You Can Say That Again

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It’s a sunny Sunday in Santa Cruz and I have the gym all to myself. It gets better: Everything is made of iron. Nothing to break, nothing to fix, just stuff to push and pull.

This is not a scheduled workout, my favorite kind. I’m not here because I have to be; I’m here because I want to be. Sure, all my workouts are by desire, but this one is chosen -- an extra, a freebie, a bighearted contribution, cash in the pocket. I can do no wrong, there is no plan and there are no requirements, responsibilities or demands. Heck, 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’m rich.

Waste not, want not, bombers. Fools say time is money. I say time is sets and reps and muscle and might, pure and simple.

My depth and brilliance do not end here. 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 lives attending our specific needs at the moment. Of course, one must have spent time under the iron to have experienced the extensive variety of exercises at hand. I’ve listed and described five dozen different movements in Brother Iron and on this website that I practice regularly in the course of any six-month training period. Add to the list slight variations of those exercises to achieve special effects and you have your wagon full.

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 just might find myself making modifications within that workout. A standing barbell curl, a dynamite exercise for weeks, I 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 my needs perfectly. The pieces of the puzzle are replaced -- reshaped -- to eventually complete the picture.
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 one’s training.

I moisten my finger and put it to the winds. Often it’s sore tendons that reshape the training scheme, insertions that have endured too much pulling over and over again 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 out 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, brain washing 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 ... then go. Whadda we got to lose?

Take heed, God speed… Dagwood


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