Saturday, August 29, 2009

Only Two

The previous class attracted about fourteen people.
Today it is down to two: Ammo and me.
Sparta is present to call the pain.
Where are Elmo and spouse?
Where are Ambassador, Transformer, Cheshire Cat?
“WHERE ARE ALL OF THE OTHERS”; the little voice inside screams.
This could really get hard.
“OK people, here we go”. “The jump rope is the timer, start with 100”.
“Burn outs on the heavy bag”.
“Ok switch, switch, switch, switch”.
Breathing is a little ragged.
“Now lets do laps and mitts”.
“Go, switch, switch, switch”.
Breathing is now definitely ragged.
During one of the switches, Mr. Grizz-Lee, (a name I think that fits well) enters the room.
He is as big as a bear and probably as strong.
He has come to play.
Mr. Grizz-Lee does have one weakness. He doesn’t like to sweat.
In fact several weeks ago when he was working with the group, he reached up, wiped his forehead and asked Sparta, “What is this”, as if in shock that he found water there.
Now he and Sparta join the rotation, he is fast, running as we run, growling, laughing.
He hits the heavy bag so hard the air vibrates with the impact.
When I cheat on abs, his big paw pushes me down and he rumbles a command, “C’mon bring it on, tighten those abs, now push back", as the big paw again descends, pushing me further back on the exercise ball.
Finally there is a break.
Sparta pulls out the cards.
We all trek out to the gym floor.
It is push-up time.
The ladies on one side the men on the other.
The first card falls; it’s the men’s, a Joker, 15.
Next a face card, 10 more.
On and on it goes.
There are exactly 410 push-ups in a deck of cards.
The deck looks about half gone.
Most are sweating. I am laughing because I have passed the point of caring and just need to finish.
The Bear grumbles, “If you keep laughing, I’m going to hurt you”.
“This could really get hard”, I say in reply.
Well says the bear, “I am delighted to see that you are so gifted with intelligent insights”.
Now everyone starts laughing, the big paw reaches out pushing Sparta off balance, I see it coming my way and shrink down like a turtle, it rocks me but I keep doing the push-ups.
Ammo is too far away and the bear says, “Dang, now I’m behind”.
We finish, arms trembling, I am glad to see that even Sparta and the Bear had to go some to get this one done and the Bear is finally sweating.
“Since we are already down on the floor, lets roll over and finish with abs”, says Sparta.
Bear is already feigning a nap.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What Did You Exercise Last?

Does it really make any difference?
I had recently become proud of my accomplishments in the gym in that I could comfortably do dumbbell presses with 70 pounders and a get a couple with 80 pounders plus a lot of strain.
Until I meet the trainer.
She can destroy me with miniscule weights in only a few minutes.
Set of three, 50 reps, no rest between sets, different angles, shoulders, on and on.
I am having trouble remembering all of the different exercises she has been throwing at me lately.
She has caused me to drink at the fountain of humility.
This has become a common “draught” these days. (Old guys are humbled easily)
While bitter to taste, it does confer a level of insight.
I am gradually discovering the many facets of weight training.
It is not just simply pushing more and more weight.
Joints start to rebel with this approach, especially 60 plus year old joints.
Instead it is angles of attack; it is reps on some days and weight on other days with a healthy dose of aerobics thrown in for good measure.
It is the right diet and the right amount of protein.
It is muscle fatigue; it is muscle exhaustion.
It is taking your body to the limit.
When the “burn” starts, this is not the time to quit.
This is the time to go on and finish.
When the skin feels too tight to constrain the muscles, this is the time to do one more set or add a drop set.
When the hands are shaking and it is hard to open the lock on the locker and everything has a halo around it like a “Currier and Ives” print, then it is OK to quit.
So, “what did you exercise last” is key information if you are going to be able to keep up with the next set of exercises.
Try to get it right or you will end up eating more humble pie than could ever be good for someone on a diet.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Don’t Mess with My Class

“Either come in or get out but don’t mess with my class”, she says pointedly while staring at the set of weights on the floor.
The music has started.
I am pushing my luck.
I motion for the person I am seeking to come to the door.
I feel like Daniel at the Lion’s Den and I am not talking night club.
I silently ask for Divine protection.
I would not dare to step into the room unless I had serious intentions of attending the class or ending up in the Emergency Department.
The lady I want to talk to dashes to the door.
The music is still in the first stanza and not too many notes have played.
“Be careful, your front tires are bald”.
I relayed what I thought might be an important safety message to this single lady.
“I know; I need to get new tires.”
I am abashed.
What started as a mission of “help” turns out to be redundant information.
She runs back to her place in the room and I turn away to go into the gym.
The hair on the back of my neck stands down.
I was deceived by preconceived notions of gender.
I automatically assumed ladies would not notice bald tires and would keep driving at 70 or even 80 miles an hour risking life and limb.
I know this lady drives with a heavy foot.
She has passed me and I try to run at the upper limit.
I guess she is one with her car and senses the health of her tires.
So there it is, don’t assume what you don’t know.
Just rest assured that all things will ultimately align in the universe.
Energy and matter will neither be created nor destroyed.
And: Sparta will never want you “messing with her class”.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Eleven people showed up a few nights ago.
Eleven stations; it was fast and vigorous.
No rest stations; the runner was the timer.
Three laps.
A lot of leg work, then time on the mitts.
“Everyone back?”
“Let’s go again, only two laps, make them all out sprints and have your gloves on”.
Back into the grinder.
Squats, agility ladder and so on through the eleven stations.
“Get your mats”, “time for abs”.
It was the same routine as last week and included one hundred and twenty side planks per side for a total of two hundred and forty side planks.
“Nice work, really nice work”, she states, as we all stretch tight muscles.
The more people there are, the higher the intensity, there is no rest.
It somehow feels better as the hour is gone too soon.
But tonight I am not done.
I go out to finish lifting in the gym.
It seems Sparta is not yet done either; she goes out into the gym and finds her lifting partner.
He is huge, has tremendous strength and I can tell they drive each other.
I watch them as I begin my own lifts.
The dumbbell bench press is his first lift. He holds the hundred pounders in each hand; she is exhorting him, “one more” and then “one more”.
Now it is his turn, he moves to the spotter position, “come on you got more in you, another one, another one”, finally finished the weights drop.
They are like well-honed machines as they continue their workout.
Watching the pair go from exercise to exercise is enough.
It is the extra kick I need to keep moving on my own routines.
The curls, triceps, back, intercostals, shoulders until I am finally finished.
I feel good; my skin is too tight and I am really hungry.
Something inside is screaming for protein.
The grocery store is on the way and the strip steaks are on sale.
I pick up one that weighs bout 8 oz. and head to the checkout.
As she scans the purchase the young lady asks, “Would you like a bag”?
“No thanks”, I say, “I am just going to eat it on the way home”.
She says nothing; her eyes say it all as I begin removing the wrapper.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The End of the Earth?

I was reading the news, and saw the following headline, “Can life on Earth escape the swelling sun”?
They failed to explain until deep into the article that they were talking about 5 billion years from now.
I really have more “pressing” issues, dumbbells that is, than to be concerned about a sun that may burn out in 5 billion years.
Why is everything presented as immediate, as a crisis?
In reality, the past is past, the future is only potential and all we really have is the present moment.
I no longer count away the seconds and minutes of my life waiting for something better or worse to come along.
The fact I lived from the last second to this second is very gratifying.
The fact I can laugh now and still be laughing through the next seconds to minutes is gratifying.
The fact that I can see a dumbbell move to a higher position over several seconds during the bench press tells me I am still alive and making progress every second.
If I suddenly expire during the dumbbell press, I will no longer be making progress but the dumbbell will no longer be part of my future as my future will have evaporated in the instant of my passing.
The dumbbell will then have its own future and will be immediately acted on by gravity without the opposing force of my muscles.
The dumbbell will fall and hit what it will on the way down
The dumbbell and I will be in separate realities.
So why worry about a future that may not exist or a falling dumbbell for that matter if I no longer exist.
A very existential question; “does a falling dumbbell ever question how it got up so high in the first place?”
That does not mean one should not hedge your bets.
One needs to follow the Boy Scout code and be prepared for any possible future.
As an example: I assume I will always need to eat in any possible future so I do the dumbbell presses to make sure I am strong enough to carry the groceries.
In my potential future I would like to be able hold a book, pick up a toothbrush, get out of bed, standup, walk, and maybe even jog a little so I exercise regularly.
Instead of worrying about the future, I try to get ready for any future that might come along.
Therefore I am not going to worry about the sun swallowing up the earth in 5 billion years because I am certain I will not be here and even if I was here there would be very little I could do about it except bend over and kiss my you know what goodbye, that is if I had taken yoga and remained limber enough to bend over.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Great Nights Should Last Longer

Got your attention?
Where is this going, you might ask?

This last Friday must be classified as a great night.
Celebrating the birthday of our trainer was the occasion for the evening.
The weather conspired with the occasion.
Low humidity, a moderate temperature, blue sky and a setting sun allowed for the pleasure of outdoor dining, a rare treat in this town during late July, early August.
The crowd that gathered either “worked out” as a group, “alone” with the trainer or was somehow related to one of those in class.
We were all comfortable with each other and many have become fast friends.
The mood was light, the conversation easy.
A wide spread of ages was present but it didn’t make any difference.
We are all committed to getting and staying healthy and we are all being driven by this young woman that pushes each of us to his/her own personal goals and limits.
We all love her and the celebration was one small way of saying, Thank You!!!! even though the pain she delivers comes in so many flavors.
The orders for the most part reflected learned dietary restrictions.
Salads with salmon, chicken, veggie wraps----whoa, wait a minute where did those onion rings and sliders come from?
She eyes the culprit.
I don’t envy his next session.
The restraint was less apparent when it came to beverages.
The healthiest drink I saw on the table was a Pomegranate Margarita and it was only healthy because of the Pomegranate and the reported effects:

These studies indicate that pomegranate confers unprecedented cardiovascular protection by restoring endothelial health, lowering blood pressure, and protecting low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from damaging oxidation. Pomegranate also appears to suppress the growth of colon, breast, and lung cancer cells. Pomegranate even appears to shield against unsightly signs of aging by supporting the health of the skin’s underlying matrix.

They didn’t mention any added benefit from the Tequila although if you get the “worm” it is an added source of protein.
The rest of the drinks while “fun” did not confer any known health benefits.
As the sun went down, a the fire pit illuminated the evening.
The conversation flowed, the margarita glasses multiplied and then suddenly it all ended.
Bills were passed around, everyone said their goodbyes, hands were shaken, hugs tendered and then everyone gradually drifted off to their cars to return home or find other parties to attend.
My wife and I talked about the evening on the way to our own home (no more parties for us this night-remember exercise in the morning) and we had to admit this was one of the most pleasant gatherings we have attended in some time.
It always surprises me how circumstances ebb and flow until confluence occurs (usually around a special person or special date) mixing occasion, celebration, ambiance and amazing people.
These are the times and nights we all wish could and should last a little longer.