The Winter Before Spring
January 29, 2003
has been a promising month at the gyms, more folks showing up day
by day to restore their neglected fitness. The first visits, or
more accurately, encounters, are pensive, tentative and self-conscious.
The returning athlete is mixed with hope, relief and urgency; neglect
has been contained and hurry has become its substitute.
his or her last workout in November sometime around Thanksgiving
(can that be, was it that long ago, where does the time go?), he
or she loads the bar with the same weight used in the fall after
a season of bombing and walking the line. The notion that one can
resume where one left off two months and 10 pounds ago is crushing,
both physically and morally. The barbell comes down with certainty
and there it stays. Oophh...
humiliation is a powerful experience. Humility is a powerful attribute.
Welcome to the gym, where the fragile are broken only to be rebuilt,
stronger and more enduring. By the middle of next month one will
have dropped the excess 10, regained the dynamic strength and added
indelible quality to one’s character. Next year, perhaps,
he or she will not need to endure the expensive and painful refresher
course. No more layoffs for me!
as one of them, wearing a distressed face and lifting belt, I watch
the procession of recommitted trainees and first-timers from a bench
in the corner of the gym floor. A young girl, not yet 20 and wishing
she were invisible, wanders over to the cable machine and curiously
pushes a dangling handle. She stares, as the thing swings and jangles,
and wonders what it does beyond that.
can’t help myself. I imagine the dear girl has taken one of
the most important steps of her life -- entered the land of physical
fitness -- and has concluded that, instead, she is in alien territory
amid grimacing faces, clanging machinery, thuds, grunts and groans,
with an exit less than 25 feet away -- a brisk walk to freedom.
that’s not freedom,” I want to call out, blowing my
identity, “That’s not liberation, that’s captivity.
That’s enslavement.” The world without exercise and
muscle and strength and right eating is barren, lonely, pointless
and fruitless. It’s difficult, dangerous and demanding. It’s
exhausting. We need to prepare ourselves, develop our personal resources
and be our best. Someone must tell her, now, before it’s too
late. I stand, run my fingers through my hair, adjust my thick belt
and hasten to her side. She flinches when I grab her by the shoulders
and blurt out, “Don’t go.”
feel stupid whenever I do that.
my camouflage, this time wearing a hooded sweatshirt and wrap-around
sunglasses, I continue my observation of the unfolding scenarios:
heavily-muscled guy, in his late 30s, vigorous yet haggard and wearing
a Broncos t-shirt over a small paunch, sits at the bench with the
bar supporting four big wheels. He’s been there and done that,
though it was a long time ago. I watch him and the bar closely.
average man, under-muscled from head to toe, smiley and animated,
examines the Hammer Chest Press. And what exactly is the function
of this interesting device?
to engage a treadmill is a woman with the weight that accumulates
slowly but surely from too many years of agreeing that something
needs to be done, but doing nothing. The treadmill starts with a
whirr and she grabs onto the rails for dear life. Oh, my!
two were in last week, startled, curious and chatty as ever, like
a pair of dachshund puppies. They run about sniffing the equipment,
pawing the weights and rolling around on the stretch floor to make
sure everything works. This is fun.
older and his stomach precedes him by a good 12 inches. His full
head of silver-gray hair is carefully styled, his mustache is handsomely
trimmed, his exposed skin evenly tanned -- in January -- and that’s
a fine cashmere sweater. The gut has got to go.
pain is in the joints and it’s only been this past year. Pushing
hurts more than pulling and the knees and hips are stiff in the
morning.” I’m a snoop and hear the middle-aged blonde
confessing to her girlfriend, Jeanette, a long-time member and very
fit 50-year-old (Oh, to be a kid again…). No time to waste
-- let’s get her moving.
they are, the most recent aspirants for restoration and rebirth.
But for two arms and two legs, the candidates are nothing alike.
However, what they want, where they are going and how they get there
are not very different. Without exception they aspire to gain muscle,
lose fat, get strong, improve their health and feel good. Each needs
to exercise hard, eat right and find fulfillment and joy in the
on-going process. The list of aspirations will be like fruit on
a well-tended vine come harvest, plentiful, delicious and wholesome.
How simple. How cheerful. I say a small prayer.
back the hood of the oversized shirt and removing the shades, I
take a deep breath and contemplate the direction and fate of each
in their quest for muscle and strength and condition. That is what
they ultimately desire, once you pare down the definitions of their
various purposes and goals. Getting in shape, looking good, feeling
need is deep enough? Who wants it badly enough? Who realizes its
vital importance? Which ones have the courage? Is it vanity or responsibility
that’ll drive the achievers? Will it be survival? Discipline,
weak will, persistence, intelligence, procrastination, sacrifice,
excuses, reasons, levels of commitment -- how will the variables
play out over the days and the years to come?
they exercise and who influences them early on is a deciding factor
on the attitude and triumph of the player.
gym, the atmosphere, the people and the resulting personality of
the training grounds determines in large the quality and completeness
of the product produced, the trainee developed. The advice and encouragement
from the work crew and co-members can make or break a searching
out-of-shape person who knows defeat too well. They can turn the
meek into the strong. The right words at the right time will keep
the troubled and the doubtful and the scattered focused on the good
thing. Recognition for hard work and accomplishment can crank up
the intensity of a striving kid or a retired life-loving senior.
The enthusiasm and dedication of the powerful and committed under
the iron inspires the weary to come back tomorrow and the next day.
it gets it done. Planning, preparing, musing, comparing, considering
and assessing play a role on the grand stage, but the star performance,
the “big show,” the main attraction is doing it.
exercise program fits all in the early stages of training a “first
time in a long time” shape-up recruit. Some folks refuse to
believe in simplicity and insist that we are all very different
and require tailor-made programs to suit our unique footprint. They
then spend a lifetime trying to find the perfect routine for them,
never quite confident in the one they are applying. I say use your
logic, common sense, intuition, instincts, sense of smell, inner
ear and balance. You got that? Good. Now blast it, hard.
an advocate of the school-is-for-the-birds technique of training.
Take the squawking student to the edge of the nest or gym floor
and push him out. He’ll learn the basics on the way down.
As they say, this isn’t nuclear science.
Okay. You’re right. The wisest advice would go something like
this: Take it easy the first week to find your way around the equipment,
prepare those tendons and wake up the muscles. Point is, you want
to get going, start the conditioning, the practice, the learning,
the muscle building and the fat losing and make real progress while
you’re hot. Dawdle and you cool off; you lose steam and you
might lose your place in line for changing your life around. Remember,
this stuff works. Doubt and you will invite hesitance and excessive
caution into your fresh, new training endeavors. The exhilaration
and progress experienced by timid exercise is too slight to inspire.
Find the horns of the thing, grab hold and don’t let go.
the first page of instruction I give to a long-time-no-see member
Crunches and Leg Raises, 2 sets of 25 reps
2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
Bench Press (bar or dumbbell)
2-3 sets of 10-12 reps
Row Machine or Seated Lat Row
2-3 sets of 12 reps
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
2-3 sets of 12 reps
Curl (bar, dumbbell or machine)
2-3 sets of 12 reps
Triceps Press Machine or Bench Dips
2-3 sets of 12-15 reps
they’re looking over the tough and tight routine, I give them
The 12 Rules of Nutrition, as written in Brother Iron, Sister Steel
and Your Body Revival, suggest they drink Bomber Blend at key times
during the day and take Super Spectrim vitamins along with their
donuts in the morning. Finally, while counting their grams of protein,
I offer a hard copy of the current IOL Newsletter sitting on the
front counter and let them know it’s available every week
for the fun of it on the Internet.
they’re nice I give them a Bomber handshake and tell them
to head over to the hanger and check the tension on the cables and
tune up the chest, back and shoulders.
Draper, AKA The Bomber, but you can call me Count
here to order your personalized, autographed copy of Dave's new
book, Your Body Revival, $18.95
here to see the previous week's column
New | Online
Store | Weekly Columns | Photo
Archive | Weight Training
| General Nutrition | Draper
History | Discussion Group
| Mag Cover Shots | Magazine
Articles | Bodybuilding
Q&A | Bomber Talk | Workout
FAQs | World Gym Listing | Santa
Cruz Local | Muscle Links | Need
More Help? |Site Map | Contact
All IronOnline pages copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
All rights reserved.