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0.500 THURSDAY, 11-12-03

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Listen up, people. We don’t know what’s out there, but we know from past experience we must continually be watchful and ready. The consequences of ignorance, neglect or complacency can be catastrophic. We are entering the holiday season, supposedly a time of thanksgiving and good cheer, yet it is the greatest challenge to our survival and goodness. The bad guy is dressed up like the good guy and we are stalked, persuaded and driven to lay aside our principles and disciplines in exchange for indulgence and vice. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Party, Marty, ‘tis the season to be hearty. A toast to 2003, another to 04; let’s drink to good friends and one to our foe.

“Hey, where ya goin’? It’s early; besides, the gym will be there tomorrow. Life’s short and then you die. More pie?”

The sheep are led astray, the cattle graze, raccoons mischievously loot and pigs continually root. The final reward: fat, out of shape and boring. Bombers, like eagles, circle above the simple-minded revelry. Life is good; the sky is clear, blue and endless. We can see forever.

Five precepts to memorize before taking to the stormy winter sky:

1) Do not allow your health and fitness goals to become buried in holiday excuses or displaced by misplaced responsibilities. Care for yourself and you care for others.

2) Do not miss one workout; one leads to two, then ten. Go before the iron and steel, if only for 20 minutes of grappling and stress release. It works.

3) Do not allow excess in your eating behavior. Stretch the margins without overstretching. Indulge without the bulge. Have a drink and an extra serving here and there, now and then, but not everywhere, again and again.

4) Do not fail to encourage your partners in the pursuit of muscle and might to continue the good fight. In encouraging them you encourage yourself and you encourage goodness and right. That is in a sense what the season is about.

5) Do not forget that life goes on and we pay heavily for our seasonal misdeeds. They are nasty, difficult to undo and can become permanent.

Think of the spring and summer, sunshine and short sleeves, strength and energy, your heart and lungs and your invested hard work. Party now, pay later, big time. Have you forgotten?

Okay, I sound like a stiff, but I’m lookin’ out for ya. You know what you ought to do and you know what you ought not to do. Fly high, enjoy yourself and be careful out there.

+ + +

It’s not only the long drawn out holiday season, which begins with Halloween and oozes like goo till the year’s end, it’s the winter shutdown of energy and creativity that sabotages our muscle and fitness plans. Everything that is homey and comfortable becomes more and more appealing: early nights, food, couch, warm clothes, sipping hot tea, naps, indoor entertainment and a relaxed mind and body -- dormancy. The brightly lit and noisy gym floor is downtown and requires an effort to reach and an effort to use. It’s dark and chilly out there (poor baby), my mind’s a blank (uninspired), I had a hard day (lazy), I’ll go tomorrow (lie). You’re doomed.

You need a plan, a defense, against the thin and pasty internal riot causing you grief. You cannot give in, give up or give away that which you have worked so hard to achieve. Before erosion begins and hairline cracks riddle your foundations, note with healthy pride your understanding of exercise and nutrition, and their value to well being and long life. You’re informed and wise and practicing the truths. Most people don’t have a clue (ignorance), could care less (stupidity) or cannot or will not apply the principles (weakness). You do, painstakingly, yet you don’t gloat or glower, knowing they are a sad lot and need help. Appreciate the tough and slow and ever-rewarding process of becoming more; applaud your singular participation in the good deed and your strength to persist. A strong back and a strong mind are beautiful.

Re-examine your discipline, as if holding an object of wonder in your hands, and approximate its shape, heft and functionality. You have a precious, multi-faceted possession in your grasp -- full of life -- and it endures only as it is valued, cared for and engaged. What role will it play in the days ahead and will it thrive? Healthful eating and steady training depend on discipline. And, too, they are its test, challenge and exercise. Never let the quality fail or fade.

Be flexible and be free. Training modifications are often needed to enable consistency in the gym when the pressure’s on and time is spare. Once you’ve established your personal responsibility and coping out is not an issue, you will find it to your advantage to have prescribed time-maximizing and intensity-magnifying routines in your repertoire. Having prepared your gym bag with the necessities (towel, favorite attire, water, an adequate MRB, Bomber de-coder ring), enter the gym ready for action.

“Hi, gang, wazzup!” Zoom, you’re on it: excited, energized, determined, and totally focused. You warm up during the first five minutes of midsection and the ball, AKA the Cannonball, is not rolling, it is propelling. And you know what they say? Do not get in the way of a propelling cannonball or you will get hurt; they do not slow down or stop until they reach their mark.

Here is the first of a series of cannonball routines to decisively execute those short, yet crucial battles in the season ahead:

Note: The first five minutes of every cannonball workout are devoted to non-stop crunches and leg raises: For example, 25-30 crunches followed by 10-15 leg raises followed by 25-30 crunches followed by 10-15 raises till your time is up. No lingering or loitering; you will be punished.

1) Arms and upper body ramrod:

Standing barbell curl: with a moderate weight and mild body thrust, curl a bent-bar from fully hanging position to a high-up, bar-approaching-forehead position, medium-slow return and repeat. (4-5 x 8) The high-up range of motion increases the work load of the movement; tighter and fuller biceps action, adds stimulating muscle resistance to the front shoulders, plus more upper-back recruitment to stabilize the torso.

Supersetted with:

Dips, machine or freehand: Freehand dips with weight hanging from a waist belt are a superior approach for you power heads. Go for sets of 6 to 8. High reps are also advisable to whack the tris and make up for lost sets and reps due to the abbreviated workout. With machine dips you have the advantage of positioning your body in order to isolate different muscle groups throughout the sets. Lean forward, more pec. Lean back, more tris. Round your back, more mid and upper back. Practice this as you focus on the muscles and the body’s placement. 4-5 x 10 -- 20+.

Supersetted with:

Pulley pushdowns: Stand one foot away from the overhead pulley and for your handle use a rope or a slightly angled bar. Hold your upper arms close to your sides and extend your forearms forward of your body. This is an appropriate starting position; from here push down until the arms are fully extended by the power of the triceps and with focus and moderate pace; return to the starting position, and repeat for 6-8 reps. Nice, but you’re not done. Listen closely; that is the standard action for standard triceps engagement (wherever that is, around and about, never could distinguish the three heads). Now, holding your starting position, take a step back (18”) with your right foot and place your left foot forward (18”) toward the pulley apparatus as if you were in a runner’s stance. Good. Now push the handle downward and specifically forward at 45 degrees toward the floor. This re-positioning of the body makes the movement interesting, challenging and fun and bears a different resistance on the triceps, like higher and to the outside. Get another 6-8 reps, steady as she goes, as the position demands renewed stabilizing energy and talents.

But wait, there’s more (secret infomercial speech meant to excite): You have a few more reps lingering in your torso and tris if you stretch out and throw in some thrusts. After your last designated forward-thrust rep, re-assert your staggered stance and allow the handle to return to a high-up position, passing your forehead and just above your hairline, and pour your remaining strength into forward-triceps thrusts, noting the involvement of the torso, serratus, lats, minor pecs and stabilizing upper-back muscles and, finally, the abdominals.

This is tough, yet exhilarating work, and the grip is powerized by the succession of these hand-demanding exercises.

Great job. Do it again -- a little harder. And again -- only this time blast it. And again -- remember, this is a short workout, let’s go for intensity. And again, like your life depended on it. Swell. You can go home now, roll over and play dead.

I must remind you that in my observation, intensity is lacking in the performance of exercise on the gym floor. It is wise to prepare yourself for muscle exertion, to practice and condition yourself for tough, yet fulfilling work. Without substantial muscle overload the body does not get the message.

Most folks mount the aerobic equipment and wait for progress to arrive from heaven. Someone from outer space or a university has unfairly indoctrinated the ready-to-liquefy trainee. Weights equal cold, dull, grueling, ugly, muscle-bound, male, not female, dumb, and stiff. They do not wish to tire themselves, hurt themselves, build muscles nor anything resembling muscles. Therefore, they sprinkle themselves with exercise like it was fairy dust and flitter around the gym floor, winter butterflies migrating. One must build up to more challenging levels of training to achieve progressive stages of fitness.

The thoughtful characters who are fit and training for maintenance require robust physical exertion, not cross-eyed, tongue-hanging-out-of-the-side-of-the-mouth demanding, but effort that is energetic and expressive. This is a happy and satisfied group. They’re cool. The gym is their refuge and exercise is their diversion.

The overweight and under-muscled -- those most in need -- must grab the beast by the horns and wrestle it to the ground. Disappointment and discouragement, fatigue and aches rage. It takes wit, guts, certainty, stamina and an increasing effort that grows with their muscle, might and will. This works. Push that iron with purpose. Lift that steel with resolve. Now you know. The body was not meant to sit and munch and roll around. Use it, hard, fast and strong.

The intermediate, slightly seasoned lifter -- you, perhaps -- might occasionally wander down a freshly made path trimmed with dandelions and river rock. How cute, a new-age training style developed by trend-setting bubbleheads. The temptation is irresistible. Skipping and leaping and a series of feather kicks take you down the happy trail and to its end in 30 minutes, and only once a week. “That was weird and it feels as if nothing happened.” And you are right.

The hardcore agree. It’s the basics. Intensify, pound, seethe and periodically wallow like a boar in your workouts. How else will your muscles and bones, heart and lungs, enzymes and hormones know you really care?

Gotta go, dear bombers. Time to wallow and seethe.

D. Draper

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