It all started, as most good stories do, a long time ago. I was attending summer school at Longwood (don't ask). At that time (1987 or so) Longwood was a fraction of the size it is now. There was no off-campus housing to speak of and the physical condition of the college (not yet a university) was between faded glory and three newer buildings. One of those newer buildings was the Lancer gym. It had a built in pool, basketball courts and a great weight room. It also had 4 or 5 outdoor tennis courts that were in great condition. I was staying in the high-rise dorm right across the street.
That summer I was taking two classes. An art history class that started at 7:30 in the morning (totally incongruent with our desired lifestyle) and a science class after that. Every day was the same:
7:00 – wake up, shower and complain
7:25 – leave for class
11:30 – leave second class for lunch
12:30 – 2:00 – peak tanning hours! layout on roof of dorm
2:00-4:30 – go to gym and lift weights
4:30-5:00 – shower and brag about how much we lifted
5:00-6:00 – go eat everything in the dining hall
7:00 – whenever – hangout, party or if there was some kind of crisis, study.
Yep, it was a tough life. I really did enjoy learning to weight lift and it's an activity that I've returned to for long stretches of my life although currently it's been about 8 years. My peak form came around 1993 (gawds that was forever ago) when I topped out my bench press at about 285. I'll never forget that day (glory days indeed !!) I was on the bench and, after running through a brief warmup session, plunked 285 pounds on the bar. I had two spotters. I got the weight up (easy part) and brought it down to my chest. After a brief pause I started pushing…I remember two things from then on. The first was that I thought the veins in my head and neck were going to explode. The second was that I really didn't care because the bar was bending under the weight I was lifting!! That's superstar territory right there. Declare victory and leave.
I again got serious about weightlifting about 10 years ago. I had a good routine where I would go to the gym, go home and takeover for Sarah and then drop my daughter off at daycare. That program required that I get up at about 5:30 in the morning. Not terrible unless it was winter time. Even then, the problem isn't going in, it's coming out. You're typically soaked in sweat which then instantly freezes to your hide when you leave the building. Yeah, you can bring an extra shirt or whatever but you're already hauling too much crap to be bothered and it's 5 in the morning. In any event, that stint lasted about 3 years at which point I transitioned to running. My rotator cuff was giving me fits anyway and I needed to back off.
This time around is still early going. Been to the gym about 4 times but I can feel the pull when I'm not there. I want to lift. However, it's different this time, I don't have a group of boys to hang with and I'm older. Now, not only is my rotator cuff sensitive but I have to be careful with my back. Yeah, my back talks to me on a regular basis. The rotator cuff, not so much. That'll be a use injury at some point. While the physical limitations are starting to build, 90% of the game is half mental (go Yogi!). It's a constant mental battle to throttle the effort. You want to push just that little bit more or bang out another set – but you know…..oh yes…you know just how screwed you are if you go past that threshold. And if a woman walks by while you're lifting? Some things never change and Richard Pryor was right – "girls will get you killed, tryin' to be cool." Even when you're 48 and should know better! You've got at least appear not to shake while pushing….
So it's early going but I'm thinking it's going to stick for awhile. The urge has hit at the right time of year – closer to fall when it starts to get cold – and I'll be transitioning from the bike to the gym anyway. I haven't picked up any of the usual gear yet – gloves, etc as I'm holding off on that for a bit but it won't be too long before I make the pilgrimage to get the proper equipment. I'm looking forward to it. I guess the only part I'll really miss is the almost exclusive use of free weights. I've always thought that free weight was a much better training medium than a bazillion machines but there are some things I just can't do with my back the way it is. I guess it's a small price to pay. Plus it's easier to look cool.