The Hook is Getting Deeper

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It’s a tough day when you discover you can’t live without your training, specifically weight training. Oh, you’ll live, alright -- I tend to exaggerate -- but not without anguish. An important part of you, something similar to your heart and soul, spouse or first born, is missing.

Some who are new to IronOnline are thinking, “What’s he talking about?” Stick around long enough and you’ll find out. This iron-hoisting stuff grows on you like a southern accent. Ya’ll see!

It usually starts with wanting to lose a little fat and gain a little muscle. Toning is good. It then proceeds to feeling exhilarated and, well, sort of strong. “Here, I’ll move that big box for you, Bridgette.”

Your clothes fit better, tighter in a good place and looser in another good place. “Excuse me, miss; do you have this in petite?” or “Hey, buddy, I’ll take one of those fitted Ts in XL... that’s extra-large.”

One day someone asks if you’ve been working out. You say, “Excuse me?” You heard the person’s inquiry the first time, but you have him repeat it again. Shucks! An avalanche of humility shrugs from your contorting shoulders as you inflate your chest, flex your lats, contract your triceps and grow red-faced gasping, “Well, yeah, maybe, a little.”

Toning is okay for beginners, you decide, but lean muscle is really where it’s at. Give me baseball biceps balanced on horseshoe triceps and shoulders simulating smoldering cannonballs… or a flat tummy carried by firm legs and a bottom that doesn’t jiggle when ya wiggle. I can do this!

The hook is getting deeper. Your presence is required in Dallas for a week-long seminar. “Dallas? Me?” It’s always you, every year. You love the Dallas seminar -- happy hour, long lunches, late dinners, flirting and room service. Suddenly, it’s “Do they have a gym in Dallas? Will I have time to train? Oh, no! The three-hour flight and the stopover in Chicago... airports and airplanes and the food...

Novelty wears off, as novelty does, and lifting becomes a habit akin to eating and sleeping and paying your bills. Last month, however, they shut off the water and repoed the car, but you didn’t miss a single workout. What’s that all about? You notice, too, you now have five pair of sneakers and a special shelf in the closet neatly arranged with sweatpants and very cool, well-worn T-shirts with the necks cut out.

Disciplines, the cruel guidelines against which you once strongly rebelled, are now the character-building credos by which you live. Where’d that come from? Train hard, eat right and be strong! What are you, nuts? What happened to play, plop and please yourself?

One day you miss a few workouts because your wife’s family’s in town. “Welcome, Bob and Jane, little Jimmy and cutesy Sally.” You’re okay the first day; you’re oblivious, you’re generous, life is unaltered. Day two, you’re a little irritable. When you’d normally be training chest and back, your favorite muscle groups, you’re watching American Idol, America’s favorite TV show, and eating Chinese take-out with the chubby in-laws. You ask in a crackling, singsong tone, “How long ya’ll be staying, Bob and Jane, Jimmy and Sally?”

On the third day you notice your muscles are blobby. Joe and Jane and the snots want to go to the Italian restaurant -- they sure can put it away -- down the street from the gym of all places. Who are these people? You hardly know them. By the end of the evening you’re muttering incoherently, feel like stuffed manicotti and look like a raving maniac. No pump, no burn, no clank, no progress, no purpose. “What’s happening to me? I’m sinking, I’m goin’ down.”

One merciful day they leave, “Bye-bye, see ya next year.” But there’s more...

Your friends want to go to the movies; you want to go to the gym. Your buds want beers; you want Bomber Blend. When they’re at Cabo or Aspen, you’re at the Arnold Classic or the Powerlifting Nationals. The guys are talking about babes; you’re talking about barbells. Gals are talking about dumplings; you’re talking about dumbbells. Your neighbor gets a flat screen; you get a treadmill. Your co-worker buys season tickets; you buy an annual at The Weight Room.

There was a time when you’d rather confess your sins publicly in the town square than go to the gym on Sunday, or any day for that matter. Now, Sunday at the gym is a special time cuz it’s empty and the clang you hear is your clang, the breathing, your breathing. Secretly, you suspect because this is a sort of sacrificial workout, and because no one but you is drawing upon the energy and oxygen of the gym, and because you are so valiantly alone and so utterly close to the iron, as if at one with its molecular transfusion, muscular growth must be unadulterated and unobstructed, absolute, direct, pure and free. I’m just saying...

Sunday at the gym is a rush.

You think that’s weird, here’s the kicker. The guilt you experience upon missing a workout is huge and fast. How did you back yourself into this pinched and poorly illuminated corner? You dare forego the gym for a non-emergency occasion -- eating, drinking and being merry -- and the pain is deep and unforgiving. Skip a workout and you lose a pound of muscle, skip two and you gain a pound of fat, skip three, you’re a mess and they come and take you away. Your diet is subject to similar limitations and penalties, tuna and water the most common and grievous.

But it’s worth it, you say, the compromise, the pain, the isolation and the peculiarities. You might not be all you want to be, but you’re not on the inside looking out. You managed to escape the ordinary, unhealthy world in its dullness and complacency, and have established goals and purpose and direction. You’re on the move, en route, becoming, fulfilling, developing and having a blast. Go!

• Got the blues? Put on your lifting shoes.

• Nothing to do, nowhere to go? Do the seated lat row.

• In a shoulder-shaping phase, try the sidearm lateral raise.

• Want big guns? Move iron by the tons, curl till ya hurl and dip till ya flip!

• Under stress? Military press!

• In a fog, take a jog. Not to your liking, go biking. There’s always hiking.

• Are you miffed and in a tizzy? Weight lift and drink a Bomber Blend fizzy.

• Have not, no got and without a pot? Squat a lot!

• No need to fret, get one more set.

• And should you forget, on this you can bet:

The iron heals, mends, fortifies, toughens, vitalizes, enables, engages, entertains, satisfies, serves, instructs, humbles and makes a good door stop... or runway anchor for small winged-craft in mild windstorms.

Flight Might, Bomber Power and God’s Speed... Dave Draper

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