First Things First

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Weight Training -- It’s all in the Mind, Smiley

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It’s gonna be a long day. I splashed coffee as I poured my morning cup and the subsequent splatter formed an unmistakable smiley face with a turned-down mouth. No biggie. I registered the mishap and went about my business. Within the hour I poured a second sloppy cup repeating the splash sequence and formed another unhappy face, this one almost mean in expression. Getting careless, I observed, yet the coincidence did not escape my attention.

A third cup, not for me but for Laree, was poured with extra care and not a drop dared go astray. I added a dash of milk and the cup held its contents heroically. Emboldened, I grasped the mug assertively, Men Rule inscribed on its side, and it spat a rebellious arc of steamy java from its thick lip. A sneering droopy face, number three, formed on the tabletop. I froze. It’s gonna be a long, long day.

I was scheduled for a major blast at the blasting site, The Weight Room Santa Cruz, and now this. I’m not a superstitious person, yet some things in life cannot be explained. This is one of them. I’m hesitant to dismiss three consecutive scowling faces revealed by errant coffee spatterings in a single morning. Rats!

Ruffled, but undaunted -- 45 years under the iron tends to squash doubt and despair -- I completed my morning tasks and prepared for my two-hour bout of metal against might. We read too much into daily coincidence.

Seldom do I approach my workouts without scrutiny, psyching-up and a touch of anxiety. When I was younger, this prepping ritual was extensive and demanding, and I often found myself emotionally and psychologically spent by time I stood before the racks and benches. It was as if the deed had already been done twice over; I was exhausted, on the verge of overtraining, in need of oxygen and a change of view. Hmmm, I wondered, was this the craftsman of the three grim faces I imagined staring my way from the countertop during my morning breaks? Am I so utterly consumed with weight training and musclebuilding outside the gym that I face weariness and discontent when in the gym?

These were my thoughts as I traveled Highway 1 toward The Weight Room. The safe and familiar confines of my vehicle comprise a welcome think-tank for unraveling my daily dilemmas. Am I witnessing personal insight into my weightlifting and musclebuilding? Could it be I’ve been too involved for too many years with too few diversions, and I was devolving? The first grim face, a sign of mental fatigue -- world-weariness; the second droopy kisser, an image of physical fatigue -- listlessness; the third sorrowful countenance, an indication of spiritual fatigue -- faithlessness.

It’s better to be clairvoyant than a weak-willed person given to superstition. Obviously I’ve been gifted with the covetous power to read coffee beans and associated splatters. There’s money to be gained here somewhere. I’ll place a blinking neon sign in my window. PSYCHIC-- Coffee Bean Readings -- OPEN

We must learn to separate ourselves from our pressurized gym environs, those heavy-duty workshops where muscle and might battle for superiority. The gym must be reserved for our training only, and our time beyond the gym walls should be reserved for our duties and entertainments, family and friends apart from the deeds of the gym. Further, our dietary needs that grant us immeasurable strength, health and clarity ought to be greeted with appreciation and fascination, not spoiled, weak-willed protest. We can get so wrapped up in our fitness pursuits that we exceed our capacity to favor and enjoy them, and, thus, we inhibit and destroy them. This over-saturation is not uncommon and leads to self-destruction -- implosion.

We need balance. We must learn to compartmentalize. We should go with the flow and lighten up as the conditions permit.

Gauging ourselves without compromising our training enthusiasm and dedication is the key. We sometimes think that commitment to a worthy and tough goal requires zealous devotion and fanatical engagement. Do or die, all or nothing, now or never. I frequently say "blast it" to make a point: that is, train hard, consistently and joyfully. And to work out hard and eat smart are good things till they approach obsession; then they become weird and extreme and we burn out. We lose.

What do we do, there’s so much to know? How hard, how often and when should we exercise? What works for you? Will it work for me?

When I’m stumped, or bored, or uninspired, unmotivated, uninterested or uncaring, defeated or in doubt, I say, "be strong, this too will pass," and I work out with what reserve and resources I have at hand. The awesome list of obstructions are tough to overcome, yet overcoming them provides skill, savvy and practice for like obstacles in the future. Any road of worthy pursuit is strewn with frustrating and bone-breaking challenges, each presenting critical instruction, and rejoicing, in their eventual conquest. Throttle forward.

I arrived at the gym a little early and had yet to satisfy my quota of pre-workout Bomber Blend. Not wanting to enter the arena low on sustenance and fortification, I uncapped my handy shaker and poured a generous portion of the pre-mixed miracle protein drink into a paper cup. The cup, propelled forward by the sudden inflow of liquid, gave up stray chocolate-colored splats in the uncanny likeness of a smiley face, its eyes and curly mouth emitting an almost audible chuckle. I cracked a nervous grin, slugged down the prized concoction and bound onto the gym floor.

I confess, bombers, the display of silly faces I describe are sheer fantasy. They appeared by the stretch of my imagination, a playful thing, and the ongoing coincidences of time, places and things. Indulge me. One too many dumbbells have fallen upon my head.

I was weary in various dimensions of my being and I needed to address the compound condition, as we all do from time to time. To confront the slump, I resorted to a routine of fast-moving, lightweight multisets that I devised as I proceeded. The gym was empty this early afternoon and prearranging dumbbells to accommodate the quick-paced routine was not a problem.

I lined up my tools in loose order for round one: dumbbell inclines, followed by dumbbell pullovers, followed by bentover dumbbell laterals, followed by dumbbell curls, followed by overhead triceps extensions -- 4 full circuits of 6 to 8 reps. I felt I was in the Muscle Beach Dungeon and the year was 1965. I stood amid the dumbbells -- little fellas, I noticed, compared to the mid-'60s vision passing through my mind -- and stared at a large grinning face of anxiously awaiting dumbbells: two 25-pound eyes, a gently curved mouth of 35s and 45s and an odd-ball nose comprised of a sole 50-pounder.

I looked up, down, toward the exit and sighed. Be strong, this, too, will pass. I dismantled the grinning countenance with cautious yet increasingly energized sets. The dumbbells were gripped, hoisted and scattered about the gym floor without regard to facial expression. I did my thing, exerted force, evoked a pump, enjoyed the dance, made no friends and yielded to no enemies. I finished with another creative circuit of five: cable crossovers, widegrip pulldowns, dips, seated lat rows and thumbs-up curls, same set-and-rep scheme. Though I foiled the opportunity of any appearance of expression from the equipment, I heard distant laughter in the shadows, corners and walls.

Light weights make heavy weights possible, light workouts prepare for heavy workouts, playful workouts enable hardcore workouts, letting go develops the grip and imagined faces make fine companions... providing you’re healthy in body, mind and soul.

Did I mention this one? The other evening, as I was preparing to land my craft, a cloud formation hovering above the horizon in direct line with the setting sun began to separate. My descent was steady and long, and I observed the thick streak of clouds break up into three hazy, yet distinct components: two scorching-red eyes, underlined with a gracefully upturned crimson mouth. The three-piece glimmering formation balanced momentarily on the horizon and shimmered as if words of affection and solace were being spoken.

It is said of bombers, they have no room or occasion for sneers, snarls or unpleasant expressions. They delight in take-offs, flight and landings.

Have a nice day, keeds... DD

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