First Things First

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Well, not exactly. Laree is letting me use a pair of her 16-kg black beauties to lug around the front yard on my “off” days. I feel like a strongman wannabe, or a kid in a cape imitating Superman. I heft the suckers up and down a five-degree slope for six sets of 50 paces. Just what the doctor ordered.

The doctor’s a shrink, and I’m a mental case. I like the therapeutic effect and Laree hopes the action will have a positive influence on my flawed hip-mobility.

I get what I can get from the rotund metal globes, the hunky iron orbs, the solid steel spherical globs at our densely forested fortress. What some folks call farmer walks, I, a true bomber, call cannonball carries.

Have Cannonballs -- Will Carry

The day after my first kettlebell workout my body ached like someone done whooped me wit a stick. My traps and neck throbbed agreeably (only muscleheads stick throb and agreeable side by side in the same sentence), my hips and butt felt black and blue (only muscleheads feel color) and my lower back yelped like a tormented badger (muscleheads, tormented badger -- who can tell the difference?).

Curiously, yet understandably, I’m able to walk more comfortably, stably and correctly under the weight of the kettlebells -- 35 pounds in each hand -- than I am able to walk unburdened. The load forces me into a more natural gait as I recruit those muscles intended to do the job right. The grin I wear indicates the glee of hope.

I tingle with pain. There’s hope. Life is good.

Now is the time to launch the tingling, hope-induced good-life pleasure principle, a slight modification of my life-long methodology, train-til-you-drop. Flogging ourselves was fun when we were kids, and there’s evidence it works, but it’s counterproductive after age 50 or 60.

In an effort to beat the growing summertime traffic, I’ve been going to the gym immediately after lunch. Lo and behold, old faces I haven’t seen in years stare back at me like the grisly creature of time has tracked them down and flogged them with a rubber hose. Yikes, what a homely crew... hope the treacherous ‘time thing’ has been accosted, subdued and is no longer on the prowl. I keep my head down.
 
I’m amused how I look out of these eyes as if they were still nestled in the cheekbones of a 20-year-old. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. The mind is young, but the body’s sprung.

A pair of 50-something guys were training fast and furious. They dashed frantically from exercise to exercise like their pants were on fire and tugged fanatically on the weights like thugs in a street fight. Funny, I thought, but no one was laughing. 

Staying clear of their shenanigans, I pretended to untangle my adjustable aluminum cane from the stupid squat rack while I covertly observed their training MO, a style I call Flogging. I’m a SA (Stealth Agent Double-0-68) working for the MBI (Musclebuilding Bureau of Investigations). The duo’s methodology was suspicious and dangerous and dumb.

Strike me if I judge, bombers, but I learned how not to train during the uncertain training sessions of recent years when the body gently yet insistently, persuaded me to relax my grip on the iron I know so well, yet squeeze it for all its worth to know it better. Initially, I resisted. Today, I’m a believer.

Lighter weight, maximum muscle exertion.

The body, should we listen, has various voices, each with a distinctive timber: blast it, bomb it, press on, fight the good fight, push that iron, lift that steel, never let go and no flogging.

The lattermost voice speaks loudest when the hearing begins to fade. No Flogging. Do Not Flog. Flog Not.

The over-50 guys looked like machines as they trained, not locomotives, but assembly line contraptions that filled bottles with beer and labeled, capped and sorted them into six-packs. Chit-chit, chat-chat, clink... Chit-chit, chat-chat, clink. I waited for a part to pop or a piece to release or a screw to come undone. None... maybe later.

I coulda-shoulda stumbled over and said, hi, guys, you’re doing it all wrong. Instead...

I grabbed the thick rope attached to the pulley system and said, “hello, rope.” We have a relationship/rapport, the rope and I, and we were about to engage in serious business. It included tugging, pushing and pulling and ample persuasion and plenty of finesse. I wasn’t there to threaten and demand, though I was not beyond applying significant force when worthwhile and necessary. The rope was there to oblige and assist wherever possible. Somewhere between 25 and 35 reps, our arrangement was gratefully fulfilled.

A total of five sets of reasonably similar action were completed before I moved to the dumbbells. Dumbbells in the hands of 50-plusers do not perform well and produce their best when they are heavy and unwieldy. Save your joints and other valuable parts, Bombs. And they don’t like to be tossed around like just so much lifeless stuff. They need care, assurance, persuasion, nuance and attention to detail.

Imperative: Grab the dumbbells firmly, lovingly and let them hang by your sides. Pause, prepare, proceed -- the proper progression of performance. Now you can dig in with all your might, focused on the groove designed here and now to suit and please your eager and yearning muscles. Alternately the sinews contract and tighten, extend and relax, following valuable and profitable pathways as your heart and lungs support the exertion.

Git along little doggies...
 
The pump, the burn, the steady ache, the familiar pain are thoroughly endured, enjoyed and sustained. As blasting it once meant big weights and big moves, personalized style and dedicated motion have taken their places. That doesn’t mean strong and able are obsolete; it means, rather, maximum force is congregated and exerted along exotic channels and elaborate conduits for maximum effect.

The barbell is approached with equal knowing and detail. Grab, push ‘n pull works for kids with loose marbles, but kids with solid minds and many years of practice and experience are expected to display finesse, wisdom and responsibility.

Your choice.

We’re done here... DD

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