First Things First

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On the Bluffs of Metal Mountain

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When I was a young man, I did what young men do. I tore into the gym, greeted the iron with a nod and a tug and proceeded to kick it, beat it, bite it and heave it across the floor. It was a fierce encounter, a gory scene, a rowdy confrontation, a bloody mess.

I worked hard, the iron persisted and our relationship improved. Time has passed and I have changed and the weights have remained the same. My approach is notably different. I am more considerate and not given to tearing… unless we’re talking about ligaments, tendons and muscles.

What exactly is on my mind when I go to the gym and train, what are the driving forces, my purposes, what do I want to achieve, what do I expect, what will I accept?

I hate it when I get all intellectual, rational and analytical. Enter gym, lift weights, feel good, go home. What more is there to say?

Let me guess: Don’t go to the gym, don’t lift weights, feel crappy, beat wife, end of story.

Why do we have to make such a big production of it all? Everyday logs, rocks and axles became barbells and dumbbells and kettlebells, which became 20,000 square feet of machines for every muscle and bone and urge in the body.

Take me to your Gravitron.

Guess that’s why we’re blessed with intelligence, that we might question and wonder, develop and resolve. Does that mean I have to answer the dopey questions I presented earlier? Yes! I’ll give it my best shot. Remember, I’m no B-29, said the B-68 to the wind and rain and fire. Let’s compare notes.

Again… What exactly is on my mind when I go to the gym and train?

First and foremost, I review my physical and mental capacities to ascertain my ability to train well or at all on the particular day. That I shall train is not a given, as it was only a few years ago. If I don’t pass muster, I think tomorrow. Tomorrow always comes.

It’s very important I’m sufficiently fueled (Bomber Blend works), I have my gear (wraps, grips, water, cell phone, iPad, laptop, GPS, credit cards), I’m appropriately attired (fav muscle T, leotards, matching sneaks), I have a notion of my workouts (willing muscle groups, agreeable exercises) and a psyche (psychological prep) is in the works.

What are my driving forces, my purposes?

Beyond huge and ripped, and powerful and menacing, I want to complete the bloody workout without disaster and get home in one piece. Just kidding… I pass on ‘menacing.’

The workouts are all about the performance of the right movements, their blend and flow, their groove and finesse, crisp, calculated exertion, total involvement with maximum training appreciation. Think taste and flavor to a chef, consistency, aroma, texture and appeal of presentation of an exotic dish.

You’re drooling.

What do I want to achieve?

Oh, that I might add to this ordinary life quality and dazzle and time, and that I might manipulate and maneuver the stretch to the benefit and joy of my brothers and sisters. Muscle speaks. Whatever. I have something to say and I want to say it.

More directly, I want immortality, wealth, power and a puppy. I want to hit an overhead arm shot on the end of the Santa Cruz Pier before a cheering sun-drenched mob and make my tattoos bounce and my body piercings jingle and my mop of hair blow in the sea breeze. I want to be on the cover of Pex Magazine.

What do I expect?

Another workout, a decent pump, solace of the body, mind and soul, temporary evasion of guilt, a slice of fulfillment, a scoop of satisfaction, a dash of exhilaration, a nod of knowing from another deranged musclehead across the gym floor, two days of fatigue and soreness, mild nausea, loss of appetite, obsessive overtraining and the barest maintenance of muscle and might topped off with six miles of maddening traffic on the way home.

What will I accept? 

Whatever I can get, 22 sets of selectively random movements with a minimum of 80-percent focus and exertion, survival with a grin, exiting the gym on my own two feet, locating my truck in the parking lot, finding my way home amid the overflowing river of bumpers, hoods and trunks.

Beep, beep. There’s more:

TiVo and Chinese take-out at seven, lights out at 11 and the usual tossing and turning and dreamland entertainment… Arizona border mysteriously vanishes in thin air, local gyms are taken over by the Feds, all privately owned barbells and dumbbells melted down to build energy-conserving wind turbines, new GM airmobiles and sailcars hit the market -- the family-size Whoosh, the all-purpose Breeze, the sporty two-passenger Gust and the heavy-duty Gale four-wheeler with jib.

Thank God I have a job, a shed in the woods and a lady who loves me for better or worse.

And now for my day at the fiery ironworks, the ragged bluffs of Metal Mountain, the trusty Weight Room Santa Cruz:

It’s been far too long without a decent leg workout. I’d reveal the truth for all to see, but it hurts. Instead, I shall hide it between a pair of parentheses (three years) and share with you my new plan. With the off-key heart and the wobbly legs (stenosis), squats have become satanic. Extensions, truck pushes, staggering up hills, torso and integrated upper body are the most I can do, and that only with high hopes and extensive thankfulness.

It works, I might humbly add.

I knocked out five rounds of low-incline leg raises after my worthy standard five rounds of rope tucks. I could have stopped there and gone home, ’cuz the whole body was wrestled, tackled, punched, mugged and thumped from every angle. That’s the way I do things… it’s war. But it wasn’t enough to earn a guilt-free pass and a restful night’s sleep. I needed to suffer more.

I threw a pair of 45s on the BodyMaster power squat -- a simple, powerful, guided up-and-down movement -- and did what I could without death or depression or desertion. Why ruin a good thing, right? I did five sets of 6, 8, 10, 10 and 10 reps, feeling the action and loving it.

Between sets I gasped and regained my breath as I did my improvised truck pushes. You laugh, but the laborious action got my pickup outta the ditch and on the road many a time. This funky dance was followed by an exact bench press movement simulated by grasping a bar supported by the squat rack three feet off the floor. I gripped the bar as I did when I was a 250-pound barge from Jersey, stepped back into a bar-leaning position and bench press, my body weight the sufficient resistance.

I closed my eyes and tracked the groove closely, savoring the good feeling. After 10 reps I was pumping and burning like the splintered tiles of the Dungeon were under my feet and young blood was in my veins and fresh spirits were in my temple.

Retraining my legs and bench press will take time and devotion. I’ll apply an old squat program to my BodyMaster act and continue the push-away bench press for muscle and joint health and movement appreciation.

Let the good times roll… Elvis Draper

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