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And I Almost Took a Layoff


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You can unloose a man from the millstone that binds him, but you can’t prevent him from hoisting it to his shoulder and lugging it everywhere he goes. Four consecutive days off from weightlifting is my limit, and those I confine to special occasions. There are valid and invalid reasons for this tight training control, not one is original and I respect them all.

You know how it goes; if I dare miss a workout...

I lose everything I trained so hard for.
My muscles shrink by the minute.
I get fat, round and smooth.
My strength leaks from my body like air from a bald tire.
The world becomes a scary place.
I can’t think, make decisions or get out of bed.
I wanna pull my hair out.
I feel limp and have no appetite.
Unresolved stress haunts my soul and I cannot stop eating.
I miss the gym, the sounds, the smells and the movement of metal.
I long for the pump and burn and exhilaration of a great workout.
I crave the order, rhythm and fulfillment of a thorough workout.
I want to demolish things that get in my way.
People stalk me and talk behind my back. You’ve gotta believe me.
I get headaches, pimples and hallucinations.
I drool, I mutter, I wet my pants.

Returning to the gym after an extended layoff is unbearable and the best reason for not submitting to one in the first place. I cannot express the dull and defeated feelings I’ve suffered as I’ve picked up the bar and performed the first reps of the first sets after too much time away from the weights. They are only exceeded in their bleakness by the void and guilt felt during the layoff itself.

Why did I let go? Oh, if only I had not abandoned my workouts, how much better life would be.

Medic... over here... this one is going down.

Reluctant, yet insistent, I summon the past to review the cheerless occasions. Much instruction is gained from mistakes gone by. Savor the lesson and apply the learning; hate neither the teacher nor the classroom.

How many bombers, strong and determined as they might be, are undergoing
the same regrettable misery and turmoil today? Falling into a training gap is a cruel and lonely experience.

Are you getting my ever-so-subtle message? Think twice before taking a layoff. Unless you are hemorrhaging, bound and gagged or unconscious, do not withdraw from your lifting. It’s bad for you, the family and the neighborhood. Be strong and carry on.

Yeah, I know: the job, the kids, the spouse, the traffic, the fever and the bone protruding from your ribcage. Oh, the obstacles and sharp downward turns we face each day. But, release your grip on training and you release your grip on life. Let your workouts suffer and the world suffers with you. Cast off the iron and you set yourself adrift. There’s enough burning hopelessness surrounding us without adding to the smoldering debris.

Careful, Draper, your dark side is showing.

Go to the gym and observe your training. Are you tired? Lighten up. Train for a mild pump and a cool burn. Blue? Smile. Have fun with your favorite movements. Ailing? Take two aspirin with water and stimulate the system. Achy? Warm up and follow your nose. Injured? Work around the darn things. Downright fed up, disappointed, frustrated and bored? Tough, Bub! Do it right! Need the time for a project? Train in the early morning, make it short and sweet.

I save layoffs for special times: revolution, famine, earthquakes, floods, plagues and invasions from Mars. 

I tend to overtrain occasionally and find backing off my training intensity for a day or two cures the ailment. If that doesn’t do it, I shift gears and take a long weekend, or one of those outer-limit, as-long-as-I-can-stand-it four-day layoffs we spoke of earlier. During that time I eat, sleep, wallow and play. I also consider my training methodology and redesign my workouts to suit my head, my body and my instincts, the latter leading the way.

If you ever get the urge to layoff, take a long look in the mirror and decide. You’re not a prisoner; you’re the guard.

God’s speed... the Drapes

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