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Attitude and Altitude—Higher and Higher

Two workouts without the iron, however, and you’re in big trouble; bloating, drooping and drooling are inevitable. Three and it’s too late—delirium and bed-wetting are not uncommon. Four, you’re tabloid headlines…cute photos. And five, they forget your name; you become a tube-fed number and are assigned a cot in Ward X.

I’m a very busy person, and my plate is full. Full of crumbs, that is. Perhaps if I scrape them together, there’ll be a sufficient heap of stuff to get me to the gym. Each crumb is a remnant of responsibility, need, desire, discipline and obligation, with a few flecks of inspiration along the edges. What’s this? Yuk, a morsel of guilt.

Trouble is, I don’t have an appetite.

However, I do have excuses: The gym is 30 minutes down the road, the truck’s dirty, and the traffic stinks; it’s cold, windy and gray outside, and my favorite T-shirt’s in the washer; there’s a newsletter to write, and Mugs is curled up on my lap, purring. I’ll go to the gym tomorrow.

Crazy! There was a time 50 years ago I had nothing I’d rather do than go to the gym! Forty years ago contests were coming up…off to the gym. Thirty years ago I ran the juice bar in the gym. Twenty years ago I owned the gym. Fifteen years ago the gym owned me. Ten years ago I morphed into the Bomber, writing tales about the gym. Boom-zoom.

Today, “I’ll go to the gym tomorrow.” I don’t think so.

I’ve heard rumors of people who did the I’ll-go-tomorrow act and haven’t been seen or heard of since. Story goes they stepped too far from the pull of gravity and drifted into the worldly wastelands. Life in the world minus the tug of iron is oft pointless and demoralizing, fattening and enfeebling.
I exaggerate. It’s not as if postponing a workout means your biceps shrivel up like prunes or your obliques hang down in gushy slabs over your beltline or your butt wobbles and sags. The absence of one training session doesn’t result in the deterioration of your hard-earned musculature. It’s scientifically impossible. Calm down, lighten up.

Two workouts without the iron, however, and you’re in big trouble; bloating, drooping and drooling are inevitable. Three and it’s too late—delirium and bed-wetting are not uncommon. Four, you’re tabloid headlines…cute photos. And five, they forget your name; you become a tube-fed number and are assigned a cot in Ward X.

Dave who…the what? Never heard of him.

I don’t care if it’s all in my mind. I miss a workout, and I’m overcome with anger, guilt and irrational behavior. I’m bitter and cruel one minute and pouty and sad the next. I pull on a baggy sweatshirt only to rip it off and replace it with a size-small black tanktop with “I’m Bad” slashed in red across the back. Laree says, “Hi, sweetheart.” I say, “Don’t start with me, wise-o.” Later I say, “Do I look fat, honey bunny?” Then I’m in the bathroom crying for no reason.

Laree, kettlebells in hand and pulling a weighted sled up the hill, just shakes her head and smiles when I’m bewildered and overcome with grief. She hugs me and says with inevitability, “Have a smashing workout, ya crazy lug.” She seats me in the pickup, aims it down the hill, releases the emergency brake, and I’m off to that place where the iron waits. What a trip.

I do not like to skip my workouts. I cannot afford to. Time is short. I only have 60 years invested in the action-packed sport, the first six or seven wasted on tag, kickball and the alphabet. Time is of the essence. Time is muscle. Time flies.

We’re told that when lifting the iron is no longer appealing, when we’d rather be changing a greasy truck transmission or undergoing a liver transplant, it’s not the workout that’s out of order, it’s the attitude toward it. Iron is iron; it’s lifeless. We, you and I who live and lift, are the problems, the troubled, the weak, the lost.

Gee, thanks for the head trip. Another heavy load to carry, as if the metal wasn’t enough. So now what?

Attitudes are not fashionable or transformable like colorful balloons in the white-gloved hands of a party clown—blow them up, stretch them here, twist them there and tie them all together. Squeak, squeak, squeak…a happy face. It is, in fact, working out that transforms the attitude.

Move that metal.

Remember, missing a training session is not an option, unless you fall from a three-story window, take a bullet in the butt or are beamed up to Pluto ll. Not likely, nice try. The only solution to attitude failure, training ennui or workout let-go-sis is to drag yourself to the gym, burdens and all, and dump them when you get there. Kerplunk! There’s no load so heavy that a hearty workout won’t fix, moderate or eradicate it.

Push that iron.

You can work seriously on your funky attitude before you heave the weighted bars, but why bother when, after 10 minutes under their force, the mind is revived, riveted and recharging anyway. Attitudes are unstable wavelengths. You can think positive, imagine life is neat, suggest to your unconscious you’ll have a grand workout, but the fact is in the act.

Lift that steel.

I get a headache when I think positive. Besides being strenuous, it’s like admitting I’m negative and need a fix. Rather, I go straight for the fix. I dash to the iron, grasp it by its neck and toss it around the gym. Thud, crash, clank. It puts up a pretty good fight, even the light stuff, but I always win. It’s certain; even if I lose, I win.

We know the inside of a gym and the underside of a loaded bar. We know there was a time—early childhood, or so it seems—when planning our training was vitally important: the order of exercises, the sets and the reps. Today we know our training so well we can go by smell. The nose knows. Too much planning puts a tickle in me ole schnozzola.

I can talk myself out of a good workout—the greatest invigorator of the body, mind and soul—by thinking too much about it. “I don’t want to go to the gym,” is not a casual comment I share with myself. The cunning, whiny twit with his mouth full of gummi bears is limited to the electrified fence on the far side of the crocodile-inhabited moat.

I’m succinct:

Go gym—Plentiful rewards in powerful hands.
No gym—Tremendous burdens on trembling shoulders.
Be there or be square. Or, probably, round…floppy in the wings, dumpy in the tail.

This is your captain speaking. Trim your ailerons, bombers, suck in that fuselage…we’re flying high.

Editor’s note: For more from Dave Draper, visit and sign up for his free newsletter. You can also check out his amazing Top Squat training tool, classic photos, workout Q&A and forum.

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