Pound Control To Major Tom
I enjoy being strong. I love that in the 15 times I have moved my residence in my adult life, with each new move involving increasingly greater quantities of crap, I have acted as my own moving crew. I can count on one hand, the number of instances when I have required help moving an object from one home to another. This includes furniture, appliances, overloaded boxes of books, and those dreaded potted trees. Yes, I love being strong, and it has served me well through all of my moves – and beyond.
My quest for strength began as a bodybuilding teenager in the 1970s. Really my quest was for cute girls by way of a better looking body; my new strength would just be a functional by-product of that quest. Over the years I would gain a lot of strength and learn to enjoy it, and even exploit it at times. Strong became my synonym for control; the ability to control my body in a time of genuine need.
A Slow Transition
At some point, after years of eating countless egg whites, after thousands of squats and bench presses performed, it occurred to me; I was never going to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. And even if I were to become the next him, how long could I sustain all that meat upon my bones? It was this tipping point, when I chose to accept that I was no longer a bodybuilder. Rather, I began to classify myself as a fitness enthusiast. This “tipping point” however, was really an arc 20 years in the making.
Bodybuilding, Growth, And Sustainable Fitness
Bodybuilding is not necessarily fitness, and fitness is not necessarily bodybuilding. Though the concept of fitness and the act of bodybuilding have many common threads and similar requirements, one need only to Google the term, dead bodybuilder to appreciate some possible disconnects between the two.
This is not to suggest that all bodybuilders are on a road to early death. It is more an illumination on what goes wrong when things are taken to extremes. I eventually came to see bodybuilding, at least in the hardcore sense, as extreme and not sustainable. Fitness, I came to reason through this 20-year arc, could be sustainable for a lifetime.
Greed For Life
I’m not much for letting go. That is, once I take possession of something, I will relinquish it only to that force which can pry it away from me. This personality defect has forged a supreme decision making value within me; I pursue only that which I believe I can keep forever, and I avoid anything which I feel I might be able to obtain, but not hold on to. Fortunately, my fitness – my ability to control my body in a time of need, falls into the former. Bodybuilding fell into the latter and was very hard to let go. Despite leaving the concept of bodybuilding behind, as well as the gym-strength which went with it, I have managed to keep my everyday-life strength as a fitness enthusiast.
At one point in my mid-twenties, I bench pressed nearly 400 pounds, did squats with 500+, and even did bicep curls on occasion with 135 pounds. Because of this strength, I was a lead player in many of the gyms I frequented. And despite the popular edict to the contrary, all that gym strength did translate very well outside the gym; moving dressers, sofas, and the like.
Today I seldom put more than 150 pounds on the bench press, squat with my bodyweight plus maybe an extra hundred or so pounds, and I do bicep curls with the equvialnt weight of a small Pug in each hand. Still, I move dressers, sofas, and the like just as well today as I did in my Hercules days. My strength outside the gym is as good as ever. This strength has little to do with how much weight I lift, and much more to do with how well I lift it.
Hard Words Which Contradict Prior Hard Words
I would destroy Stephen Hawking in a cage match, and only the village idiot would bet against me. Still, my contributions to mankind have been weak by comparison. What I do have though, what I can offer is my strength. And while I may not be able to solve the problems of the world, I relish being able walk a flight of stairs with my bike in one hand and a 25 pound back pack in the other. More to the point, when a client recently fell in my studio, I was grateful I could help him back to his feet.
To many, physical strength doesn’t seem to matter much – it’s an afterthought, something to be considered or even (occasionally) addressed in order to placate inadequate feelings of one’s lack of conditioning. Okay, so here come my hard words: So long as we are able to do so, developing and maintaining our physical strength is our responsibility.
Owning one’s physical strength benefits us, not just as individuals in the case of carrying one’s own bike, but in many other ways. Cultivating and sustaining our strength may not be helping mankind on a Stephen Hawking level, but can help on a level which is much more local and much more personal; such as helping up a fallen spouse, or helping someone less able move one of those dreaded potted trees. Be well, be able. rc