There are two kinds of weight lifting. One is physical, building muscle; the other emotional, a lifting of burdens.
Ironically, now that I’m suddenly single again, I find the best cure for the emotional weight lifting is physical weight lifting.
For the past six years, I’ve belonged to the in San Ramon, a “SuperSport” club, which is gym-speak for: Extra fancy.
The San Ramon club is considered a testing site for other 24 Hour Fitness clubs. They get all the latest equipment, which makes us feel we’re getting our money’s worth, I suppose.
I do a workout I found on the Internet called the Fat Burning Furnace. The premise is that you lift the maximum weight you can, but only for 10 reps, then move to the next exercise with as little time as possible in between so that the weight lifting itself becomes an aerobic exercise.
The selling point? The whole workout takes only 15 to 20 minutes.
Following the recommendations of my online guru, I increase the weight a little every day I work out, so I’m continually tearing down and building muscle.
Recently, my 12-year-old son challenged me to an arm wrestle. I won and flexed a bicep muscle to prove my great strength. My son’s eyes widened. “Mom! Don’t get ripped,” he said worriedly. “That’s a turnoff for guys.”
My son worries that I will not find another creature to mate with before I die. He tells me, “At your age, you need to be very, very, very, very picky … because you’re old and don’t have any time for any more mistakes.”
It was the kind of comment to send a mother on a Geritol binge.
My son doesn’t realize that working out for a half hour to an hour three or four days a week does not typically result in a person my age getting “ripped,” or anywhere near muscle bound. A little firmer is about all I am hoping for.
In response to his muscles-are-a-turnoff comment, I asked my son, “And you know this, how?”
“I’m a guy,” he said. Point taken.
There’s something about fighting pain with pain. Weight lifting helps clear the mind. Plus, muscle burns fat, so lifting weights makes a lot of sense for those of us who like to eat.
I wish my dad had lifted weights. He’s 84-years-old now and struggles to get out of his favorite chair.
My kids and I visited him and my mom at their home in Arnold on Easter weekend. My dad, 6-foot-6, a former pitcher for a Boston Red Sox “farm team” in the '40s, had always been the epitome of strength growing up.
Two hip replacements, arthritis, a pacemaker, his body is slowly shutting down on him.
As I knelt by his chair last weekend, I rubbed his sore arm as he confessed the pain throughout his body has been so excruciating the past few days, it wakes him up in the middle of the night. “I just want to die,” he told me.
I went to the store and bought him a heating pad, since he said heat seems to ease his discomfort. I suggested he go back to his doctor and get help. “Doctors can’t do nothing for me,” he said.
I carry the weight of losing my father with me wherever I go. It’s here with me now, as I type this on a BART train to San Francisco, on my way to work. It’s with me when I go to the gym, lift the silver pin from the 100 pound leg press slot and stick it into the 110 slot.
The more weight you carry, the more weight you need to press.
After working out, I visit the steam room.
As I sit on a bench, engulfed in a cloud, I close my eyes, feel my body unwind in the heat. Breathe, I tell myself, wondering when did I get so old that I have to remind myself to breathe.
I can feel the worry and other toxins drip from my body.
I am healthy, I remind myself. I have great kids who love me, who make me smile every day and give me hugs.
I think only of their hugs as I exhale.