January 15, 2003
your training in a holding pattern, as you slug out another week
under the gray skies of winter? The skies don’t have to be
gray necessarily. There’s an attitude about January that gives
one the feeling of impermanence or transition, an undefined time
when forward and backward become confused, a month where loose ends
are tied up and preparations are planned – for what we are
not entirely certain. Bulk up? Ugh! Get ripped? Yikes! Build power?
Oomph! Maintain? Blah! Tighten the butt, strengthen the lower back,
peak the biceps, learn to squat… what do I do, where do I
go, and why?
for the sweet fragrance of contentment. Life is good. We have choices.
We’re in control. We can stand at an elevated place, point
in the direction of our goal and continue our gallant journey. There,
that sunlit slope beyond the rocky plateau, a fine location within
the distance of my legs. I’ll keep the pace, throw in a skip
and a jump and be there before I know it. What’s the rush,
after all, I can play along the way. Obstacles are only players
on the field to outwit and out-stride and out-maneuver as I move
toward the goal.
tyranny of frustration is brutal and ever-present. The winds of
doubt often blow us about. Injury, illness and bad habits crawl
up our pants leg. With squinting eyes a vague spot somewhere on
the other side of the misty glade is considered and reconsidered.
Looks close, but so does the moon on some autumn nights. Can’t
stay here with sloping shoulders and an unlovable paunch, though
I have thus far lost 22 pounds of excess cargo. What if I get lost
or meet a hungry bear or slip or slide? Try and fail, try and fail…
and fail is the manner of losers; try and learn is the way of the
feel like a relic as I walk onto the gym floor. It’s wet outside,
daylight has faded to a foggy gray-black and it’s not yet
5 o’clock. A threadbare song by Smashing Pumpkins is wheezing
in the background making the weights look bigger, harder, colder
and heavier than ever before. Second Tuesday of the year and few
people are inspired to gnaw on the iron, tug on the cables and send
voluntary nerve signals through the central nervous system to contract
and extend their muscles. The equipment is still and unmanned. How
tiresome, how inane. I’m hungry… no I’m not. My
body aches… no it doesn’t. I’m sleepy… I’m
look for a corner and pull up a bench. My prolific gear, the straps
and belts that hold me together, falls to the floor with a thud
and jangles. The water bottle is uncapped, upended and I guzzle
for strength, courage and purpose… here and now. Overly ambitious,
the cold and wet liquid escapes my mouth and washes down my face
and the front of my T-shirt. Go ahead, ya mutt; wipe your mouth
with the back of your hand like a slob. Instinctively, I do.
feel old and catch myself slouching. This will not do. I have an
image, as we all do, before myself and others and immediately reset
my posture and gracefully undo all the evidence of a sorry old man:
sort out the tools of my sport, take another pull on the H2O –
this time with vigor and purpose -- throw back my shoulders and
thoughtfully rub rosin on hands as if eager to lift.
bomber taxis over to the Smith Press and arranges an incline bench
in a unique fashion at a special angle, with the distance between
the bar and the apex of the seat exactly seven inches. Who knows
why? I assume the appropriate position and contemplate the punk
condition of my attitude.
isn’t new. In fact my experience with lifting weights and
the blues goes back as long as I can remember. About the fifth time
I rolled them out from under my bed came the first confrontation
with resistance. They looked less interesting and less important
than they did the week before when I bought the rusting heap from
my neighbor, Johnny the milkman. What a deal. For five bucks I got
to go in his cellar behind the furnace and drag them out and carry
them home, all 90 pounds. I should have known then. I was weighing
inside said I had to lift the weights whether I wanted to or not.
It was like going to school. I didn’t go to school only when
I felt like it. (Ha, I’d never have gone to school.) You had
to or you didn’t learn, or pass or gain folks’ approval.
In fact, disapproval from my parents was large and painful –
I was sure of it. No way did I play hooky and live. So it was with
me and the weights. I just had to.
time I was 17, I’d won and lost the battle of workouts more
than I could count and was beginning to figure it out. You work
out, you feel great. You don’t work out, you feel like crap
(escuz me, senora). You lift, you grow. You don’t lift, you
get fat and weak, like, overnight. The choice is yours. Some choice.
Didn’t seem fair then, doesn’t seem fair now.
I chose sides and determined that the correct path for this asylum
reject was to train as if there was no choice, since there really
wasn’t. I chewed on the line and sinker for years and finally
got hooked. Weight training became a habit. That didn’t mean
I automatically entered the gym without occasionally staring off
and wondering what it would be like to simply walk away and come
back when I felt like it. The moments were recurring and brief,
like flashes of a strobe.
lifted, I grew. I lifted, I felt great. I lifted, I grew older.
Sometime after 40, a dapple of wisdom lodged in my body. Exercise,
and the right eating that accompanies it, is our duty. No. That’s
not wisdom. How arrogant of me to suggest it. That is a fact. Wisdom
comes with the practice of the fact, the putting into effect of
the truth. Anything other is stupidity.
got up (I arose) and walked (I strode) to the dumbbell rack and
Picked up (I latched onto) a pair of hundreds and began to trek
(I marched) around the gym floor. They call them Farmer’s
Walks because the movement simulates a farmer carrying heavy buckets
full of milk or grain around his fields years ago. I call them marching
around the gym floor with hundreds because it feels good and its
are times when you need to sit down on the old incline bench and
talk things over with yourself. You don’t have to make any
sense. Nobody’s listening. They’re just staring. Sit
up and look sharp, flex your lats and tense those tris. Fools ‘em
every time, bombers.
Farmer’s Walks: five sets of 50 paces twice in seven or eight
days, starting with medium–heavy dumbbells (relative to me)
and working up to heavy. Grip, legs, lower back and hip area, traps…
a bunch of functional, work muscles for earthlings. Very cool, me
thinks, and fun. Done at the end of leg or back day.
finding the 2-inch thick bar a great grip builder in the wrist curl
-- provides an interesting bench or incline movement when pressing.
The bar has been an aid to me with my cranky wrist and hand problems.
That’s not all:
and I are getting close to completing the Top Squat apparatus for
shoulder-tight trainees finding it hard to squat ‘cuz they
can’t safely balance a bar across their painful or damaged
might soon see sketches of the Draper Dungeon, a heavy-duty home
training station for gorillas and their girlfriends.
you’re the greatest. God’s speed. DD
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