First Things First

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We Learn and Move On


Dave, in The Monkees

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Lost time is not found again.

A young Bob Dylan penned those words generations ago, harmonica in hand and guitar by his side. He then sang the lean prose with a tormented voice in one of his incriminations on life. A person of fewer wounds might say time is lost forever when the timekeeper does nothing to correct it. I say time is not lost but only misplaced, to be replaced by the understanding and time-saving lessons it teaches.

Try putting the last two revisions to music and you know why Dylan stuck to his prose, and became a shining star.

“Who cares,” you say, “let’s build strong muscles and get ripped.”

Finally, somebody with a head on his shoulders. The time we thought we lost trying this training principle and that diet plan has served to teach us, entertain us, sustain our interest, carry us forward, fill our storehouse with experience, strengthen character and humble our souls.

The unbearable slow-rep methodology, the excruciating 100-rep-per-set squat technique, that sardine and grapefruit diet or those toasty soybean cauliflower casseroles had far more meaning than we thought -- little benefit, no reward, but lotsa meaning.

We’ve experienced, we’ve learned, we’ve grown, we’re moving on.

The road is clear, my grip is tight. No more lost time, misplaced, replaced or wasted time. In fact, I don’t wear a watch, nor do I have a calendar hanging over my desk. I live for the moment. I’m free. Freedom means doing whatever you want, whenever you want without restraint or interference... Excuse me, my phone just vibrated. Wait. This’ll only take a sec.

Freedom in training means confidently proceeding with your urges, long-laid plans and recent discoveries, the current trends and recommended techniques. If you’re going to do them, do them well. Perform them with confidence, practice them with devotion, execute them with spirit. Anything of value that exists inside your spectrum of schemes will be gained only by hard work and committed application.

One more thing; keep your eyes wide open. It’s essential.

Training with doubt is training imprisonment. With every set and rep, you question what good it will do, where it will take you and what it will produce. No clear image emerges as you sit in your solitary confinement. You apply effort with restraint as suspicion confines you. You work out in shackles; your spirits are bound. Training passion and workout joy are stifled, strangled by uncertainty and reserve.

I can paint a pretty grim picture when I want to make a point. Sometimes I go overboard and get depressed. No worries, I stand in a corner pounding my chest and repeat ‘huge and ripped, huge and ripped’ till the negativity drips from my body like snake venom. Works every time.

Doubt must be arrested and replaced with assertion and exhilaration. A confident state of mind must be chosen and adopted, then practiced and proven. You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing, knowing that if what you’re doing is not exactly right, it will still promote discovery, learning and growth.

It’s difficult to determine which training program is the best and most effective to satisfy all your needs at any given time. These needs include -- separately if not all at once -- muscle size, density, shape, definition, quality, might, swiftness, endurance and health. So you reference your experience, observations, conversations and the written word found in books, magazines and web pages, and you formulate your scheme.

Oh, yeah, right. No problemo, Charlie Brown. Bull’s-eye, on the money and perfecto mundo. Information, like candy at the dime store, is abundant and nauseating, and an overload will give you a bellyache.

Remember: Stick to the basics, kids, and you’ll never get sick.

The new plan works until the novelty wears off. I don’t even want to speculate how short-lived a workout love affair lasts in this day and age. We’re an odd mob -- capricious, impatient, expectant, greedy, naive, indoctrinated and spoiled. Two, three weeks tops, and we’re discouraged, depressed and desperate... Rats! According to my calculations, research and dreams, I shoulda woulda coulda... but instead, I’m nada yada yada.

Doubt is as sure as the rising sun, or more appropriately, the cold winter fog, the dark midnight gloom. Remove the stumbling block, and replace it with a springboard. This is your game, your track and field, your platform.

Not every plan we put forward is exact and without fault. Stick to the plan. Make a few adjustments, substitute the bar with dumbbells, modify the rep scheme and apply intensity where you’re able and reservation where you must. Reduce the pace, increase the weight. Be strong, don’t doubt, go hard.

Wondering is permissible -- nothing wrong with a little curiosity. But the doubt, the duct tape around the eyes and mouth, hands and feet -- that must be removed. Ouch! But now it feels so good. No more doubt.

I remember when I was little kid all I did was chin-ups, pushups and dips, and ran and rode my bike. No plan, only urges. No sets and reps, all I could do plus a little bit more was sufficient. No deep motives, big and strong muscles were plenty. No time limit, forever would do.

Now that might not be the advice a coach or parent would pass on to a sprouting youngster, but I wouldn’t change it for all the muscle in the gym. Grab on, hold tight and go, go, go. This will pass, change will come, but not till the deed is done.

Sometimes we try to fix a thing that ain’t broke and ruin it forever.

Another time in my life when I was a big kid (this can be most any time since I was a little kid), and I’d walk into the gym with limited forethought, grab any iron that got in my way and lift it purposefully and intensely for 90 minutes and walk out refreshed, advanced and complete. The movements were like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle; they fit together smoothly, swift and sweet. Doubt did not enter the gym with me. I had plenty, but left it at the door like a pair of muddy boots.

Those were very good years. The question is, were they very good years  because I didn’t doubt, or because I didn’t doubt they were very good years?

Today, as an older kid standing amid a different sport of giants from the giant factory, doubt dots the landscape while I deal with the variables that accompany time, age and the ages. There must be a better word for doubt, bombers, in that we have collectively taken a stand against the disagreeable companion. Let’s call it deception. Better yet, the Bible refers to the devil as the great deceiver; let’s call doubt the devil. Doubt, deception, Satan -- mankind’s arch enemies.

The variables of time and age I referenced above fall from the sky like small meteorites. They are infrequent, dense, peculiar, can be damaging and certainly get your attention. The meteorites represent arthritis, pain of injury, muscle tears, limited range of motion, loopy hormones, swollen joints, tendonitis, weakness and fatigue. These factors add new challenge to the once simple, constructive and entertaining sport of building muscle and might.

Some say they remove the challenge and spoil the sport, reducing it to the ongoing struggle for another day. Take these bums outside the camp walls and put them out of their misery. They’ve gone from doubt to discouragement to hopelessness to goodbye-cruel-world.

Never! Take the motley crew to the gym, immerse them in exercise, smother them with encouragement and restore their deflated training zeal. Injury is a savvy instructor, pain is a smart and cautionary signal, and limitations are boundaries that direct and margins to exceed. They are tough training partners that respond positively to exercise performed vigorously and without doubt.

I like that: vigorously and without doubt. I could go on and on, but I’d go alone.

dd


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