Mr. Universe Dave Draper
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Weight Training - Bodybuilding - Nutrition - Motivation

Time—the ripe fruit of barren trees

Mid-March is a blank page, or, if words are written, nothing is said; it's a time between forgetting and nothing to remember, and a place with no cross streets or sidewalks or inhabitants or thoughts; somewhere, sometime not yet on the map, not on the calendar. Everything's behind you and everything's ahead, but what is in mid-March? Coffee and donuts and plans stuck in your belly, white beneath the sweatshirt (or is that light gray, like the sky), and the skin is sooo thick. The snow's melting and the summer is ahead, but who can be sure... it came last year, but that was last year.

Oh, well, grab my gym bag and aim for the gym. When I've got the blues and it's all a muzzy smear, I can always count on the gym. When I don't know where to put my feet, I turn my body toward the iron and lean forward... the feet will follow. The joint may be empty (dream on) but the company will be superior—barbells, dumbbells, cables and the bums, the best bums in town or on the planet, even. There's my corner in the middle of the floor, got my straps and belt and water bottle. A good group is grazing among the steel and pulleys and racks, the music is on the horizons like distant thunder and no one will get underfoot or over-anxious. The force of gravity, the pain in the shoulders, the oxygen racing to the working muscles, the rhythm of breathing, labored breathing, and the release and relief have their attention.

No religion, no cult, no worship this devoted activity: just a hundred other things of great worth essential to the spirit—body and mind and emotions for that matter. No church, no tabernacle and not a synagogue or mosque, just a gym, though there are a dozen or 20 who might persuade me that it's much more than that: home away from home, refuge, clinic, classroom, workshop, sanctuary in a bombarded world, safety net, pit stop and such. Bums are smart.

I call them bums with affection and admiration. They've taken time out to care for themselves so that they might care for life around them.

How does one make it through the world today without contributing selflessly to his own well-being? I guess self-respect and responsibility are lost commodities in the racing global market place. I see those assets in abundance in a good gym. Selfishness, on the other hand, is doing a booming business out on the streets.

I admit I'm selfish and stingy and greedy, and it's becoming more and more evident in my workouts—and my eating and resting, too, but first I'll talk about my workouts. How to get the most from what I'm doing, how to enjoy it more and how to save the body from recklessness are the themes of my latest training schemes— shamefully self-centered and truly egomaniacal. Let me ramble for the remainder of our visit and I'll fill you in on the fundamentals.

First, my aerobics are done apart from my gym floor workouts, three to four times a week in 15 to 20-minute splashes. I consider seriously that a lot of heart and lung work is accomplished during even-paced, hard-work lifting where supersets comprise 80 percent of the training plan; sets and reps are pushed and range from six to 15 per set.

I don't hustle as much as I used to 'cuz I'm older and wiser (ha), and form and concentration have gained a superior position to speed. With age, use and abuse, my "groove" in various exercises has become quite specific, flexibility defined and warming up purposeful. These conditions are in no way a hindrance as I at first regarded them. They are instructive, demanding and promote mastery of concentration. Pain has a way of gaining one's attention and bringing about humble submission and gratitude. I'm no masochist and I abhor perversion, but pain, sweet pain, serves us well.

I love to handle heavy weight where and when I can, providing it plays a productive role in my training and is not a seductive lure down a broken trail of arrogance. Wisely placed and timed and prepared, heavy workouts where one-rep max lifts are sought and realized are winners, muscle-builders and moment-makers. But they can beat you up if you're not lookin'. Remember, respect and responsibility. Injuries are a mean instructor.

There are some days that we need to cruise. The gym, the workout, the people, a slug of water between sets, wrapping and unwrapping and the action of the busy bodies around us displaying a wide variety of idiosyncrasies need to be observed, attended to and categorized. They need to be appreciated. Some of the deepest and most meaningful conversations are said in a glance, encouragement comes in nods and body language and friendships for life are established with shy, spirited one-liners. Men and women, girls and guys walk into the gym and solve the problems of the day while adjusting a bench or counting out reps for a partner. Yeah, I know—some people in some gyms cruise in and out all day, and in and out of your way. I tend to lose my composure and glare like a mean child.

However... However, I dare not lose my pace. He who loses his pace loses his peace. Same goes for girls and women. Losing pace is a sign of carelessness, loss of control, waning interest, fatigue and allowing distractions to interrupt your workout. You lose pace, you lose steam, momentum, flow, focus and fulfillment. The muscles lose their pump or fail to realize the pump and burn significant to a strong, high-performance training session.

Minus the above features, you haven't done your best... acceptable, but not your best. How do you sleep at night? When I note that my pace has faltered, I try to regain it by rushing around anxiously and obnoxiously. I hate that. Everybody hates that. My form deteriorates; I tweak my wrist and the elbow starts to throb. Again, I'm glaring like that dumb child.

Well, I've yet to make a point and the director of the show tells me we're out of time. If it's okay with you, I'll continue next week where and when I shall try to be sensible.

Until then, practice your take offs and landings, and easy on the sky... Dave

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