Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pushing Weights

The week seems to be shaping up about like I planned it to. I even had my first work out in more than two years this morning and it didn't kill me.

Once upon a time I was a gym rat. During my senior year of high school it wasn't uncommon for me to be in the gym and weight room 15 hours a week or more. The weight room became a classroom for me and I much preferred it to the more traditional classrooms I was stuck in the rest of the day.

I live in a small town that's miles from the cutting edge of anything. But the weight room at Alleghany High School was sweet and simple. It had all the basics a man could need to working out and, with the exception of the neck machine, all free weights.

Every morning started off the same for me that spring. Out of bed, drive to school and duck into the weight room as soon as the bell rang. After the announcements passed Patrick would crank up the music and the two of us would push some serious weight. Each body part had its own day and we stuck to the schedule as religiously as any injuries we might have at the time allowed.

Patrick, at that point, had been lifting a lot longer than I had and the first week he squatted 405 pounds. Squatting involves a heavy bar across your shoulders, bearing whatever weight you want to attempt to lift, and bending at the knee until your thighs are parallel with the floor and standing back up again. The day he hit 405 I decided that, before we graduated at the end of the semester, I'd do the same.

And I did. I spent the entire semester driving toward it and slowly gained ground on it, adding plate after plate each week until I was finally able to pile four big 45-pound plates on either end of the bar (which weighed 45 pounds itself). I stepped under it, braced my shoulders against the bar and heaved. I took two tentative steps backward to position myself inside the safety rack, smiling in spite of the strain at the sound of all that iron rattling around my head. I went down, felt my legs shaking against the strain, and drove it back up, stepped forward and racked it.

There was a lot of cheering, because there were two or three others in the room and they all knew that I'd been working toward that goal. One of them was even going to take a picture of it with the little Kodak disposable camera (back as digital point and shoots were just getting to be common). But he blew it. And if I wanted a photo of achieving my goal I'd have to do it again.

So I did and nowhere near as easily as I did the first time. I have that photo stashed away somewhere and if I find it, I'll scan it in and post it. It helped preserve the memory for longer than the bruise the bar left across the entire width of my shoulders that day.

I year later and I could do reps of that very same weight. A few months later I received a concussion playing football that put a hold on my physical activities, and then another the following winter that more or less put an end to everything for the past couple of years. These days, having learned the lessons of a sports career that involved getting banged around a lot, I doubt I'll ever really push as much weight as I once did and I'm fine with that.

But it'll be nice this summer when I'm lugging a backpack full of surveying gear up a mountain somewhere to be able to do it a little easier.

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