A Real Gym Does That to a Person

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The time I spend in the gym is devoted to getting the job done to the best of my ability. That means determining the path I should travel, commencing the workout without wasting time, warming up and getting up to speed proficiently, seeking muscle overload within the majority of dedicated sets, always assessing risk and injury, and maintaining form, focus and pace. Nothing amazing, just forward motion.

This is how one builds muscle and might, assuming, of course, smart eating and rest are concurrent. Within the tight parameters of this training system, there is efficiency, discipline, attention, care, assurance, patience and order. And none of these would fly without a clear goal in mind, and a strong commitment to it. More essential requirements.

Being a mature musclebuilder, I can chew gum and lift weights at the same time (I admittedly must be ever vigilant, however, lest I chip a tooth on a five-pound plate). This heady advantage allows me to observe my surroundings, the people and equipment hard at work (or not) to my left and right. I observe and I wonder, neither of which is a mindless daydream or a glazed gaze. They’re unusually stimulating acts of the mind and soul, which no doubt raise my metabolism much the same as mild aerobics. I wonder intensely.

I can’t help my curious nature and see no need to abort the harmless practices. Observing is compatible with my training, and wondering offers hunky material for this enthralling newsletter.

“What enthralling newsletter?”

I look over at the guy in the baggy shorts tapping his forehead repeatedly against the squat rack claims his training is boring and he needs a different workout. “The same old thing over and over again,” he groans to a trainer, “and I don’t see any progress.”

Poor baby.

First of all, the guy hasn’t been coming to the gym regularly enough or long enough -- six months -- to be bored. The iron’s not here to fill your life with excitement or your baggy shorts with muscles. You lift the steel in its various shapes and sizes again and again and you grow when it’s time to grow, and you bow low in extraordinary gratitude. That’s how it works.

Another thing, Baggy Pants, don’t groan. At least, not unless an Olympic bar with at least three plates are on each side is lying stubbornly across your chest or a 75-pound dumbbell is lodged on your big toe after dropping from the rack. Groaning, like complaining and worrying, is negative energy. It’s exhausting and worthless. Replace worry, an act of retreating, with wonder, an act of seeking.

Exercises, sets and reps, again and again, are dull to the dull and uninspiring to the uninspired. It’s not in the exercise or the set or the rep; it’s in the heart of the doer, the lifter, the athlete. Hefting weights may not be skydiving or tracking grizzly bear, but it is the strong means to ends more rewarding -- health, muscle and might.

I’m impressed with anyone making it to a purposeful gym these days. They stepped out of the world where aspiration is not encouraged, achievement is not properly rewarded, and turmoil flows like a river after a storm. They’re trying, and trying in itself is noteworthy.

Many shiny faces at gyms try for reasons less than solid and sincere: profit, vanity, domination, attention, fear, companionship, distraction. They bravely chose a rough and productive road of travel, but will they endure? Enduring is the test of the best. There’s a very good chance they’ll be duly challenged and disciplined, respond favorably to the demands and grow strong in many responsible ways.

A real gym does that to a person.

The gal doing the incline dumbbell presses has perfect form. She’s consistent, methodical and precise; probably a secretary or administrator, trim and doing fine. Convinced I’m not judging the young lady, I silently agree with myself that five-pound dumbbells are not enough. She needs to add resistance to her meticulous form. Feel that iron, move that steel, make those muscles work.

I know. She’s afraid she’ll grow large and muscular. Tell that to the guy in the baggy shorts. He’d kill to get large and muscular.

There’s a guy at the gym who makes me feel like I’m not working hard enough, and here he comes now. He’s large, but not massive; he’s strong and ripped, but not on the stuff. He’s just a mean training machine who eats right and never misses a workout... or a last rep.

Intense and terse, the hard-working bodybuilder walks swiftly and keeps his head down. I get the feeling he’d like it if we all left the building until he was done.

Hastily, without a moment to lose, Tanktop lines up his dumbbells like cannonballs. He’s over the first dumbbell and tugging furiously, left, then right. It’s back in the rack. He’s over the second one, heavier, of course, and he’s grasping, gasping and turning red. Good reps. Not the kind that exemplify perfect lifting form, but good, like an ostrich crossing the finish line in The Annual Ostrich 100-Yard Dash. Two more sets. I’m transfixed. He’s gonna vaporize. Speed’s no longer the thing; it’s the straining. There’s no end to the straining.

He’s is in my periphery vision and I must temper my action. Form over frenzy. Devotion above demolition. Perseverance instead of persecution. Still, I put the pedal to the metal, grinding my teeth, but not my gears.

Everyone’s gone and I’m still here. What I lack in ferocious intensity I make up in time invested. You know what they say, “He who leaves last gets the most,” or is it, “The last worm gets the early bird?”

Maybe it’s, “We’re closed, Bomber. Go home... Puleeeeeze.”

Fly forever... DD


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