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The Times They are a Changin’

Dave Draper, as painted by artist Jim Sanders

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The auto has come a long way since the Model-T. Bigger, stronger and faster, and far too many: on the roads, at the intersections, in garages, on lots for sale and in backyards rusting away. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Gyms are not much different. There were barbells and dumbbells, benches, racks and pulleys, also a very good idea. And, then, came along bigger, stronger and faster and far too many: on the corner, in the mall, down the boulevard and in the towering office building, with contraptions to do the same things the solid steel did, except the steel did it better.

New, advanced and state-of-the-art machines are available each year to the naïve and undiscerning consumer, and the optimistic and obliging gym owner who is also going broke, “I’ll take a barbell, a dumbbell and a bench, and throw in a dozen treadmills, stair-steppers, ellipticals and stationary bikes with the built-in TVs and stereo sound systems. Thank you.”

Nothing builds muscle and strength better than the basic barbells and dumbbells and benches plus a handy milk crate, a few blocks of wood and some bars for dips and chins. Add desire, enthusiasm and improvisation and you’re in the bodybuilding business... make that, bodybuilding heaven.

There are some odd rules and regulations bodybuilders are impressed to apply these days, along with the impossible selection of highly-advanced (cough cough) and technical equipment. Many of these come from people who research and write for musclebuilding mags, I guess, and have visited a 24-Hour or Bally’s gym to get an up-close, first-hand and in-depth feel for their subject matter. Some are even technically legit.

Here’s a good one: Do not train for more than 60 minutes, or your body will go into catabolism and destroy your muscle tissue.

Oh, that my brothers and sisters would or could train an hour a day, what a fine world this would be. Health and fitness would abound, discipline and self-esteem would define our character. There’d be less crime and more civility, less apathy and more excitement.

If you’re in good shape to begin with -- not undermuscled, round as a beer barrel and health-impaired -- an hour a day is swell. But who do you know is in shape to begin with?

It’s good idea, science in a nutshell: inflammation, overtraining, rise in cortisol, decrease in testosterone. But, do any of us who are so inclined believe we can build a serious body lifting weights one hour a day? It takes that long to get warmed up, focused and rolling. Then there’s the sets and reps and strain and pain and overload and hypertrophy, a slug of water and a deep breath and a towel across the brow, hello and goodbye.

Isn’t 60-minute-max a generalization? Are we all the same? What about muscle structure and body chemistry, training methods and intensities, rest and ability to recuperate, nutritional support, power of the mind and lifestyles? Goals?

Give me 90 minutes five days a week, Doc, I’m beggin’ you. I take Bomber Blend, I’m good to my wife and cat; I don’t liter, cuss, speed... c’mon... just an hour and a half. Whadaya say? Does that include aerobics?

Here’s another beauty: Exercise one bodypart a day for maximum muscular growth.

Cute idea for kids messing around in the backyard with their water-filled plastic weights (or the mysterious person who’s in good shape to begin with), but not for lifters interested in building serious muscle and strength any time soon.

Bombing and blasting is old fashioned -- like hard work -- and went out of style in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Training with your personal trainer or iPod is very popular these days. What happened to focus and thinking on your own? Have these evaporated with personal responsibility and serenity?

I know, I know. A little background music is harmonic and companionable, and a little direction and encouragement from a sturdy guide is often priceless. Alas, I suppose I’m just a stubborn ole’ mountain goat (though I prefer to think of myself as a lone wolf, a solitude shark in deep waters, a soaring eagle on high, a camouflaged stealth warrior).

The modern training list grows: Change your routine frequently, by gosh, some suggest.

What are we talking about: underwear and socks, TV channels? Frequent modifications work for those who have lifted forever and have built some impressive muscle and know the path they walk. But changing a routine before it’s provided maximum performance, insistent overload and subsequent hypertrophy is like spitting out gum before the flavor’s gone. You’ve got to chomp on that iron and steel like a juicy, meaty bone. Savor it.

And be careful, warn the rule makers, not to eat too much protein; a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is far more than you’ll need. Your liver, kidneys, heart and molars are in danger.

I’m sure a gram a pound is far more than you’ll need, if your body receives isolated amino acids in prescribed doses according to your exact requirements regularly throughout the day and it perfectly assimilates that which it is provided. But the body doesn’t. It goes to the inner pool of ingredients and grabs what it needs, when it needs it, if it’s there and utilizes it as best as it is able. The bigger the pool, the better the choices and chances to fulfill the demand. What’s left over provides exercise and recuperation fuel, or is cleverly dumped.

Spare the protein, starve the muscle.

The only thing that outdoes the iffy training ideas offered to the health- and muscle-bound public is the profusion of at-home training equipment available through TV infomercials. If I’d had known building abs was so easy and quick, I’d have started 10 minutes ago or chosen something more challenging, like painting by numbers.

Moms and dads, brothers and sisters, you can sit on this comfy collapsible cushion available in designer colors and lean to the left and lean to the right repeatedly for two minutes and develop as many abs as you want as soon as you can. Just make your selection on the digital AbMore DialRite. It Works!

There are decent at-home resistance-training units on the market that will build moderate muscle and strength and they are growing in reputation and popularity. I believe they’re catching on over the years, as they are refined and advertised, and as gyms are turning into large zoos way on the other side of town... with more and more gadgets, glitter and salespeople and less parking.

Training at home has great appeal, but the neighborhood gym with iron and steel is ideal. Maybe they, like the retro cars -- Mustang Fastback, PT Cruiser, VW Bug, the boxy Element -- will make a comeback. Or, like old styles that were replaced before their popularity or usefulness were realized or consummated, Big Jack’s Barbell Club will reopen. Some things we never outlive: blue jeans, hot dogs, ice-cream cones, tee shirts, sneakers, tattoos, Snickers. How about the neighborhood gym? Just a thought!

Curious times: Gold’s Gyms are continuing to undergo a corporate revamping, and The Man is committed to extinguishing any and all evidence of hardcore training from their premises. Their infamous Venice Headquarters is being buffed and bleached as we pump and burn. Wall murals and muscle-bound staff are enduring modification, or eradication, at the hands of housepainters and the corporate firing squad.

World Gym, Ltd. is under new ownership and the Marina del Rey headquarters gym closed its doors on June 12th. What happens to the band of originals and old timers who have congregated, commiserated and joyfully toiled on the concrete slabs of these establishments for years and years? Some of them are as old as the sand on the nearby Muscle Beaches and twice as gritty. Do they fade away like a western sunset, or roll on like the Pacific’s everlasting waves?

Efforts by the gnarly and devoted remnants to carry on some version of the traditional gym scene were dashed when rents were discussed. You must be member of the Fortune 500 to lease a phone booth near the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles.

And what about the rumor I hear down at the old courthouse that Bally has made the initial preparations to file for bankruptcy?

Bowflex, anyone? Chins and dips? Pushups and isometrics? Jogging in place?

I prefer not to end my bold and decisive theses with questions. Thus, assume your position behind the controls and ready your crew and craft for takeoff. This is not a simulated effort. This is an authentic procedure upon which lives are dependent. If anyone needs to go to the potty, he or she should do so now. No chewing gum. No whispering. No passing notes around. Anyone caught misbehaving will not get cookies and Bomber Blend when the mission is over.

Train hard, be strong, Godspeed... The Bomber

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