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Look Between the Lines and See

Tracy and Mark Reifkind and Dave Whitley from May 2nd Workshop

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I don’t know why this lad thinks I’m qualified to answer his question, but I’ll give it my best shot. I’ll be gentle, authentic, direct and straight-faced. I’ll not slice and dice words or waste time. These are the days that try our souls.

Q) I’m now 48 years young and acknowledge my best physique years are behind me. I bomb and blast with gusto on a regular basis, but see more sagging skin and excess fat in the midsection than l would like. I eat clean (water, high protein, moderate carbs and fats) and cardio is part of my program, yet the desired results are no longer in my mirror.

Bodybuilding is and always will be part of me, a good addiction, no regrets. It has contributed to my life immensely. The problem is I can no longer say “give me 12 weeks and I’ll be better than ever.”

Just wondering how you, who took physique development to a Mr. Universe level, dealt with the reality of father time knocking at the door?

A) Badly!

First of all, time is not our father, beloved child of the iron, he’s not even our long-lost cousin; he’s a creepy thief who takes what he wants as soon as he can get it. And another thing, kiddo, that’s not a ‘knock’ you hear, it’s the first round of a barrage of booming, door-leveling blows. Stand back.

Early on, I ignored the shadowy character as any red-blooded citizen might ignore a cop car following him on the freeway. I slowed down hoping he’d pass me. Not. Brazen, I ran like a bandit with his pants on fire, but the hands of time snagged me before I could fence my booty. Desperate, I tried to hide, but the hooded stalker never left my side. Backed into a corner, I fought with all my might, while he snarled and sneered, snickered and smacked me silly.

It is the ultimate dilemma, bombers: how to deal with getting old and letting go? Hard enough for a retired lawyer or librarian, linguist or Lilliputian, but an iron-bound builder of muscle and might? Horrors!! I can tell you what does not work for sure: pounding your head against a squat rack, howling as you spear an Olympic bar across the gym floor, smashing a locker-room mirror with a 45-pound plate or glaring at the wide-eyed and naturally muscular 18-year-old who enters the gym for the very first time.

“Hi, I’m Tommy.” 

Tommy Rotten... grease his bar, load it heavily and unevenly and make certain the collars are loose. “Need a spot, Tommy?” He-he.
The mania generally takes root early and subtly as we, whining and clutching, release our grip of those valiant years, the rock-solid 30s. Here today, gone tomorrow and good while they lasted. Robust, fearless and seemingly eternal, we beat them like racehorses in the homestretch.

Goodbye, primetime, the best of the rest, those hale and hearty days too full to empty. Hello 39.

If 39 was a melancholy year, 40 is morbid. Rather than embrace those magnificent years between four-0 and five-0, we treat them suspiciously, as strangers, as aliens, as traders, as foes. What a regrettable waste. Come back, we cry. Sometime around 45 we let go and mellow out, after the sport car, short skirts, botox and detox. Time goes by, leaving us in its wake.

Cheezits, I am a clunky and cynical ol’ dumbbell, ain’t I? Aging is not always as bad as I portray it. Some folks die before the process begins and are spared the gloom and pain and defeat. Ha, gotcha there...

That wasn’t funny, Draples.  
In the long run... gasp... a breath of hard-earned, over-due wisdom restores us to a reasonable sort of sanity. Life is good... groan... and the gym, we discover, is our rescue, release and refuge after all these years. When was it, anyway, bombsters... the beginning? ... 1955, ’65, ’75? Wow! The iron works as well, after the fires, floods and earthquakes, as before.

50 to 60 are very good years. Lessons learned are applied, knowledge is all-aboard, understanding is at the controls and our buoyant spirits are under the wings. A time to soar.

I know what to do, I’ll never forget and I’ll never quit. Push, pull ’n play. Some things never change. And today I have a renewed, revived and redefined sense of purpose.

Actually, I have a list of purposes: sanity, survival, security, stress reduction and saintly suffering; long life, daily joy, fulfillment, responsibility and curiosity. I’m not done yet: huge and ripped, 450 bench press, squat and deadlift. The lattermost are not purposes; they’re daydreams and pipe dreams interspersed with hallucinations and bed wettings.

I have the feeling I’m not offering you the answer you want to hear. In fact, I present no answer at all. I dodge the question as one dodges a sharp sword in the hand of a stealthy opponent. ‘Getting old’ for anyone -- man, woman or dog, is a trick, trial and trek none of us is prepared for. One day we look ahead, around and after us and there we are, up to our ankles, hips or eyeballs in time.

Here’s the trick, the secret (as if I know any tricks or secrets): Train hard, eat right, be strong and smile; lift, live, learn and grow. Be happy and be grateful for yesterday, this day and the days to come. I call it Godspeed.

Read between the lines and see, said the blind man to the mute weight stack.

Do you recognize the drumbeat? Have you seen this act... done this dance before? I declare the same precepts and truths, as always. You can call them tricks ’n secrets or notions. Press on, fight the good fight, never quit and never give up.

The young gent proposing the question here and now has had a sneaking suspicion of his predicament for a few years... I’m just sayin’. Every day he’s increasingly convinced of its permanence, and he knows he must confront it, whatever the heck that means.

We’re in this thing together, sooner or later. Each day unfolds and we are reminded of the same thing over and over again. We’re another day older and deeper in debt. Oops! There goes the bench press. Gadzucks, man! The pecs are a-jigglin’ ’n hangin’ low. Where once we sought pulsating striations, we now settle for a roundy lump. And the shoulders... we won’t talk about the shoulders... or the elbows and knees for that matter.

We are not obsessed. Not we, iron warriors from the days of yore. We are alive, awake and aware. We are, as always, accepting, adapting and aspiring. Anyone using the 15-pound dumbbells? The Exertube?

Next week, if I can get this jalopy to fly, I’ll approach the question from a different direction, one with an answer in mind.

Another day, another workout, set and rep, thank God.

Love and lumps... DD

Post-it Note:

While the weak and weary and aimless languished in the sun on the shores of Santa Cruz, a dedicated crew of iron-hearted kettlebell enthusiasts (some 35 bell-heads) joined forces in the inspiring hall of Olympic lifting coach Greg Everett’s Catalyst Athletics in Sunnyvale.

They tugged and tossed and turned...

Endless meetings with celebrities, big wigs, the rich and famous, the media and international leaders and authorities kept me from joining forces with Laree and her gang of 35 to witness the heart-pounding kettlebell seminars and demonstrations of Tracy and Mark Reifkind and Dave Whitley. Rats!!

They thundered...

I did, however, have the opportunity to enjoy the company of the stars at day’s end over dinner and dessert, the latter of which I certainly did not ingest. We ate ribs and seafood as we talked turkey, shared meaty stories and laughed like potato-heads. I caught the tail-end of a great day and was lifted high by the cheerful spirits and generosity and authenticity of the good folks.

There’s hope. We never let go.

Turkish Getups and Swings and Great Balls of Fire... DD


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