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Late Night at the Cuckoo's Nest

The more motley part of the IronOnline Bash 2010 crew.

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Fitted with hunky earphones, Laree is riveted to two monitors as she edits the eight hours of footage from Glenn Pendlay’s fascinating Olympic Lifting Seminar in Kansas City a mere 10 days ago. I’m sitting before my roaring space heater alone with no one to talk to and no one to play with. I might not see my sweetie till nightfall when she makes a potty run and grabs a cuppa, as they say in Australia.

It’s tough being a bomber when you’re hungry and neglected and lonely and irrelevant. I might as well go to the gym where they care… where I’m wanted… where I’m vitally important.

“Hey, Mister. You forgot to sign in.”

Hmph… Some new dude at the front counter… I don’t generally train at this time, an hour before closing on Friday… hmmm, some other faces I don’t recognize… should be interesting to observe their workouts… Gotta love late-night muscleheads... devoted, lost, lonely, dull.
The old duffer -- must be 50 -- looks like he’s had a run in with a tractor. Rugged, he has some decent weight on the bench. Slow reps, very careful, not quite to the chest and up, bar at an angle and arms not fully locked out… it’s killing me just to look… here he goes again… big ouch… six reps… not bad.

Not good, either, six reps too many. He’s adding tens… I can’t watch.

The slim kid, a 20-year-old, is benching, too. What is it with the bench? Like, hello, there are dumbbells, my iron-feathered night owls. With those long arms that bar has a distance to travel… zoom… fast, too… he dropped that bar like it was ugly. Kid’s amped, stunned and impervious. 30 years from now he’ll have the famous hit-and-run tractor look as well.
What are the chances Slim will be lifting weights in 30 years? Slim… har, har. 2040! Gee, I’ll be 98. Who’d a thunk it?

Duffy moved to leg presses and pulley pushdowns, a bizarre combination even for me, kid superset. He’s squeezing in everything imaginable before they kill the lights and close the doors -- benches, presses, pulleys, the kitchen sink, a stove, one more set, one more rep.
Been there. Been there?

Slimster shifted to the incline. I give his shoulders six months. The bar goes down and up and down in a groove that approximates the line on a chart depicting the economy… down fast, a stimulated effort upward to no avail and down low on the overburdened body like a bar and three plates... a toppled windmill… an imaginary over-sized shovel-ready load of boop (bull poop).

I go over, give him a hefty hand up and he re-racks the bar with a thud. Sporting an all-American grin, I say something about dumbbells. He says, “Who’s a dumbbell?” Duff, startled, gets up from the leg press, plods over and says, “Who’s said Slimbo’s a dumbbell,” whereupon Dude watching TV at the counter calls out, “Who’s a dumbbell,” yawns and adds robotically, “20 minutes till closing!”

From out of the echoing confusion, a frazzled fella doing press-behind-necks on the Smith responds, “You’re the dumbbell, Dude. We’ve got 23.5 minutes to closing”

I’m thinking, where do they come from, what are they doing here, why me?

By now I’m knocking out hanging leg raises, rope tucks, wrist curls, machine dips and pullovers in a harmonic sequence to achieve a whimsical yet solid late-night, pre-closing workout. I announced I was a dumbbell, humbled by it and proud of it… with just enough plausibility and buoyancy to confuse the group. I sweated, pumped and burned, eliminated stress and released endorphins.

I clanked.

One by one they left, leaving me to suffer the glare of Dude until the moment before 11 o’clock, the witching hour. The music was off, he’d closed out the register, emptied the trash and switched off the lights one by one. He paced and fussed and jangled his keys as I knocked out my last rep, bid him a cheery farewell and slipped out the back door into the darkness.

“Who was that guy?”

The Dumbbell.

Lessons of the story: Control yourself, be strong, be humble, focus, engage, do not hesitate, persist, depend on your instincts and create harmony out of chaos when all around you are confused and in doubt. The moral: The iron rules the moment, you rule the iron. The caution: Beware of warm, breathing, loose dumbbells.

The story is anchored in truth, but the names and places remain the same to uplift the good, persecute the bad and torment the ugly. The workout, of course, is as real as a York 10-pound plate. The five-movement multiset is not a mass- and bulk-building blast from the past or a get-huge-n-ripped stunner from the Golden Days. It’s a blustery whirlwind routine when the clock is ticking and you’re here and now.
You, a disciplined lifter, are allowed a dozen of these whip-its a year. In fact, you are hearkened to engage in such spirited and unloosed manner of training once a month… twice, maybe. Let yourself go, fling that iron. It’s your duty, it’s your privilege.

Tis the habit of some to train thus at every opportunity: randomly, yet vigorously, aggressively and coherently. I practiced the theme for years in the ‘70s when muscle was captured and held secure by passion, threads of fool’s gold and good vibes.

Everyone should hang by a bar throughout the week, if for no other reason than to honor chins, the champion of childhood workouts. Well-performed hanging leg raises are great for the total skeletal system -- a healthy spinal stretch and a muscle- and strength-builder for the forearm, grip, abdominal area, hip flexors and lats. And we have some desirable cardio activity as well, rep after rep.

Rope tucks serve the torso and gut and grip and lats and obliques and back. And they continue the cardio rev.

Wrist curls -- small muscle activity -- fit right in the middle of the five-set multiset to hyper-load the grip and forearms and allow some breath restoration for the wimp-hearted such as me.

Dips are for the love of it and because the shoulders, back, chest and tris need the anti-depression, timely compression and poetic expression. They deserve it, by golly. And, yes, the heart beats on valiantly.

Stiff-arm pullovers are a reach, a stretch and a squeeze, if you please -- lats, tris, abdominals, smidge of pec and heaps of deep breaths and miles of smiles. Neat, sweet, a treat!

One down, four to go… three, if the front counter dude has a stick.

Who was that dumbbell?

The Shadow Knows… DD


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