Spunky Monkey

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The Weight Room Sacramento on a mid-winter Sunday afternoon is as quiet as a library. There’s the part-time guy at the front counter with the slumped shoulders, vacant eyes and slack jaw. We’ll get along just fine. There’s the old fella sitting motionless on the Spin bike watching Golf World on the TV. No depth of relationship will we share. Perfect. I have the place to myself and everything is made of metal. Nothing to break, nothing to repair. Just lift, toss, hoist, push and pull and fling… watch the toes.

This is not a scheduled workout, often the best kind. I’m not here because I must be, but because I choose to be. Sure, all my workouts are by choice, but this is an extra, a freebie, cash in pocket, a charitable contribution. I can do no wrong, there is no plan and there are no requirements, responsibilities or demands. I can turn around, walk out the door and sleep tonight, guilt-free. I am loose, and with that thought, that truth, I feel like ripping it up. I’m not paying the bills; I’m investing, I’m getting ahead, I’m socking it away, bucks in the bank. I am rich. This is like a vacation, a holiday in metal-land, party time on the lifting platform, deadlifting debauchery, squatting for singles.

Get a hold of yourself, B-68. This outrageous behavior is worrisome… silly… embarrassing. You’re lucky to be here. Now sit down before you fall over.

Waste not, bombers. Fools say time is money. I say time is sets and reps and muscle growth, yet here I am idle, no sweat, no pump, no burn, no inspiration, no ideas, nothing new, nada. Could it be there is nothing new, nothing more and nothing better than the same old, same old: basic exercises, single sets, supersets, strain, pain and gain? Where are the changes? There must be changes.

I have observed over time that changes are discovered in a rotation of the exercises we’ve come to know and love. It’s in the attentive application of the movements we’ve faithfully practiced in our training life attending our specific needs at the moment. Of course, one must have spent time under the iron to have experienced -- tried and tested -- the extensive variety of exercises at hand. I listed and described five-dozen different movements in Brother Iron that I practice regularly in the course of any six-month training period. Add to that slight yet considerate variations of certain exercises to achieve different effects and we have our hands full.

My training is like a jigsaw puzzle. The entire workout is a complete picture composed of exercises that, like pieces of a puzzle, fit together smoothly, but are shaped appropriately to match the needs of the day.

Allow me to confuse you. If I’m scheduled to train arms one day and I feel ready to go, I go. However, should my arms feel fatigued, sore or overtrained, I amend my training scheme and replace bis and tris with more rested and prepared muscle groups… chest and back, perhaps. Should I feel strong and go ahead with the arm workout, I might find myself making modifications within that workout. A standing barbell curl, a dynamite exercise for weeks, I may find aggravates the insertions and requires a flexible replacement. Considering the possibilities, I bring in the thumbs-up curl and blast pain-free with confidence, spirit and power.

Say a bench press is designated during a specific chest workout, but a shoulder is sore and the performance of the bench would be painful and counter-productive. The dumbbell press as a substitution allows a degree of hand rotation that eliminates the problem and suits our needs perfectly. The pieces of the puzzle are replaced, reshaped, to eventually complete the picture.

Some workouts or picture-puzzles are reduced in size, composed of small interlocking pieces; some are black and white with dark contrasts, and there are always the bright and energetic magnificent pieces of heavy primary colors. They stand out as our personal best. Under sensitive conditions, we turn out thin pastels dispelling the notion that we are brutes. I love the mere sketches done in charcoal or the loose pencil exercises. These undersized efforts are often inimitable and striking, compliments to the collection.

The number of sets and reps are determined by my sense of saturation based on pump, burn, energy, muscle fatigue, purpose, motivation and mood. Each rep and set is varied in performance by body positioning and angulation, range of motion, exercise groove, body thrust or severe isolation and so on. Attention, focus, evaluation and modification are engaged at once and might be reasonably referred to as one’s "feel" for training.

I moisten my finger and put it to the winds. Often it’s sore tendons that reshape the pieces of the puzzle, insertions that have endured too much pulling over and over for weeks, shoulders that have been rotated, pushed and pressed without let-up, or elbows that have been enflamed or hyper-extended with excessive pressing, triceps and pullover work. Specific muscle fatigue, overall achy-ness, malaise, lack of sleep, energy or spirit are additional main indicators for exercise redesign or replacement.

I maintain order and form where I can. I like a clean workout and abhor confusion, thus flexibility becomes a wise companion with passing time. As we transcend the levels of training achievement and training intensity, the injuries accumulate. That’s life, bombers. I don’t know an athlete with motivation in any sport who does not endure differing degrees of pain and limitation sooner or later: a little overload, insufficient rest, ignorance of or ignoring symptoms of injury or overtraining, excessive repetition, over-reaching, typical miscalculations and common nutritional neglect. The body and mind wear down and take a beating, and we go on and on with hope, prayer, wraps, ice and a dream. Some quit, some don’t. Some -- the flexible ones -- rest, repair and grow and go.

It takes anywhere from years to decades to achieve training sensitivity, depending on one’s affinity for exercise, desire and need for achievement, and intelligence and attention toward the deed. Training needs to be assessed regularly to prevent or eliminate misdirection, brainwashing and bad habits. Trust yourself, be creative, risk, enjoy, play... seriously. When you’re really stumped, wander the gym floor like a kid doing this and that exercise till you sense a magnetism, feel a pull or experience an attraction (trust me, it happens) ... and go.

Excuse me… my care-giver has arrived…

God’s speed... The Bomber 


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