First Things First

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Time: Colorless, Odorless, Soundless, Weightless
All-Consuming and Everlasting

Furniture maker Dave Draper
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My clock has fallen into the hands of the mad Time Accelerator. He has no mercy on the men and women who worship the imaginary god, entity or object, and he bends their backs by distorting their minutes and moments and passing days. A thorn to the flesh is a joy compared to time hurried, wasted or lost.

Avoid the pain, let go of time and revel in the truth: Time is not a thing that it can be contained or understood or grieved.

Tell that to the scientist who spent 20 years researching a cure for Parkinson’s, or the convicted prisoner facing at least that many in chains for violence, or the weightlifter who, pound by pound, set after set, has labored to build his muscle and power the better part of his life. Time is nothing, it has no substance and it moves no scale to record its physical weight, mass, density, height, breadth or volume.

Only a fool’s clock has the arrogance, ignorance and frustration to report its passing.

With that in mind I head to the gym this sunless morning, as the last days of summer putt and sputter, almost out of gas. I’m encouraged realizing my life has not been a waste of time, since time is just an invention of our imagination. What a relief! That I could have been a doctor, a corporate lawyer or jet pilot had I invested my days wisely is no longer a thing to suffer. Time is -- I don’t know -- nothing more than airless evaporation, an empty pocket in space or a sound on the far side of the moon.

Intelligence is the important thing, deep thinking, which brings me to my Friday workout. Now Friday workouts are not like Monday workouts, philosophically or physically. Permit me to make that profound observation clear from the commencement of our exposition on muscle and might. Pens poised, listen closely, bombers; I intend to be thorough and swift.

Friday is, for most of us, the last day of the work-week and the workout week, and fatigue has hunched our weary backs. However, the last day of the week brings with it an invigorating cheerfulness -- the release of our tight grip on the neck of life and a sense of freedom from burdensome responsibilities. We want to fly. This exciting lift is a hang-over from our tedious childhood schooldays and homework, and our euphoric weekends and playing. Friday was the best day, the day before Saturday. Fatigue or no, I love Friday workouts.

Fatigue is a peculiar animal. Work hard and it settles in the bones and muscles of the body. Oh, my aching back. Should we worry, stress and give into depression, fatigue of another species is born and spreads though our system like fog on a gloomy night. As with all obstructions to our spirits and training, the energy-consuming creature must be handled aggressively, yet with wisdom and nuance.

Sometimes rest is just what our internal doctor orders. But, I prefer to take the languishing loaf to the gym and expose it to the invigorating environment of barbells and dumbbells, the oasis of iron. Once on the scene and after a few deep breaths and some mild hoisting, absolute readiness is restored. Lifting weights inhales stress, chews up worry and spits out depression like a rotten apple.

Fridays at the gym are feeding days at the trough for the hungry lifter. I might drag my tired body up the short flight of stairs to the rear of the gym, but my innate sense of muscle, strength and health requirements kick in with each ascending step. I’m not bound by routine this day and I scan the gym floor like a biomechanical gadget seeking the right exercises for the right muscle groups based on desire, ability and need. A beeper goes off loud and clear: Chow time. Dig in.

I train four days a week for two hours a workout with all my might. I have a habit, love or need -- healthy or unhealthy -- to train with all my might. I’ve tried to hold back -- to pump, to sing and dance, to flirt, to go for rhythm, pace and form -- in an effort to accommodate my age, but I slip like an addict into his addiction. (This doesn’t make me a bad person, Doctor; crazy, but not dangerous.) Thus, everything from head to toe has been worked, pounded, blasted and otherwise annihilated at least once by the end of the week, leaving Friday a good day to whack everything one more time.

Activating my subdermal sensory gauge I quickly determine what muscle group has not been overworked, what muscle group is under-worked, what muscle group is fun to work and what muscle group is neglected. My readings are mixed with my mood and my energy level, and the games begin.

Partnering with my serious self, the committed trainee, I’ll choose the tough road -- rewarding, but not much fun along the way. The light-minded self chooses exercises that flow freely, pump madly and almost chuckle throughout their performance, the kind you squeeze till you drop, smiling from exhaustion and burn. What a pair they make.

Friday is in the palm of my hand, and my wise self -- yes; I said "wise self," wiseguy -- glides in place like a planet in orbit. A sensible blend of tough and light-minded hits the spot -- cool, clear water on a hot day. Thick-bar deadlifts for reps, tough enough, will work the torso, lower back, shoulder cage, traps, cardio, thighs and hams and the ever-lovin' grip. Complement that with a thick-bar wrist curl and you’ve got Friday’s Special, Hobo Muscle Stew.

Though I bear no tattoos on my body, I have chiseled across my forehead the single word, SUPERSET. They work, that’s why. I know. We went down this alley before; same old brick building, rusting steel fire escape, overflowing dumpster and empty bottles of cheap Chianti. Trust me: it’s the shortest way across town and you need the reminder. Avoid the alleys, ditches and crummy side streets and you won’t get around the block and across town. Yo, bro. Superset.

So I superset thick-bar wrist curls with the deadlifts. Weird combo, but wait...

When I bear down on that fat ole' bar to squeeze out the last reps of a wrist curl, I tell you, Bub, my calves are aching. If that’s the case (I have no reason to lie to you), there’s surely moderate muscle exertion within the biceps -- enough to add to the bis stimulation and sustenance. My grip is smoldering, the bis are taunted and my breathing is raised slightly. Slurp! I reach for the bar before me and pull, and pull, and pull again. Now I’m panting, the biceps are hot and the grip is on fire and the entire back heaving and writhing and pulsating. Good stuff.

How many of you, I wonder, are working your forearms and lower back regularly -- for health and performance.

As some exercises move into our routine, others move out and one day we wake up and realize we haven’t done those in a long time -- we involuntarily nod our head toward a high-schooler with the number 32 on the back of his jersey across the gym floor doing dips with a full range of motion. The exercise is getting everything his upper body has to offer: tris, delts, pecs and some torso things. As if it was the latest cutting-edge movement, of which there are none, we hop on the apparatus and run it through our handy subdermal gauge and calculate its worth. Wow! Superior! Those high school kids!

The completion of the exercise fills me to the brim. Well, almost. It becomes very clear that something within the back region -- and biceps, rear delt area and vaguely torso -- is missing. Sniff! And something else... sniff, sniff... sniff! Joy... that’s what... simple joy: that really good feeling that fills up all the empty pockets missing a pump, fullness and lip-smacking pain. The seated lat row with complete extension and intense contraction satisfies the last of the unattended areas like mustard and sauerkraut on a hotdog at the old ball game... if you eat that sort of stuff.

We’ve got grip, forearm and biceps, the whole back, mighty torso contraction and -- I’ll be darned -- some abbreviated, yet intense, thigh action. Fridays!

Dumbbell presses and I were once inseparable. Now I sneak up on them when they least expect it and try to knock out a few sets. Fridays are good days for being sneaky. Stiffarm pullovers, unless practiced too frequently, give me cardio- and muscular-relief. The combination of the two exercises sounds appealing and they offer a fulfilling wrap to a lovely week.

They go together like a hand and glove, or, rather, pain and aspirin. I do the presses on a four-inch incline, forcing the relatively light, yet blistering weights through a tenuous groove I discover while referencing the pain along the way. The reps are slow and needle the tris and front deltoids. The stabbing hand and wrist signals I endure bravely -- only cuz I’m sorta in control. If someone else was applying the pain, I’d tell them every top secret in the Universe. The pullovers do their job in offering relief, oxygen and the agreeable engagement of the tris and lats and torso muscles.

Well, that’s that, except for the hanging leg raises and Roman chair sit-ups back to back till I drop. That gut. Two hours and 30 seconds after entering the gym, I’m on the freeway fighting traffic and slugging down my Bomber Blend in its little brown jug. Rest and recuperation has begun.

Eight exercises, four supersets, five sets of each, six to ten reps, incrementing weight and performed with finesse, smiles and grimaces and appropriate intensity in a non-stop progression within two hours. And so it goes.

It’s the weekend. Put my tail in a sling and hang my wings out to dry. Monday’s on the distant horizons, bombers.

Go, go... DD

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