The Other End of Sunset

Monday, September 03, 2007

Indian Summer, getting ready for school, remembering the past

Out there is a fortune
Waiting to be had
If you think I'll let it go
You're mad
You've got another thing coming
--Judas Priest

I hate fear.

Fear is the mind-killer
--Frank Herbert

I started a new workout regime last week. It includes deadlifts. A deadlift is a "compound exercise" in which you -- more or less -- take a weight off the floor using your legs, glutes, lower back, and abdominal muscles.

If you do them right, you build a lot of muscle. You get a lot of strength.

And they look great -- in the gym, you look like a rock star. And they require really solid focus. Perfect Douglas exercise -- must engage BOTH brain and body.

Because if you do it wrong, you hurt yourself. Maybe for real.

I used to do them, a lot, when I was younger. And stronger. There was one period where I did this strange workout, involving only pull-ups, bench press, squats, and deadlifts. Very few repetitions, but very heavy weights. I was able to deadlift much more than my (then) body weight. Several times. I was very proud of that.

I'm so much older now.

I often worked out with JR during that workout. She would lift weights, or do cardio, or just hang out and talk while I grunted my way through the workout. Was really good quality time for me. Anyway, this particular day, I was working out with JR, about to start my deadlifts. She was a good gym type -- she didn't LIKE working out, but she liked the effect it had. She looked great. Anyway.

She and I were chatting, and she decided to help me load up the bar for my deadlifts.

The bar weighs 45 pounds, or so. I had a 45 pound plate and a 25 pound plate on each side. That would be 70 pounds on each side. Or, rather, I was supposed to have 70 pounds on each side.

Jeanne decided to put a 25 pound plate on the left side... and another 25 pound plate. 50 pounds. Not 70. I loaded the other side of the bar, with the right amount of weight.

After "helping" me, Jeanne went back to her machine -- actually, I think she was doing cardio on the elliptical trainer, so it's only kind of a "machine" in this context. But anyway, she went back to her machine, leaving the bar on the floor by me.

You wouldn't think that a measly little 20 pound difference would be even noticed. I certainly didn't notice when the bar was on the floor.

But I noticed when I picked it up. As I picked it up, I expected a serious pressure on my legs and back as I lifted more or less my body weight. But I expected an equal weight on both sides. I didn't have that -- one side was much lighter than the other. By, like 25 percent or so. As a result, I was quite off balance, and almost fell over on my left side.

To catch myself, I tightened my abs and my back and everything else I could think of. And heard a large pop from my lower back. And felt excruciating pain. But I didn't fall.

And I can tell by the way you're listening
That you're still expecting to hear
Your name being called like a summons to all
Who have failed to account for their doubts and their fears
They can't add up to much without you
--Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Jubilee

I set the weight down... as gingerly as I could. And sat down on the floor next to the bar. I could feel nothing but the agony in my back, and couldn't quite figure out how to stand back up, because my legs weren’t working quite right.

I don’t know what I looked like, but it can’t have been good. I was trying to look like I was just chilling out – you know, boys don’t cry and all that – but Jeanne glanced over, jumped off the elliptical and came running over.

She asked what had happened, and she grabbed my hand. She was trying to comfort me with simple contact while I got myself back together. I didn’t really know what had happened, just that I had almost fallen and hurt myself in some weird way. I thought I’d stepped on an edge or something.

After a minute or so, when it became clear that I wasn’t paralyzed, and was just in pain, we decided to get ready to head home.

As part of that, my anal-retentive component asked her to unload the bar and rerack the weights. As she did so, she noticed that “her” side of the bar was so much lighter.

There is no 'three strikes and you're out’ here. Everyone has another chance.
--Mel Gibson, "They Were Soldiers"

And her face went as white as mine must have been. I thought she’d hurt herself – “Honey, are you ok? That’s heavy put it down!” – but she hadn’t hurt herself.

Worse than hurting herself… she had realized that she had hurt me.

She came to tell me, with tears in her eyes. I was annoyed at first, but, I mean, really, it was an accident. I didn’t stay mad. But she was VERY supporting and kind during my long recovery.

As it turns out, I damaged myself semi-permanently, but the problem was an underlying issue with my spinal cord. In yet another way, I’m flawed on the inside, even if you can’t see it outside. And I’ve never been as strong again.

I went to physical therapy for a while, and most of the pain went away, but I got busy and didn’t keep going, and stopped doing my exercises, and my back got weak again. But it wasn’t too bad. And I missed my deadlifts.

So, my trainer and I had a long conversation before we started this workout rotation, and we decided to add deadlifts back in. But at a stupid little teensy weight.

It’s kind of funny. I’m there doing my deadlifts, with one of those weights the small middle-aged women use in aerobics. The rest of my weights are substantial, non-embarrassing weights for a guy my size. But not the deadlifts.

My trainer wanted to start with 50 pounds on the deadlifts. I wanted to start with 40. I think we are at 50, but I can’t remember. 3 sets of 15 repetitions, supersetted with a calf raise.

The other day, I told DB (my trainer) why I wanted to add the deadlifts back. I want them back in because I’m afraid of them. I’m afraid. I hate being afraid.

So I decided to attack my fear. I’m doing deadlifts. A little fear attacked at a time.

If you can attack the little fears, maybe one can attack the big fears. One by one. And there are an amazing number of big fears. I hear them every night. Don’t you? They are waiting for me. And I wait for them. Another day.

But, of course, last week, while addressing my fears in my workout in the little gym upstairs, with the great view and bad air conditioning, I re-injured my back. Ironic, yes? But not sufficient to stand between me and my fears.

Move over, please, I’m having a hard time getting into my taxi. Bending over hurts. Just help me out for a second, ok?