benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

Category: LIFTING

COMEBACK

My trainer tells me to be patient. 

Even though it is healing up, my back will need time to fully recover.

And it is a slow process. 

Meanwhile, when a grumpy old man comes up and tells me, in the middle of a Christmas song, that his son is a concert pianist and that I am just “making a bunch of annoyance inducing noise,” I immediately ask him with which orchestra his child is performing tonight. 

The man mutters something incoherent under his breath and walks away.

Some comebacks are a lot quicker. 

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PAINS IN THE BACK

The quadratus lumborum is a deep muscle that attaches from the bottom of the twelfth rib all the way down to the iliac crest at the top rear pelvic bone.

 

It is considered an abdominal muscle and there are two of them, each running down either side of the spine on the back of the body.

 

The one on my left is in spasm.

 

My trainer and chiropractor aren’t too worried, and frankly, neither am I.

 

The only people that seem highly concerned are those who inconclusively think I’m doing something wrong.

 

But the truth is, I’m doing everything right.

 

I’ve been consistent about sleeping with a pillow between my knees, and stretching after every set at the piano, as well as part of my training program, which additionally places an absolute emphasis on form when I’m lifting.

 

Even when I tell those people that things like this do happen occasionally, they still don’t believe something bad could happen to anyone who is good about leading a healthy lifestyle.

 

However, this has nothing to do with bad things happening to good people, and everything to do with simply just being human.

 

I accept that it is normal for my body to occasionally fail.

 

I have the means, the experience and the wisdom to work through this patiently, and to overcome the pains in my back.

 

The real pains are those who keep offering me unsolicited advice that they have no business offering in the first place.

CLASS ACTION

I receive legal notice in the mail from a brand of protein shake that I used to drink. 

Apparently, the company is being sued for falsely advertising the amount of protein content in their product. 

For the settlement, those of us who have receipts can claim $1 per carton purchased, up to $40. 

And for people like me, who didn’t save those receipts, I get to claim 50 cents per carton purchased up to $20. 

I’m not terribly upset, having switched to a diet consisting of primarily whole food years ago; meaning the bulk of the nutrients I consume comes from food that is processed as minimally as possible, and contains no added preservatives or artificial substances. 

But as I’m standing in line waiting to pay for the freshly hand-ground almond butter that I now insist on eating daily, I see a woman using food stamps to get herself crab legs, shrimp and rib-eye, items not currently in my own budget, and I start to fume. 

I’m not saying that the underprivileged don’t deserve luxury foods, or that the social-economics of a system designed to offset the cost of food for certain income brackets isn’t without its flaws. 

All I want to do in this moment is to be smug in my own special class of entitlement and privilege, while buying my pint of almond butter with the free money I’m getting from another unscrupulous business, when really, the only action I should be practicing is gratitude.

 

POUND FOR POUND

I put on a pound of muscle according to my monthly weigh-in.

 

Pleased with this excellent progress, I go to work tonight in the best spirits, and immediately step into a scene, where the sommelier is explaining to a very drunk guest, why the piano is only to be played, by the pianist, whom restaurant has explicitly hired to do the job.

 

Silently, I take off my coat, scarf and hat, as the guest keeps insisting that he “knows how to play this thing, dude,” with each repeated claim more sloppy than the last.

 

So as a final line of reasoning, the sommelier declares, “Our resident pianist doesn’t let anyone he hasn’t personally auditioned play for the house.”

 

To which, the guest unwittingly slurs, “What is this guy, a big faggot or something?”

 

I don’t even have to respond.

 

The sommelier stands by me, puts his arms around my shoulders, and replies, “Yes, the biggest one I know.”

 

Red-faced, the guest promptly leaves.

 

And we all start the evening with a good laugh.

 

I know, that with all things being equal, they may not be exactly the same.

 

For example, even though a pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle, they both differ greatly in density, with muscle being about 18% more dense than fat.

 

Meaning, one pound of muscle occupies less space than one pound of fat, which clarifies the technically false misconception that “muscle weighs more than fat.”

 

However, love does truthfully weigh more than hate, because I just witnessed one ounce of courage and kindness pushing several pounds of discrimination and homophobia out the door.

LIKE MOTHS TO A FLAME

I love the clothes in my closet.

 

All the items are arranged by type, then by color, and then further sub-organized by size.

 

I don’t have very many expensive or designer pieces, but I do have clothes that have been carefully purchased and maintained, to make me look good for the range of casual to formal gigs I play, whether my body is in competition preparation mode, or in the bulking up stage.

 

It also gives me great joy to see my wardrobe uniformly hanging perfectly on all-white hangers, each spaced apart at exactly one finger width.

 

So when the first chill of the fall air hit this Sunday, I knew it was time to pull out my favorite charcoal v-neck woolen sweater, only to be shocked to tears when I discovered that it was completely ridden with holes.

 

This is my first experience with moths and I have learnt a lot since the weekend about how to eradicate them, and to how to prevent their future infestation.

 

It is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, to dry-clean, heat sanitize or freeze every piece of fabric in your home, thus ensuring all moth eggs are killed.

 

But this is a process that has to be endured, because one destroyed article of clothing can lead to an even bigger disaster, should the eggs quietly hatch, the larva silently consume the surface on which they emerge, discreetly reach maturity, become inconspicuous adult moths, and lay more harmful eggs in your closet or other parts of your home, all in stealthy unnoticeable shadowed cover.

 

As I pulled all the suitcases from the top shelf of my closet, I had to wonder what kind of baggage my friend had carried with him.

 

A few weeks ago, he had left a suicide note on his Facebook page, and then successfully completed the act.

 

We had worked together for seven years, from the very first day of the restaurant opened, and had always shared a camaraderie based on laughter and humor, each of us always trying to outdo the other with an instigating comment or witty remark.

 

He was fun to be around, truly, the ideal front-of-house personality.

 

Nobody, not one of us, could have ever suspected the secretly growing frays of his heart, kept in the dark for so long, finally exposed to light as decayed and fragile as the threads I am so diligently seeking to prevent the same fate from happening.

CARTS BEFORE HORSES

Due to a scheduling conflict, I rearranged my split (the division of muscle groups to be worked daily) so I would see my trainer for a chest/back day later on in the week.

 

And I proposed that would work shoulders on my own the day before.

 

Needless to say, I had a great shoulder day but a less than stellar chest/back day.

 

Knowing intellectually that stacking two consecutive days of upper body work would be foolhardy, I did it anyway, based merely on the ‘feeling’ that I could pull it off.

 

“Why did you let me?” I asked.

 

“I knew it wouldn’t kill you, and, you would learn a valuable lesson,” was the answer I received.

FAITH & STRENGTH

One of my favorite strength training protocols is to pick a working weight for a lift that is a little beyond my comfort zone, and over time, try to increase the number of repetitions I can do with that weight. 

For example, in this current bulking cycle, one of my goals is to be able to squat 10 reps per set for 5 sets at 185lbs. 

A few weeks ago, I managed 8 reps for all 5 sets. 

This week, when I tried again, I hit those 10 reps on the last 2 sets. 

I think faith is a lot like this kind of strength training. 

The more it gets tested, the stronger it grows. 

THE GREAT EQUALIZER

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance wheel of the social machinery.”

Horace Mann, 1848

Another great equalizer I’ve recently come to realize, is the traditional bodybuilding gym, where no one cares what I do, how much I make, what my politics are, what my sexuality is, or even how much I can bench press. 

What makes everyone the same, regardless of genetics, race or socio-economic class, is commitment and dedication – showing up everyday, executing a training program, working through pitfalls, and celebrating progress. 

So when a guy I had long idolized, but only exchanged nods in passing acknowledgment, told me that he had admired and enjoyed my piano playing when he had dined at the restaurant a few nights ago, I was even more convinced that the gym could be a great opportunity for this idea of equalization.

Then, he told me that he particularly enjoyed The Phantom of the Opera medley I had performed because he had always loved the soundtrack.

So definitely, education. 

BE STILL

I should have known better.

But I went in to lift anyway, working through a little sinus congestion and a slight tickle in my throat.

A few days later, I’m lying in bed with a summer cold. 

I find it hard to be still, even though doing nothing at all is sometimes the best solution. 

PLACE

I placed 4th in my class last weekend at the competition.

 

I’m thrilled with how much I’ve improved, and I’m excited to continue with my journey in bodybuilding.

 

However, no matter how big the show, or how well I do, I know my real place.

 

I am loved.