Busted Knee Trilogy – Book 2
Posted Friday, 14 January, 2005
I want to go on record right now, I’m not just a lumpy 42 year old guy any more; I’m a manly, body-building, weight lifter! I have been for over a month. That’s when I joined the health club. It’s paying off already; I can hold the remote aloft clicking at a full 33 channels per second for almost 15 minutes without a break. Just ask my wife.
I joined this particular health club after extensive analysis which involved seeing which club had the most out of shape patrons. No sense starting with a handicap. My new club is nothing but tottering retirees and house-frau Jenny Craig drop outs.
Now I’m a serious body builder. I don’t play around with that Nautilus machine stuff. I pump iron. As a famous California politician says; “Ze Nautilus is for Girly Men!” I must say that this is one of the few things Senator Dianne Feinstein and I agree on.
Like all men floundering in that gray area between youth and Florida, I’m constantly on the lookout for activities that turn back the clock. In this case, I would guess that pumping iron turns back the clock to “little boy”. Let’s face it; you don’t have to scratch the surface of most men very deeply to find a little boy. (Especially if you draw blood)
Why do think guys like weight lifting? Pumping iron has all the elements of a guy sport. First of all, you can do it either before or after drinking beer. Second, you can wear clothes that you’ve slept in. Third, there is lots of grunting and brief episodes of exertion. Finally, those big metal plates really make great guy-type clanging noises. If you could throw in some spitting and a car crash it would be darn near perfect.
My best weight lifting ‘move’ is not the bench press or the bicep curl; it’s the ‘spot’. Spotting is when you help some real weight lifter finish his or her ‘set’ by applying a gentle counter-gravity force to the bar. I’m a spot artiste. I make them work and scream for that last push. Some days I don’t lift any actual ‘weights’, I just preen in the mirror and spot people.
The best thing about lifting is that it doesn’t waste time with any energy-sapping so called ‘aerobic’ activity. You sit around for awhile – you heave the weight – you sit around some more. It closely simulates what the male has to contend with in his wild environment, what with the stuck jar lids and stubborn window jams.
Like most male activities, and ladies, you’ll surely agree with me on this point, it consists of a small amount of violent activity surrounded by a lot of sitting around and posturing.
One of those things I’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t had the time, was to strength train. All the running pundits recommend it. 80% of runners think it’s a great idea, according to a survey I just made up to support my argument. But, do you ever see any of these skinny little runners at the gym? Nope.
Having already joined the club, and not being able to run a lot, (with the dodgy knee), I was presented with that excellent opportunity to do that strength training that everyone is always preaching about.
Here’s a revelation for you; when these folks talk about strength training they are talking about something different. They mean a few lunges and a roll-around with the big rubber ball. When I talk about strength training, I go old school – weight lifting.
Those of you who played football or were on the wrestling team know what I’m talking about. You lifted for pure mano-a-mano power. It is a simple, pure and honest exercise. The Romans did it in their spas. It’s as natural to humans as running.
I’m not a weight lifting virgin. When I was in my 20’s I had a job within walking distance to a gym and used to go over every lunch and lift. At one point my workouts coincided with a broken jaw from blocking a slap-shot with my face in hockey. With the combination of the liquid diet from having my jaw wired and lifting consistently, there was a span of a couple weeks where I was lean and buffed out…In a way.
I had the privilege of working with a guy, who was a professional body builder. You know those guys who get up on stage and pose? And, you know what? It’s just like running or any other sport, you are either genetically inclined or your destined for mediocrity. It doesn’t matter how much you lift, if you’ve got a ‘dorky’ body type, it’s not going to change. You can get bigger and stronger, but you’ll still be odd shaped body type ‘dork’.
Like any other sport it has its terminology, technique and rules. I was lucky to work out with this guy because he showed me how to do it right. How to lift clean, isolate the muscles you’re working on and not cheat. Like running it’s all about form, and if you cheat on the form, that’s when you get injured.
There’s a good reason that the running pundits recommend you roll around with the big rubber ball for strength training. It’s called ‘gravity’. In the three to four weeks that I’ve been strength training (two or three times a week) I’ve put on at least five pounds of muscle mass in the upper body. You would think that is a good thing, right? Well yeah, unless your goal is to run fast, especially up hill. The good news is that you look great for the cameras; the bad news is that the camera man has plenty of time to focus on you because you’re moving so slow.
I think that if I was putting in 30 – 50 mile weeks that would keep me from bulking up so much. As the knee starts to cease its complaint, I’ll start bringing up the mileage and that should slim me down a little.
Once you get up to speed and start really working out with weights it is a tremendous work out. There is nothing like being in the shower after and not being able to lift your arms to wash your hair! It’s such a great muscle shaking exhaustion.
I know what you’re thinking, “I’m a runner, I’m not going anywhere near those grunting behemoths over in the free weights section.” That would be a mistake, you’d be missing out on some very useful knowledge about what your body is designed to do.
My advice is to approach as a student of the physical arts. Pick out the person who looks like they know what they’re doing and ask them to teach you HOW to lift weights. It’s a whole different world for you to explore and I guarantee you’ll love the way it makes you feel.