benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

SWEETEST DAY

Sweetest Day this year happened for me a day early.

 

I had been nursing a muscle strain on my right side hip area since Tuesday night.

 

And after a dedicated routine of foam rolling and self Myofascial massage over the next few days, I finally released most of the tension and pain.

 

But the sweetest thing was not in the relief, rather, the experience of knowing exactly what to do.

 

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TWO WRONGS AND A RIGHT

Tuesdays are my cheat day and I always have sushi for dinner.

 

This week, a woman walked up to the bar next to me and asked, “Which of these rolls can be deep fried?”

 

And then, when my chef friend reluctantly offered her the cooked up California roll she ordered, the woman asked for a side of ranch to go with it.

 

My own deep fried sushi with a side of ranch showed up for work later in the week in the form of a man who would not stop asking for Benny and the Jets.

 

I don’t honor requests for certain piano bar classics in the restaurant because they just don’t feel appropriate for upscale dinner service.

 

And the nice way to avoid any further confrontation is to say, “We aren’t allowed to play certain types of music here.”

 

But he was highly inebriated, or idiotic, probably both, and wasn’t in the right state of mind to comprehend my shady subtext, so he kept asking.

 

Until another guest walked up, dropped a twenty in my jar, looked me in the eye, and said, “I’ve enjoyed your music all evening.”

 

Which simultaneously restored my faith in humanity and made the man who was bothering me sit back down at his table quietly for the rest of the evening.

 

 

CANDLE LIGHT DINNER

I booked a gig this week for the upcoming holiday season.

Even though I played at the Grosse Pointe Club last Christmas with my trio for the same event, I thought I only got the job because I had been friends with the events manager for years.

Now that he’s left that position (for better opportunities), it surprised me that I still got the call.

The new manager said the club members enjoyed the music and requested us again.

Which just reminds me to have a little more faith.

And that if I do, I will sparkle the brightest wherever I go, because that’s where I’m supposed to be.

NEW BEGINNINGS

I started working with my new coach this week.

 

She is kind, thoughtful and experienced.

 

As I try to connect with her, and open my heart to her way of programming, she encourages me by complementing my lifting form.

 

So while I am excited to move on and grow with her, I am also painfully conscious of the fact that someone else has given me a great foundation to build on.

 

Even though he is no longer physically present in my life, I have to acknowledge that he will always be an important part of it.

 

HEART & SOUL

I love playing piano duets, so when a guest at the restaurant says she wants to play one with me, I ask, “What song?”

 

As she begins to assure me that I’ll definitely know it, I get wary.

 

“This better not be Heart & Soul,” I warn her.

 

She promises that it absolutely isn’t.

 

But she slides herself onto the bench with me and bangs out the worn out chord progression of the very thing she swore she would not play.

 

I improvise a completely different melody line and remind her of what she had just promised.

 

“I lied,” was the bold faced reply I receive.

 

A few days later, I also decide that lying is the best way to get what I want.

 

In order for me to move on, I tell myself that I’m not heart broken, and that my soul isn’t devastated, because I’m loosing a coach, and a friend, to his commitment to the long process of rehabilitation.

BIG GUY

One of bodybuilding’s most celebrated competitions, the Mr Olympia, is being held this weekend in Vegas.

 

Almost every lifter I know is sitting in the gym this week, wishing for more size, more gains, more everything.

 

Myself included.

 

I am still absent-mindedly thinking about this after working out one day as I walk to grab lunch, when I hear a stranger call out to me in admiration, “Hey, how much do you bench big guy?”

 

Of all the muscle groups I have been training, I feel that my chest remains the most underdeveloped.

 

Due to a left shoulder strain, I rarely barbell bench press more than once or twice a month, and when I do, at no more than 135lbs for reps.

 

I have been diligently relying on alternative movements to work this body part, and because my prescriptive plan doesn’t look like anyone else’s, I sometimes feel insecure that my chest isn’t growing.

 

This isn’t one of those weeks though.

MARINE WEEK

There are a lot of handsome men coming in for dinner this week with their families.

Hosted by the United States Marine Corps in one city per year, Marine Week is a celebration of Community, Country and Corps – providing the American public the experience of directly connecting with hundreds of Marines.

In Detroit, hands-on static displays, live demonstrations, time-honored Marine Corps traditions, musical performances and other events are being featured to showcase the history, military capabilities and community involvement of the Corps.

But my absolute favorite thing to do this week is to play the Marine’s Hymn (The Halls of Montezuma) on the piano and watch a guy in uniform bust out into a winsome smile.

IMPROVISATION

The Detroit Jazz Festival is being held this weekend.

 

And while I would never consider myself a jazz pianist, I find myself thinking about how I am changing because I engage daily with this specific discipline of making music.

 

Whatever real life situation is confounding me these days; I relax, close my eyes and do the same thing when I loose my place in the music while playing with a jazz trio.

 

That is, I listen and let myself be guided to finding the right path again.

 

A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART

Four business men sat at the piano bar and drunk talked through my entire first set.

One of them even slurred, “This is just like the all inclusive cruise I went on! Except that piano player was more interactive.”

So when it came time to decide where to go for dinner, because they wanted to “see more of Detroit”, it amused me greatly to overhear one of the men read out loud a yelp review describing the other restaurant where I play.

Seduced by the words ” … with a focus on classic Detroit architecture and American dining accompanied by the talented piano player”, the guys call for a reservation and then, an uber.

Every now and then I fall apart.

But there’s absolutely something that can be done for a total eclipse of the heart.

Be present.

Be mindful.

And count your blessings.

THE BEST LAID PLANS

It was very flattering when a young bartender asked me to write him a lifting program.

 

And because I genuinely wanted to share the joys of weight training with him, I did.

 

He was excited.

 

Until another server, a power lifter friend and my fellow workout buddy, commented that he would have written it quite differently.

 

Seeing the look on the bartender’s face, I remembered when I was just beginning to be interested in the sport of bodybuilding and completely intimidated by the huge amount of conflicting information available.

 

So I did the kindest thing possible that I have learnt from experience.

 

I told the bartender that there are many plans that can be made and followed, but picking one, not necessarily mine, and sticking with it for three months, would allow him to understand how to better continue his development in the years ahead.

 

The power lifter conceded to that and in an act of truce, told me to show the bartender my competition stage pictures, to prove that I knew what I was talking about.