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Spring in our neck of the woods has had six or eight false starts thus far this year. We’ve had so much rain the place is beginning to look like a jungle. I don’t mind, except the baboons ate all the bananas in the lower grove and the rhinos are getting restless.

Technically we’re 10 days into spring and Daylight Savings Time has started ticking away. Who doesn’t think we should have spring and daylight savings all year round? More time to do wonderful things and pleasant weather in which to do them, if you don’t mind an occasional monsoon. Ah, the fresh air of optimism, the sweet fragrance of passion and the stimulating tingle of zeal. You hear it every year from Bomb Town, USA: It’s sunshine, short sleeves and seashore swims; there’s revived energy, radiance and revelry; we train eagerly, heal rapidly and improve daily. Life is good. Hope accompanies the spring. Hardness melts with the snow. Soggy attitudes dry up with the rains. Moods rise with the warming temperatures. Good deeds are extended with the long days.

Every year at this time I instinctively train for body balance and workout completeness. Balance is a spring thing. Summer’s for maintaining (living it up), fall’s for cruising (letting up), winter’s for growing (bulking up) and spring’s for balance (shaping up).

What has for months been concealed or seen only by squinting eyes in dim seclusion is now under bold and often distressful scrutiny. Thar she blows, the great white whale (or whatever color your whale happens to be). Now what? No, no, put the harpoon down; and breaking the mirror won’t do, nor will eating a box of chocolates while watching The Days of Our Lives alone in a darkened room. We are not subjects of negative thinking. We are angels of light.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cut the crap, Bomber. What do we do?

Before we get into the muscle building details, we should deal heroically with the midsection. The thing looks like we fed it generously for a season while focusing our exercise routine on multiple sets of heavy couch stretches and high-rep toe twinkling. Impressive. However, here’s something I learned this past year that will surely arouse your attention: Though I regularly perform crunches on an incline with my heels hooked over a properly placed bar for stability and intense contraction, I have grown fond and appreciative of incline leg raises and hanging leg raises. The crunches add power and hardness to the body’s middle girth, but do little or nothing to check its size. Leg raises do, and more.

These duel leg raise movements, done as supersets and executed with regularity and tight contraction, attack the abdominals, contributing lean muscle to the region and an appealing separation between the oblique and the lower ab area. The stress and strain of hanging augments arm and gripping strength, increases the definition and might of the engaged torso muscles and vigorously works the hip flexors. I do 5 sets of 20 reps each, three times a week. Crunches and rope tucks work their way into the program twice a week -- 150-175 incline crunches and 5 sets of 25 – 30 tucks, if you’re counting. I save aerobic exercise exclusively for RESOO (Routine for Emergencies and Special Occasions Only), which includes, pre-contest workouts, Special Ops training, Tour de France preparation and those vital days before Laree and I scale Kilimanjaro or the Great Arctic Glacier.

While I’m emphasizing midsection control, let me tell you (confess) my latest... umm... dietary technique. Eating appropriately to lean down and maintain muscle mass -- that is, ingesting protein regularly and in small amounts without a lot of carbs -- can be a tiresome task. "Yuk! Is it that time again?" we ask; "Who wants to prepare and ingest another dreary meal?"

The answer is the tuna gulp. Take a small can of tuna, fork it into a 12-ounce tumbler and add four ounces of cool, clear spring water. With little or no fanfare, swirl it around and slug it down. In less than 15 seconds the deed is done. It sounds like some form of eating disorder, bulimia en reverso, but it’s perfectly sane and legit. Yes, there’s a minimum of chewing and digestive enzymes, but you have instant tuna and water on the run. Mmm, mmm, good. And it tastes great, too.

Don’t do this with Dave’s Albacore. It’s too dear, delectable and chunky. Go for the cheap mainstream poptops. Real men (and cheerless women) do this with sardines, too.

You’ll get the feeling the fat is just dripping off you. In reality, it’s the tuna dribbling down your chin and onto your tee-shirt. Keep Kleenex and Altoids handy.

I believe it’s a good idea to dispose of the least desirable tasks -- the dirty work -- before attending the creative aspects of a project. What you perceived as a large jello-like girth is now under control and you can move on. Your weight training methodology can use your undivided attention right about now. You know it in your head; you feel it in your bones and you hear it in the beat of your heart.

What was right and felt awesome for months now feels contradictory and cumbersome. Maybe it’s the birds and the bees and blossoming trees; maybe it’s the sluggishness of your movements and jiggling of your bottom. Strong is fun and beneficial, and size in the shoulders and back has its brute glory, but, oh, to feel lean, lithe and lively. Your training style and bodyweight have become burdensome. They are due for their spring modification.

I detect some content smiles, a few muscular figures gracefully adorning the background, arms crossed over bountiful chests. They listen and nod and sigh in relief. They never lose sight of their diet, training and time. They flow. They’re cool. They’re grateful. I commend them. The journey is their reward. We look to them for inspiration.

Rearranging the workout and eating scheme is easy on paper and intellectually. But putting the changes in motion can be like installing freedom in a downtrodden country. It’s absolutely the best thing for the people, anybody can see that, but it takes daring and foresight, hard work and commitment to make it work, to make it stick. Attending the attitude -- your mind-set and stance -- is the first obstacle on the tortuous course ahead. Let no one disrupt your well-made plans. Be strong.

Bomber Precept #1: Fix your attitude. Now! This must be done. Recognizing and admitting this hard fact, and committing to it accomplish the deed in a reckoning moment. A strong attitude doesn’t wait, it doesn’t vacillate. Why do we drag it over the hills and through the valleys and around our neighbor’s backyard for days, weeks and forever? Stop and think about your attitude -- your approach -- and you stopped and thought too long. Git goin'!

"Git goin' where, how?" did you ask? Depends upon where you’re comin' from and how you got here. No, I’m not avoiding the question by asking a question. Not exactly. We have some different scenarios to consider. In my mind I see one group of people who have exercised through the on-and-off months of fall and winter with wavering needs, energy and enthusiasm. Life is difficult and takes its toll. The pause that we sense in the spring revives our soul and motivates us to restore our misplaced health and body. This bunch has gained a few pounds and lost some strength and vitality... not as much as they would have had they not persisted to work out and eat right to the fair level they did. They’re still in the running, the baton still in their grip. They’re only inches and pounds and weeks away from the big stretch.

Another gang is rough and ready. They blasted their way through the typically cold and bleak off-season with power training and bulking and are prepared to trim down to reveal new layers of muscle. They can’t wait... until the first few pounds of hard-gained bulk are lost and their shredded tee-shirts fit less snugly, and the bench, squat and deadlift bars are apparently secured to the gym floor with sturdy half-inch lag bolts. This will not do. Lose a pound and I’m less of a person, each moans. I’m weak, I’m shrinking, I’m wasting away. These toughies need a little motivation, a wee bit of persuasion and a big kick in the pants.

Of course, there are the hopeful yet reluctant physical fitness seekers who got on the wagon last year, liked the vehicle with its comfy Naugehyde promises and fell off as soon as it got rollin'. "Whoa, boy, slow down. The bumps and dust, the hunger and the thirst. Some other time, maybe. Let me off at Maxine’s Diner," they cried. They’re back.

And, always, the newcomers can be seen in the crowd. They stand sideways confronting themselves and the strangers about them. Their heads are filled with nervous questions and obtuse answers: How did I get here? Too late for that! Everyone’s staring. I’m gonna burst! What do I do now? Look cool. Did I hear someone say exercise and diet are simple and work, it just takes guts? Maybe they’re right. I’ve got plenty of guts... and I wouldn’t mind losing this bottom while I’m at it. The under-flexed tenderfoot is on his and her way; living and learning, asking and answering and getting stronger day by day.

Every crowd of two or more has its own trail to follow. And each person within has his or her own way to go about it. Next week, just to make conversation and a few possible discoveries, we might tag along and see where the trails lead. You never know what’s around the bend or over a rise.

I know. You’d rather be flying. But, occasionally there are things to be learned along the beaten path or the trail less trodden. Be prepared. Bring your wings.

God’s speed... the Bomber

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