benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

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.

 

Advertisements

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.

OPERA BUFFO

“Do you even speak English?”

 

After telling the elderly gentleman that I do, he speaks even more slowly, so that I will understand.

 

“Here’s ten bucks. Why don’t you cool it for a while. Like stop playing. We can’t hear ourselves talking over the piano.”

 

I smile and nod, but continue with the job I am actually paid to do.

 

It takes two managers to assure the table of 6 seniors, the farthest one in the dining room from the piano, that I am playing as softly as possible for the pleasure of all the guests, that I am playing acoustically, and that the speakers next to the piano are not even turned on.

 

One of the managers then suggests that perhaps the table would enjoy their dining experience more if they made some music requests.

 

He comes back to me with the deepest exasperation.

 

They want The Phantom of the Opera.

 

So I play a 25-minute selection from the entire score.

 

After which, the table asks to be reseated in another part of the restaurant, perhaps in the bar area, where it will be more quiet.

 

One of my favorites exchanges from Phantom is when Carlotta, the reigning prima donna of the Paris Opera House hisses “your part is silent little toad,” to Christine, rising ingénue.

 

Carlotta looses her voice minutes after that.

 

I didn’t loose or even raise my voice that night, but I am learning that keeping my silence is sometimes the best act of self-preservation.

KNOT FAMOUS

With information for everything from caters to florists to officiants to stationers, and of course musicians, the wedding website The Knot is a major resource that most brides will use to plan their big day.

 

So it was nice to get a lovely review on this platform.

 

I am described as “… talented, fun, flexible with song selection, and very, very kind.”

 

When they read this, many of my co-workers and close friends laughed.

 

“Who is this person that is very, very kind,” they inquired.

 

I know they are only half joking.

 

But I would still hate to know exactly what it is that I’m famous for.

KNOWING AND DOING

I’m grumpy this week because my coach is out sick and I’m training on my own.

 

It’s not that I don’t know what to do when I’m by myself.

 

It’s just easier to do the right thing when someone else is watching.