Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dangerous Enemies At Carson City's Favorite Gym!

I have now reached an age where I feel that I am pretty well able to take care of myself against animate enemies. By “animate enemies” I mean living people, like hooligans, drunks, or police – people who set out with a definite idea in their minds of getting me.
This Is What I Get For Hanging Out With The Hamburgler...

If I can’t lick these people in an action scene, I at least I know what to do when attacked. (Usually my strategy involves running away at speed…)

It is the inanimate enemies who have me baffled. The thousand and three chunks of metal that make up the impedimenta in my daily life at the gym – the barbells and dumbbells, the power racks and cable stacks, the tangle of jump ropes and piles of shoes – each and every one with just as much vicious ill-will toward me personally as the rudest footpad who roams the streets.

Each and every one bent on humiliating me in front of clients and friends. Each and every one working together, as on one terrifying team, to bedevil and confuse me.

I can’t fight these guys. They’ve got me beat.

When I first entered a gym and realized the conspiracy against me on the part of these inanimate things, I had a boyish idea that force was the thing to use.

When a barbell had clearly shown it would not be lifted without barking my shins, I would throw it into a squat rack so hard all eyes would turn to me, and feel that the bother of being laughed at was not too much to pay for the physical pain that the barbell must have suffered.

In fact, as I found myself a new barbell I had an idea it was pretty well frightened at the example of its predecessor and would jolly well behave itself or suffer the same loud and banging fate.
But after years of tripping over barbells and icing my foot (my method, when a machine refused to cooperate, was to kick it so hard I broke a toe and then to hop around in a frenzied imitation of Riverdance), I gradually realized that I was being a sucker in the battle and that the use of force wasn’t going to pay off in the long run.

Riverdancing After A Stubbed Toe

I then settled on trying subtlety. If there is one field in fighting in which a human ought to be able to win out over a piece of metal, it is in tricky maneuvering.

Take, for example, when I am trying to unload the weights off of a squat bar.

We will start off with the premise that the equipment knows what I am trying to do and has already made up its mind that I am not going to do it without slamming my fingers or flipping the whole deal on my head. Very well, Mr. Squat Bar, we’ll see! (Later on I don’t call it “Mr. Squat Bar.” I call it “you _____ _____!” But that is after I know it better.)

Suppose you want to take half of the weight off of the bar. The thing to do is to not take one plate off a side and try to keep the thing nice and balanced. If you do, each plate will form an aerial bomber and crash down on your feet, carrying you right to the floor.

The best way is to say, as if talking to yourself, “Well, I guess I’ll put a few more plates on the bar.” Or better yet, let the set-up overhear you say, “Oh, well, I guess I’m done and I’ll leave this here,” and make a move as if to grab your water bottle. Then, quick as a wink, whip around and take off the plates before it realizes what is happening.

It won’t take it long to catch on, but, thinking that you are planning on putting on more plates, as you said, it will quite possibly let you take off half the weight, which is what you wanted in the first place.

But even this system of sotto voce talking and deceit does not always work.

In the first place, you have to have a pretty young barbell, who hasn’t had much experience, for all the older ones will be on to your game and play it back at you for all it is worth.

The only way to be safe about the thing is to take it all very calmly and to try to do your best with deliberate fierceness, lashing the barbell to the rack with jump ropes and wrapping each plate in a towel before removing it. But by that time you have got the set-up in such a condition that it cannot be used – so you lose anyway.

Of course, after years of antagonizing members of the inanimate underworld, you are going to get an active conspiracy against you, with physical violence on their part as its aim.

Working out then becomes, not an aggressive campaign on your part, but one of defense to save yourself from being attacked.

For example, I have a pair of dumbbells which have definitely signed up to put me on the spot and will, I am afraid, ultimately kill me.

These Dumbbells Are Trying To Kill Me

I have taken those dumbbells from the racks and held them in position to work my arms, without an unkind thought in my mind, and have had them actually fly out of my hands, execute a pretty take-off of perhaps a foot and a half, and then crash into my forehead with as deft a “one-two” as any heavyweight ever pulled on his groggy opponent.

I have tightened the cap very carefully on my water bottle, only to have it loosen itself to a position where it will pop off and soak me when I’m gasping after a set of pushups.

These things don’t just happen, you know. They are proofs of a very clear conspiracy to hurt me physically which exists among gym objects, and against which I have no defense.

All that I can do is coach all day crouched over with one elbow raised to ward off the heavier attacks which are being aimed at me. This gives me that cringing look which has become a personal characteristic.

It is this element of physical danger which has entered my struggle with these things which has got me worried. I will match myself in an unequal fight to open a can of tuna or a tub of protein, if the issue is to be merely whether I get it open or not. But I can’t face the inevitable gashing and bleeding which always follows my failure.

I will tackle attaching a rope to the cable stacks, but I am already licked by the knowledge that, no matter how the fight turns out, the metal carabiners are going to reach out and nip my fingers.

The only thing I can do during my workouts, as wisdom and experience bear down on me, is to sit with my hands in my pockets and do nothing.

I have said that, several years ago, I gave up the use of force when little things thwarted me. I should have given it up, but there is one enemy which I still lash out at in futile bludgeonings.

It is the computer on which I am writing this article.

When writing a workout in Excel I lose myself entirely, and invariably end up fooling with files which long before I have rendered useless.

I am also thrown into raging fits of physical violence when, owing to some technical fault which I do not understand, every file gets all out of order, finally they become lost shells of their natural selves.

On such occasions I start very quietly hitting the keys harder and harder, muttering, “Oh, you won’t, won’t you?” until I am crashing down with both fists on the keyboard and screaming, “Take that – and that!”

In fact, as I write this, I detect a mockery in the number of misspelled words on the page, and as I strike each key, less and less seems to be happening. I will try to be calm.

I must try to remember that it does no good to inflict pain on inanimate things and that the best I can do is break the computer… But really… after all … you asldjfnocn,.mndf you lashdf;onvlmsanfglo take that alsdkfj;lasdnmflm and that! Sdflkjsd;flmn

No comments: