JOHN MEANEY

7.3.06




ICH BIN EIN KNUCKLEDRAGGER...

In case you didn’t see past the irony of the previous post (below)... bodybuilding is NOT John’s idea of a competitive sport. If it ain’t got blood and the occasional broken bones, why should I be interested?

Weight training, however, I do in fact approve of. Yet gyms with shiny machines, the latest music – or worse, TV – or worse still, internet bloody access on the cardio machines: I’m not joking – and teeny bopper staff with white smiles and certificates and not a clue as to how to train or teach training... not John’s idea of optimum training. Since I travel a lot and I’ve been training for a long, long time, I’ve trained in probably hundreds of gyms in a bunch of different countries, which is a very scary thought.

My preference for strength training is Combat Conditioning bodyweight exercises (or power calisthenics as John Peterson calls them), which I do every day, including those times when I’m staying in a hotel. But I still lift weights. So what’s with the allergy to gyms?

Memories of the last gym I held membership at, before retreating to my garage (dungeon) gym... the instructor telling her female trainee to go for the burn and visualize the muscle growing. This was while peforming exactly one set of curls with a dumb-bell that probably weighed a pound. Oh, and the instructor was so thin she was brittle: anorexic and a smoker, with no muscle. And a different instructor at the same gym telling someone to exhale as they lifted on a curl. (Wrong.) And... well. Don’t get me started.

Even there, I used to smile when training, and not socialize – that’s for later: the gym’s for training. Beginners move their bodies awkwardly, with knots of tension, and fail to breathe properly. An instructor should show them how to be on balance (even seated or lying) and how to coordinate motion and breath, before worrying about isolating muscle groups. Machines encourage these bad habits because so little technique is required.

Oh, one of my habits was to sing while running on the treadmill, if I happened to know the words of the song they were playing over the speakers. Come on, guys. Don’t look at me like that. It’s about enjoying yourself.

Yvonne sings too, nowadays, when she runs.

If bodybuilders encourage people into strength training, that’s all right. Modern steroid freaks... No. (There is a nice book about the love and discipline of lifting heavy weights written by a Mr Universe of the 1960s, and that’s Brother Iron, Sister Steel by Dave Draper. I like this book an awful lot, and read it often. See how confused I am?)

I first got into (reasonably) serious weight training in a gym designed by the late Howard Payne, who was a university lecturer and three-time Commonwealth hammer champion (and for giggles, the West Midlands powerlifting champion). No cardio machines. No machines at all. No music.

Lots of barbells. Lots. The benches were wooden boards on metal stands: no padded upholstery. And a raised wooden platform where the Olympic lifters and powerlifters could work, and drop their 500 pound bars without breaking the floor.

Serious, hardcore stuff. And if you wanted cardio, you went out to the outdoors track or ran around the streets.

In 2003, Mr Payne’s widow, Rosemary Chrimes, won three gold medals in the World Age Games in Puerto Rico, setting the world record for the over-70s high jump! (She coached many of Britain’s best-known athletes, including Steve Cram and Fatima Whitbread.)

True quality does not age. Pure gold does not fear the test of fire.

Respect, Pilots.

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