One of my favorite pieces of reading material is the magazine The Physician and Sportsmedicine. I like it because occasionally I run across some excellent research that can be very helpful in my own training and in training our clients.
I always look at one column in particular. It’s written by Dr. George Sheehan. He’s a marathon runner and preaches the benefits of running. What’s captured me is his ability to find pleasure in the running discipline. In days past his own running times were quite respectable; consequently, the main focus of his earlier articles was how to improve runners’ marathon efforts. Now, however, he runs with the arm of Father Time hanging on his shoulder. Even though his times are not record breaking, he continues to be excited about his running and the progress he’s making.
Running has not been my exercise of choice, but Dr. Sheehan’s ability to stay enthusiastic about his daily battle with the pain of tired muscles keeps me interested. Frankly, I wonder how he manages to stay excited about running after all these years, yet when I reflect on my own training and the excitement I feel about my workouts, I guess it’s not so amazing. In fact the other day I was thinking about my next workout, and the thought occurred to me: ‘How do I personally stay motivated after all these years?’
It was more than 35 years ago that my feeble arms first lifted a barbell, yet I still get excited by my training. Realistically, you can’t expect to get bigger forever. Nor can you expect your maximum lifts to continue to increase. So what is it that helps me continue to train with such motivation? It isn’t the competition because I have retired from that. I think what drives me is the same thing that drove me when I was pounding the iron for the Mr. America or the Mr. Olympia contests. It’s a sensation that we can all experience. The feeling is so great that often I can’t help exclaiming out loud during my workout, ‘This is so great.’ Often heads will turn in my direction and shake a couple of times, as if to say, ‘It’s that crazy Larry again, finding happiness in all this misery.’
I feel the ebullience especially on a Monday workout when I’ve had two days of weekend rest. Just last Monday I sat down to start my shoulder workout with seated presses. Prior to starting, my mind had done most of the work. My brain had carried my body to the office, placed me at my desk and taken care of the morning’s activities. Most of the day had been attended to by my brain, and my body was just the vehicle for getting it into the different positions required for carrying out the day’s responsibilities. Now, however, I was seated under the press machine with chalk on my hands, grasping the rotating handles. Rhythmically, I pressed the bar overhead. My shoulders creaked, groaned and complained about being awakened. The reps continued as the weight increased for the next set. I could hear them say, grudgingly, ‘Hey, this is pretty good.’
On the next set I increased the weight. ‘Oh, man, this is great,’ they purred, as thousands of oxygen bubbles danced on nerve endings. Just as a slight tremor on the outer reaches of a spider web sends a message to the builder, a message was sent to my brain: ‘You can’t believe how good it feels down here!’ My brain, reading and feeling the message, said, ‘Yes, yes, it does feel good.’ In less than a millisecond, scanning through its vast storehouse of cataloged experiences, it continued, ‘I recognize it; it’s the beginnings of a pump. It’s good for the body. I can trust the sensation. I’ll go on automatic pilot while the body takes over. I’ll just relax and coast in the glow of sensation coursing up from the muscles.’
More sets after some rest, and the sensation of warmth was joined by a feeling of fullness. The skin started to get tighter, come alive and grab the baton to lead the orchestration of growth. Soon a melody of warmth and fullness was joined by power and confidence. The skin, ever the leader of the senses, directed the music to a higher pitch. Gradually, the maestro was challenged for the lead by lactic acid. The intensity lessened, replaced by a soft fullness. Finally, the music finished, and the players laid down their instruments and basked in the afterglow of a piece well played. The brain, roused from its rest, licked its lips and said, ‘My, that was pleasant. Let’s try that on another bodypart.’
A bit allegorical, I’ll admit. But how else can one describe a sensation like a pump or the pleasure that comes from it? Perhaps it’s more important to be aware that it exists. Just to speak of it brings greater life to the pleasure of training.
Shortly after writing the first draft of this column, I went to the gym full of anticipation for my workout. Casey Adams, one of my training associates, couldn’t help but notice the extra excitement I had in my training. ‘Boy, you are sure wired today,’ he said. ‘What’s happened to you?’
I know most of you are aware of the good feel that comes from training. Perhaps this reminder will inspire you to go to the gym and brush the cobwebs off your instruments. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to have been given a body upon which we can play such a lovely melody? IM
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