Wednesday, September 17, 2014
It's all in the shadows.
The mornings are filled with them. The way the earth is lit by nothing more than a reflection and the distant horizon. The way my room is lit only with the faded light of a nightlight in the bathroom and the distant lights of electronics trying to tell time to my blurred vision. I get up anyhow. It's wednesday, a lifting day.
Now, my back and neck have been hurting for two days. We'll call it a "shower accident" -- a reach for a fallen loofah in the tight confines of the gym bathroom and a sudden pull in the lower right of my back. Near the hip flexor. It wasn't so painful as to cause me to curse (although I had a few choice words rise to the back of my lips) but it was enough to know I'd done something wrong.
These last two days since, it's been stretching and heat. And this sinking feeling. This falling from the wagon feeling. This missing out on the thing that charges me.
And I used a curse then.
No [censored] way I'm not going to get my [censored] workout in.
So I woke. and I stretched. And I pulled on my shorts and my shirt. I pushed my messy mop of hair under the comfort of an old (and smelly) ball cap. I kissed my wife in the darkness and went out to the world. I chugged my 16 oz of water and ate my half cup of cottage cheese. I packed my juice and my nuts for post workout. I went into the cool fifty-five air and got in my car and drove.
And then I grabbed my towel and I went to the squat rack and I put the bar on my back.
Down. Up. Five times. Deep. Pausing each time at the base to feel -- to figure out if it would work.
And then I put on the weight. First tens on each side. Then twenty-fives. Then thirty-fives. Then I felt good. The sweat began. By the time I had my sixty-five on each side and was hammering through the five by five. The slow drop, the pause, the press. The stretch in the hamstring, the pull of the glute, the tension in the quad.
Five in. Overhead press. By now the sweat was rich and I could feel the throb, the pump in me. Remembering the comments recently heard about my leg muscles. I smiled as I pushed the bar up and overhead, the strain in my delts, feeling the swell in my shoulders. Another set of compliments runs through my head. I struggle. This time ninety-five pounds pressed. Up and overhead. Up and Overhead.
Five in. Time for the deads. It is one of my favorite lifts, but also one I fear given back pain.
The warmup was clean. My body filled with endorphins and my ears with music. I crank and crush it again. Push. Push.
Forty-Fives on each side. Fifty-five. Sixty-five. Seventy-Five.
Crush it. Crush it.
I sat in the steam room, sweating, breathing heavily, feeling the sweat pour off me and smiling. I fought through. I fought every moment and pushed every moment and lifted everything. I felt the rush and the pump and the smile. I heard the compliments, the good-jobs, saw the points in my SP app and the way I felt like I had all this support.
From pain to pleasure, from pain to pleasure.
and it felt good.
Monday, September 15, 2014
The alarm goes off at five fifty. I am up and out of the bed and off to pull on some clothing. It's a half drunkards walk, albeit minus the prerequisite alcohol that often drives such things. I stumble more than walk. I seek without lights for a something that has become second instinct. Shorts, shirt, hat. Sneakers get tied. Teeth get brushed. Dress clothes grabbed and then out to the car.
It's fifty this morning. I enjoy the way the breeze makes me shiver a tiny bit. I like that in the future, I may have to consider a sweatshirt or some sweatpants to keep me from freezing myself out. I drive to the gym.
Today, I start a new role with my company. It's in a new business and I'm going to be doing a completely new thing. I have a whole new set of direct reports. I have a whole new set of people to get to know. I'm the new kid on the block being named to the all-star team before he arrives and that means people filled with fear and resentment, others will be all smiles and hoping for a bunch of quick wins.
So I go to the gym. I look at the bar and ignore this crick in my neck and then step under it and push it up onto the meat of my back. I relish it's pressure. The iron on either side hold steady, only providing the slightest ring of friction as I lower and raise. I lower and raise.
Each plate I pick up is a new way to push my own emotions back into check. Sliding them onto the bar and then getting back in place. It's breathing in the new and breathing out the old. It's a sacred bond, between the metal and me, and I breathe deeply and feel sweat form and wrench my face a little as I crush it.
The Bench comes next, and then the rows. I'm feeling more calm, yet more tired. The last week was emotionally quite tiring, and I know I'm on the way back into the game. My head and my heart, so easily upon the sleeve will be rechecked, tenderized by the power and the pressure and then returned comfortably to the place inside. I need to win today, I need to feel powerful.
Each next movement is the one that reminds me of the fact that I am old, and I am out of shape yet. The way the pressure on my arms and chest pulls at my neck a little too much. The way the rows pull at my lower back, feeling sore.
I might need an extra day of rest.
I'm okay with that, but in some ways, not at all. I want to stretch it all out, feel the rush of the pump and the wonder of the flesh and surrender myself to it completely, but I feel weak and tired.
I still push. I still push.
These mornings give me great comfort. They represent the best of me in some ways. Consistent, dedicated, unwavering, Simple. It is me versus some steel, some iron. It's my own mental sense of never quitting against an inanimate challenge that displays equality to all. We measure by the same stick, and yet every stick is different. Today, it was a stick that reminded me of my long journey yet to go, and also quite how far I've come. I'm sore, but I did it. I'm tired and spent, but I am accomplished.
I can squat most of my friends. I can deadlift my friends. I'm getting there with bench and press and pull. I'm getting there. The better me is only a lift away, a rep away, a breath away.
My back hurts today. My neck hurts today. And I am filled with the uncomfortable shudder of so much new in such a short time. Even so, I have given myself the start I needed. I walked in tired and off, I walked out confident and powerful.
No matter what they say, sometimes you need to don your armor and mount your horse and ride into battle with your colors flying. Some new things need that. For me, today, this was my armor. This was my sword. This was my charge.
I am flying my banners today, sore but happy.
Friday, September 12, 2014
I was walking to a friends house last night. He just tapped the keg of his home-brewed Witbeer and I thought I could use a beer and he asked if I wanted to stop by and try it at the bus-stop yesterday morning, and yesterday was one of those days, you know.
I left a little earlier than I needed to. My neighborhood is this wonderful community of houses set against the backdrop of a few holes of a municipal golf course. The best part of this is the lack of light pollution. I had noticed earlier in the evening that the skies had begun to break up, and the rich light of the moon was pouring down. I wanted to get a chance to peer up at the sky. I took the long way, walking around the block backwards to get to his place, just around the corner.
The dipper was hanging low in the sky, and I loved the way that the richness of the moon, bright as could be, was not dampening the stars around it.
It was whimsical, and yet draining. Sometimes the significance and insignificance of space collide, and you feel both happy and sad at the notion of being so minuscule and small on the planet.
If you were wondering. The beer was excellent. He named it Wit or Witout You, after the U2 song. I laughed and we chatted until later than I should have and enjoyed what neighborhood friends have to offer.
This week has been a combination of things for me. I start a new job on Monday, same company, way different role. I've been packing up my office all week, putting things in boxes and taking them out to my car in a weird finality that doesn't feel right. Add to that a pretty intense story slam, the recurrence of my desire to write (which you so benefit from (if you like my writing, if not, sorry)), and the experience of remembering what it's like to be truly vulnerable, and it's been pretty emotional. Some days I felt like I had my big boy panties on, other times, not so much.
Life is choices, no?
And so, like I said in the last post, I've been putting a lot of energy into my workouts. My 5x5 is a beast. The weight continues to pile on, which means I started too light in the beginning. I put my earbuds in and let the music take me and crank. Just close my eyes and take all the emotion and push and pull. Just crushing it. Crushing it.
and in your ears, the power of it all, the force of it as it courses through you.
(LOOK AT ME NOW)
Squats: 160. Deep. So far down you feel the pull in your hamstrings and glutes. The breath that pushes from between your lips when you press back up. One set. Two sets....
and you push...
Overhead Press: 90. Shaking in the arms, in the shoulders as you get to sets four and five. You can see the pump in the shoulders, the way they strain and the way the body reacts. You breathe out and soft lock, knowing you just hit the rep. You lower the weight to your chest. Once racked, you feel that pressure in your shoulders, that deep wonderful endorphin saying you've done it.
and you push...
Deadlifts: 185. The big plates holding the bar and the stance. You breathe in and out a few times before getting your last lift in. The warmups remind you of your form, but then you stare down at the bar. A 45 plate and a 25 plate on both sides. You look at it and you say I'm going to do it. And you feel the burn, driving your feet into the ground and letting the bar trace your shins and straightening your back.
You've done what you needed to do. To channel it all. to be a better you. You let the music course through you.
(INHERIT MY LIFE)
You hang your head in the sauna, let the heat soothe your flesh and the sweat continue to pour and then you think, contemplate, consider, remind, reminisce, fantasize. You find the matter and the wonder in it all. You look up at the clock and it hasn't yet hit seven-thirty and you sigh and smile and head to the showers.
Cleanse. Silently to the echo of water falling and hope. The sensation of becoming free and clean and clear and open again to the world. This is the magic of life. This is how it is. Circular and repetitive and wonderful and overwhelming. This is the culmination, of having channeled and pushed and pulled and known the power of the metal, and then to feel the burn of the heat, and then to hang your head in the shower and let it all wash away.
Exactly like the simultaneous sensation of staring into the vast infinity and both relishing and fearing, enjoying and running from the fact that we are both significant and insignificant so minuscule in this universe.
(I think I'm going to write again. Some here, but likely someplace else as well. To start blogging again and enjoying the catharsis it brings. In telling stories, one learns much about oneself.)
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I tell stories. It's sort of what I do.
Life is a rich tapestry of events, of thoughts and feelings and philosophy. A dense set of fibers, creating a texture to your experiences. Beneath each thread on the surface, a fabric of what's beneath, the filler, the padding, the wonder of all the secrets you have.
So I tell stories. Once a month, I stand in front of a crowd and share something from my past. Some secret of my once before, some thought or idea of my history. There is always a theme. The stories are only five minutes. No props, no music, no notes.
Last night, the theme was scars.
I am an emotional eater. Moreso, I am an emotional drinker.
I told an emotional story.
I indulged in one of my many preferred poisons then. I drank a few beers and had a huge burger.
I should have just had a peach.
The story is not really something for here. It was incredibly personal, profoundly impactful, and far deeper a scar than I am usually comfortable admitting. I was truly vulnerable for that five minutes, and visibly shaken thereafter.
that's what you get for a catharsis these days.
I spent a fair amount of time in the car after thinking (breaking down) and letting it all wash over me.
At least it was a great story.
And then came a fretful sleep. And then I woke up at my normal time on monday wednesday friday, five forty five. I was groggy, emotionally laden. Dressing was a chore, my body felt the pull of the bed, the strain of the burger and beer within me. I tied my shoes and drove to the gym anyway.
Anthrax. Pantera. Metallica.
I listened to an angry mix today, where the guitars were heavy and the beats driven. I pushed with my legs and with my chest. I lifted and growled at the world. It was heavy, and it was perfect.
Five sets of squats. Big deep bends pulling my quad and my hamstrings and my glutes. Five sets of bench press. Up and down and across the chest. Five sets of barbell row. the tightening of the back and the pull of the bar to me. This was heavy lifting. This was perfect lifting.
I felt the stress begin to fall away. And I felt the energy and smile return. I felt the way the endorphins rushed through me and the sweat pull me out of my state. I pumped each set out with the perfect exhale of emotion, drawing in new air to a new me. The me of today.
Each moment of our lives is one to be perfected, something we can relish and indulge in fully. My story was me, at that moment fully necessary and realized. My lift was necessary, the cleansing I needed after the long night.
And today, today I don't give in to burger and beer.
Today, today I have my peach.
Friday, September 05, 2014
The alarm goes off at 5:45. No matter. I've been up for more than an hour anyway staring into the darkness.
This brain does things, like, think. Stupid brain.
And so I roll out of bed, quick to shut off the alarm to allow everyone in the house to remain ensconced comfortably in their slumber. I slip on my shorts and my spartan tee, red sox cap and sneakers and head on out into the fog of pennsylvania morning. The drive is short, and I am smiling all the way. Mostly, because of you. Yeah, You.
See, it's easy to stop. To say I didn't sleep last night or to relish the comfort of the pillow in the darkness. It's easy to say I'll do it tomorrow or I've done enough this week. It's easy to look at your workout clothes and deny them. It's easy to look in the mirror and call yourself fat.
But it's not easy to admit all of that to you. It's not easy to ignore the motivation and inspiration and wonder that comes from people all over the world who drop a quick note to say thanks, or good job. It's not easy to turn down an entire community of people who are actively doing something about it. The people who fall down and get back up. The people who drop a note and say hello.
The ones who have become friends. The ones who make it enjoyable. The part of the community you can say anything to and feel comfortable with.
I pulled into the gym parking lot and swiped my badge.
"how you doing, sir" said the bearded wonder behind the counter, always with a smile this early.
"Living the dream" I told him, which he always chuckles at.
I put my bag in a locker, pulled on my gloves, and went to do my 5x5. The lifts are much harder now, but I've been doing them consistently for SEVEN weeks now. Three days a week, compound free weight exercises. Today, it was Squat, Bench and Row.
Every plate I picked up, I thought of you. How proud you'd be. How you'd cheer me on. How you'd make a comment about my glutes or my chest. Every time I bent down, or pressed up, every time I gripped the bar. As I let the workout mix pour through me, I continued to press and push and enjoy the thought of you in my head.
Yes. I'm doing this for me. But it's a group effort, no? It's worth it to share. It's worth it to feel part of a community. It's worth it to welcome seven AM with the slight throb within from having pressed, pushed, lifted. You know, it feels good. It feels good and you and I both know how wonderful it is to know it's done, we've accomplished this together.
I steamed and then I showered. I dressed slowly, enjoying the fatigue and the pleasure of endorphins running through. I put on some of my new threads for my new and improved body and wondered what you'd say.
(I'd have taken a picture, but that's frowned upon in the men's locker room)
I logged in. I logged the exercise. I looked around.
Looks like you did some working out too.
(and if you haven't, it's not that hard... just get up, do something. Be amazing.)
(it's a community of us, do it for all of them. Do it for me.)
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