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Inspiration and Perspiration

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As a young man my father raced bicycles. That was the late 1930s. He was a very good amateur racer who won 100-mile road races in the Midwest and also competed in six-day team races on very short indoor board tracks. He met my mother then, and because she couldn’t stand to see the inevitable crashes and injuries, he did not pursue a professional career but instead became a journeyman carpenter.

The bike was put aside (I have that bike) as the country became involved in World War II. Because of his carpentry skill, Dad was put to work building barracks, finally becoming a crew chief working in Yakima, Washington, on the building in which the atomic bomb was created.

Fast-forward 40 years to when Dad was in his late 60s and he began to race again in age-group races, much to my mother’s consternation. That reminds me of an interview Elaine LaLanne gave when Jack was making his famous swim to Alcatraz. She was asked, “You let him to that?” Her answer: “There is no letting involved.” The same applied to my father.

This very long preamble leads to a conversation I had with my dad when he was about 80. He had a summer home at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and on most weekends he would ride around the lake, a hilly 30-plus miles. One day, as he pedaled up to me at the end of a ride, he was drenched in sweat. It was 90-plus degrees and humid. I asked him how he felt after that long ride. All he could talk about was how the wind felt on his sweat-drenched body and how most people did not understand the deep pleasure and satisfaction that wind against his body gave. His contemporaries, of course, many of whom could barely walk, all thought he was crazy.

They would ask him why anyone would subject himself to what they saw as torture. He thought the answer was very simple—the only way to experience the wind was to ride. Wanting that feeling was the reason he rode. He never rode “for exercise”; he rode for pleasure.

That takes me to why we work out. I use “we” to mean not only myself but the readers of IRON MAN. The only possible reason to work out all of your life is the way it makes you feel both physically and mentally. Strength and muscle are gained and maintained along the way, but I see those things as almost a side effect of the workout. As Arnold has said to me, if you don’t enjoy your workout, find something you do enjoy!

The workout can be a lifelong source of pleasure.  IM

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