by Raja the Red, retired adventurer
Every so often I ignore my better judgment and mingle with the common folk. I always end up regretting it, especially on the days when I happen to run into Enendir.
Enendir is a young elf who's gotten it into his head that he wants to be an adventurer. I admire his dedication, but the guy's about 5-foot-nothing and weighs less than my last big meal. I've seen rapiers thicker than his arms. I don't mind him too much when he's just tagging along beside me, just because I look so much bigger by comparison, but he's gotten it into his pointy-eared head that I'm his mentor, and has taken to asking me for sword training lessons.
Now, you've got to understand my hesitation at this prospect. There is no one you'd rather meet in a dark alleyway than Enendir. You'd need a calendar to clock his swings, and thats only after you helped him lift the sword off the ground. But I was in an uncharacteristically good mood that day, so I decided to humor the boy.
"So what makes you want to be a swordsman?"
His eyes lit up, and I was reminded why I don't interact with the forestfolk.
"Because it's what I was born to do! Father was a swordsman, the best in the realm! I could join the Elven Infantry and fight against the dark forces of Evil, or carve a path through the wilderness in search of fame and fortune! I could be the next Albel Lionheart, or ____. I could even be like you!"
Enendir stopped once he heard me laughing, but can you blame me? This pale-skinned grass whisperer wanted to be like me? As hilarious as that was, I had to admit it tickled my ego.
"Alright, enough. Listen here: I'll give you one free lesson, but it won't be today." I took a step back. "Stand still, let me get you squared off."
Enendir took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and puffed out his chest. "How do I look?" he said proudly.
"Like my first wife." I said. "Only she had bigger shoulders."
His pride collapsed like a dead slime. Sensing my mistake, I added quickly, "but with room for improvement."
Now he was listening.
"Yeah, room for improvement! You're going to help me with that, right?"
I was trapped.
"Sure thing, kid. but you'll need to bulk up a bit before sword training will do you any good." I reached into my backpack for a quill and some ink, but by the time I turned around he was sitting rapt in attention, pen in hand.
"Okay, here we go. Like I said, we're going to need to put some meat on those bones before you can start hacking goblins in twain. I'll give you a regimen that's guaranteed to make results before the next moon. The next time you find yourself with your back against a portcullis and no way out but by lifting it, you'll thank me.
So this course is going to be focused on the four major muscle groups: your chest, arms, back, and legs. It won't turn you into a Goliath, but it's a start. I want you to train three days a week -- not a day more -- for about an hour, with a day of rest in between. I know you don't sleep, so just meditate or contemplate flowers or something." He looked annoyed. "Er, you know what I mean. Make sure to let your body recover well.
As for the workout, itself, we're only doing five exercises: bent-over rows, deadlifts, squats, benchpress, and behind-the-neck presses. Thats all! Shouldn't take you more than an hour to do, and I'll even let you use my old weights. Yeah, its mostly buckets of sand lashed to old logs, but you don't need to get fancy yet. This is how you're going to do it:
1: Bent-over rows: stand with your hips bent at a 45 degree angle, and grip the log overhanded (palms facing down). Pull in towards your abdomen at the same time you puff your chest out, making sure to breathe deeply with each repetition. 3 sets of 15 should do nicely, then proceed to...
2: Stiff-legged dead lift: just as the name sounds, you want to keep your legs and lower back straight as you do this. Underhand grip (palms facing up) for 1 set of 15 repetitions. If you're doing it right, you should feel the burn in the back of your legs.
3: Squats: you ain't getting out of these. There's no better exercise for building the explosive power you need as an adventurer than squats. Hoist that big bar on your shoulders and dip down to where your thighs are just below parallel to the floor, then push back up with every ounce of strength you've got. Breathe deeply in between sets, filling your lungs with as much air as you can get. 2 sets of 20 should do nicely. Alternate your sets with some low-weight triceps pullovers in sets of 20 to give you that big chest that makes the damsels swoon.
4: Benchpress: my personal favorite. Look at these arms: thicker than a hydra's main neck. Make sure you're arching your back and bouncing that bar off your chest with each rep. 3 sets of 12.
5: Press-behind neck: a classic. don't let that thing settle across your shoulders, you want to bring it down and push back up with every ounce of strength in your body. You won't believe the amount of muscle you'll gain in your shoulders and upper back with this. This time, 2 sets of 12.
Now, because you're doing so few exercises, and because all of them are targeting your major muscle groups, you should be able to add more weight every day. Start off easy and add 5-10 lbs each new workout, and you'll be surprised where you end up in a few months."
Enendir had reached the end of his parchment, so I cracked open my canteen and took a deep swig of mountain dwarf brew. After a few more, I was ready to continue.
"Now like I said, you're going to want to rest as much as possible in between your workout days. As far as your diet goes, I know you treehuggers are all about leaves and berries, but that won't cut it here. You need meat, cheese, and as much milk as you can stomach. No, make it twice as much as you stomach. Baldwin's cows should be shaking in fear when you walk by. Do all this, and by the next moon, you'll be ready to train with me."
At this point my throat was dry again, and the barmaid standing outside the inn was giving me the come-hither look, so I sent the kid off with instructions to meet me in a month. Next time, dear reader, I'll tell you how it went for him.