Top Priority: Physical Fitness

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Within the weekly IOL newsletter I try to present something new, plausible and reasonably entertaining that is closely (or vaguely) associated with weight training, health and fitness. The well ran dry sometime in 2002 or 2003, I don’t exactly recall. I believe it was during the circular in which I elaborated on the difference in composition, cost and availability of iron and steel, and proposed the provocative question, "Would either be more effective than the other in developing muscle and strength once cast as weights and plates?" I suggested we closely look at the molecular structure of each metal to determine their inert properties when calculating our conclusions. Oddly, I received no response, unless I consider the guy who wrote back and said I should get a job.

I’m again at the cliff’s edge where I must refrain from outright lies and fantasy to offer anything compelling and remotely related to muscle and might. No one believed me last summer when I professed to build thick forearms eating the bones of stewed turkey drumsticks. And you saw through my inverted chins and hanging dips theory for swift muscle growth and reversing chronic tendonitis. What’s left? I mean, why do we lift weights?

Ha! That’s it! Why do we lift weights: the main question before us and a subject worthy of deep contemplation, yet so obvious that it is overlooked and forgotten -- worse, it is neglected. Study the question, answer it and we revive and re-energize our purpose for training. Lord knows we need revival. It is imperative to regularly recall, review and revitalize our iron-pounding purposes, reasons and goals.

Generally there is more than one reason why we train and the number grows as we think about it and continue our plate-rattling pursuits. The list is provocative, alternatively simple and complex and looks something like this:

~ Get in shape -- look and feel good

~ Lose weight

~ Build muscle

~ Improve health

~ Increase energy and endurance

~ Be stronger

~ Resist injury and illness

~ Recover from injury or illness

~ Overcome guilt, shame -- responsibility

~ Diversion, sport, fun, entertainment

~ Enhance athletic performance

~ Physical prowess and protection

~ Defeat stress and restlessness

~ Make the chores of daily life easier

~ Prepare for physique competition

~ Longevity with quality of life

There’s plenty of room for your personal favorite.

Every purpose listed is valid, some overlap and some are quite distinct. Training for them, separately or in combinations, involves lifting iron, sets and reps, work, time and sacrifice. That is the minimum, the bare bones of participation. From there, one’s contribution escalates as the purposes grow in significance and in numbers.

What reasons on the list for gripping the steel, pumping the iron, tossing the metal do you most identify with? I’m vain, glutinous, greedy and insecure, therefore, I’m all over the list with the exception of physique competition (been there, done that, plus I’m bashful). My training desires and demands are substantial, thus, loads of sets and reps, work, time and sacrifice are required.

Note: As exercise importance grows, so grow the liabilities. Unpleasantries -- frustration, disappointment, fatigue, injury, exercise confusion -- mount in direct proportion to training significance, and good ole’ life becomes a struggle. Of course, the flipside is attractive, providing muscle and might, vitality and self-control, the good fight and big winnings. A hardy struggle and fighting for good make real men and women. But you knew that.

Let’s look at the various weight training purposes -- goals -- and their combinations to determine the effort and involvement required by the challengers -- you and me. This helps us define who we are and reminds us where, why and what we’re up to -- the essentials we often forget or didn’t clearly understand or grasp from the beginning.

The first six reasons on the why-do-we-lift list fall into the same basic category, commonly known as getting in shape. 30 or 40 years ago shaping up was no big deal; you watched what you ate, dropped a few pounds, did some daily exercise, got busy at work and play and took the dog for an evening walk. Today it’s a major project. You read six conflicting books on weight loss, deliriously watch what you eat for six months, drop 40 or 50 or 100 pounds, join a gym, share at Weight Watchers, hire a personal trainer, invest in a treadmill and scientifically exercise till you drop and quit.

Almost everybody wants to get in shape, a small lively group is already physically fit and, believe it or not, more than a few don’t notice or care.

Who could not care? Are they brain-dead, totally isolated, completely ignorant and unaware, void of any sense of responsibility and without conscience, emotion and wit? Sloth and carelessness -- to what degrees in man do they exist?

Easy, Captain. Remember, rage engenders catabolism.

Thanks, I needed that.

Here’s how I see it. The earth’s surface is no place for weaklings. That’s not a rude statement, a half-witted generalization, a bias or an insensitive politically anal comment. (If the latter is true, tough). That’s a fact. The world as a playpen does not exist. Be prepared; be alert, aware, vigorous and ever-ready. The overweight and under-muscled are vulnerable and show evidence of neglect. The unconditioned fatigue and submit under pressure and load. The disorderly and undisciplined falter and flounder. Where one is weak, the strong must work harder. And these conditions apply at work, during weekend holidays, on the streets and throughout the wonderful struggle known as life. And then there are wars and crimes, in case someone thought I forgot.

I have two rudimentary questions for those who are considering the list above: How serious are you about your collective purpose and to what extent will you go to achieve it? The answers should be; A) very serious and, B) every realistic extent.

Today, fit -- in shape -- is not the ordinary physical condition of mankind. Fitness, in fact, is a rare, admired and sought after quality requiring commitment, hard work and diligence. No level of fitness comes without a price and, as with diamonds and gold, the more you pay the more precious is the possession you acquire. To get in shape, that is, to look and feel good, lose weight, build muscle, improve health, increase energy and endurance and be stronger -- one through six on the now famous list -- you must be very serious and apply yourself to every realistic extent. Anything less will scratch an itch, but not stop pain.

The dedicated pursuit of physical fitness and shaping up the body accomplish most of the goals referenced in the aforementioned outline: stress reduction, improved resistance, meeting personal responsibility and eliminating guilt, increased strength and vitality to accommodate work and play loads, development of physical abilities and confidence and long life with a smile, all of which is smartly wrapped up in a sporty, cool diversion.

Why, that’s not gluttony or greed, bombers; it’s intelligence, practicality, efficacy and instinctive brilliance.

Once the initial weeks of conditioning and familiarity are under control, exercise-input and dietary disciplines can be bolstered and the more serious work begun. Menu strictness and order fall in place, wholesome foods replace junk foods, protein replaces sugar, water replaces pop and relaxation and no eating replace twitching and constant nibbling. Sufficient aerobic and midsection exercise are installed throughout the week. A whole-body exercise routine is thoughtfully arranged and three or four sets of each exercise are applied with meaningful effort, certainty and the eagerness of a winning athlete. Soon one decides whether wholesome fitness is enough or she wants an hour-glass shape and delicate horseshoe triceps, or he plans to bench 450 with 19-inch guns. Necessary arrangements are made.

Some things cannot be hurried. For example, all of the above. Hurrying kills a workout.

The points hidden in the sticky underbrush of my weekly eye-crossing, brow-knitting and head-scratching newsletter are these: Go for physical fitness with all you have; it’s a priority in the world of wonder and woe, not a choice like some think. It’ll save your butt and lead you to a bigger and better and safer life. Develop the foundations one day and one block at a time, and then go for the first floor and the second of upward construction. Build a skyscraper, build a bridge. Use your will, your back, your guts and your mind. That’s why you have them: to apply, to grow, to serve and to protect. And you’ll look dern good doing it.

When the dust clears from the Arnold and our pending trip to Indiana, I’ll get into the bomber’s schedule for serious shaping up or shipping out. We’re all different -- duh -- but there’s a good road to travel that might suit the common mob. We’ll take a walk down the seldom-used byway and shoot the breeze.

In the meantime, let’s fly above the maddening crowd... Dave

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