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Instinctive Training, when and how to do it

Allow Me to Confuse You

Dave Draper photo at World Gym

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Oh, boy, what a day! Had big plans to accomplish all that I had procrastinated last week, only to be reminded why I procrastinate in the first place. Everything goes wrong. The leaky faucet, the one in the bathroom that dripped occasionally, now dribbles regularly. The light switch, the one in the closet that refused to function, now emits a shock when engaged. The window, the one in the kitchen that was difficult to open, now has a crack down the middle. I took one look at the stove, the four-burner from which emanates the nauseating smell of volatile propane, and said to Laree with wrench in hand, “I’m going to the gym. It’s a matter of life and death,” to which she answered, “You’re obsessed, Draper.”

A failed handyman whose spouse thinks he’s neurotic turns to the weights for solace. I’m lonely, but alive.

A sunny summer Saturday afternoon in a gym in Santa Cruz is not the place you’ll stumble upon crowds of people. There’s the temporary guy at the front counter with the vacant eyes and slack jaw. We’ll get along just fine. There’s the old fella sitting, not pedaling, on the Spin bike watching Golf USA on the tube. No depth of relationship will we share. The lady who is gargling and spitting and splashing herself at the drinking fountain like a duck in a pond I shall avoid by all means. What a mess, the lady, the fountain, the walls, the floor. Quack!

Just as I hoped. I have the place to myself and everything is made of metal. Nothing to break, nothing to repair. Watch the toes.

This is not a scheduled workout, often the best kind. I’m not here because I must be, but because I choose to be. Sure, all my workouts are by choice, but this is an extra, a freebie, cash in pocket, a charitable contribution. I can do no wrong, there is no plan and there are no requirements, responsibilities or demands. Ha, I can turn around, walk out the door and sleep tonight, guilt free. I am loose, and with that thought, that truth, I feel like ripping it up. I’m not paying the bills; I’m investing, I’m getting ahead, I’m socking it away, bucks in the bank. I am rich, my man. This is like a vacation, a holiday in metal-land, party time on the lifting platform, deadlifting debauchery, squatting for singles... Get a hold of yourself, you wild and crazy guy. You’re embarrassing.

What do I want to do that I don’t typically do because it’s not on my agenda: too risky, off-the-wall, insufficient, unproven or dingy? I seem to have done it all except wide-grip barbell rows hanging by bent knees from a chinning bar, a Bill-Pearl innovation. Too tame, no pain, I’ll pass. I could do timed isometrics with a broomstick while balancing on the purple exercise ball -- I’d rather eat live centipedes. There’s always reverse-peddle spinning to rap on a CD while watching the NFL on the TV. Pass the bowl of marinated grasshoppers.

Waste not, bombers. Fools say time is money. I say time is sets and reps and muscle growth, yet here I am idle, no sweat, no pump, no burn, no inspiration, no ideas, nothing new, nada. Could it be there is nothing new, nothing more and nothing better than the same old, same old: basic exercises, single sets, supersets, strain, pain and gain? Where are the changes, there must be changes?

Well, whadaya know, it isn’t necessarily so! I have observed over time that changes are discovered in a rotation of the exercises we’ve come to know and love. It’s in the attentive application of the movements we’ve faithfully practiced in our training life attending our specific needs at the moment. Of course, one must have spent time under the iron to have experienced -- tried and tested -- the extensive variety of exercises at hand. I listed and described five dozen different movements in Brother Iron that I practice regularly in the course of any six-month training period. Add to that slight, yet considerate variations of certain exercises to achieve different effects and you have your hands full.

My training is like a jigsaw puzzle. The entire workout is a complete picture composed of exercises that, like pieces of a puzzle, fit together smoothly, but are shaped appropriately to match the needs of the day.

Allow me to confuse you: If I’m scheduled to train arms one day and I feel ready to go, I go. However, should my arms feel fatigued, sore or overtrained, I amend my training scheme and replace bis and tris with more rested and prepared muscle groups, chest and back, perhaps. Should I feel strong and go ahead with the arm workout, I just might find myself making modifications within that workout. A standing barbell curl, a dynamite exercise for weeks, I find aggravates the insertions and requires a flexible replacement. Considering the possibilities I bring in the thumbs-up curl and blast pain free with confidence, spirit and power.

Say a bench press is designated during a specific chest workout, but a shoulder is sore and the performance of the bench would be painful and counter-productive. The dumbbell press as a substitution allows a degree of hand rotation that eliminates the problem and suits my needs perfectly. The pieces of the puzzle are replaced, reshaped, to eventually complete the picture.

Some workouts or pictures are reduced in size, composed of small interlocking pieces; some are black and white with dark contrasts and there are always the bright and energetic magnificent pieces of heavy primary colors. They stand out as our personal best. Under sensitive conditions we turn out thin pastels dispelling the notion that we are brutes. I love the mere sketches done in charcoal or the loose pencil exercises. These undersized efforts are often inimitable and striking, compliments to our collection.

The number of sets and reps are determined by my sense of saturation based on pump, burn, energy, muscle fatigue, purpose, motivation and mood. Each rep and set is varied in performance by body positioning and angulation, range of motion, exercise groove, body thrust or severe isolation and so on. Attention, focus, evaluation and modification are engaged at once and might be reasonably referred to as one’s "feel" for one’s training.

I moisten my finger and put it to the winds. Often it’s sore tendons that reshape the pieces of the puzzle, insertions that have endured too much pulling over and over again for weeks, shoulders that have been rotated, pushed and pressed without let-up, or elbows that have been enflamed or hyper-extended with excessive pressing, triceps and pullover work. Specific muscle fatigue, overall achy-ness, malaise, lack of sleep, energy or spirit are additional main indicators for exercise redesign or replacement.

I maintain order and form where I can. I like a clean workout and abhor confusion, thus flexibility becomes a wise companion with passing time. As we transcend the levels of training achievement and training intensity, the injuries accumulate. That’s life, bombers. I don’t know an athlete with motivation in any sport who does not endure differing degrees of pain and limitation sooner or later: a little overload, insufficient rest, ignorance of or ignoring symptoms of injury or overtraining, excessive repetition, over-reaching, typical miscalculations and common nutritional neglect. The body and mind wear down and out and take a beating and we go on and on with hope, prayer, wraps, ice and a dream. Some quit, some don’t. Some -- the flexible ones -- rest, repair and grow and go.

It takes anywhere from years to decades to achieve training sensitivity depending on one’s affinity for exercise, desire and need for achievement, and intelligence and attention toward the deed. Training needs to be assessed regularly to prevent or eliminate misdirection, brain washing and bad habits. Trust yourself, be creative, risk, enjoy, play... seriously. When you’re really stumped, wander the gym floor like a kid doing this and that exercise till you sense a magnetism, feel a pull or experience an attraction... trust me, it happens ... and go. Whatta we got to lose?

We’ve got everything to gain, bombers. I hear the roar of incoming aircraft; make ready all available landing strips for rapid recovery. Tomorrow we deploy valiantly yet again.

Take heed, God’s speed... The Bomber

PS: If I was President everyone would squat and drink Bomber Blend.

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