First Things First

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Life’s Lessons and Secrets, Friends and Foes



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We all know, or at least have heard of people who have a cup of coffee and a cigarette for breakfast (instant Maxwell House and a mentholated Salem). By noon it’s a beer, a salami hero and a cigarette. 4 PM rolls around and they’re heading for the 7-11 for another pack, a six-pac and a sausage-dog-on-a-stick. This routine goes on till it’s pizza in front of the TV and whatever there is to scarf, swig, smoke or spill.

Gulp, gurgle, gag... see ya in the mornin’... tough day ahead.

These are the folks I think about when I feel like I’m losing my grip: missed a workout (heathen), ate some fries (glutton) or stayed up past midnight (debaucher). The contrast lifts me up and gives me hope... makes me feel better about myself. This is known as Advanced Sociological Science, or ASS, one of the first survival methods I learned in grade school.

Unsophisticated, but ASS works well for louts, boars and the obtuse.

I later discovered it was the ups and downs that make me crazy. Actually, the downs make me insane. The ups I find desirable, even though they are few and far between. The occasional upswings can keep me going for a long time. They bear the nourishing fruits of hope, achievement, contentment and confidence.

> Hi, how are you, Champ?

< I’m just fine and dandy, thanks. Life is but a dream!

> Let’s go to the gym and toss some iron.

< Let’s go. Nothing could be finer.

The down times, the flip-side of the coin, weigh a ton and smell like chicken farms on a hot summer afternoon. They don’t come and go, as much as they come and stay. Downswings have no swing whatsoever; they are downers, pure and simple. The fruits they bear are excessive, stinky, bitter and rotten.

> Hi, how are you, Big Guy?

< What’s it to ya, Jerk-head?

> Let’s go to the gym and toss some iron.

< How about I toss you and your bizarro girlfriend off a roof?

Cycles, the ups and downs, are constant variables throughout the universe; ask any astronomer or astrologer or biologist or day-trader or housewife in the neighborhood. Are you still skeptical? Ask any bodybuilder.

And the roller-coaster ride is not affected by a single force, like, say, the angle of the tracks. Not so, or high-low control might be less complicated, effortful and despairing. I proclaim, having iron ore for brains, there are seven, maybe 107, categories of factors controlling the rise and fall of the musclebuilder’s wild forward-backward motion.

Of course, those of you who have read more than a small sampling of my words know I deal in facts only:

Fact 1: I have no clue what I’m talking about. I make this stuff up as I go along.

Fact 2: The following is a partial and uncreative list of cycle-affecting interrelated variables controlling our workout life. They are overlapping and in no particular order:

> Relative bodyweight -- up, down, sideways... pudgy or solid at this particular moment

> Relative mental wellbeing -- attitude, moods, urges, spirits, inspiration, stress

> Physical health -- systemic health, illness, injury, pain, energy, endurance

> Recent dietary factors, menu -- right on, sloppy, sufficient

> Recent training intensity -- eager, lazy, mild, harsh, bombing, blasting -- think rest, recovery, training momentum

> Distresses outside the gym walls -- relationships, job, prosperity, world woes, optimism

> Distractions -- from births to deaths, weddings to divorces, the tick of time, the tick on your pet, the tic in your eye

> Training motives, incentives and motivation -- sound goals, level of enthusiasm, success and fulfillment or lack thereof -- appreciation and encouragement from the outside

> Workouts -- consistency, adequacy, focus, execution, satisfaction, trust

> Gym attitude and atmosphere -- energetic, negative, positive -- training is work, joy, going through the motions -- gym’s convenience, inconvenience

> Factors known only to science and God -- biorhythms, God’s will for us... I’m just sayin.’

Of course, there are volumes of conditions that affect our training breadth, width, depth, density and profile. As I sit here breathless on this 107-degree California day, I thought I’d offer up this nifty handful for you to consider. And you thought it was all about the weights. No, the iron is just a simple player in the conundrum of lifting and growing and muscle and might.

Knowing what circumstances affect our workouts and training -- up or down, left or right -- gives us a handle to grasp and wield to our advantage. The same knowledge can provide clues how to manipulate our training to improve our personal ups and downs. Let’s face it: Who we are, if we’ve lifted long enough, is largely determined by our training, and how well or poorly our workouts go.

Ah, geez! Like, get a job, a life, a pet, a shrink, meds...

No, no, no!! This is a good thing, bombo. Living and lifting and learning and growing, as a person, go together like monkeys in a barrel... umm... let me work on the analogy... like a family, teammates, soldiers, ingredients in Laree’s hearty beef soup, exercises in a superset.

Training plateaus are mean step-sons of the up-and-down cycles. They are shady and shabby, ruthless and unconscionable, finding pleasure in dropping in any time they decide, and sticking around till the weak wobble and weep. They, too, are closely connected and subject to the interrelated variables listed above.

I have met and suffered and endured more plateaus, aka sticking points, iron insanity, steel slumps, metal madness, lifter’s lunacy and iron-hoisting hell, than I have earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, raging fires and adoring females. They don’t go away nicely. They are not easily persuaded. They are not amenable to threats or kindnesses. They cannot be eliminated.

They must be outsmarted and outlived.

An example of why my training is what it is lately, after going through the menu of variables one-by-one: bodyweight in the basement, health in the closet, diet right on but volume off, train as hard as I can with slow recovery, am not in want but the world has gone downhill fast (not you -- the others), no tics but I am accruing tick-tocks by the flocks, training spirit is high (go figure), workouts are the best I can do, the gym is the best in the world, and this is God’s will for me... ask any scientist.

Gee, it’s hot! Can we talk more about this next week? I gotta take a shower before I head for the gym. Yeah. I’m mental. Too late now...

Bombs Away... dd

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----

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