First Things First

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Nothing Changes, Nothing Remains the Same


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I park a block from the gym and can hear the clanking of plates echoing down the street. Come to think of it, I hear the clanking of plates in my dreams, under anesthesia and under water.

The doctors say it’s an occupational hazard, like repetitive-use syndrome, battle fatigue or post-traumatic stress. I listen to the irregular, high-pitched concussions even when I don’t hear them. They are my built-in metronome, my internal clock, my heartbeat, my rhythm and rhyme, my song.

Time to get to work. First, I sit in the corner by the lifting platform, collect myself and check out the scene. The flight of stairs from the parking lot knocks me out. You laugh but my gym bag weighs as much as a Chevy short block. Got my stuff in there: food, drink, special gadgets, wraps, belt and things that crawl and go bump in the night. I also have WD-40, never again to be mistaken for underarm deodorant... Yow-za, Momma!

Everything looks cool; back doors are wide open, fans are blowing, my bench is free and a few friendly faces dot the gym floor. A slug of water -- make sure it’s water and not DMSO -- and I’m on my way.

It’s a sunny summer Sunday in coastal California and anybody with half a brain is outdoors enjoying the good life: beach, hiking, biking, boating and picnicking. How would I know, you ask, as I don’t know anybody with have half a brain? Ha. Very cute. Laree has half a brain, wiseguy! (Go, Dave! Stick it to ’em.)

Today is a day of trial and error. Actually, every day is a day of trail and error, but this one is specific: some low input squats and deadlifts to test the body’s mechanics, range of motion, endurance and strength and lack thereof.

Good grief! Whose idea was this?

I am strong and courageous, but I’m not overly inspired. I am attentive and dedicated, but I’m not exactly happy. These will be done, but I’m not about to set any records. To exercise and determine my abilities, that is my purpose.

Yes, I shall start with the usual blend of crunches, leg raises and rope tucks to warm up, shape up and tighten up my midsection (dream on). These prepare me mentally and physically for the meat of the workout ahead. As I proceed, I gauge my input and adjust it appropriately to assure matter-of-factness is not the attitude with which I apply myself. Focus is achieved; effort and finesse are dialed in.

At the start, midway and in completion, it’s clear my level of input is seriously compromised. Fatigue is immediate and not amenable to friendly persuasion. It must be the long week and previous consuming workouts, the hot weather, sleep limitations and the possible loss of precious bodyweight. Rats! Time for plan B.

Plan B is whatever I feel like doing that can be done without overdoing it, exclusive of packing up and going home. When the weights seem nailed to the floor and the burn feels more like a sting, the pump’s in the dumps and I know a quick exit is off-limits, I return to my gym bag, a headquarters of sorts, and think.

Another slug of water, I give myself 30 seconds... tops. Reviewing previous workouts, accessing my physical responses and considering my desires and needs, I make my conclusions. Intuition surfaces.

Biceps and triceps it is, with whatever stray muscles I can drag along in the act -- a spot of shoulders, a chunk of chest and a bit of back. Arms will dominate and there’ll be no leg work today.

I feel better knowing deadlifts and squats are not in my immediate future. Another time they will be appropriate; they will rule, lead the way, take me where I must go. Not today. The decision is run through my trusty ICM (internal copout meter) and the readings are just fine: no alarms, no doubts, no guilt, no fear, no way, Jose.

I can blast an arm workout when the reserves are low -- mental, physical, emotional and motivational. And a good arm workout can be established within a few light sets of attentive warm-ups (i.e. standing barbell curls supersetted with dips -- a 50-year-old quickie workout favorite when in the pinch, incidentally, as the moves are easy to set up, familiar, comfortable, fun and provide a pump, an agreeable burn, a slow rise in heart rate, body warmth and breathing, offering the first delicious slurps of progress, direction and investment).

I’m beginning to cook and a mini blast is before me.

I learn the hard way and sometimes I don’t learn at all. It’s happened before: A good arm-workout is best when it is not overdone. Too often I have found myself barreling along with vigor, spirit and good intentions in the lead and my instincts lagging behind, and I exceed my maximum training input. I overthrow my ball of energy, strength and purpose and it lands in a distant thorn patch. Exhausted, beaten and bleeding, I exit the gym on my hands and knees.

Not today. Not me. This wiseguy is too clever for that old mistake. Sunny Sundays cast new light on old training gloom. I’ll savor a short, sweet and irresistible arm blast, and (I’m persistent) revisit plan A, squats and deadlifts, with appropriate revisions. I’ll only dip into the two burly exercises to remind my body of their action and inspect the effects of their load. This weightlifting stuff can be very intimate.

Arms are done, bis and tris complete, my wings hang loosely by my sides. Four basic movements -- two biceps and two triceps supersetted, 90% output -- and I return to the corner lifting platform for recon and a sip of cold pre-mixed Bomber Blend. I put a lone plate on the bar before me and do four sets of eight reps. I could do a lot more, I could do a lot less. But four sets multiplied by eight reps of absolute focus, rigorous muscle action and internal vigor cannot be surpassed.

The squat rack eventually bears the same weight for the same combination and by workout’s end I’m cooked medium rare, just how I like it.

See? You can take your workout and reform it according to your needs and desires, if they’re legit, and providing your changes are wise and applied with hard work, good form, acute focus and smart purpose. It’s called moving on and going forward, thinking, feeling and making sense. You can do it, if you know what you’re doing. Have courage and faith.

More of that protein drink and some minor contemplation at my rendezvous point and I’m outta here. I circle the thorn bush on the way to my vehicle and listen to the fading clang of metal. The clamor fades but never grows still.

May we rest in peace when it does.

God didn’t give us wings for nothing, bombers. Reach for the sky as the wind beneath lifts us high.

Godspeed... Dave

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Communication among friends is priceless. Some folks I know (whose eye sight is fading) ask how I’m able to stay in shape after all these years. I answer, by training regularly and drinking Bomber Blend. Tastes great! How do you maintain motivation, is another popular question. I tell them I read the davedraper.com website regularly and thumb through Brother Iron, Sister Steel periodically. Works for me. And you seldom complain of colds or common ailments -- why is that, more want to know. To say I’m a stoical fellow and a man of steel is totally unnecessary, redundant and almost arrogant. Rather, it’s my daily ingestion of Super Spectrim vitamins and minerals for over 30 years, I point out, and the ongoing completion of dedicated sets and reps.

I suddenly stand before my imaginary inquirers -- make-believe admirers and fantasy fans -- and we all pile into my pickup and cruise to the gym to blast it. They eagerly tag along and coax me on: One more rep, Draper. You can do it. Push that iron! Lift that steel! Hoist that metal! Tote that bail!

Men with sagging pecs and receding hairlines need support. I also need a job, or a clue, a friend, guidance, some oxygen, a transfusion, maybe a stiff drink, pain killers, anti-hallucinogens...

All you really need is Bomber Blend and Super Spectrim vitamins and minerals. That’s all, folks! The other stuff is... well... the other stuff.

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