Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Good Trip and Big Jimmy

I was in Shelby, North Carolina from Tuesday to Friday this past week. My son James and I were visiting my son Donald. We set up camp in The Hampton Inn which has unreal nice folks and service. I mean, I can't believe how freaking NICE they are to us. It is the South after all, and I lived there for 10 years, but remember, I live in New Jersey now and work in Philly, so I have grown accustomed to a little different type of friendliness. I love New Jersey, its just that people have to get to know you a little in order to act like you are a long lost friend. When I walk out the door of my room at the hotel, the people who work there are like, "HEY!!" "How are you doing today?" "Can I get you anything?" "How was your night?"
And if you leave for even ten minutes to get a paper or even to just walk out to your car, the greetings begin all over again.

So the stay was pleasant. Lots of wiffleball games with my boys, where we try to peg each other with the ball as we round the bases, and hikes and ice cream and drives to Bass Pro Shops and Barnes and Noble.

Everyday started out with a trip to a local gym, Rock Fitness. For twenty dollars , I had  24 hour access for the week. Seriously. I have to go to the gym first thing every morning and get my squats in and some shadowboxing and then the day can begin. The boys sit and watch people and play Nintendo and ignore me pretty much. They are five and ten years old and I have been taking them to gyms all of their lives so they don't think it is any big deal at all.

On Wednesday, my old friend Jimmy Anderson came to visit and to spend the day. Jimmy is the Strength Coach at Spartanburg High School in South Carolina and we have been friends since 1989. We worked at Gardner -Webb together as Graduate Assistants. The first year that we coached together, I was a volunteer and Jimmy made 1,000 dollars a YEAR. No kidding. For that money, Jimmy and I both coached. He helped with the offensive line and I helped with the defensive line. We were also in charge of cutting and lining all of the fields, both for practices and games. We also did the wash for the team and were in charge of the uniforms. And most importantly, Jimmy was in charge of the weight room and I was his assistant. He and I teamed up for some great workouts.

We used to tape a picture of Fred Hatfield above the squat rack and start squatting. We deadlifted and benched and did bent rows. Jimmy would do some curls and I would watch him. The weight room was in an old handball court and had a tiered squat rack and a few benches and one platform. No, there wasn't any battle ropes or bands or stability balls or Muscle Milk get the picture. Basic stuff. Then after our workouts, after every workout, we went to Hardees and had biscuits and sausage gravy. Then we went to our staff meeting and began prepping for practice and cutting the fields. To say that we enjoyed ourselves is an understatement. We had plenty of fun despite our financial situation.  Yes,we were broke. So broke that we would pool our change together to buy Skoal and Red Man. We snuck into the cafeteria by sweet talking the girls at the front door. And Jimmy lived in the locker room in a storage closet that had a bunk bed in it. We called it the "Bat Cave". I lived in the basement of a sweet old lady's house with one of the players. I don't even remember if I paid rent or how I would pay rent. I know that I did odd jobs to make ends meet. I slept on a cot in the living room of the basement. It was perfect.

So now it is 2012 and Jimmy and I were back in the gym together. Things have changed- a few marriages between us, many different jobs. But we have both kept training no matter what, and we have kept in touch all of these years. I talk to him at least once a week and we get together once or twice a year. Jimmy has a bum hip so he can't do deadlifts from the floor so he does rack deadlifts. He can't squat real deep because of the hip and he uses the "Slingshot" which takes the pressure off of a bum shoulder when he benches. He has fought back from an achilles tear and a biceps tear. Years of football and lifting takes its toll on a body.

But you know what? In the last year or so, he has lost twenty some pounds and has transformed himself, even with all of the stuff that has gone on with his body. We talked about it when we were training the other day. His point was clear- stopping is not an option. The gym is a place were he goes everyday, just like brushing his teeth. Because, as Jimmy pointed out, the only alternative is lying around on the couch feeling sorry for yourself and getting soft. Becoming a regular "citizen" as we used to say. So what that he can't pull from the floor? He works around it, does the rack deads. Can't run sprints? Walk fast with the Prowler. Take some pressure off of your joints by losing some weight. Get it done because not getting it done means that you have quit and resigned yourself to being one of the masses. Not gonna happen. He actually looks better than he did in 1989 when I first met him. Pretty inspiring stuff.

It was a good trip. Seeing my son Donald and lifting with my brother Jimmy was a welcome respite from the busy Philly life, even for just a few days. I can't wait to do it again next spring.

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.