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Weight Training - Bodybuilding - Nutrition - Motivation

Allow Not Life to Hang Limply Over the Bedpost
December 11, 2002

There’s life in that circle of iron; milk and honey in those bars of steel. The pulleys go round and round like a sweet melody and the cables are threads of gold, weaving rich cloth into a fine tapestry. A workout is the joyful union between man, performance and forces of gravity. Goals are realized within the embrace of time and meaning is clearest when one tries least to understand. “Why” and “how” lie somewhere in the doing and done and doing again.

Caring for the body, mind and soul is matchless, priceless and loving.

Eating to feed ourselves is a grand responsibility and a magnificent delight. A variety of foods give us energy; many provide material with which to build muscle, while other delicious foodstuffs fill us with all the goodness we could ask for to keep us healthy, balanced and whole. Good food nurtures, restores and develops our collective nature.

Of course, there are nasty yet pleasurable food-like items we are encouraged by deceptive marketeers to ingest that diminish and destroy. Why we succumb -- weaken, submit and fall -- needs to be known. Hint: has something to do with courage, awareness and discipline, and the lack thereof.

Sufficiency in all things is a divine rule of thumb and 99 out of a hundred disregard the instruction. They are exercise and nutrient-starved; blatant, obtuse and sad, but it doesn’t stop there. Their neglect and carelessness is pervasive, flooding their system and leaking into the systems around them. Their weakness deteriorates the whole. Societies limp.

I personally think it’s an outer space thing, you know, aliens, the pod people… probably an invasion from the nebulas of Orion or someplace. Totally scary.

Aren’t you thrilled you have inside intelligence, are not infected and have developed a strong immunity to insidious diseases? We, taking five to converse about such things as health, muscles, weight lifting and bodyfat are a distinct, special, commendable – and did I say rare? – breed. On the chart labeled “wise and good warriors,” the lines representing you and me go upward at a very impressive incline.

What is it about us that has us caring for ourselves, our health and strength and body shape, while the others watch tournament bowling from the couch? Why do we refuse to miss a workout or eat everything in sight? Because our self-image is bankrupt and we are paranoid, bound with guilt, masochistic, obsessed and fear rejection. Yeh, yeh, yeh… besides that?

Sum it up to say we have an uncompromising love for life and gratitude for its multiplicity and dimension. We want to enlarge it, extend it, fulfill it and nurture it. We enjoy experiencing life in motion, functioning and working as designed. It speaks of strength, might, limits, speed, acuity, deep breathing, high performance and challenge. Engage it vigorously, feed it well and finally let it rest, but never abuse it or allow it to hang limply over the bedpost. Your life is a keeper.

A man walked into the gym yesterday, middle-aged, overweight and a little out of breath. He works for Community Social Services up the street and a fellow employee suggested he visit the gym on his lunch hour. He casually reassured me he lifted weights when he was a kid, “but you know how it is.” He laughed, patted his belly and said all he needed to do was to move this from here to there, pointing to his chest. Oh, boy. Where have I heard that before? I smiled.

Rather than preach to the lost soul, I gently placed the good books, “Brother Iron” and “Your Body Revival” under the counter and said, “Let me show you something?” We walked onto the gym floor and over to the bench press. “Do me a favor and lay down on the bench,” I said. He did as I asked without hesitation and was quickly adjusting to the padded surface with old-time familiarity. I handed him the Olympic bar evenly and encouraged him to practice a few reps, “for the fun of it; I’ll watch you closely.”

By now he was serious and beaming, like a little kid about to go down a steep slope on his snowboard for the first time. The bar dipped, swayed and swooped for five reps as he searched for the groove and then… there it was. He knocked out a set of 12, sat up and with arms bent at his sides, threw his chest out while contracting his back muscles. Yeh! Youthful memories revisited, old habits revived. He stood, assessed the bar and loaded 25s on each side. Dead giveaway.

He joined the gym before going back to his cubicle and we talked about protein, next summer and getting strong. He admitted he’d put off his return to the iron and the muscle and might because he, like most everyone else, viewed them as things of one’s youth and of the past. He thought of getting in shape as a ponderous and time-consuming task, added labor to a burdensome daily schedule. Never did it occur to him that lifting weights could inspire youthfulness, be a fun and fulfilling diversion and so directly contribute to his well being.

In a sedentary job one loses touch with one’s physical being and functionality. Action is reduced to a minimum of perfunctory movements: sitting down, getting up, reaching, short walks, slight bends, minor twists, occasional climbing and, of course, sitting down once again. Our community social worker, no exception, needs and misses hard physical work, intense physical action and full physical function. The inactive man stews in his inactivity and grows soft and puffy; he’s become restless, listless and passive. He’s aged like an unopened, unread book on a shelf: musty, pointless and cracked at the seams from non-use. The situation calls for iron in motion.

Knowing very little but enough about our new muscle maker, come Friday I’m suggesting a short and solid routine immediately after work to start the healing, learning and developing process, most appealing, most effective. The long hours of urging good social practices among a dysfunctional community must call for venting, if not exploding. Like my grandmother used to say, “A small dose of medicine will do more good and go farther than the whole bottle in one gulp.”


My plan for Day 1 of the two-day program is to sit our earnest gentleman on the lifecycle for 10 dizzy minutes, show him the five-minute crunch and leg-raise act and steer him directly to the bench press of his daring younger years. I say superset from the start; why waste precious time? It’s standard bench presses and partial introductory deadlifts, back and forth, working toward 4 sets x 8-10 reps by his third week, continuing for a total of five weeks.

Practiced with light-to-moderate weight, this odd couple is a great conditioner and prep for the many seasons and changes and moves ahead: the motor-coordination of the pushing and pulling basics; the systemic contributions of large muscle involvement; the comprehensive blood flow for the health and capacity of the heart and lungs by major muscle movers and the sheer power building in the entire body, including the chronically weak areas of the lower back, hips and thigh biceps.

As long as his color holds out and he can count my fingers, we’ll move onto standing barbell curls creatively paired with machine dips, again seeking a firm 4 supersets of 8 to 10 reps by the fifth week of relentless pounding, or rather, intelligent performance. Nice combination for the arms, shoulders, chest and back, huh?


Day 2 is a shorter training period and time invested on the bike and in the midsection exercises can be extended according to devotion.

I’ll go with the usual extension, curl and calf routine done in single-set fashion until supersetting seems appropriate. Throughout all initial training, mild application is recommended, as structures are tested and prepared and rhythm and pace and groove become familiar quantities. The same scheme of sets as Day 1 can be followed on Day 2, while increasing the reps to 12.

Leg presses work safely and agreeably, yet aggressively, to build thigh strength, muscle hardness and shape. Soon enough the whole body will be ready for squats (by the end of the five week cycle). Then those round holes and square pegs at social services had better have their building blocks lined up and in order.

The two simple routines should be alternated regularly. For example:

Day 1, day off, Day 2, day off, Day 1, day off, Day 2, day off and so on … or

Day 1, Day 2, day off, Day 1, Day 2, two days off and so on …

Listen to me, listen to yourself, but don’t divert from the good plan. Put in your time, pay your dues, reach for intensity and trust in the one and only God you know. Lots of protein, sufficient nutrient-packed carbohydrates and the fats you need in thoughtful abundance will set you ablaze with lean sinew and might.

You can hurry but you won’t get there any faster. You can meditate, howl at the moon and chant in solitude, but whatever happens, happens as it happens. Never let go, never give in, press on with God’s speed.

The Bomber’s Creed… DD

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