A Weighty Issue

I lifted a little in high school. That’s what we called it, lifting. The thing then was to get a good bench-press number. I remember 220 being a line of demarcation. Square-shaped linemen went much higher, but you could at least hang if you’d conquered 220. Otherwise, you were banished to that sector of the quad inhabited by dweebs, goofs, wimps and clarinet players. Cheerleaders were allergic to the area. I got my 220, somewhere along the way, and though I did not also get a cheerleader I was allowed to roam among them, as long as I kept moving. (I was, after all, a clarinet player, too.)

For the first time since then—30 years later—I’m lifting a bit, with the emphasis on a bit. I’ve no use for gyms, but I’ve got some dumbells, 8- and 10-pounders, that I use to do curls, standing one-arm presses and something that involves holding each arm at a side, then, keeping the elbows essentially locked, lifting up and over my head. I do three sets of each of these exercises, 50 reps, 40 reps and 30 reps. I also do 100 pushups, 50, 30 and 20. These are done with a straight-as-a-board back, a deep and steady drop and my feet on Niko’s step-stool, which provides a six-inch lift.

I’ve read about sport-specific training. If you want to become a fast runner, run. If swimming is your thing, swim. I buy all that. But it’s December. My race is in June. There’s just no way I’m going to get a serious running, biking and swimming program going now and keep it alive for the next six months. My lifting, my pushups—that’s all just about staying tethered to fitness. Friends and colleagues who want to be fit but whose busy lives make it impossible, impossible, marvel that I’ve been able to keep my thing going for seven years now. What some of them don’t understand is that I’m committed. I make some sacrifices. But mostly, I stay at it by mixing in new stuff without worrying too much about where it's going to get me, beyond sticking with fitness. Put more succinctly, I do what I want to do. Lifting and pushups feel good now. It’s weirdly fun to work hard to do every rep perfectly; to feel the muscles in my abdomen, back and neck straining; to take a shower afterward and have my shoulders, pecs and biceps all tight as I reach to lather up my scalp (old habits die hard).

In January, I’ll start zeroing in on the big three, the running, biking and swimming, and though it’s debatable that my December work is putting me in prime physical shape to embark on that focused journey, I’m 100 percent confident that mentally—where the game will be won or lost—I’ll be feeling strong, fresh and eager.

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