Of course had I known that last month’s blog/article would have prompted so many responses related to “training during a hurricane,” I would have planned on a continuation. Certainly there are a few humorous responses to that article to share with our TITAN readers and the answer is “No, I did not think others were filled with either, to quote the title of the article(s), as ‘dedication or lunacy’ as I was.” None who responded downplayed the seriousness or degree of danger brought by the hurricane or storm they referenced and of
course, neither did I. Especially with the home offices of TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS in the bulls-eye of Hurricane Harvey a month ago and a follow up disaster with Irma in Florida almost immediately afterwards, there is little to be trivialized. However, many were humored enough to send comments about my insistence on training, doing it outdoors, during the onslaught of Hurricane Donna in September of 1960. There were a number of comments made unrelated to lifting, that also painted a rather funny picture. My friend Rich Landsman who eventually developed into an accomplished athlete who took his track and intellectual abilities to American University in Washington D.C. had not yet demonstrated the benefits of strength training he would at a later date. In 1960 at the height of Donna’s intrusion, he was ordered to press his less than impressive 100 pounds of physical heft against the front door of his home so that it would not blow in on his family. As I attempted to both frame a picture in my mind of Rich, back to the door, arms outstretched to each side of the door buck, actually leaning with all of his might against the bulk of the door and the outside winds that buffeted it, I was also reminded of the sometimes “unscientific” and naïve thought process of 1960 and an older generation.
Those who grew up in the Texas Gulf area as did most of the TITAN employees have seen their share of harrowing tropical storm and hurricane damage and trauma yet there were a number of tales that pitted father against son in discussing, “But why can’t I lift now? The hurricane is outside, we’re inside.” This is without a doubt a reminder of “when it’s time to lift, it’s time to lift, you have to lift.” As part of either a champion’s mind-set or that of one who is inordinately compulsive, it can be made to be positive. During my attendance at Logan College of Chiropractic, my neighbor, training partner, classmate, and friend Mike Wittmer whose son Jeff was a top rated U.S. Olympic weightlifter for many years, was a highly skilled and powerful Olympic lifter. Saddled with school, labs, internships, and the necessity to work at real jobs at night or on the graveyard shift while we pursued our professional degrees, we still trained and competed although our lifting sports differed. There were occasions where we would look at the week’s schedule of classes and clinic work and simultaneously think, “No way!” On those occasions we would throw the portable squat racks into the back of my van with bumper plates and a bar. Either prior to the start of classes at 6 AM or between classes, we would hastily change and in searing sun and heat, freezing Midwest winter sleet and cold, or whatever weather was in-between, set up the rack and weights in the college parking lot and train. We later learned that we were both a topic of conversation and an attraction as almost every faculty member, administrator, and fellow student would stare out the windows at us, most wondering, “What is wrong with these guys?” I also recall Mike considering manual decapitation as an appropriate response to one twit’s admonishment that Mike should “never lift more than fifty pounds overhead or there will be serious spinal damage.” At the time Mike was 245 pounds of rock hard muscle with the expected traps that obscured what should have been a neck that ended approximately three inches above his ears and lifts that qualified him for the Senior National Championships!
To add to the “these guys are nuts” perspective, we trained very hard during a stretch of time, Mike in pursuit of his first 400+ clean and jerk and me just trying to inch my lifts forward. We coincidentally began to practice drawing blood and analyzing the lab results as
part of the curriculum and of course, as “student doctors” or “student practitioners” we practiced everything related to our professional education on each other although I was guilty of regularly adjusting our dog’s cervical spine when we first were learning those specific techniques. Mike and I were in our usual places in class, “holding up the back wall” when a messenger entered the room and informed the professor that we were both immediately summoned to the infirmary. We exchanged puzzled glances but shuffled out into the hallway where we were escorted to the lab area and informed that we were going to be taken to a local hospital. We of course were more inquisitive than alarmed and when the cause for concern was explained, we were giddy. Our hard training, as could have been predicted, altered our most recent blood work results to the extent that enzymes specific to muscle, heart, and liver damage were off the charts. Of course, we could have predicted this but trying to explain it to lab geeks that did not know the difference between a barbell and a door bell was daunting. The conversation should also be placed within a framework of knowledge that existed four decades ago when much less was known about the chemical effects of hard, consistent training. From the perspective of the doctors, we were having a cardiac emergency with CPK enzyme levels in the stratosphere within a constellation of related chemical anomalies. We knew the deal, it just took fifteen minutes to unwind the panic in the voices of the medical staff. This was just another example of “we’re supposed to train, we have to train, we will train, and we trained!”
I have long held the belief that strength training in any form is an excellent choice for compulsive individuals, present company included. It is predictable, ordered, quantifiable, repetitious, and has both a start and completion quality for each session, cycle, or period of time dependent upon the goals of the lifter. Of course compulsive individuals, at least for those who are not displaying clinical psychological illness, find “definite start/definite end point” tasks “comfortable” and training with a definite start and end point is in fact comfortable. What others have described to me as “could be boring” never made sense but it is the repetitive predictability and need for consistency that wipes out most would-be or aspiring powerlifters if an early goal is not met. For lack of a better term it is the compulsive approach and attitude that suits the sport and the necessary pathway to progress and goal attainment and of course, this is what leads many to train in the most ridiculous of circumstances. Train outside in a hurricane? Why not? Train at 3 AM when hard manual labor
employment ends at 2 AMfor that specific day? Sure. Carry weights and a portable rack in the back of the pick up truck or van and set up to squat literally anywhere? Doesn’t everyone?
There has been an over intellectualization of our culture and society, anointing outsized importance on very minor points of interest or debate, framing common sense decisions and situations within a context of political correctness, or just seemingly making a lot more of something that requires a bit of observation rather than input. In my work with The Lakeview Youth Federation I recall talking to gang members on the street and first heard the motto, “Can’t stop, won’t stop,” and found it poignant. Literal books and reams of articles have been written to explain the phrase, granting it a legacy steeped in hip hop music or gang culture or any number of different things. If books and movies have been brought to the public that are focused strictly on this one phrase, you know how badly fractured I believe our entire culture’s focus is but I recall these local gang members explaining its use and origin. From their perspective, some relatives in one of the major California gangs first utilized the phrase in the 1980s, indicating that they could not stop their involvement “in the gang” nor did they wish to. That’s it, simple and of course for those of us working with young people steeped in street violence, tragic. However, it is also a phrase I have seen drift through my consciousness when faced with a difficult workout under the worst of physical and psychological circumstances; “can’t stop, won’t stop,” have to lift, have to complete the workout, have to at least work towards the projected numbers no matter what. Within that context, hurricanes and much seen as impediments by “normal people” don’t exist for many lifters.