My Encounter with Me

The following story appeared in my training log a few years ago. It’s the most popular entry I’ve ever written. 

 

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the you of today ran into the you of several years ago?

 

After a hard day of leisure at the lake, I wanted to spend some time kicking back, sitting in the ol’ rocking chair and just relaxing. I love to sit in this chair, and I particularly love the creaking sound it makes as I rock.
Creak, creak, creak…

I sat looking out over the water as the sun began to set. A haze formed over the lake, and I noticed a small fishing boat in the distance. I didn’t pay any attention to this boat, because I was exhausted from the day’s events and happy to have some time alone. As the night grew darker, the boat drew closer. A large figure was sitting in the boat, and I wondered who it was.
Zip, zip, zip…

This sound was strangely familiar to me. I couldn’t quite place it, but I knew I’d heard it before. I thought the sound was coming from the boat, and I figured maybe it was the motor. Strange sounds always come from those old aluminum boats, so I didn’t think anything of it until it started getting louder.

 

 

The figure from the boat made his way to the dock in front of me. He was a bearded man wearing a red flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off, and he had a huge gash on his forehead. He easily weighed well over 300 pounds, and his weight submerged the back end of the boat, making it look like a half erect penis. Inside the boat was a pile of empty carb drinks, Snickers wrappers, Copenhagen tins, squat suits, knee wraps, bench shirts and silver Pop-Tarts wrappers. I thought about my old Chevy S-10, because that’s how it used to look. Then I heard it again.
Zip, zip, zip…

It occurred to me that I knew what I was hearing. This was the sound I used to make when I was getting ready for a lift. Why, however, was I hearing it now? What was causing this? Could this actually be Zippy right here in front of me?
This messed me up, and I started wondering how many beers I’d had that day. I thought maybe it was the heat. I tried to shake it off, but the figure didn’t go away. The next thing I knew, he was trying to get out of the boat and crawl onto the dock. After failing at this several times, he got all pissed off and threw a blue seat cushion at me. It smacked me in the head.
Then he spoke.

"Dude…(gasp, gasp, gasp)…we…(gasp)…have to talk.”

This was Zippy, and he was right here in front of me. I had no idea how it was happening, but it was happening. It was like something out of a science fiction movie. I looked around for a ghost from my future, but there was nothing else on the water. Just me and Zip.

 

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“We…(gasp)…need to talk,” Zippy proclaimed as he moved around the boat from side to side, trying to relieve his hemorrhoid burn, which had flared up after a recent max effort squat session. I felt sort of strange talking to myself, but I realized it wasn’t the first time I’d done this. It was, however, the first time it had happened with a ghostly figure of myself sitting right before my eyes.
“Okay, tweed…(gasp)…I don’t really know where…(gasp)…to start. What’s the deal…(gasp)…with the tank tops and the shaker cups?” Zippy asked.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” I said, looking myself over. I didn’t have a shaker cup anywhere near me, and I was wearing a DeFranco’s tee shirt I’d gotten on a recent trip to New Jersey.
Zippy’s eyes rolled back into his head. He was amazed at what I was saying.

 

“Dude…(gasp, gasp, gasp)…you know what I mean. Look at your own…(gasp)…freaking website!”

 

 

He pulled out a tin of Copenhagen, dug his sausage fingers into the black mass of tobacco, removed a huge hunk and stuck it in his lip. Half of it fell to the bottom of the boat, where it mixed with what looked like years of stained spit and dirt.
“Oh, you mean those. Well…uh…it was hot out, and it seemed like the right thing to wear. The pictures were taken for the exercise index.” I was trying my best to explain the pictures on the website, and to relate to him why I’d added meal replacement drinks to my diet.
With a look of disgust and confusion, Zippy spoke once again. “Okay, if this is what you want to think, fine. But I know better. You’re trying to be like one of the ‘others,” and I know it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, not understanding what he’d meant by “others.” I honestly didn’t know what he was talking about. It could have meant a million different things. I was confused, and I needed more information.

 

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“Have you really fallen that…(gasp, gasp, gasp)…far from the monolift? Tank tops and shaker cups? Boy, get a clue.” He pulled a yellow inhaler out of the side pocket of his cargo shorts and took three quick hits. The night air, he’d always claimed, made it hard to breathe.
Then it hit me.

I realized that I knew what Zippy meant. He was talking about the “others” who walk around their commercial gyms with white tank tops and shaker cups filled with red, white or brown liquids. I used to make fun of those guys, but now I was on my website wearing tank tops. In fairness, however, there weren’t any pictures of me with shaker cups. I keep those hidden because I just can’t become one of the “others.”
“Okay,” Zippy said, seeming to relax a bit. “We’re getting somewhere, but there are…(gasp, gasp)…more issues to…(gasp, gasp)…address.” A river of sweat ran down his head, and the top half of his shirt was soaked. I asked him if he was feeling okay.
He thanked me for noticing and said that things were right on par. He had a meet coming up in twenty-three weeks, and he felt as though he was just about ready to start training for it. He said his off-season GPP training had gone well, and that he felt primed for some big records at the next meet.

 

Devil Shirt Layered copy
“But you’re beet red! Actually, you’re sort of purple, and it also looks like you’ve sprung a leak. Maybe you should do a little more cardio work,” I said, rocking back in my chair, thinking I was taking charge of the conversation.
Zippy stood up with so much explosive force that the boat shook the dock. I felt my chair move out from under me.

 

 

“Damn it, Dave, this is what I’m talking about…(gasp, gasp). Freaking cardio, diets, tea of green stuff, un-fried chicken, low carbs, cardio, curls, volume training, jumping, cardio, weighing food, supplements, and…(gasp, gasp)…cardio. It all…(gasp)…has to stop!”

 

 

Zippy paused to take a hit from his inhaler.
“I’m sick of it! It’s gone on far too long! I put up with this crap for a while because it was funny…(gasp, gasp)…at first. Now this shit is getting serious…(gasp, gasp)…and I’m about to freaking explode…(gasp, gasp)…and bust an oar right…(gasp, gasp)…across your freakin’ head!”
“Tea of green stuff?” I asked.

 

For Zippy, this seemed to have been the final straw. He turned even redder, and starting rummaging around the boat looking for something. Frustrated, he finally found a tackle box, beat himself on the head with it, then threw it in the lake. He seemed to be enraged.

 
“What the hell are you trying to do?” I asked.

 

 

“I’ve spent the last eight years pumping you full of Pop Tarts, Oreos, Snickers bars, pizza and ice cream. I’ve spent hours and hours getting your weight up. I can’t count the number of times I threw up from eating too much food. I paid my dues! And for what? So you can diet it all away? You have to be kidding me! This is total bullshit, and it has to stop. Who the hell do you think you are? Where does all this end? Look at you! Where the hell is my gut? How the hell am I supposed to squat without that thing? You look like a little high school cheerleader! Man the hell up and eat some fries, goddammit! Now you’re standing behind your pristine stove with a spatula in your hand cooking goddamned chicken and green peppers?!? Have you ever seen a chicken? You know what I’m saying, because YOU SAID IT. Have you ever seen a damned chicken? Have you seen the necks on those things? They’re the size of a toothpick! That’s how you’ll be benching if you keep this up. Eat a goddamned bull! At least they have jacked up necks like yours used to be…(gasp, gasp, gasp, gasp)…”

 

UTB belt
He pulled the back of his shorts up as high as he could, and he wrenched his belt on tight. He spread his legs, arched his back, pulled his chest up, and sat down. “Back, back, back…” he said to himself as he sat back. His form was perfect, yet still a couple of inches high.

 

 

He reached into his pocket, pulled out his inhaler again, and took a few quick puffs. He was sweating uncontrollably, and puddles were accumulating on the bottom of the boat. He’d soon be in need of a water pump to keep the boat from sinking.

 
“Now you’re training biceps!” he continued. “Curls are for girls! Tris are for guys! Don’t you remember that? Or has all the oil from fish diluted your brain? And what’s the deal with ‘choppers’? Choppers are for the road, not the damned gym!

 

 

“If you want to train those twistin’ muscles, go swing an axe! This whole before and after thing has got to go. You think this is motivating people? Motivating them to do what? Get small and weak? Look at those pictures. That first one where you’re over three-hundred is BY FAR the best of all of them. We worked hard for that. Do you remember the week before that picture was taken? Now that was a good time. Now…(gasp, gasp, gasp)…”

 
This must have taken Zippy past his lactic acid threshold. He’d started looking pale. Seconds later, he was heaving off the side of the boat. In between the acid reflux and dry heaves, he shouted, “Look! You’re making me siiiiiiiiiiick…”
What was I to do?
I thought about the good old days, envisioning heavy singles, force feeding sessions, shin splints, sore feet and cramped lower backs. I thought about not being able to fully turn my head from side to side, and I started missing it. Is that who I really am?

 

 

Who the hell had I become? What was I thinking? There’s nothing better than being big and strong, and not big and strong like most people think of it. I mean big ass big, and cock strong. Not like the guy in the gym who walks around wearing a tank top and carrying a shaker bottle.

 

 

OH MY GOD.

 

 

I was having one of those moments. You know what I mean? This was like when you think you’re good looking, then look in the mirror and see how little hope there really is. Was I really the shaker bottle guy?
Zippy lowered himself to one knee, and then the other. Once again, he was in his squat stance and started to rise. As he neared the top, he was shaking. I looked on wondering what the hell was going on. Was this the “Zippy Shake” I’d been hearing about all these years? The shaking made the boat rock from side to side, so much so that it was getting completely out of hand.

 

 

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I had no idea what to do. He was ready to go at the top of his squat, but he lacked total tightness. He would need to so some pull-down abs. I watched in disbelief and screamed, “Squat!” I was hoping he’d break his hips and sit back down, but he didn’t hear me. The shaking kept getting worse, and the boat eventually tipped over, sending him flying into the water. As soon as he broke the surface of the lake, a huge cloud of dust formed where he’d landed.

 
The sky flickered, and then I saw the worst sight a lifter could ever hope to see. This sight is worse than any injury. As lifters, we can deal with screaming kids eating all our Pop Tarts. We can deal with nagging neighbors who don’t understand our need to drag sleds at five in the morning. We can even deal with all the extra workouts we need to do. No, the sight I’m talking about here is the one that haunts you for years.

 

 

Before my eyes, in the sky, I saw three huge red lights.
I felt my eyes pounding, and the sensation moved through my cheeks and to the back of my head. Was my head about to explode? A finger jabbed at me. “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Get up!”
Get up.

 

Get up from what? Had I passed out? How long had I been asleep? Had it all been a dream? I looked to the sky, but I could only see a few stars and the moon. I looked for a capsized boat, but it wasn’t there. I grabbed my son’s hand, and we walked back up the hill to the house. I tried to sort it all out in my head. Was I doing the right thing? Am I being true to myself?

 

 

What’s happening to ME? Is this what I’ve spent my life working for? As I was trying to figure out what this all meant, I heard it again:

 

Zip, zip, zip…

 

I wheeled around to see if he was still there. Was he back for one more rant? I didn’t see any sign of him. This had to be my imagination.
Zip-zip, zip-zip, zip-zip…



This time it was an echo, and it came from much closer. Then I realized what was happening. The sound was coming from my two boys. Right then and there, I realized everything was going to be fine.

 

 

The journey was no longer just about me.

 

 

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