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Walking the Canary

7207-prime1I rise and shine in the morning after eight to 10 hours of restless, interrupted sleep and vigorous tossing and turning. I consider it my aerobic training, and the remainder of the day is devoted to my heavier movements—reading, writing and arrhythmia. By 5 p.m. Laree untangles herself from the computer (the ruthless electronic creature seizes her at dawn) and plays dead on the couch with an iPad on her lap and a glass of elegant wine within reach.

The delicious thing is, Laree and I don’t work for anyone. We have our tasks and duties, assignments, obligations and responsibilities, of course, but they are arranged, set and met by us. Laree chooses projects, edits, publishes and produces, coordinates, markets and does the accounting and floors, while I walk the canary, Peepsy, execute the critical semiweekly curls and presses and expertly attend, manage and monitor the flat-screen and refrigerator departments.

And speaking of curls and presses, I caught myself listening to the answers I was giving to a couple of guys at the gym. They’re in their 50s, and I know them from a health club at which I worked in the ’80s. Gee, Dad, that’s 25 to 30 years ago. And I was no kid then. Anyhow, they’ve been on and off the iron throughout the years and are, of course, on again, bound and determined to get in shape and never, ever quit again. I believe them.

While we were sharing our enthusiasm and need for the iron, the ebb and flow of training, life and its demands and the disastrous “aging thing,” I offered my thoughts on bombing and blasting the heavy weights and knocking out sets and reps in a robust effort to get big and ripped as the years pile up.

I sounded like Mister Peepers Goes to Summer Camp. Caution, men! Be alert, be aware, be wise, be mature, take it easy, slow but sure. You don’t need another injury. Injuries are painful and frustrating. Don’t be stupid! You’ll work your way around rips and tears, and the compensating movements cause further damage and despair. They take forever to heal and they never fully repair. Seek longevity.

My advice was conveyed while I was holding onto the pulley apparatus for stability. The balding, graying duo was between sets of full squats. My words were authentic, spontaneous and sound, but they sounded foreign and tedious—to me anyway, probably not to them. When I was their age—mid-World Gyms, pre-Brother Iron Sister Steel,, pre-Stanford—I was a soaring rocket. Today, I’m sore and feel like I’ve been hit by a rock.

I was training five days a week, two hours plus with max input (is there another way?), squatting and deadlifting heavy (is there another way?), dumbbell pressing and supersetting. And I ate like there was a contest next week. This had been going on for years and was to go on for years. Tuna, burger, dairy, salad and water, no doughnut, thanks. Talk about the good old days.

Of course, I would do it all again if I had to or not. I wouldn’t miss a beat; I would do everything the same, down to the doughnut. That’s me, Bombo-Nutso. But it’s not for them.

I was looking out for them. They were reentering the work force once again—Hello, Iron—and amped. I’m thinking swollen knees, aching elbows and torn shoulders; discouragement, irritability and despair; excessive TV and beer and pretzels.

I’m depressing.

How about vigorous training (small v), light-to-moderate weight with a nudge upward once in a while (or not), focus and form (seriously!), three days a week or two on/one off, two on/two off; an hour should do it with 80-percent-max exertion and no rush. You push, you pay!

Secretly, I push the last rep of each set, as long as the muscle is isolated and doesn’t involve the once-coveted, naturally determined body thrust; the noncheating, advantageous oomph that raised a set of reps to an unmistakable command for muscle and might. Actually, I apply a teensy bit of oomph…can’t help myself. You might say it’s more like a spasm.

Time to walk the canary… Later.

—Dave Draper


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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