Locked in a Time Zone Without a Clue

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Browsing my email this past week I came across a message listing the top-10 Mr. Olympia competitors according to placement. My first reaction was, "What the? Mr. Olympia!! So soon, or is it late this year? Hmm..." Then it occurred to me how little I know about the current muscle scene. I’m in awe of Ronnie Coleman and Jay and Gunter; they are altogether fantastic, magnificent and overwhelming... dare I exclude breathtaking and bewildering from my adjectival commentary.

However, the remaining seven contenders were unknown to me. They could have been roto rooters, insurance salesman or card sharks for all I knew -- I had no clue. These men stood above the rest in the musclebuilding world. They toiled under the iron in the gym and battled fiercely for position on the field of competition. They were victors onstage and heroes before crowds. They were stars in the theater I once played, crowned royalty in the courts I once reigned.

I paused for a second and mused. Have I become one of those peculiar people unable or unwilling to face present-day life with all its changes, complexities and distress? Am I locked in a time zone, the Golden Era, safe and glorifying?

Am I a relic in a museum of time-gone-by, an item of curiosity from long ago; a tarnished, slightly warped drying thing that still worked if one was careful in its handling? You can touch it but don’t drop it. Look at that, will ya, its head bobbles to this day.

Was I out of touch, old-fashioned and behind the times? Is what I know, the information and understanding I’ve gained over the years, of any worth, or is it, like the phonograph, obsolete? And the tune I sing, is it the same old tune sung those many years ago? Off-key, scratchy?

I knew the answers, there were three: Yeah, right! Gimme a break! Get outta town. I don’t think so and not exactly!! What kind of stupid question is that? That’s six, I lied. I’d be going backwards and losing ground if I stepped into the bodybuilding world of today. The guys are the greatest, but the path of travel, the environment and the players are as real as the Rolexes hustled on the internet.

I thank God I’m not a contender today or I’d be standing at a precarious crossroads, heads it’s left, tails it’s right. Rolex knockoff or sundial.

Truth is, flight partners, I don’t care for bodybuilding anymore than I care for the WWF, Monster Trucks derbies or roulette. Same with sports; I lost interest in football and basketball after I graduated high school and no longer played the games. Rooting on Monday nights or sunny Sundays afternoons doesn’t happen. Someone told me that such behavior is a symptom of an antisocial oddball. Who me? I live in a cabin in the woods and wear a shoebox over my head when I go to the market at three in the morning to shop. Say hello and I twitch. That’s just focused. I’m focused. And dedicated. Focused and dedicated, that’s me.

Ronnie has a book on the market, Hardcore, outlining his training methods. What could he possibly tell us to help us achieve the physique he has? What terms does he use, what language does he speak? Are his weights made of tungsten; does he train in special gravity-control rooms? When building his biceps, does he simply perform curls as described by other trainers or does he use cryptic codes and formulas to express the complexity of the arm exercise and the intensity applied? Shoulder width: Is this accomplished with presses and lateral raises as we know them, or are there new dimensions of exercise our ordinary finite bodies and minds cannot conceive? 60 degree DB Press x 6 to the power of 10 + the square root of pi over (xy) cubed. Increase ohms by seven with each successive repetition till warning light flashes.

And how about food, bombers with an appetite? What is it about protein we don’t know, and those energy supplying carbs and fats? Does one eat every 90 minutes and sleep between meals? Eat the limbs of oak trees and gnaw on granite? What is it, what don’t we know?

Pictures of Ron, eight-time Mr. Olympia, are indescribable and, I guess, inspiring. Though looking at the man for inspiration to build one’s muscles is not unlike studying a battleship gliding through the Pacific to learn how to swim.

The answers are in the book, I suppose. The answer is in Ronnie, The Man.

But as for me, give me a Bomber Blend and two hours at the gym and I’ll figure something out on my own. It’ll be the secret of the day, though there are no secrets.

Today is a good example: Walking from my vehicle to the gym door was like walking the plank. Monday and Tuesday were upper body days and I pushed vigorously. I set no records, received no medals of honor and I drew no blood. Fine! But recently leg days have presented a problem. "Ugh" is the three letter word I use to express my attitude toward, my performance during and the residual effect after the workout. Gasping has replaced deep breathing and heavy weights have given way to (gasp! see what I mean?) moderate weights. The whole catastrophe puts me in an ugh mood. This is not fun, smart, wise, healthy or good. It’s bad.

To obviate the ughnicity (ughness) of the training session and hopefully overcome the decline in leg performance, I resorted to leg presses trisetted with thigh curls and calves. Five sets x 20 and 8 and 12, respectively. I then proceeded to the squat rack for full squats, Top Squat in place, for five sets of 6 reps starting with 190 and followed by 20-pound increments -- ending with 270. I finished with rope tucks and hanging leg raises till I dropped... I dropped fast and hard.

The secret of the day was submitting to the decline in leg strength and endurance and daring -- daring to push myself into a dreaded, hateful overworked zone. The big muscles place a major demand on the heart and lungs and vascular system and I’m fed up and I’m not going to take it anymore. The last month of leg workouts have had me in a tizzy; I refused to let go and the thought of LEG DAYS made me miserable. Despite my heroics (stupidity) the leg sessions diminished in every way. I was lost and alone.

The second secret of the day was lowering the reps to 6s from 10s and 12s on the squat. The higher reps, though not high at all, were doing me in. Each rep over 6 had my heart thumping like a wombat and my lungs sucking oxygen from the next county. The modifications are minor, obvious and humbling, and I believe reduce the chance of injury (knees, thigh pull) and increase the certainty of continued leg training, squats included. I felt blasted, but not wounded or destroyed. I limped but did not crawl. I smiled. These are good signs.

My day beneath the loaded bar will come again.

You can teach some of the dogs all the tricks, and all the dogs some of the tricks, but some dogs you can’t teach nothin'. Woof! Woof!

This experience is simple, everyday, yet causes overdoses and wrist-slashings regularly. I hope by sharing it we might both grow stronger, live longer. Maybe time is catching up, or maybe I need to grow up. I’m praying it’s neither. In fact, it may very well be that I’m acting too much like an older person -- worrying, doubting, wheezing -- and it’s just a minor anomaly in enzyme activity. So obvious...

I might mention that Laree and I have been under added stress these past weeks as we worked to prepare our manuscript for the printer. Little details, re-writes, cover art, last-minute changes, additions or replacements. Finally, Monday, we dropped the express package to the press in Illinois. Barring "problems," the book, Iron on My Mind, will be in our backyard by the third week of November.

The earth will not tip on its axis, storms will continue to rage, people will war with people, but our little contribution to the enlightenment of mankind will begin dispersal. The first hundreds of copies will be published in harmonic native Babawabatusi. The second printing will be translated for the enduring nomadic tribes inhabiting the southern ice-lands of Antarctica. After that we are open to suggestions.

I like flying at night with my lights out.

The mad midnight pilot... DD

God’s might, bombers.

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