Since you can't really train around a lower back strain, it looks like I'll be taking it easy and hitting the reset button by eating pre-Halloween candy for a week or so. But it's not too much of a major loss -- after 8 weeks of medium sets (well, ostensibly medium -- when I plateau, my medium sets of 10 top out looking a lot like my heavy sets of 5), it was time to switch back to light sets of 20, anyway.
It does mean that I'll have to cut back on my eating. I'm at about 141 now, whereas my natural tendency is about 5-10 pounds lighter. (I enjoy the medium and heavy phases, since I get to eat more, even if it ends up mostly being granola bars, egg whites, and badly-prepared chicken -- as previously noted, I don't go the whole "brown rice, steamed vegetables, and chicken breast" route -- I could probably do a lot better if I was stricter about my diet, but I guess I just don't care that much.)
In terms of physique ("buffitude," not anything like functional strength), I'm probably at my all-time best right now. (You're going to have to trust me on this.) My bench press is over 200 pounds (machine weights, not free, but still), whereas previously I'd never been able to get past that.
Cardio-wise, though, I think I hit my peak my sophomore year of high school (JV soccer) -- since then, no matter how much I try (which, admittedly, hasn't been all that consistently), I don't manage to get any better, and in fact, probably keep getting worse.
Since I'll be on the sidelines for a week or so, popping Advil and blogging on my back, here are a few observations from the gym, which I think are fairly universal:
- When you first arrive at the gym, it will be wall-to-wall eye candy (featuring whatever gender you favor). When you emerge from the changing room, they will have been replaced by the "Seniors' Low Impact Yoga" class.
- Speaking of the locker room, here's an observation: Say the locker room is empty, save for you and two other people. Invariably, your lockers will be immediately adjacent to each other.
- At some point after my formative years, padlock manufacturers decided to give people color choices beyond the standard black. You will pick a color to reflect your personality and distinguish your lock from everybody else's. This color will be the exact same color that everyone else has chosen. It will be either bluish-purple, or purplish-blue.
- At my gym, I'm probably known as "Asian Guy Who Always Wears Kickball Shirts With the Sleeves Ripped Out." This puts me in the company of "Towel Chewer" and "Gracefully Aging Cheerleading Captain," along with more general archetypes "iPhone Yakker," "Inappropriately Loud Grunter," any number of "Desperate Housewives," and so forth.