s what we offer in The New Rules of Lifting for Life. What we don’t offer, in this or any other NROL book, is a guarantee of specific results. We don’t know where you’re starting or how far you can go. All we know for certain is that we’ve given you the tools to get there, at your own speed, on your own terms.

It’s your movie of life. Are you ready to create a masterpiece?—

You can pick up your copy of the New Rules of Lifting for Life HERE


Check out our online store at http://www.alwyncosgrove.com/store


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Newhall, CA