LGN 26: Strength

Do you remember phys. ed?  I was not a fan.  Awkward times for a kid.  In middle school, Dundalk Middle and Holabird Middle, the phys. ed teachers were … obese.

Mr. B. was a big dude and kind of creepy.  Well, first of all, I did not enjoy the whole forced showering thing.  Second of all, the whole plastic baseball bat whacking of nude, wet 6th graders coming out of the shower?  Not right.  Today that would be a lawsuit.  And therapy.

Mr. K at Holabird was such a nice guy.  He was a big dude.  If I remember correctly, he had injured his spine or neck doing gymnastics in his more active days, but he was funny, kind and supportive.

The high school coaches and phys. ed teachers weren’t obese, but you know.  I don’t recall ever seeing one of them do anything particularly physical.

A New Goal

As my weight fluctuates a little — I got cocky.  I got below 210 and then let my good habits like cooking and food preparation slip.  Anyway, I’m still getting stronger and actually my slipping coincides with a scheduled free week.  I think.  Give or take.

Aside from weight and body fat percentage, I have a another goal.  A new goal.  I want my body, my muscles, to work.  To work without failing.  I want to be able to recover from exertion quickly and to be able to push myself without any hint of cramping or muscle failure.

I pose the following question mainly to the aging dudes out there.  Does it ever bother you that there are a lot of people stronger and more fit than you?


You may recall my distaste for Adams Morgan.  The young guys out there looking for trouble.  Trying to start fights or harassing the women walking by.  Walking through Adams Morgan at 2 or 3 am when there are a lot of drunk, angry young guys — a small percentage of them armed, no doubt — roaming around and I start to feel my age.  Any group of 2+ healthy young dudes could probably kick the crap out of me.  Especially if they’re amped up on something and I’m unsuspectingly meandering with my head full of thoughts.

“Hm.  I wonder what the next M&M color will be.  Probably mauve.  Mm.  Candy.  I think grape is the all time best sour candy flavor.  I would kill for a sour grape StarburOW MY FACE!  YOU STABBED ME IN THE FACE!!  SONOFABITCH!!”

Fate is a fickle mistress.

Really, you never know what’s going to happen.  98% of life is going to be fine and dandy.  But accidents will happen.  And people without any sense of morals or scruples may try to hurt you or take advantage of you.  C’est la vie.

I’m going on a road trip with an aunt and the nephews later this Summer.  I like hanging out with my family.  I really want to have a family of my own.  But being responsible for the safety and health of young people and older people (and all of the physical limitations that entails) is a mind trip.  Having more than yourself to consider.  Like, you need to be strong enough for everybody.

Aside from getting fit for the health benefits, I also want to be functionally strong.  Heck, I see a lot of lifting of chunky oldsters who have fallen down in my future.  At least with my family’s fatalistic attitudes toward their health and diet.  Oy vey.


On Saturday, something happened that hasn’t happened in a while.  My forearms locked up on me.  I was doing heavier weights with fewer reps that week and the combination of more weight plus that day’s routine caused the ol’ forearm lockup.  Have you ever had that?  It’s like a muscle cramp but not as intense.  There’s no Charlie Horse agony.  The muscles just decide that they can’t relax.  The more I lifted the worse it got.  It’s not a big deal, really, and it rights itself with 10 to 15 minutes of rest.

I told Justin that my forearms were tightening up.  He said, “That’s unfortunate.  Because today’s Finisher is a Farmer’s Walk.”


I got through my sets with some dignity.  Even did the rack pull without straining my lower back this time.  Go, me!


We get to the end.  Time for the Finisher.  I was the only one there on Saturday for some reason.  Justin walks over to the kettlebells, looks at me and says, “How mean should I be to you today?”

He has me grab a pair of 44 lb’ers.  I walk to the tape mark on the floor.  He says, “Oh.  No.  We’re going for a little stroll.”

I still didn’t get it.  We were going outside.  The great outdoors.  It was a really nice day.  Expectations, man.  I was thinking that I’d walk to some point on the sidewalk and then start my Farmer’s Walk.  I should have realized that the point was for me to — well, from the moment I picked them up my Finisher had begun.  That’s what I didn’t get.

I Google mapped the distance from the gym (or from the street adjacent to the gym) to Rt. 50.  It’s about 0.2 miles, which is about 352 yards.  Three and a half football fields.  In theory, I was supposed to Farmer’s Walk 44 lbs. in each hand down to Rt. 50.  It was obvious that I wasn’t going to make it in one go.

It took a while.  Mainly because my forearms were already non-functional.  It would still have been crazy hard without but man oh man.  Literally, my grip would give out.  I couldn’t make a fist.  Or I could for a few seconds and then my grip would just slowly dissolve after a number of steps and I’d try not to drop the kettlebells on the concrete and my forearms would scream with fatigue.

Shaking my arms out didn’t do any good.  Stretching the forearms didn’t do any good.  Justin would count down:  5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Do it again for as long as I could.  I’m not ashamed to say that I started to feel a little whiny.

Justin would say, “Control your breathing.  Pick a point and make that your goal.  Make it to the big telephone pole.”

My grip would crap out on me.  I’d shake my arms frantically, looking like a loon, I’m sure.

I was like, “S%$#!  So what do you do?  You just keep going??”

Because apparently, there’s not really anything you can do to get that quasi-cramp to dissipate, aside from ending your workout and waiting for a while.  But if you’ve still got work to do…

“Yeh.  Pretty much.  Okay.  If you make it to that fire hydrant and only put the kettlebells down once, I’ll carry them back.”

“You say that.  This doesn’t seem like something I have control over.  My arms don’t work.  I’ve got lobster claws here and they’re paralyzed.  Like, this isn’t a mental thing.  It’s mechanical.  I literally can’t make a fist.”

He said, “It’s a little of both.”

I said, “Well, alright.  I can walk a little faster.  That, I have control over.”

I’m a very slow walker and usually don’t realize it until I’m trying to keep up with someone.  Anyway, I managed it.  It wasn’t pretty but I managed it.

He carried them back

Here’s my point.  Justin Farmer Walked back.  44 lbs. in each hand, up an incline, four football fields (he went all the way in the building, down the stairs and returned the kettlebells to their spot), non-stop.

I forgot to mention that the class before my training session is like a, uh, it’s basically an hour to an hour and a half long Finisher.  It’s written on the whiteboard and it’s insane.

I asked Justin, “Uh.  Didn’t do you a Farmer’s Walk already this morning?”

He said, “Yes.  But after practicing with 70 lbs, after that 44 lbs. is a walk in the park.”

That’s 70 lbs. in each hand, remember.  I mean, think about that.  Imagine some horrible emergency or catastrophe.  Justin could easily carry two 8 year old children — one in each hand — for a quarter of a mile.

Of course, last week he also held plank position for 5 minutes straight.  Do you have any idea what that’s like?

I don’t.  Because I can’t do it.  Not even close to that level of strength and stamina.

Walking the Walk

It’s amazing to see what could be.  Justin and the other instructors walk the walk.  I want to be like them when I grow up.

Seriously, it does help to put things in perspective.  You’re training for a reason, y’know.  With goals to achieve, feats to be accomplished and milestones to reach.

I would say that I want to be that strong and fit.  But to be honest, I’m afraid of things like that Saturday morning class.  I don’t want to do that.  It is off the chain!

It’s another level of competence altogether.  Off the charts, from my perspective.  It’s part of what will keep me doing the training work even after I reach my weight/fat (or lack thereof) goals.  I guess I’ve only been training for, what, 5 months?  In my 5th month.  As opposed to 5 or 10 years.

A babe in the woods.

In Closing

I still claim that I’m going to start surprising everyone on the Finishers.  With the mountain biking and the (in theory) jogging intervals I plan on doing, my cardiovascular endurance is going to catch up with my muscle strength.  It’s going to be most awesome.

I told Justin that it would take a few weeks but I’m going to start doing better on the Finishers.

He gave me that grin that could just as easily be a “mwah ha ha haaaa!” and said, “Not if the Finishers get harder.”

Oh.  Oh right.


Click here to see all of my LGN (I want to Look Good Naked) posts.

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