First Things First

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From Here to Eternity


Photo by Tom Peterson, Zimbabwe, early '70s

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Talked to Don Howorth, Zabo, Leroy Colbert and Frank Zane in the passed few weeks and we all concluded that time, though not courageous, gracious or patient, is persistent. Frank, the child among us (six months my junior, but mature), plans to get in super shape this summer. Don (a little bit older than me) trains himself and a dozen other muscleheads at various Hollywood neighborhood gyms throughout the week; baby needs shoes and muscles need attending.

Leroy (a little bit older than Don), my first bodybuilding hero and partner, offers nutritional consultation from his Ventura Boulevard heath food store, Total Nutrition. He juggles a pair of dumbbells in the backroom between clients.

Zabo (a little bit older than Leroy, yet younger than Moses) works whatever doesn’t hurt three times a week at Gold’s, Venice: sit-ups and cables, 60 minutes, gone.

I get a weekly email from Deputy Lou Ferrigno (he’s even younger than Frank Zane, if you can imagine... pups), encouraging me in less then three to four words to carry on. He’s probably just realizing the rapid and consistent flight of time... faster than a speeding bullet.

I mention these things because we just turned another page on the calendar. Hellooo Miss March. Tell me I’m not alone. It was only Christmas last week and few days later, New Year’s. Laree and I still have decorations up and fruitcake sitting on the kitchen counter. Isn’t there some kinda law we can pass in Congress? They pass a law every 10 minutes and they don’t even ask us, why not a law against the rapid transit of time, something we can all agree on? Call it Rapid Transit Time Relief (RTTR); the rich can pay for it.

Whatta they put in those fruitcakes, by the way, they never get moldy?

I’m compelled to say it. I say the same thing every year right about now: I sink to my worse shape during the funky month of March. ‘08s spring inspiration is not even a memory, the summer’s warm and sunny boon has faded and the still-lingering winter descent has bleached and stiffened the body and its plump and de-pumped moving parts. To walk past a mirror unclothed can be risky. Beware. I spray anything that reflects my image with foam from the handy household fire extinguisher. Works twice as good should the reflecting object be on fire.

I wear long sleeves at the gym and let the over-sized shirt hang loosely at my waist. This is not my favorite gear, but it effectively deceives me and those within eyeshot. I’m doughy, but no one knows for sure. We all have our secrets.

March indicates, I reckon, the end of one musclebuilding cycle and the beginning of another. As a seasoned lifter (at least 12 attentive months in the gym, on the bench, under the bar), it’s that time of year, to retool, revamp and recharge.

The winter is melting and the spring is warming up; cold grey is yielding to sunshine-gold and sky-blue. It’s in the air: Your head knows, your body has a clue and your spirits are peaking day by day.

Let creativity fly. Improvise and devise. Unloose the mind. Imagine and dare.

Innovate supersets and set- and rep-schemes; modify style and form, pace and range of motion; revive and revise goals, commitment and purpose; outline appealing and strategic eating plans (tuna and water and fresh vegetables -- Yes!).

It’s time to break out the old routines and pretend they’re new.

I’m just sayin’... we’re almost out of the winter’s storm and the dark clouds are receding with haste and certainty. Revival -- hope filled with energy -- is in the crisp fresh air. I’m thinking standing barbell curls supersetted with two-hand overhead triceps presses with one dumbbell, followed by pulley pushdowns -- one biceps movement to two triceps, with enough pause between sets to appreciate life and look forward to its rewards.

Until recently -- last week -- I’d complete five sets of each exercise. Growl, chomp, gulp! Today, four supersets are just right. The last set of five is great when you’re young, growing and dopey, but can be too much when you’re mature, grown up and dopey. Save-a-tendon, by Dave Drapeless.

It’s not a bad idea to focus on one muscle group as a priority to catapult the spirits out of the no-zone. Prop the end of a bench on a milk carton (low- fat) and execute dumbbell curls from the low angle -- light to moderate weight, slow full-range reps, six to eight in number. It’s the range of motion -- dumbbells almost reaching the floor to almost reaching the chin -- and the unusually low-angle leverage that make the exercise happen. The biceps are slightly bewildered, which is good. Same-ole, same-ole becomes boring for everybody and every bodypart.

Need I remind bombers to be stealthy and sure? Commit yourself, direct the action, enjoy the groove.

Elaborate on the construction process by combining the low-angle peak-builders with machine dips. I vary the number of reps and the pace of their performance and the related targets of resistance according to feel and need, pleasure and pain. I might do as many as 20 tight repetitions of locomotive speed, leaning forward and back for clusters of repetitions, or rounding or arching my back for variation of musclebuilding affect. Should I get the urge, I’ll raise the weight and execute eight slow reps with one specific region under focus and force.

You’ve got to be there while the action is taking place, or you miss the trip. The trip isn’t simply Goodbye, I’m leaving -- Hello, I’m here. It’s all the crazy stuff en route.

Some days I find myself full of it. You can interpret that statement any way you want and I’ll not argue it. But at this sweet moment in time I’m referencing enthusiasm and heart and energy and drive. (Excuse me; I suddenly feel a little nostalgic...) On those glorious days I soar, antennae engaged and the winds of inspiration rushing under my wings and through my hair (more nostalgia). Zoom zoom.

And, on some days I cannot get off the ground. I taxi down the runway -- putter, sput, sput -- and a local tow truck hauls me back. Embarrassing! I have recently invested in my own towing company, No Go Tow Co. Just a start-up company, but it has promise. Lot of aging craft on the tarmac lately, gotta think of the future.

When enthusiasm is low and energy is running on empty, I slow down and lighten up. I’m absolutely opposed to going through the motions to simply get from here to there. I insist on manning the throttle, in control, alert, alive, aware and effective.

I’ve had some of my most fulfilling workouts with lighter weights and more-thoughtful reps. Fact is lighter weights allow more thoughtful reps. You are there wholly and without compromise. The psyche-up, driving force and severe demand of heavy weights, God bless them, can, in effect, interfere directly with exercise execution, form and focus. Maximum-thrust dynamics direct focus and form away from the muscle engagement of the rep and to the completion of the set, the all-consuming final rep, whether it is six reps or one.

Wild eyes, wild growls and wild antics are frequently displayed, before, during and after maximum-exertion lifting performance. Delirium and chaos occur throughout the gut-wrenching process. The procedure works, no denial, and plays a major roll in getting huge, ripped, rock hard and powerful and delightfully satisfied. Hoisting the big stuff with a brutal smile and a mischievous grin must be done. Yet, nothing’s more intimate and filled with understanding than those sets of repetitions under the magnifying glass to witness, define and savor every molecular involvement.

One more lip smacking mouthful, bombers: barbell wrist curls followed by thick bar reverse curls and flat bench French presses. Whatta ya think? Like cream cheese and cinnamon butter on a fresh bagel. Nothing like lifting your weights and eating them, too.

Bomber be aware. No more talking on the gym floor. Be there or be gone.

Someone call No Go Tow Co (9111) now. Man on cell phone near squat rack, girl texting while sitting on leg extension.

Here comes the fuzz... God bless us all... DD

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