Strength and Health, Goodbye Summer

Golden Gold's Gym
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There’s a chill in the air. I knew it would happen; we all knew it would happen. It always happens. Fall has arrived.

The fall is good. The gold and orange trees are pretty. I like the fall. There are at least two days in the season during which I take a deep breath, roll my collar up, put my hands deep in my pockets, shake off the chill and say amid billows of evaporating breath, “This is fun.” I then turn my back to the wind and head for the nearest shelter.

Goodbye tan, goodbye short sleeves, goodbye sweat and pump, goodbye imperceptibly improved definition and skin tone. Hello cold, wet and ugly.

Yes, I know some of you live in regions of the world where the summer is just beginning... not my problem. It’ll probably be rainy, hot and sticky with lots of bugs.

Draper’s groaning again. You’d think after all these years he’d get used to it... adapt... enjoy... appreciate... grow up. Fall and its big brother, winter, are robust times of the year offering its beneficiaries variety and challenge. (Yeah, like curling in the snow, sub-zero bench pressing, squatting in a down-quilted overcoat. Swell.)

Okay. I feel better now. I’ve expressed myself, I’ve gotten it off my chest, I’ve lightened the load, I’m good. 

Speaking of lightening the load, I don’t think I’ll bulk up this year. As bombers come in every gender, shape and size, including plump and less-than-svelte, some are asking who in their right mind would want to bulk up -- focus on gaining weight, force-feed, intentionally increase calories, never skip a meal, add a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs to their diet, look forward to growing out of their clothes and cry out YES when the scale nudges upward a pound.

Last year I was 230 for two days and my face looked like a pumpkin, my belly like a watermelon. I walked past the produce section in the Safeway and some lady tried to stick me in her shopping cart. Enough is enough, I said to myself, as I fought her off with an ear of corn. It’s too much trouble and becoming dangerous. I hovered at 225 till the blossoms of spring brought me to my senses. Bulking can be fun and worthwhile, but it’s a lot of work and extra cargo when you’re lookin’ and runnin’ like an old pickup truck. I’m beginning to think about mileage as I get older -- what’s the most I can get from this bomb and how long can I keep it rumbling along.

Of course running and rumbling to me are not the same as running and rumbling to Charlie Gottapotski and Wilma Dragbottom. I blast it.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m contributing to my health, strength and long life by training with nutso intensity, or am I wearing myself out. Do the take-it-to-the-edge workouts add to my years of mighty service or do they threaten my structure and system, my existence? The heart does some heavy pounding and the joints are under severe directional overload. The organs are juggling assorted large obstacles while standing on one foot and whistling the requiem for a heavyweight. Maybe I should cool it. Another thing: perhaps I should refrain from counseling others -- that is, keep my big mouth shut and not offer my faithful flying companions my rash, egotistical training opinions. Maybe I should get a rocker with a cushion, a cup of hot tea, a wool shawl and a book with pictures.

These are hard decisions, how, when and where to lighten the training load, when all that you’ve practiced and understood is dive-bombing.

Perhaps dropping 10 percent of my bodyweight would be smart, less work for the heart. This is good, would put me at, like, 200. The entire system, in fact, would be relieved of toil and heavy use, less food intake, less processing and less metabolic demand. Every organ, valve, passageway, joint, tendon and ligament would be alleviated of stress and strain. The muscles would no longer bear an overload and would no longer need to be large and dense to accommodate consistent and vigorous output.

Something about the last statement causes my heart to skip a beat, an unhealthy occurrence in itself.

Lighter people can run further and more efficiently. I could get new clothes and wouldn’t have to hold my gut in. No more eating when I don’t want to, or else. Oddballs would be less likely to ask if I lift weights or how much I can bench. Give me a break!


Lighter people with diminishing goals don’t have to exercise as hard. I could walk into the gym and lift half the weight for half the time and probably maintain my newly acquired 195 to 200 pounds with half the discipline and half the hard work.


That’s the way it is with guys and gals who decide it’s time to throw in their belt and straps -- to let go of the tiger’s tail, to trade daring for caution, to walk the narrow walk and talk the narrow talk, to give up. 200 pounds of muscle becomes 195 pounds of loose flesh. It’s called erosion. We lie, “Yeah, dropped a few pounds. Last time I weighed myself I was 190 -- actually, between 185 and 190. Not training as hard as I used to since I dropped size. Feel like a million.”  A million what? Microbes, amoeba, fleas, doubts, insecurities, excuses, mistakes?

There’s the other scenario. Aging causes some of us to put our priorities in order and we drop the bodyweight and our lifting intensity to satisfy the logic of health and longevity. Diversions fill our spare space -- anybody see my putter, dominoes, crossword puzzle, remote? -- and we gain weight while no one’s standing guard. I’ve seen it happen to some pretty devoted guys and dolls. Now you see them, now there’s two of ‘em, or at least it appears that way. The pounds creep up and the muscles fade away. It’s called explosion.

My plan is simple: Drop the bodyweight, diminish the muscle mass, ease the load on my muscles and structure and system by moderating my workouts, lessening the stress of training demands, training goals and expectations. Always observing, I can provide you with week-by-week evaluations, schemes and discoveries. What works, what feels good, what’s right, what’s wrong.

I’ll tell you what’s wrong. The whole idea of dropping bodyweight and decreasing my training load is wrong. I can’t stand the thought of it. It gives me chills and I’m getting the creeps. I’ll tell ya what I’m gonna do this fall and winter. The same thing you’re gonna do. Train like a maniac, come snow, wind or high water. What was I thinking? I feel like I need to take a bath, get slapped around, have electric shock treatments, confess my sins and sacrifice Bomber Blend for a week (No way, that’s going a little too far).

I say ignore convention (bunk), reference the outstanding models (Bill Pearl, Lalanne) and roll the dice (snake eyes). Look to yourself by God’s grace and determine the toughest road you can travel without breaking an axle or blowing the engine. If the road isn’t tough, the road isn’t going anywhere. All bombers know that simple fact, though most of our miles are charted in the sky.

I believe we’re all on the right course of action. It’s the lattermost word -- action -- that suggests we are. Whether young (teens and twenty-some -- I do not forget your vital presence), or new (any age and just snooping about the metal) or around since the first mining of iron ore (got years and muscles, aches and pains), we’re here, in action, reading, asking, learning, lifting, growing, attentively observing, painfully doubting, wisely adjusting and valiantly persevering.

We press on. Something hurts, we assess it curiously and work around it. We lift and learn. An old trick or a new trick catches our eye and we give it our best. It carries us forward another month, entertains us and provides renewed interest and hope. Another lesson learned -- valuable time invested. Much we do is the same. We ponder our worth and the worth of our deeds and the worth of life, and we return to the gym, and its provisions and breathing and priceless pain and awesome teaching.

Not infrequently the way is clear, we gain speed, catch some air and we’re off the ground -- flying. Once you’re flying, the sky’s the limit.

But you know all about that stuff, looking down upon patchy green fields bordered by snow-capped mountains. Check it out... 11 o’clock, a city skyline on the distant ocean’s edge. Cool!

On a good day you can see forever... DD



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