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Discipline the Brat
August 12, 2003

I was out in the field patching up the old bomber the other day when it occurred to me some of you are only twenty-something and to you age, the number of years you’ve gathered while here on earth, is incidental. Your birthday rolls around (once a year, as you recall) and you might fuss over a special dinner and a few cute cards, some gifts if you have those family traditions, and it goes away. If asked, you remember a twinge of change when you turned 18 (I’m legal) and a feeling of melancholy at 20 when you bravely left the teens behind. But as you slip and slide in those busy, invincible and seemingly unending 20s, collecting years is no more on your mind than collecting string.

Yeah, well, live it up. 30 will probably get your attention (who am I, where am I goin’ and why ain’t I there yet?). And the Big Four-O is always good for a few phony laughs and some restless days -- nights, weeks, months and years (where did my life go?).

Not everyone embraces the 40s with open arms (they hide under the bed) and those truly wonderful years can cause a good man or woman to do some really strange things. They often dress funny, wear gold chains over tanned chests and accentuate the makeup; they color their hair, transplant it like the potted plants on the front porch, throw an accenting toupee over it like a politician or shave it off like a Sultan. The lonely adopt a golden retriever or a four-pound terrier or chase the opposite sex; there’s the two-seater sports car, the nip n’ tuck, the consuming introspection and not infrequently, the bottle nestled in the bottom of the laundry basket. Gulp.

Of all our pathetic blunders the strangest and most disturbing is losing them, those priceless years, trying to save them. There’s a problem, but we don’t know what it is. We misunderstand it, attempt to hide it from view or chase it away. We need not resist the passing of time, as if life was slipping by and we were diminishing. That is to support the misperception of aging, to feed it, to fear it and become its victim. Big mistake, like allowing a spoiled brat to rule us by kicking and screaming to get its way.

Discipline the brat.

We see ourselves as having reached our peak after too many years of worry, sacrifice, poor choices and bad food. We further burden ourselves with fear, doubt and anxiety. It’s the wrinkles, sagging skin, flaccid biceps, abounding midsection, achy back, wobbly legs and chins, plural. Youth gone by, if only I knew then what I know now. It’s true what they say: Youth is wasted on the young.


Instead, we need to recognize the willing and able companion we are, the friend who deserves our love and encouragement and support. You’re not old, I’m not old, George Washington is old. He’s the father of our country. We’re just kids in a body that needs our help. Get back to the gym with purpose and zeal, eat right, for cryin’ out loud, and the youth that left will return. To outsiders I say start exercising, today, and discover real discipline and fulfillment. Get rid of the sugar and eat protein, today, and give your beloved body something to feed on and live for. Stop grumbling and chasing your illusive midlife daydreams. Grasp authentic strength, health and action with willing hands. Stand up. Be strong.

Shift gears.

Things don’t go from bad to worse. They go from “better than you think” to terrific. The years of your life add up, yes, but you add years to your life. Youth isn’t wasted on the young, nor are the 40s and 50s wasted on you. You’re in control at the prime of your life with all you need to know. Fix what’s broke and soup up what’s workin’ good. Zoom zoom. We got places to go and things to do.

I have a special affection for those middle years, 40 to 50, because I beat the 30s, that season of princes and princesses, repeatedly with a blunt object and was reborn in the 10 years that followed. I was 42 to be exact, when I got to my feet, dusted myself off, surveyed the burned-out territory in which I stood and commenced the act of walking forward, one step at a time. (The point, please, oh sorrowful fallen victim.) The 40s are really good for that sort of thing, making magnificent strides over peaks, plateaus and beast-ridden countryside. The 50s work very well also, but you’ve got to be, like Jack, nimble and quick, alert and ready. While I’m at it, the 60s, it seems, takes a nickel from one pocket and puts a dime in the other. You don’t know whether to say, hey, hands off or thank you, thank you, thank you, uncle time.

During the early years when we were growing up we ate what we ate ‘cuz it was there and did what we did ‘cuz we were told. Later, as we got older, we imitated our surroundings, what we viewed on TV and saw in the media. For most of us, none of it was ever really good or bad. It was sufficient. Today, with the passing of time the good has diminished and the bad has increased. We eat like horses and act like hogs; we do what is easy, what is our habit or what little we can. And we know it, we’re not doing anything about it and it doesn’t have to be that way.

We can control it.

I’ve been weight training for a long time and more or less on the pursuit of muscles and strength since I was a kid. Even when I was bad and messin’ up I was training and eating tuna. Talk about a dizzy dude. The last 20 years have been as straight as an arrow and I’ve been attentive to life around me, the days gone by and the days ahead. How to keep the stone rolling and free of moss has become my hobby. Keeping you periodically informed of my observations helps me observe. Evidently there’s this cool group of people who care and wonder as I do. I’m accountable.

So what’s the latest? Remember, dear reader, whose eyes are yet to require magnifying glasses to read this newsletter, this stuff’s for all ages and conditions, breeds, makes and models. Listen and learn, or not.

I only have positive news to report. If you recall in a summary last spring, I added certain unpopular exercises to my workout that I ignored for 40 years to replace those exercises that were overused, abused and not withstanding the years. The additions included low-incline flys for pecs, reverse-cable crossovers for the back and rear delts, wide-grip pulldowns behind the neck and medium wide parallel-grip pulldowns.

They have proven to be effective and productive and my strength in each movement has increased considerably. This is great news when inflammation and nerve pain due to repeat trauma -- exercise redundancy -- start to limit one’s plane of resistance, repertoire of exercise and joy of performance. Little things started to happen and continue to happen here and there: fullness, tightness, hardness, expanded capability, comfort and reduction of “bad” pain in critical areas. The direction remains forward and upward, in spite of the wrinkles and aches time insists you bear to keep you humble and forever grateful.

At best, I am feeble. Even so, I’m stronger in squatting, pulling and deadlifting than ever before and more capable in pushing and pressing than in the last three years. The revolting nerve pain in the right wrist and elbow prevent me from demonstrating the true ability of my shoulders and triceps. Nevertheless, maximum muscle intensity in difficult regions is approachable through warm-up, focused reps, periodic forced, slow reps and odd positioning. Pressing on is successful, development is possible. That’s the point of my story, hopeful bombers, not me and my clay-footed pursuits.

We train for muscle and power, health, fun, expression, stress repression and because, once bitten, we must. When I train for maximum response, that is, muscle growth, definition, density, strength and intensity in performance, I train with ultimate focus and concentration. My attention does not veer from the work before me. To the extent that it does the work is compromised. The physical and the mental and the emotional become entwined, tightly strung. I love my training most when it is at that level. Only then is it really training. Other times it is play.

I’ll continue my juggling act and throw in a somersault every now and then -- anything to keep you motivated and training and eating right. Last week under the direction of Laree and the eye of video-cameraman and friend, Ritch Bergland, I completed a six minute tape demonstrating the Top Squat. It’s in the editing stages and will be on the web and down-loadable in a few more days. I look like an old retired high school coach reluctantly doing charity work for his former alma mater. “Stand here, Coach, say these words and, please, try to smile. Don’t forget, look at the camera.”

You don’t want to miss this. If it comes out okay, we might film Slumpbusters and Workout Routines and, maybe someday, Westside Story.

Bombers, you’re a grand team.

Fly high and go with God.


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