Last Week the Facts, This Week the Factors

World Gym Santa Cruz, 2002

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In an effort to reinforce my training ‘facts’ list from last week, today I’ll add a handful of training factors that occur amid my workouts and deserve amassing. If you missed the Top 20 list, you can catch up here.

There’s the last rep in a set I intend to perform, the last rep I’m able to perform and the last rep I, in fact, do perform. Each one exceeds the other until only darkness, stillness and silence stand between me and quitting. When building muscle, that is the only rep. Seek it as a loved one, or buried treasure, a vein of gold, oil reserves.

The focus required to build muscle and might is of the sort that allows no other thought to penetrate the mind or feeling affect the body except the total involvement of the movement. The lifter who converses -- chats, gabs, gossips -- while lifting is divided. United we stand, bombers, divided we fall.

Check all cell phones at the door.

The guy who stares out the window or at the exit door between sets, or reads a People magazine while seated on the leg extension or otherwise abandons attention to more important things than intense and directed training is on the outside looking in, lonely and alone. He needs purpose, or his purpose renewed. Somehow he forgot the good reasons he’s in the gym, and notes only the less-desirable attendants of the training process. He’s bored and unrewarded, one step from lazy, and on the brink of apathy. Give this guy a generous portion of old-fashioned encouragement, a timely attitude adjustment and the excitement that comes from the last almighty rep, the same rep that builds muscle and might. He must be attentive, free of doubt, and be forceful. If he’s not, he’s history, yesterday, gone. His troubles are just beginning.

Doubt is like heading down the freeway in the wrong direction. It’s only a matter of time before there’s a head-on collision with reality. Doubt doesn’t appear once or twice during the wild ride, and then vanish. It, like oncoming traffic, is continuous till you turn yourself around. Keep your eye on the road, driver. Beware of the Construction Zone. Shoulder Work Ahead.

Just when you think you can’t go on (but you will) and you’ve endured more than you can stand (of course, you know no bounds) and your back and mind and spirit are surely broken (they are, in fact, like pillars of steel), a stranger says, “Where’d you get all those muscles, mister?” or “Wow, you’re looking good, man.” Ah, sweet music to the ear. Encouragement, my friend, is a better musclebuilder than the bench press. Sincere support at the right time builds bodies more ways than Wonder Bread. Throw some crumbs out there; they come back when you need and least expect them.

The antithesis to doubt is certainty. Here’s where I trip slightly over my two left feet: I’m not certain about certainty. Nothing is predictable, not exactly. That doesn’t mean there’s no place for a genuinely positive attitude. In fact, if there is one sure thing, it would be that there’s no place for a negative attitude. The gym and the action that takes place within its boundaries must be assertive, straightforward, unyielding and intense. And how can they be without a strong attitude to lead and accompany the overpowering combination? Do not enter the iron and steel environment with questionable confidence. You are fire against ice. Do not stand before the power rack with fear and submission. You are warrior against foe. Do not wander about indecisively searching for something to do. Grab a handful of metal and get to work. You are lifter against iron.

I hear music coming from the speakers, ’60s stuff that bounces off the walls like good old memories. This is perf, providing it’s not too loud. It accompanies the rhythm of training and prevents people from whispering like they had secrets.

I like to train in a tall and clean concrete rectangle where everyone is busy building muscles and testing their strength without being jerks.

It’s like heaven, I think.



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