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Those Mysterious Companions

Dave, in The Monkees

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I’m never entirely alone. I always have a companion to my right or left or a step or two behind or before me -- another self who watches, directs or makes running comments on my behavior. Give me a break. The latter character is the one with whom I have the most difficulty.

As I stroll toward the gym (it’s more of a stumble), I realize at this moment one of my persistent companions is sitting on my shoulder chattering like a chimp. My last muttering, “Let’s blast it, men” was a dead giveaway.

Maybe I need a training partner, I think curiously as my various unseen companions clamor for my attention. No thanks, the jealousy would be unmanageable. There’s already a mob in my limited space.

Besides, who could tolerate the peculiarities I’ve so carefully developed over the years? Forget that. How could I tolerate a training partner’s carefully developed oddities? Alone is good, just me and my band of madmen.

I look around and am reminded of the functional beauty of exercise and mankind’s inherent love of hard work... a thing to be admired. As I pass the squat rack, l realize the vital power of the lower back and make a note to remind you to never let it wane.

Breathing like a racehorse, I dodge the cable crossover system and applaud my love for challenge. I step over the lifting platform with buckling knees, and try to recall the last time I deadlifted... killer, man!

Crashbaboombang. I replace the dumbbells as if they were on fire. Gee, that was fun. I shake my smoldering hands till the flames give way to a thin stream of smoke. Three more sets... make that, hot and heavy staggerings.

I consider the lapses in my training performance, secretly of course, lest I, the Bomber, am exposed by a lurking big-mouth companion. I quickly rationalize the shortcomings -- a guy can’t do everything. I run out of excuses and border on whining.

This gives my wisecracking self an opportunity to berate me.

“You’re losing it, Draper. Get a job!”

Once he starts there’s no stopping him.

“Bomber? Ha! You couldn’t strike a match. Flick a Bic. Arc a spark in the dark.”

But this is good, don’t you see? We can’t blast everything all the time. We blast to overload our muscles and cause hypertrophy, and to satisfy that killer instinct. When we near the edge, when the blasting has done its work, we retreat. We continue to nudge the well-worked muscular region, yes, but we move on to other targets worthy of blasting.

Maybe I, to be more mature, should tone down the term “blast” and call it “hit hard,” or some less-explosive, less-childish variation. Maybe not. I could have said “targets worthy of hard work,” but that’s so dull.

The muscles adapt to the same exercises and the same set-rep schemes. We need to know what to change, when to change and how. Is there a mystic in the house, a detective or clairvoyant? A miracle-worker?

No, but I do have a variety of mysterious cohorts close by with whom I regularly confer. Perhaps we can help.

When you’re young and fresh, it all works. Just do it, pay attention, learn and grow. As you progress you need more training intensity and order to your workouts. A routine for six weeks before tweaking or revamping is a good rule of thumb for the newly committed iron pumper. One or two exercises per muscle group for three or four sets of six-to-eight reps twice a week is a clean and mean scheme. Rock on.

During the unfolding months the road gets rugged. Where once it was smooth and straightforward, it is now steep and twisting. Gains are not fast enough, doubts pile high, conflicting information pours in, confusion mounts and the workouts spit and sputter like an old washing machine. You press on. Others don’t. They lose.

Pressing on is tough and daring, instructive and healthy. You remind yourself that no one said it would be easy. You look some more, you read, you observe and you ask. The answers roll in and you rock on and progress stops. You’re sure of this. The harder you train and the more you look, the less you see that’s encouraging. What’s up: overtraining, undertraining, periodization (huh?), aerobics (sheesh!), more volume, heavier weight, supersets, Pilates (wha?). It’s all French to you.

It’s been a few years, 10 to 20 or 30, and in spite of your research and intelligence, you made some gains. These may have earned you some respect, a trophy or two, or the resistance and might to meet life’s challenges -- precious possessions all. You press on, you rock on and you continue to seek answers and grow. Stopping would be like withdrawing an antennae or shutting down the radar or voluntarily masking your eyes and ears. Inconceivable! The solutions and advancements are gained, as always, by continuous touch and feel, intuition and nuance.

Hard work and hope.

The routines haven’t changed -- the exercises, sets and reps -- they only slipped and slid while you rocked and rolled. And pressed on. Life’s a series of questions and answers, causes and effects, seeking and finding... finding something, anything, whether or not it’s what you sought.

I don’t recall having an answer to anything once I passed the first few refreshing months of training.
I just learned how to rock on.

Bombs away... DD


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