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If I Push Myself

Dave's book, Brother Iron Sister Steel

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We are none of us immune. Anyone at any time will doubt, wonder, become uncertain or subtly negative. A wary nature is insurance, an essential of survival and an internal mechanism directing us toward success. In excess it can paralyze us, or at least render life a harmless and uneventful occurrence.

Suspicious, ever-questioning and procrastinating souls with wrinkled-up noses capture doubt and uncertainty, stuff and mount them over their mantles to be displayed as trophies of conquests never made. The wall upon which our trophy, yours and mine, would hang is bare; we carry it with us, a companion, a protector and reminder.

I think back, long and hard -- at 12, I didn’t ask what I should do. Whom could I ask? What would I ask? I just did it.

At 17 I didn’t ask what exercise builds this and what food builds that. Thank God, I just did it, more and harder. I don’t ever remember asking much; it never seemed that complicated. No one had to tell me it was hard work and took a long time. School was hard work and took a long time. Working after school to earn a few bucks was hard and took time. Why should lifting weights and building muscle be any different?

You lift, you learn, you grow. That’s life.

Today? Not so simple. How could it be, and why should it be? The curve is different, more acute and active and occupied. Questions are no longer questions, but riddles to be cleverly circulated. The absence of quickness and efficiency in a solution reduces it to a lie. Let’s do it now, let’s do it right, let’s do it perfectly and at once -- before the other guy (everyone else is the ‘other guy’).

That’s the message I’ve been hearing lately. You can always tell when somebody’s been watching too much CNN.

Building strong and healthy bodies need not be sought that way, nor can they be achieved that way. In fact, it’s a contradiction, isn’t it? A hurried and anxious method of operation produces injury, disappointment and stress, not the soundness of body, the fulfillment of accomplishment and the relief of tension that ought to be associated with hearty fitness.

Let’s say you know all this. You’ve been around a few years and to be called well-seasoned is a compliment as good as any. Time is square enough, a peculiar, almost lovable mate you’ve come to know and can’t deny. Success and disappointment in their own relative ways have come to visit, linger and leave. You’re a mature musclebuilder, and the scenery appears to be changing. You still love to train, meet goals and reinvent yourself, but call it age or possibly just a slump, you now seem to be faced with questions that only an older musclemaker can answer.

Things like: Am I training hard enough or overtraining? If I push myself to do one or two more reps, is that good or am I overtraining?

Sometimes we go to the gym and can train like a horse, strong and energetic. Sometimes we battle with, “Should I rest today or push myself? Why does my elbow joint hurt? Am I getting arthritis? What is the most effective way for me to train?”

Or you may think, “I used to do cardio every day to help with bodyfat loss, increase energy and heart health. It now seems to cut into my training energy where it never did before. Am I over doing it?”
Those paragraphs above include a list of questions recently offered by an established musclebuilder approaching the broadening span of middle age; he’s intelligent, realistic and persevering. His questions are legitimate and I’ve frequently asked them myself. We’re like those coonskin-capped pioneers with a Bowie knife fixed in his teeth, clawing to broaden the ‘great span’ and push aging over the edge. Exhausting, but we’ve got an enthusiastic audience cheering us on.

I’ll continue to attempt to address these vivid issues in my typical “this is what I’d do if I were you” style. Of course, I need to take my afternoon snooze and my medications and soak my feet and apply ice to my left shoulder, heat to my right shoulder… or is it the other way around?

I’ve got it written on large index cards somewhere.

Brother Dave      


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