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Weight Training - Bodybuilding - Nutrition - Motivation

Going, Going, Gone
January 22, 2003

Individuality is central to the muscle-building personality. Our infatuation with weight training either stems from our existing individuality or our earnest pursuit of it. It’s not something one can purchase or adorn like a hat. The real thing is not chosen or placed upon a person by someone outside the person. Individuality happens.

Individuality: How do you spell it, where does it come from, where is it going and why? The seven-syllable word is spelled just as it’s pronounced. It comes from, or more correctly, emerges from, one’s centermost origin, if indeed there is such a place. The admired quality is vanishing steadily with the saturation of population and as trendy replicas have gone into assembly line production. The image-making industries of Hollywood, fashion and the media are working overtime.

Movie and TV celebrities, pro athletes and rock stars display their cultivated uniqueness, and man mimics like an ape, we imitate like the modern human being. It’s easy, mindless, convenient and acceptable. It’s encouraged. Have you noticed? Most of us have stopped thinking for ourselves.

Everywhere you look there’s hair sprouting on chins, shaved heads, developing tattoos, charms dangling from various parts of the body, chains of freedom in loops weighing down the baggy pants of the burdened, shifty hand and body language and slang. Yo, Bro. Mass production of individuality is available for the dark-skinned and light-skinned, the male and female, the young and old, the hip and the clueless. Express yourself now -- think later.

The expanding area of muscle-building -- once decreed “physical culture” -- has not been spared. It was an unequivocal expression of individualism 50 years ago, the unique hardcore sport of weightlifters and muscleheads 30 years ago and is, today, catchy and pop. The trend is way-cool and is obscenely advertised in fast-sell catalogues and infomercials, and taking on the appearance of a manufacturing operation run out of large high-tech assembly plants, previously known as gyms. Bodybuilders and fitness seekers: apply for individualism within, no experience necessary.

Not unlike fast-food restaurants, we are seeing more and more chain gyms than single-owner affairs, those quaint establishments on one floor under one roof where taking a tram from the incline to the squat rack is totally unnecessary, where everyone knows your face and you know theirs. The small neighborhood gym is not old-fashioned or funky or out of date. It is comfortable, identifiable, innovative, the last of the originals, a refuge and a place that savors individuality and breeds individualism. It’s becoming an endangered species, a dying breed crowded out by the buck-seekers and the uninspired herds that follow. What else is new?

Stick me in a 24-hour chain or a sprawling Club Muscles with row after row of treadmills and a hundred yards of assorted benches and I will hold my breath ‘til I turn blue. A person could lose his identity in a place like that.

I sympathize with the hand-hewn peg that is being forced into the over-sized square hole. For some of you there’s little choice, it’s the Downtown Super-Spa or Dynamic Tension in a corner of your garage. Your imagination and inspiration must be amplified to establish an atmosphere amidst the brightly-lit chaos to arouse your best muscle-making efforts. It’s a severe test of creativity and will. You will be rewarded for the compromise and for your persistence. Press on.

Wherever possible, support your neighborhood gym that supports you, respects you and is responsible to you. Pay the extra bucks to keep it flourishing, a blade of grass in the ever-expanding artificial turf. Donate your organs, spare change, table scraps and used clothes to the cause of individuality. It’s what we secretly strive for in the gym, in our hearts and minds.

Like everything else of value, muscle and might and their development are being diluted, exploited and wholesaled. Most owners of chains or conglomerates don’t have a clue about squats or a strong back. Their specialty is the business of fitness, the industry of health and the demographics of a region. They know money, competition, advertising and sales. They know money, management, marketing and public relations. Professional is good. Commerce is good. No glitches, no sweat, no heart. Like buying potted plants stacked next to the computers and laser printers at Costco, the ones that die in three days.

Yet another Gym of Giants grand opening. Have you taken the journey? Have you had the experience? Did you get past the front counter and absorb the grand surroundings, chatty tour guide by your side? Were you left to wander on your own, unassisted, unattended, undirected and fully indoctrinated? Ah. Where it’s at! Or… Ah. Where’s the exit?

The arrangement of equipment reminds you of a state-of-the-art garment factory, sensibly organized for quick processing, plentiful for mass production and close, to save floor space. “Excuse me, is that your foot under my barbell?” You look about anxiously for the foreman to ask when your next 10-minute break is and what the minimum wage is for garment workers these days, anyway. You thought of doing lateral raises, but can’t find the room to raise your arms laterally. Somebody in a thong is lounging on the leg curl and the guy using the power rack is preparing to attempt a deadlift record with a bar, a ten, a five and a two and a half. His PT is tightening his weight belt as he yells stern, last minute pointers in his face. Be tough, you can do this, Big Guy, stay tight, think “up, up, up,” breathe in, breathe out…

The TVs situated at every conceivable angle over the banks of cables and dumbbells are loud enough to be heard, but not distinguished. You intuitively try, though MTV and Bay Watch are not your favorite programs. Besides, what about pumping and burning and focus and pace and... Cute girls… Who me? My name is Big Mack. What am I doing here? I’m lifting weights; that is, that was the plan. Why do you ask? I see… you think guys who lift weights are dreamy... far out. Are you still using the leg curl or curling up for the night? Thanks, but no. I don’t want to watch Monday Night Football and have a beer in the steam room with the gang.

Is it me or am I going delirious? All I want to do is push some iron, challenge my muscles, achieve the groove, concentrate on the movement, create some body heat, feel the rhythm, move the blood, relieve the stress, lose myself in the white-heat of gravity and become one with the steel. I want to lift weights and grow and accomplish and learn and discover and relate… I’m lost, I’m confused, I’m exhausted. I want to go home.

Another workout brought to you by Giant Gyms, Inc., where lifting weights is obsolete and getting in shape is demoralizing.

You think ‘cuz I own a couple of privately-owned and operated World Gyms, which are not packed with loafs and louts, that I speak dismissively about the big iron warehouses? Mockery. Kind of cheap on my part, huh? I guess I should apologize. It’s just that being a professional muscle builder most of my life and concerned for the health of the sport, as well as yours, I come apart at the edges as I watch the honest sport come apart at the seams.

I fear the most attractive and direct way to fix an ailing globe -- to exercise right and eat right, lose fat and gain muscle and apply the disciplines gained generously to the rest of one’s life -- is being dismantled and wasted by the ahead-of-the-curve system builders. The essence of training is lost to a commercial setting, slick-talking salespeople, so-called experts, exaggerated promises and daisy-picking methods. Don’t buy into it. If we weren’t eager to buy, there’d be nobody to whom to sell. Oops, there I go! Scorn. Again, may I apologize for my impertinence?

Tough town, but we’ll survive. Individuals survive as others watch reality TV while preparing for their PR on the bench press.


About my aches and pains and apparent arthritis: I take Vioxx as prescribed by my doctor, the Body Ammo (Chondroitin, Glucosamine and MSM mix), lots of water, my usual dose of Super Spectrim, Bomber Blend, Nitro-max (BCAAs and glutamine), creatine and my regular diet of good stuff, high in protein and live foods. 2 CCs of straight morphine each morning seems to help the pain… I’m joking about the morphine, guys…

Rest and sleep have gained new importance, as I grow older. I wear straps for the wrists and elbows when appropriate, warm up the joints before proceeding with might and am careful, very careful, with attaining the perfect groove. Quick, pumpy reps are no longer practiced and care is taken not to hyperextend or over-compact (over-pressure) the joints to avoid separation and swelling. I listen more attentively to signals of pain, yet maintain my courageous attitude and heroic nature. Ibuprophen has its place occasionally when heavy workouts take their toll. I seldom if ever apply ice… ??

I’m down to four bullish workouts a week, a fifth if I can’t stand being in the gym without doing something peculiar or aerobic. As long as I don’t aggravate a tender area (right hand, wrist and elbow, in my case, nerve damage from a fall and arthritis combination), life is sunny. No more heavy pressing, though the curls and pulling go up on those glorious days when all cylinders are hitting. The body’s still light from last year’s globetrotting, but I’m not quite so plump. It seems polishing mirrors and mopping the gym floors between sets is truly aerobic. Since returning to the gym duties fulltime, I have more endurance and less fat and a cleaner gym. The bulking phase has been put on hold until the runway is clear and the atmospheric pressure resumes normal ranges.

I feel super. The beat goes on…

That’s it for another week, winged wascals, and God bless you…

Dave Draper


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