Last month was the 48th anniversary of my first visit to a weight room. I still remember the 45-pound barbell falling to my chest — my muscles too weak to do much about it. I somehow managed to extended my arms and return the bar to the top position. The man spotting me was Officer Ray Bingham of the Denver Police Department. He was part of a program to help delinquent kids like me learn to lift weights. My parents thought it might be a better outlet than vandalizing neighborhood mailboxes and cars — something I excelled at as a 12-year old.
Bingham told me to lower the bar again which I did, but it didn’t go much better the 2nd time around. Once again I returned it to the top position — my right arm doing most of the work. In addition to the bench presses, we did some leg extensions that day, some lat-pulldowns, and sit-ups. I was so sore the next day I couldn’t go to diving practice. With that soreness though, came a sense of purpose I’d not previously known.
I’d spend the next 48-years lifting weights for an hour per day, nearly every day. I built my entire life around lifting weights and eating to support my workouts. Since pre-adolescence, getting the gym and getting enough protein each day have held more real estate in my head than any other ideals. Though I never developed a world-class physique, I’ve always had more meat than most.
This past March, after some 15,000 workouts, I made a decision I would’ve thought unimaginable even six months earlier — the time has come to quit chasing meat. That is, I’ve made the decision to back off on my strength training sessions, and the dietary support of required to gain/maintain muscle mass, and enjoy a more moderate lifestyle — and this time I mean it.
I make my living teaching people my age and older that they shouldn’t worry about gaining more muscle mass. The focus, I suggest, should be on getting better at using the muscle they already have. Keep it active, keep it strong, not to worry about making more of it. I believe this is a good way to be over the age of 50. Still, when I’ve been in the weight room and as I’ve prepared each meal going back to preadolescence, my mindset has always been about increasing my muscle mass.
Age though, and the law of diminishing returns have been asserting their will against me. By my early 50s, I possessed every gram of muscle I would ever have. It’s been a gradual decline since. That’s not to say I’m getting weak and frail. I just don’t have the meat I had in my 40s and 50s. And to be clear, I still enter the weight room every day — because being strong is a good problem to have.
My workouts today are still challenging, but the intensity and the volume have decreased. The workouts are geared more toward everyday strength — the kind of strength that stays with me when I leave the weight room. In the modern age, physical autonomy is a virtue, but seems to be on the decline with many.
Though I no longer look like an action figure, I do look athletic and that’s going to have to do. Most importantly, my workouts are less stressful these days, and walking into the weight room has been less daunting and less intimidating. Perhaps for the first time in a decade, my workouts fit me like a glove.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
Last week by the numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 5
Mph Avg: 15.0
Seat Time: 10 hours 26 minutes
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. Oh, and there’s this from Stevie Wonder. Enjoy…