The Me I once was, Once Again, Maybe…

Last night I stepped into my weight room with all the fire of a teenage boy.  I approached my workout with wide eyes and wonder.  Energy was high and possibilities were endless. The consistency of both my eating and training over the past few weeks helped me to see edges and curves in my frame that have been hiding recently due to the stresses and time constraints of higher priorities.

Rather than stick to my usual workout soundtrack of books on religion and philosophy while I trained, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass filled the room.  It was a measured, but serious 60-minute session of gravity management – a golden moment at the end of a challenging week.  I was completely dialed in to the moment.

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Throughout the workout though, as always, the cynicism of an old man was trying to douse that fire.  It was another epic battle between the me I once was, the me that I am, and the me I wish to be.  The me I wish to be, by the way, has always been the me I once was, only better.  Funny how that works.

Cynicism is like witchcraft in the wind.  It finds its way through the smallest of cracks.  Youthful ambitions be dammed, they are as porous as a picket fence.  In-between sets and exercises, I chuckled at the ridiculousness of it all – of the very act of lifting weights, and condemned myself repeatedly for my childish play.

How foolish this all is, I thought.  One hour at a time, 6 days per week and over a 43-year period in the gym, I could have earned a dozen college degrees with that time.  I could have done amazing work on behalf of the poor.   I could have volunteered in my community.  I could have.  I could have.  I could have.  Always bubbling under the surface when I am working out, are those thoughts of what else I could be doing with that time and energy.

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I reflected though, if only for a moment.  I do volunteer in my community, though I could do more.  I do give to the poor, though I could give more.  And through all the hundreds of books I have listened to during my workouts through the years, I have cultivated and customized an intelligence that no college program could have offered me.

In that moment – at least for that moment, I got good with my passion for iron, though I know I will question it again before day’s end.

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Spot me, Bro…?

Last night I stepped into my weight room with all the fire of a teenage boy.  I walked out with all the fire of a teenage man.  And perhaps that is another evolutionary step in becoming the me I once was once again, but only better this time…  Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from George Harrison.  Enjoy…

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Caught between Emerson, And George…

The crossroads in my head…

On a personal level, I am compelled by the fulfillment of challenging exercise.  The drug of intensity in movement clears my head, offers me confidence, and provides moments to me during which the stress of daily living vanishes, if only for a while.

Whether my requirement for challenging exercise is an addiction, a compulsion, or a mere personality defect, I may never be sure.  What I have come to accept is that, for now, exercise for the sake of fulfillment is a necessary component of the clock that is me.

Earning my keep…

On a professional level, I am more cautious about the ideal of intensity in exercise.  This caution though, is relative to the moment, and to the client.  Some moments in my studio are all about fulfillment in exercise.  I am paid well by some clients to establish the limits of their physicality, and incrementally raise those limits, rendering them more capable at given tasks, aesthetically improved, or both.

With other clients it’s about utility.  They entrust me to help increase their physicality by offering functional exercise into their lives.  This may be due to age, disease, or simply because they have lived a deconditioned lifestyle previously.   Regardless, for these clients mindfulness comes first, and intensity isn’t even a consideration.

On George…

George stepped into my studio for the first time seven years ago.  He was 67 years old, and a few years into retirement. He wanted to begin a fitness regimen to augment his twice per week golf schedule.

George also wanted to lose a few pounds around his waist, and improve his overall “shape”. If functional strength training might help his golf game, peripheral weight loss would be a cherry on top.

George was focused with his workouts, and made progress quickly.  His balance improved.  His flexibility improved.  His endurance improved.  His strength improved – to a point where he could leg press several hundred pounds, in proper form, and through a complete range of motion, and do so safely. Even his golf even improved.

George is 73 now. Four years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. An engineer by trade, George accepted that affliction with no resistance. He approached it with a resolve to wake up each day and address Parkinson’s in the best way he could – stoically, and with a pragmatic faith in Western medicine.

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In the four years since his diagnosis, George’s physicality has suffered.  This is partially due to the disease itself, and partially due to the medications he uses to offset Parkinson’s.  However, his attitude and acceptance of the cards life has dealt him have been exceptional.  We should all be so graceful under the same circumstances.

Yesterday as he entered my studio I asked him how his golf outing went the day prior.  This was his response:

“It was great!”

He continued,

“I didn’t play too well, but the turkey sandwich was excellent, and my friends and I laughed a lot.”

I was as humbled by his attitude, as I was by the sincere smile on his face as he spoke.

George no longer leg presses several hundred pounds.  Most of George’s workouts take place with a broom stick for resistance, and some 3 pound weights in his weathered hands.  He accomplishes less than half the sets and repetitions in a given workout than he did prior to the onset of Parkinson’s.

He rests more during the session, struggles to drink his water without spilling some, and he and I have become more social.  His efforts though, have been just as focused as ever.

There is no way to quantify how George’s functional strength workouts have helped offset his fight with Parkinson’s, or whether they have made a difference at all.

At a time when I struggle walking the line between the utility of functional exercise, and the fulfillment of more intense exercise, George’s presence in my life is a grounding factor.

George pays me well for his two hours in my studio each week. As time goes on, and I ruminate over all I am learning from George – about how to address aging, disease, and the perspective he applies to both, I wonder more and more, who should be paying who.

Caught between utility and fulfillment…

Of my many daily rationalizations, chief among them is that my personally fulfilling, intensity-driven workouts offer my life a great deal of utility.

There may be some utility in me in racing up a 1,200 foot hill as fast as I can.  Running back down that same hill fast, I can assure you, is not in the best interest of my long-term physicality.  Nor do I believe that my quest for a bodybuilding title in September is in my body’s best long-term interest.

Probably not what I will be doing at 74 years old...

Probably not what I will be doing at 74 years old…

These ideals which underlie my exercise though, are who I am today.

Who I will be tomorrow…

I may never have the privilege of being 74 years old.  If I am so fortunate to get there, I have no illusion that I will look or function then as I do today.  I also require myself to accept that what I do today – how I exercise, and how often, may actually have a negative impact on the physicality of me at 74.  I don’t know.

There is a fine line between pursuing what we want, and what makes sense.  When I have difficulty distinguishing that line, or when I see it clearly but can’t decide which side I should stand on, I draw from the only scripture which has mattered to me in my adult life:

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.”

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.”

More and more these days, I find myself caught between Emerson, and George — between the lessons of two great men who have both inspired me.  Be well.  rc…

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender inside my head.  Oh, and there is this from the best rock and roll band you have never heard of, The Hellacopters.  Enjoy…

Day After Day, I Keep Waking Up….

I will be on vacation in Colorado and the wilds of Northern Nebraska until the end of the month, so this is my last column until mid-August. 

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“Humans are just a stage in the emergence of amazing complexity in the universe.” Martin Rees

Destiny, And The Big Picture

I’ve become obsessed with contemplating the increasing complexity and interdependency, in Darwinian terms, of societies and biology, and of how well intermingled they are – yet not necessarily parallel.   That’s a big-picture obsession.  To a lesser degree, I obsess on my own increasing complexity – because it’s a story which could have ended long ago.

And as I see myself grow more complex and increasingly interdependent with others, I still don’t know what I am destined to be within the expanse of my life, but I can say with great clarity at this moment, I am destined to be, and that’s a very little-picture statement.

A Letter To A Friend

I don’t wear a helmet when I ride my bike.  I love the wind through my hair when I ride at high speeds – it’s the rush of pure physical freedom.  Last month a concerned friend saw me riding in Fallbrook without a helmet and sent me an email to call me out on it.   She explained that her husband fell off his bike recently and his helmet probably saved his life.  I told my friend, based on that story, that I would begin wearing a helmet immediately – though I truly did not want to.  A couple of days later I bought a helmet, but never put it on.  Who was she, to tell me how to live my life…?

Below is a letter I sent to my friend this morning:

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Hi Danielle –

A while back I pledged to you I would begin wearing a bike helmet ASAP, and that I would prove it to you by sending you a picture of the helmet. And then, my life went very dark for a while.  “Fuck-it” was my attitude.  Things weren’t going well for me at all, and seemed to get worse every day.  One thing I could depend on each day though, was the wind through my hair as I rode to and from work – as exhilarating to me as any sensation I have known, and yes, I said ANY.  And deep down Danielle, there is a part of me that would be perfectly ok with being taken out by a truck.

Two nights ago I was riding down Green Canyon Road after work, and riding as fast I have ever been on that road.  On a straight section of the road, a truck passed me then suddenly crossed in front of me, and went off the road and into a tree.  It took less than 3 seconds for me to pass those tire tracks –3 seconds.

Before I left my studio that night, I bobbled my key in my hand for about 3 seconds. Now I know that if I had not bobbled that key, and had left 3 seconds earlier and been between that truck and that tree, I would have been killed, helmet or not.  But if the truck had hit my tire, front or back, and knocked me off my bike, who knows – vegetable soup..?

I’m sorry I did not keep my promise to you, but if you ever see me ride without a helmet again, call me out on it, please.

roy

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I have some bad hair days ahead of me...

Destiny, And The Little Picture

The driver of that truck was ok, called a tow truck, and did not want me to stick around.  I was trembling so much I could barely keep my feet on the pedals of my bike as I rode the final miles to my house.  All that evening I kept thinking about bobbling that key.  What, I thought, would have happened if I had left my studio 2, or 3, or 4 seconds earlier…? I would have been right were that truck was. 

One could play a futile head game of destiny that, if I had been in that spot 3 seconds ahead, perhaps the driver would have seen me there, steered away from me, and I would have actually saved him from swerving and hitting the tree.  But a more likely scenario exists where I could have been tenderized, pureed, or both.  There’s just no tellin’…

I don’t know what destiny is anymore.  I have survived a parachute malfunction, a lightning strike, the foolish act of jumping into a class IV rapid after a beer-based breakfast, driving a truck with an unknown rattlesnake under the driver’s seat, being thrown into a jetty by a wave that refused to close out, and a few other self-induced brushes…  Still, I carry on.

Biology expands.  Societies expand.  Time and the universe expand.  And at the end of the day, for some reason, the story of me continues to expand.  It’s not just me who’s lucky to be alive though, it’s you too.   I’m curious, please use the comments section and share your “lucky to still be here” stories.  They may be used in a future essay or series of essays.  Be well.  rc

Oh, and there is this, from Dog Trumpet, the modern day decedants of Mental As Anything.  Enjoy…