First Things First

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In Case You Hadn't Noticed

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In my recent excursion up the California coast and into Oregon, I saw no reduction in the number of expanded waistlines or the degree of their expansion. Were growing bellies an industry, I’d say business was booming.

Bellies and associated bodyparts have been growing big for a long, long time, and that fact has not gone unnoticed. There’s respectable public stir and the media reports fat-people sightings regularly. There are popular books written and films produced about the overweight absurdity and a few tiresome solutions have been offered, but the only changes I notice are salads added to fast food menus and vogue styles for a novel fat-is-cool set created by the well-established feed-my-pocket mob.

Why do I care? Obesity is destructive to one’s self and one’s surroundings. Lots of rolly people have kids who follow in their plodding footsteps, and the consequences seep into the communities around us. Obesity is a sign of carelessness, negligence, disregard, irresponsibility and laziness, lack of discipline, self-respect and personal assurance. These are not the characteristics that comprise strong nations of people.

I’m beating an old drum, but, gee, I thought we might be seeing positive changes by now. Nope. A few outraged and courageous schools have fixed their cafeteria menus after battling the not-so-sweet sugar industry that insists on funneling bad soda down good kids’ throats, or clashing with parents, who claim the healthful change is unconstitutional, or fighting community apathy and the absence of public support. Good neighborhood gyms are giving way to national chains, which merely suggest training while promoting gushy socializing with a two-for-one, have-a-nice-day, see-ya-later price tag. Governments try to help -- half-heartedly -- knowing they will be shot down by money, power, lobbyists and the senseless political boars who don’t know a donut from a dogma.

We have control over this brazen, in-your-face destruction -- self-inflicted terrorism -- and we allow it to take us down by the dead weight of carelessness, gluttony and ignorance. Give way to this enemy and that weakness, and a pile of evil and ugly tumbles down upon us.

Muscle and might eliminate evil and ugly.

Alas, to be free and frivolous, if only for a moment. "Free" I understand, being a free-spirited dude, but "frivolous"... I know nothing about frivolity. I’ve committed my life to serious matters, allowing no room for glee or playfulness. "Lift iron, eat meat and groan," has been my credo since I spent my very first hard-earned dollars on a set of used dumbbells at nine years old. They were slightly rusty, I might add.

I’ll lighten up, I promise, though the weights can be so darn heavy.

So, how’s by you? Last day of August... yep... tomorrow’s the 1st day of September. Time flies. Gettin’ cooler.

I can’t say it’s been a long, hot summer in my neck of the woods. Conversely, I could say it’s been a short, cool summer and be far more accurate. Clouds covered the California coastline like a wet blanket most of the time and scorched inlanders made it to the sandy shores on weekends to beat the heat and get relief. The sun that did not shine on my back ferociously beamed down on theirs instead.

Determining the weather is like determining the best routine for building big and strong muscles: a challenge wrought with mystery, speculation and wonder. And only after you experience it are you certain of its worth or ruin.

As you know, exercise is the best investment we can make in any season and any economy, and smart eating is of equal worth. The rich might get richer as their portfolios increase impressively, but their losses are incalculable as their waistline and arteries thicken in equal proportion. God bless the bright and prosperous man and woman whose health matches his wealth and wisdom. No cigars, no cigarettes, no excess alcohol and enough good food and exercise to develop the body, mind and soul -- that’s the road to travel, sound, sure, comfortable and fulfilling.

Of course, some will say it’s a narrow pass to traverse, demanding, exceedingly critical and tedious. They, the very same ones, will huff and puff as they heave their bulk to climb an everyday slope.

The trick to smooth and efficient travel upon good roads is to gain access to the avenues of freedom early in one’s life. We who know better need to do our part in guiding people, especially young people, toward the grand virtues of exercising, eating right and developing smart habits. It’s wonderful that we have the knowledge and understanding to apply it regularly and care for ourselves; it’s another thing to share it. And, thinking for a moment, such awareness is not complicated, obscure or profound... difficult to convey. It is, in fact, quite simple, basic and everyday.

Sharing can be fun and particularly rewarding for everyone concerned.

The overweight teach those who follow them how to be overweight; the out-of-shape influence their listless followers, the apathetic drag along their subjects and so on. Parents, guardians, teachers, police, bosses, authorities, social workers, political leaders, doctors, aunts and uncles, big brothers and sisters -- the whole spectrum of characters briskly walking or sluggishly trodding along life’s busy corridors tell, declare, suggest, intimate or direct the way to go. Most don’t even know it, a small crime in itself.

The government shouldn’t bear the burden to fix what is broken. News Flash! The parents and grammar school classrooms should be the wise, strong and loving forces that govern, prepare and strengthen communities early on, when the time is right. Too late -- tomorrow -- is right around the corner.

The view from above is spectacular, and standing on one’s toes is sometimes sufficient. It’s "the seated at the couch before the TV" or "the bent over with one’s head in the refrigerator" positions that can be limiting.

Stand tall, bombers, and fly right.


Progress on our new book, a collection of IronOnline newsletters, is coming along at a good clip and we hope to have it to the printer before November. This is an ambitious timeline, but not entirely coo coo. Here’s the preface, a first draft, as the material falls in place:

A collection to inspire, motivate and teach

In December of 1998 my wife, Laree, thumbed through the pages of "Websites for Dummies" and by February of '99 we had our very own. We were -- how do you say it? -- on the cutting edge.

We stared at our three-page internet contribution in awe and proudly exclaimed, "We’re out there; we’re in cyberspace." Now what? I yawned; she shrugged her shoulders. So much for cheap thrills.

By the end of the first week floating around in un-chartered territory, we received 37 emails. What’s this? A few friends and acquaintances announced their approval, thank you, but who were these folks from Oklahoma, New Mexico and New Delhi? One young guy from Indiana cried out that he’d been training for over five years and still can’t get a peak on his biceps. He was desperate, "What should I do?" Other emails probed dietary issues, overtraining, aging and training methodology and some offered thanks and encouragement.

The silent, static and spare web pages stirred with life.

"I’ve been following you since I saw you on the cover of a muscle magazine in the mid-'60s. Keep up the good work." Signed, Louie from Hoboken.

"Me... following me? Gee!"

"How do I bulk up? Arnold, Zane and you are the best! How do I trim down?
I miss the good old days! How do I get huge and ripped?" The email kept coming in from New Zealand to Uzbekistan, Maine to Peru.

I responded to the notes directly and answered questions when asked. "How considerate," I thought, "of this small loyal group to write."

Before the second week had gone by Laree counted 125 emails from strangers saying hi and looking for help. We decided to glean through the stack and present the most informative and motivating Q n' As online for all to share. Very popular.

Week by week the mail grew, the page content expanded and the website evolved, as healthy living things do when under structural pressures. A free weekly newsletter called Draper Here became the solution to the ever-increasing, ever-fascinating email load. It’s been going out for seven years to everyone who requests it and we haven’t missed an issue yet.

The subject matter ranges from sets and reps of exercises to build muscle and might to the complex, yet simple, process of aging. What does one do if he or she has never before entered a gym or performed fitness exercise and what does one do the last weeks before bodybuilding competition to exhibit maximum muscle size and definition? The theme of the newsletters is encouragement -- to train hard, consistently and positively and to eat smartly; the rewards are extraordinary and the price is right. Be consistent, stick to the basics and there are no secrets.

The Bomber is a collection of 50 newsletters from the 350 published over the years. They are compiled to randomly flow, like water over rock in a swift river whose course strains steadily toward its destination. Yeah, I talk stupid sometimes.

Each chapter is a trip of its own. And throughout the book sketches by the powerful hand of Steve Cepello complement the pages, adding vision to the words that fight the good fight.

Who’s the Bomber, you ask? The bomber is the guy who flies the craft at the head of the fleet. You do fly, don’t you? No problem; you’ll learn.


We here on IronOnline have friends and family in southern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

I’m as sick as you are about the destruction of life, property, hopes and dreams wrought by the colossal hurricane -- a natural disaster out of man’s control -- along the gulf coast of America. Now is a good time to pray, even if the thought of prayer rubs you the wrong way. Try it. Think of it as a practice in focusing on a stricken and bewildered people who need all the attention they can get. I suspect many of them cried out to God for help, though God is, otherwise, seldom on their minds. Desperation causes us to reach far beyond ourselves.

A well-voiced prayer is poetry from the soul. It cleanses like strong soap the grit from the pores of the mind. So you don’t believe there’s a god who cares or listen or exists? Pretend for the fun of it. We pretend all day long about other things equally as important or unimportant.

It is such a heartbreaking experience and here I sit at my computer -- dry as a bone with electricity, food, water, shelter, privacy and quietude -- enlisting someone’s help for someone in need and tiptoeing around like I was an intruder suggesting there might or might not be a God.

I understand -- I do. Perhaps we can send money and warm blankets instead. It’s not as good, but it’ll help.

Man, take me to the gym and lock the door; I’ve got some heavy lifting to do.

Bombs Away... Draper

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