Bodybuilding is a new sport for me. Although I never plan to compete, I still consider myself to be a bodybuilder. Formerly I was a powerlifter. I competed twice and even held a NYS record once. To be clear, no one had ever lifted in the novice, raw and 198 lbs squat before, so I was at once the worst and the best lifter on record in NY for that lift. Recognize.
Now I bodybuild. I still use the big four for my overall strength and power. I squat, deadlift, benchpress and overhead press. Each lift now I worry more about strict form as opposed to the number that I’d focused so much on in the past.
The transition has been fun. I actually do barbell curls now, tricep press downs too. In the past, all these muscles were trained only during complex, multi joint movements. Turns out, pumping my biceps up to the point of bursting is fun.
Since returning from my second deployment in January of 2009, I have done a great deal of introspection. Turns out, there is some heavy stuff in there! Bodybuilding has been a valuable tool for me to get to know myself. Not only what the “hardware” can do, but how powerful the “software” can be. I tell myself if I really concentrate and focus, I CAN do that extra repetition. I can move that extra 5 pounds. I can, using my memories, both pleasant and not so pleasant, tap into a power that is both greater than me and equal to me. What I mean to imply is that there is more to me than I now (or will ever) know. Bodybuilding has taught me to trust myself, to rely on myself and to believe in myself. More. Dig? Not to say in the past I didn’t or wasn’t doing all those things, but now I’ve learned where the auxiliary fuel tank is in me. Sure, the Military showed me how to access the tank, but I am now learning “how deep is the tank”. Cue the Bee Gees “how deep is your love?”
I can now name more than “quads, lats and pecs”. Sartorius? Hard to develop, but I am working on it. Gluteus Maximus? Funny you should mention, it’s my pride and joy. The only thing we really own in life is this collection of bones wrapped in this skin wrap (I long ago decorated my wrap, but that’s for another time). So developing it to the fullest, learning how it really works, what its strengths and weaknesses are has been a welcome distraction. In 2004 some buddies and I gathered up some intense memories and while bodybuilding hasn’t made them go away, it has provided a distraction. Wait, not a distraction per say, maybe a counter balance? If all that “heavy” stuff in my head was to come crashing down all at once, I’d surely crumble. But wait, I have been training for this, my back is now stronger than ever and I know, through my own introspection, that I can shoulder more than I ever thought possible, all I need to do is concentrate.
During my training sessions, nothing else matters. Sure, my thoughts wander, but I have an outlet for them, so they don’t stew inside. Hard day at work, boss a clueless buffoon, bent on destruction? Pull downs. Bills seeming to pile up despite timely payments? Dumbbell raises. The list goes on ad nausea, but y’all are tracking. Now I welcome the challenges I face whereas before I’d just “deal”.
In conclusion, today is my 44th birthday. Friends of course ask in jest, “how’s it feel to be old?” truth is, I am young at heart, and this y’all, this is the key to happiness. Keep a firm grasp on that kid in there, he or she will always be able to show you the upside. Now, load the barbell, crack a smelling salt, breath deep and get at it.
Jim is an OIF I IVeteran, an OEF VII Veteran and proudly wears the US Army’s Combat Infantryman Badge. If you have any questions about your benefits earned during your service to our Country, email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.