First Things First

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Time Passages

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Laree has planned her traditional Thanksgiving dinner -- baked Spam, fried onion rings, candied popcorn and all the fixings, including a pitcher of Coke and lime Jello for dessert. After stuffing ourselves silly, we sit around and sip instant decaf, nibble on Twix and read back issues of Flex magazine. As the evening fades we snuggle by the fireside, play LPs (Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Burt Bacharach) and count our blessings.

Right about this time of year I make witty and insightful comments about the fleeting passage of time -- we’ve taking a big bite out of winter, 30-some days till Christmas, seems like only last month it was January, no holding the days back now, 2008 before ya know it. Clever as they may be, we’ll have none of that time’s-flying gibberish this season. Everyone knows the holidays are plodding along like work horses and it’ll be New Year’s Eve in five short weeks. Do we have to count the days? Isn’t it enough to shop till ya drop, wrap presents, hurry up, miss your workouts and gain twelve pounds of blubber? No, I don’t want another piece of pie and not another word about time.

Got 10 seconds? The theme of the newsletter is, “What I’ve learned so far.” Since my collection of material is slim, I’m throwing in the complementary bonus, “What I’m learning along the way.” Of course, having little knowledge of anything beyond lifting weights and building muscles, the two closely associated disciplines will be my central subject matter. Got a pad and pencil ready? This stuff’s heavy.


I left out the details as they are boring and no one seems to agree upon them. I figure the less said, the fewer the disagreements. It is the holiday season, after all. Additionally, with my limited-input philosophical approach each of us has a greater opportunity to fill in the Eat, Lift, Rest and Grow (LERG) specifics ourselves. We do not live in a totalitarian society, people. The Stone Age of survival only has come and gone.

Our choices -- life’s intricate factors of self-control -- such as exercise, sets and reps are deeply personal. Proteins and carbs and fats should not necessarily be treated universally either. How much one sleeps, how big one gets -- these are not trite grab-bag subjects. They are private; they are individual and they are delicate. I should think there’d be laws protecting these freedoms -- moral considerations, spiritual concerns. What has mankind come to?

How about rabid LERG bumper stickers and T-shirts and rallies? LIFT EAT REST AND GROW -- LIFT EAT REST AND GROW!

I’m finding it hard to be serious because it is, in fact, Thanksgiving, 2007. Who is going to read in-depth reporting on muscle and might while feasting on turkey and pumpkin pie? Besides us? Getting gushy mid-holiday-season is also difficult, as the loving theme has been resisted, bombarded and fought over. Who has time to be genuinely thankful when you might be liable for the treasonous, pious and threatening act?

This is the perfect setting and time (that word again) for recalling why we love barbell curls, flexing our muscles and pulling on a t-shirt that doesn’t feel like a sail flapping in the breeze. We might not be huge and ripped, and the calves could use some extensive work (forget about the six-pac), but we are hefting and hoisting with all our might.

Exercise, we agree, is an activity that’s good for your health, shape and well-being. It’s as important as hygiene and right eating, a worthy job and a loving mate. Resistance exercise, the addition of a few machines, is another step forward, a muscle- and strength-building activity for the energetic and physically inclined. Weightlifting and powerlifting are iron-sports involving strength, technique and discipline, and often include competition. Bodybuilding is a specific muscle- and shape-building activity, which requires lifting weights extensively and precisely and eating properly. It, too, is often competitive.

Training is the term to describe all of the above activities and any one of them is an expression of one’s self. Some expressions are greater than others. They can be a diversion, a pastime or hobby or a beneficial tool in supporting and furthering other sports and recreations, and jobs and daily living. Ask yourself, who is not assisted by being strong and conditioned, well built and imposing: a bus driver -- a passenger, a lawyer -- a client, a doctor -- a patient, a CEO -- a pencil-pushing accountant? You, me, your spouse?

It’s a tough road to travel, this training business. Life’s a tougher road to travel without it. I dare say I’d pull onto the shoulder, throw it in neutral and apply the emergency brake if I had to go it on my own. I’d walk, I’d stumble, I’d hang on a signpost and stick out my thumb. But nobody picks up a bum.

Well, I must admit, that’s a generalization and an over-statement if I ever heard one. Over the years you give up stuff here and there and you adjust. The power, the density and the youthful symmetry all take a hit. But the expression, the training expression, if it is legitimate, remains strong.

I say these things to my peers and to those shaking off their teens like a first skin. The longer you pursue the cold, compact, clanking weights up and down the racks, streets and hillsides, the more certain you are it’s an expression of you -- an extension you. And musclehead is not exactly the character I had in mind. Determined, disciplined, authentic, developing and developed, and blessed with character are the more appropriate descriptives. Bombers.

I exclude myself from the observations, of course. I’m at the keyboard and don’t count (can’t type, either). This is about you, the one with a drumstick in one hand and pumpkin pie in the other. The one who works for the Man, raises kids, pumps gas, stitches incisions, checks beat-up vans for IEDs at ghastly intersections, volunteers at the teen crisis center or counts the days till he’s out on parole. Moms and pops and kids with hopes and dreams and a bench press in the garage.

IronOnliners -- Bombers -- Have Computer, Will Travel -- You who train with all your might, when you can and as you know how. Or feel guilt and disappointment when you don’t. When others recline, you incline. When they sit, you squat. She curls her hair, you curl the 25s. He cleans his plate, you add plates to your clean. They guzzle a brewski, you ingest a Bomber Blend.

You’re living and learning, lifting, eating, resting and growing. They’re eating, resting and growing... plump.

Aren’t you thankful this Thanksgiving? Here’s a sure-fire way to burn fat and get pumped -- not plumped -- next time you’re in the vicinity of iron and steel neatly and conveniently arranged on bars of different lengths, and before sturdy benches for sitting and reclining and adjacent to assorted cables from which to dangle, hang and pull. Sounds like your favorite gym down the street... downstairs... in the garage, where the vibes hum like still, yet warming B-29s.

I use a pair of 25s, 35s or 45s for this non-stop, no-rush encounter, depending on my expression. Be nice to the character grasping the iron; tis the season to be jolly.

A set of lying dumbbell presses for six reps... Sit up
A set of seated bentover dumbbell lateral rows for six reps... Stand up
A set of alternate curls for six reps... Sit; lay down and with one dumbbell
A set of stiffarm pullovers for six reps... Position yourself before the cables
A set of triceps pushdowns, forehead to lockout for six reps... Kneel down
A set of full range of motion rope tucks for 10 to 20 reps... Stand, smile, repeat.

Now, if I were you, when the vibes are right, I’d tell the family you want to walk the dog. Go wherever it is you have to go and give the brief encounter above a couple of good blasts. You’ll feel so much better and the dog will love you for it.

You don’t have a dog? He’ll love you anyway... unless he’s a she.

Hi, dear... back in time for seconds...

Stealth Bombers are lovable, thankful and true to the cause. They survive, protect and serve... They cruise.


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