The best advice I ever received came from our family MD back when I was what…13, 14? Something like that.
I was thin, frail, overrun with acne vulgaris as the good doc wrote in his scribble. I remember that. I read it and felt disgusting. Ashamed. Reprehensible.
Anyways, he took a good look at my shirtless body, cleared his throat, told me by way of my mother, that I should work out. Lift weights.
The doctor told my mom I needed to pump iron.
Dude, you need say no further.
Loud and clear.
I felt like shit.
I had a sunken chest and I had acne vulgaris and god knows what other disgusting and foul-smelling young teenaged male curses swarming around my oily face.
I have pictures from my freshman year in high school. I was on the library staff. There I am, slumped shoulders, goofy half-cocked pervert smile. What was I thinking? The doctor told me to lift weights.
My dad had a set he lifted in his younger days. The plates, not really plates, more like lead or cement, molded, compressed, and lined with cheap plastic which inevitably began cracking after heavy Schwarzeneggerian use. I hit those fuckers. I lifted a lot, really the wrong style for the growth curve I sought. Little did I know that my lifting routine accomplished aerobic ends more than the anaerobic, which is what you want weights to do for you. Make your chest and arms big and formidable, give you that mammoth back that makes you look like a boulder with legs. Nope, I lifted light and I lifted a lot. Lots of reps, not much poundage. That will never make you big. Still, I was in such pathetic condition prior that even this type of weight training still served to bulk me up. A little. Comparatively.
And I lifted like that for at least 25 or 27 years. Though I never looked muscle-bound, I was still rather lean and the ritualistic regularity of my weight regimen steadied my nerves. I truly believe that weight training and its steadying influence carried me through some of the most anguished periods of my life. Those moments when my mind threatened to melt down and consume me from within. The weights were always there. They never changed, they never let me down or changed their tune. A pound is always a pound. A pound does not decide it will be 2 pounds or a half pound today. The constant in my life, when all else threatened to implode, the weights saw me through.
Perhaps it’s overly dramatic to say, but I suspect weights may have saved my life. Or at least contributed toward a sense of normalcy which I somehow achieved in spite of myself.
Weights were the great regulator.
When your life is a scattered terrain of pain and hate and disgust and anger and each second of your day threatens to tear you from limb to emotional limb, a constant, immutable element in your life is the greatest succor your tormented soul can discover. Weights.
Henry Rollins, the rocker/poet, said it best in his essay, The Iron.
He articulated the best explanation I’ve ever read of the pacifying influence weights have on a less than steady life.
The act of hoisting a deadly mass of iron bestows mindfulness. And through mindfulness, all else is possible.
I find myself wanting to cite weight lifting as a cure for guys in varying states of distress I meet in real life or here in the blogosphere.
You will release the primal beast in doing so; the primal beast is what you have lost, and what you need in this pussified society. Man up, grow some balls.
Then I catch myself. I never talk like that. God no.
That is high school phys ed teacher talk. Stupid.
But sometimes I feel it.
These kids, they don’t care. My son refutes weights, won’t have anything to do with them.
These scrawny kids, they look like pipe clearners, yet they somehow pull tail.
I’m such an old-fashioned fuddy duddy.
I wish he would listen.
This is not only for your muscles.