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Weight Training - Bodybuilding - Nutrition - Motivation

The Runway is Clear for Takeoff
January 8, 2003

Well, wasn’t 2002 a lot of fun? I’m black and blue, and have a slight limp. My hair is falling out and the doc says the rash is due to nerves. Living on welfare is not doing my self-image any good, but it is keeping the beans on the table. At “group,” Becky, the community social worker, assured Laree that though loss of appetite and concurrent weight gain was unusual, things would probably normalize after she started sleeping again (“The dreams of monsters will subside with continued shock treatment,” she said) and stopped eating wallboard.

We who soar the underside of heaven are in good hands and I don’t know why we fret. Wars, terrorism, unemployment, national and local fraud, snipers, financial disarray, spiritual spoil and declining McDonald’s stock prices are only temporary setbacks, a series of inconveniences, minor slumps to test our good humor and hardy spirits. Hands on the throttle, Bombers; eyes on the horizons, roll her over and take her up.

You first.

As I prepare my newsletter, recall the year gone by, and in jest give it a “D” for goodness and smiles, I note that offered the choice, I prefer the tortuous, craggy and overgrown path to the clear and predictable way so many of us dream about and seek. Who wants to know exactly where one is going and exactly how one is going to get there? Furthermore, who is foolish enough to entertain thoughts so frivolous and impractical: a scientist, a storyteller, a seven-year-old? The best we can do is make a basic plan, seek wise counsel, visualize its execution (dream), hope for its achievement (pray) and put it in motion (jump off the cliff). The rest is what it is.

May I speak apologetically for all of us? (This’ll only take a sec.) In spite of our beauty, none of us is perfect. Life, though grand beyond words, is a struggle, often cruel. We gripe; we blame others, we rage and, eventually, we get over it. We then chuckle in embarrassment, recognizing the faults and guilt are often our own; we realize that by our own hands we set ourselves up for the misfortunes or misdeeds that befall us. Twice blessed, humility follows and understanding is our reward.

Our troubles are our troubles, it seems to me. Our troubles are often our fortunes. That’s the way I view 2002. Boy, did I learn a thing or two or ten by the good fortune of troubles that surrounded me in the cloud of dust gone by. There’s only one way, precipitous and unkind as it might appear, and that’s forward.

From our growing storehouse of knowledge, let’s decide what we need to do and do it, that is, jump off the cliff.

How many have lost excess body fat over the past year? Gleeful faces, hands up… great question, great answers. A hard working gym member informed me of a nationwide review taken last week to determine the top resolutions for 2003. The number one pledge of 45% of those interviewed was to lose weight. Upon the minds of 45 out of every 100 souls invited to participate in the poll was engraved the burning need and desire to lose weight. How many more souls are lost, don’t notice their fatness, don’t care or don’t say, and how many are under-muscled, out of shape and suffering poor health as a result?

I’m no mind reader, but I suspect the same folks, were they questioned further on the subject, would reveal their burning, yet un-enunciated wish to improve their health, strength, appearance, energy, physical abilities and general well-being -- let’s throw in esteem, attitude, character and personality as well, just to be sociable. Makes me dizzy; each and every quality touched upon in this brief paragraph is attainable through regular exercise and right eating one day at a time. The gold, the gemstones, life and breath are in us. We poison and neglect them, we let them rust and rot and grow rigid, disintegrate and die.

I’m encouraged, and only eight days into the year and 800 words into this week’s song, dance and riddle. Last week I mentioned our gym’s Winterize Special, the 6-week Get-in-shape offer to lure the interested, yet hesitant trainees -- the lost sheep at the fence line who know there’s more to life than wool and nibbling tufts of dry grass -- into the fold. About 40 folks joined and they are busy and intent and grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps that’s wincing -- nonetheless it’s a striking facial expression, indicating conviction and emotion.

I’m counting on them. They are our gym’s portion of the 45% haunted by declining health and physical condition, disappointment and guilt. It was the negative that dragged them into the gym and it’ll be the positive that keeps them there. The job of the iron and steel refuge is to stir in them the sunshine and warm breeze of exercise and right eating, create a comfortable atmosphere, exert sufficient pressure and, when the timing is right, crank up the heat and bring on the winds of change. Iron to the outsider is cold and heavy, lifeless and punishing. How can anyone develop a relationship with a pile of metal? I dare you say that in front of your car or pickup truck, Harley or Sport Utility Vehicle… break its heart.

Welcoming muscle and disposing of excess fat is not a resentful chore, but a grand project presenting rewards and interesting challenges to grasp and enjoy. You are in the making of a better and happier person, an improved, more vital self. Resistance with purpose and understanding is fun and lovable. The patterns of movement with barbells and dumbbells, the execution of exercise with natural feeling and form, the focus and peace of muscular concentration, the control and familiarity of pain that is strangely agreeable and knowable, the sense of function and power with each completed rep and set… do these describe a burden of misery, a sorrowful yoke? There is joy in the practice, sweetness in the application.

The first thing is to embellish upon the benefits of weight training (a very long list), it being the safest and most direct route to re-establishing and furthering well-being and goodness in every way, insisting it absolutely works. I convince them that the sweet combination of right eating and exercise is simple, in their control, and adorable. Of the important and effective priorities in one’s life, good nutrition and strenuous activity should be in the top five, not listed among such dubious pursuits as rearranging deck furniture or recalling the names of NFL players who scored touchdowns in the Superbowls.

There’s comfort in them thar barbells, love in those dumbbells and the rhythm of nature in the cables that go up and down. Can you hear the music in the clang and clatter of the steel, the symphonic deep breathing and groans of exertion? Can you feel the dance as you move from one exotic movement to the next? The body comes alive with heat and moisture, pump and burning, extension and contraction, panting and pursuit. On rare occasions, someone will sneak out the back door, as if escaping from a madhouse. They’ll be back.

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