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A Stranger to the Steel

 

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November is the month that for many of us declares the approach of winter with blasts of cold air, runny noses and the expansion of wardrobes to include sweatshirts, gloves and fat socks. We're waiting for the boot to drop here in the middle of California and for the wet gloom to grip our coastline. We behave like spoiled brats, complaining and pouting about winter's sub-50-degree weather, with its rainstorms dropping up to an inch of water in two days on our sorry sand and soil while no one can get a pump and the last glow of the bronze suntan fades to chalky white.

Ah, but an Indian summer continues to bath us with golden days and grins of gratefulness; we're makin' hay while the sun shines.

I have an advantage on most of you in that I've endured more winters of training than you, and a heap of them in bitter cold New Jersey. (I know… such an advantage you don't need.) I plan, while the planning is good, to greet each day no matter how somber and gray with guts and gusto. It's a matter of honest commitment to an attitude as of this moment, now, before the grump grows long hair.

You know the destructive power of negative thinking, a grumbling disposition, a grouchy mentality and a downcast heart. If things with the iron get done, they get done poorly. Patience is slim; focus is a blur; tolerance to pain is fractioned; appreciation for pump and burn is replaced by disappointment and annoyance, and the ethereal space between mind and muscle broadens.

You become a stranger to the steel. Space between workouts broadens and your ugly list expands to include stress, guilt, personal disapproval, loss of muscle tone, increased fat mass (I'm being creative), fear, introversion, halitosis and nail biting.

Given it's in our power to create our attitude and respond to its character, let's seek the high way of gratefulness and enthusiasm and toughness. You know it; you've been there. Look for it, search for it and practice it regularly. Make it habitual, anticipate and reap its fruits.

You know what to do, how to do it and why. You're among the tiny percentage of society that is willing and able to climb the steep slopes. Exercise, protein, aerobics, sets, reps, chins and dips are foreign to our neighbor. They frighten him and her, yet to us they are dear friends.

Just as we must stay tight in our heavy lifts, so must we stay tight in our temperament, our mental approach to our training. We're going to make progress toward our goals through the stiff months ahead. No lost time. We will grow stronger and better when the going is good. We'll grow stronger and better when we stumble and fall.

Observe, take note, pick yourself up, lick your wounds and be on your way. We press on.

Of course, it's a long season ahead and not all of it will be swell. Shoot for eight out of 10 workouts to be very good -- that is, in the range of seven or eight in the scale of one to 10.

A couple may be excellent, hitting nine. You know the ones. They're contagious and the whole gym can feel them. The remaining two workouts register five or six and are acceptable and necessary. Instinct will tell you if you're pushing into an unacceptable, destructive workout and you can withdraw and take the day off.

That ole' positive approach doesn't mean a big, toothy smile and a repertoire of uplifting one-liners for the folks on the gym floor. I'm rather fond of serious positivity myself. Grunting and growling can be positive, whereas whining and whimpering cannot. A slight scowl works well, but glaring is forbidden. Long-term gym members knew I would often grunt and scowl at the same time...while having a wonderful workout.

New members would walk a circle around me as if I was deranged, but they were missing me at my best. Three cheers for a good sense of humor, but keep the jokes to yourself if they're longer than five seconds. The whole gym's thinking, "I lose my pump listening to your joke, it's not gonna be very funny."

I admit that one of my favorite motivators is a form of cheap negative thinking: What if I don't work out today? Or, what if I don't eat my tuna before I turn in? Or, what if I skip heavy squats on Saturday?

You know the question and you know the answer. The whole Q&A process has a microscopic life. Discomfort distorts the body and is instantly replaced by an absolutely confident high.

Inevitably, you make the right choice. It's so easy; it's so rewarding; it's a no brainer. It's self-perpetuating. It's exhilarating.

It's very, very cool. Thank God.

Carry on, bombers.

Dave

*****

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