First Things First

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Weightlifting in Painsville, Land of Opportunity

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I know life isn’t all about me and you know life isn’t all about you, but it’s a tough concept for most folks to accept. Truth is (it’s so obvious), you and I take care of ourselves so we are more able to take care of those around us. We are extraordinarily generous and considerate people, like a breed of our own. We lift weights that we may lighten the load for our neighbors. We eat healthy foods that we may care for the ill when they grow faint. We seek longevity because someone must attend the aging and failing in their time of need. We sleep, rest and relax with peace-loving diligence that we may serve others tirelessly. We, through our consistent exercise, develop discipline, patience and compassion, needed character qualities when called upon by God and man to mitigate strife and negotiate peace.

Alas, there are envious and narrow-minded beings across our precious planet who are unaware of personal responsibility and self-respect and accuse us of vanity and self-centeredness. Of us they say we are obsessed. We must understand their suffering, forgive them and try to reach them through our noble purpose, stature and behavior. We must work with them, for them and because of them, as we are all so vitally connected. When our gracious attempts to draw them to the right way of living and thinking fail, and ignoring them is unfair, immoral and impossible, do not fret. Fretting is one of the devil’s secret weapons.

Let’s face it; they’re a bunch of bums and not worth the trouble. They’re weaklings! They make me so mad I wanna beat them with a stick. They’re the reason the world is falling apart. Don’t get me started, man. Who the heck do they think...

So, what did you do today to strengthen yourself -- improve and enhance your body, mind and soul? I went to the gym a little earlier than usual to beat the traffic and take more time pushing the iron -- less stress, more comfort, total contemplation, undivided concentration.

The older I get, the less I hurry. I don’t know if this is a motor condition or wisdom or laziness, but I appreciate and enjoy and respond to slower and more deliberate training movement -- between sets and within each set and rep. This in no way suggests I’m slowing down. Slowing down causes me to lose air under my wings, and I stall, glide, hover, putt-putter and regain airspeed only to stall again and land in a field far from home. I hate that... gotta drag my sorry hull back to the hangar, dust off the ailerons and realign the landing gear.

The barbell and dumbbells must be grasped more thoughtfully, the body arranged more particularly and the groove established more precisely in response to the persuasion of time, wear and tear. Each rep becomes a carefully engaged step to the next rep, close attention determining the way. The reps are calculated in reference to good pain and abusive pain and the pain of wrath, a long and fascinating journey. The last repetition comes as thunder following the lightening strike of the prior reps. Don’t you love a good storm... the fresh air, the strong wind, the cool rain?

Concentration, the essential element of successful weightlifting -- and every great endeavor -- that primary ingredient I struggled to attain is now as natural as the iron I move with certainty across the floor. Where once my mind wandered and progress slipped through gaps in my focus, I now cling to each rep as if joined by a sort of musclebuilding crazy-glue -- devotion, affection, need and the attention-grasping pain of persistence and burning and swelling.

The sets of repetitions are staggered according to my ability to go on, my mood, the pain, the available energy and unhurried time, and the flavor and favor of my purpose -- to build, maintain, rehabilitate or revel. The pause between sets can last from 15 seconds to minutes, depending on the exercise and mode of action. Squats and deads require the most time, pressing and pulley work for back and lats require medium time and supersetting smaller muscles -- bis ‘n tris -- require the least time, until, of course, the intensity builds and pain in the joints starts to holler. It was amid the latter experience that I learned to eliminate hurry from my training program.

The between-set break is just long enough to prepare for the next delightful and murderous onslaught: breathing deeply or gasping deliriously, unwrapping and rewrapping, willing pain away, rearranging equipment, hydrating. No gazing out the door, watching the sweeties go by, reading magazines, creating or resolving conflicts. Mingling trite activities with the serious action of weight training reduces it to their levels, and exposes an intrinsic lack of desire, fire and need. Choose another pastime, go back to school, get a job, flop on the couch.

I’m a volume trainer who incorporates five sets of six to twelve or eighteen reps of any particular exercise -- depending on muscle group. I choose six or seven or eight exercises, apart from midsection, to comprise a workout. Some might say, “That’s it?” I ignore them and key their cars and their family’s cars. The intensity within each rep and set of exercise determines the value of the workout, and its duration. The first three sets, whether single sets or supersets, are vigorous and without delay, each set increasing in weight and decreasing in reps. Pain from wear and injury and burn heightens proportionately, as does specific muscle fatigue. Sets four and five, the critical sets in which hypertrophy is hunted down, begged for, manipulated or coerced, require greater recovery time, slower execution and intensified resolve. I slow down as the clock moves on.

That’s the name of the game, girls. I’m quite chipper during the first hour of my workout, all smiles, walking upright, looking sane and acting sensibly. I’m bombing. It’s the last hour or portion of an hour when you can see the animal creep into my body. I think it’s a hyena or a species of orangutan or a gargoyle... I’m not sure, no one is. Anyway, I slow down slightly due to the stooped posture, wall-hitting fatigue and furtive glancing from side to side, all impediments to form, focus and pace. I’m bombed.

Most of you know this stuff, but, hey, I’m sharing it again, which for no plausible reason reminds me; I was reading in Ladies Home Journal that training one muscle group a day is the way to go. Go where, I asked myself. Across the street with the chicken that wanted to get to the other side? Watch out for the 16-wheeler. They love chickens.

One bodypart a day is sufficient. It works. But I ask the basic question, is it real weight training and musclebuilding, or is it an organized, compromised, conventionalized, mechanized methodology for the uninspired follower?

Let’s see:

Chest on day one: works front delts and tris as well

Back on day two: works core and bis as well

Shoulders on day three: works tris, across upper back, more if cleaning and pressing

Legs on day four: works the core and whole system

Bis or tris, or bis and tris on day five: works bis and tris with added minor upper-body stimulation

Oh, well. Not bad... like canned soup. I’d eat canned soup if I was starving or stranded on an island or was a 12-year-old at Camp Wannabe for a week, or invited to a cheesy, unimaginative friends house for dinner...  or promised there was a pearl in the bottom of the can. Umm, umm, good.

I like to weave and blend the muscles at work, direct a course and follow my nose, paint a picture on a large canvas with all the colors and space I need, go this way and that way purposefully with my eye on the goal, and travel a straight line full of curves and adventure... the concept, the notion, of training one bodypart a day is confining, limiting, imprisoning.

Sidetracked again. I’m done. The animal within retreats. I make it to my ride without assistance. There a premixed Bomber Blend restores my vitality, appearance and soul. I can go home now.

A toast to all bombers, brave and bold...

Sky in your eye... Draper




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