"Fifty-nine is the new ninety."

- Howard Stern


Irv: How are you feeling, sheriff?

Sheriff Owens (Schwarzennegger): Old.

- The Last Stand


Firstly, I'm out of shape. Let me toss that out. It pains me to admit it. Pains me, especially in this forum.

Secondly, I feel old. Not ready-for-the box old, but tired malaise old.

Thirdly, I'm not sure this piece has any value for your programming. Your life? Perhaps. Programming? Not so much...but you've already got Westside, Block, Cube, Sheiko, and 5/3/1 for that. You can tuck those trusty tomes into your respective laptops or, if you're a hard copy guy like I am, you can tuck them under your sweat-soaked pillow and wait for the osmosis learning to kick in.

I'm digressing. Perhaps I'm stalling, procrastinating so I don't have to face the inevitable. Eventually I have to move the weight. I have to apply the effort and stop being a pretender.

I'm older and my life is out of balance. Let's face it, it's challenging to maintain balance—and I'm not talking to you young guns holding life by the proverbial nuts.

The impossible balance—you crush it at work to the detriment of your family life, or you spend all of your time focused on your training and both work and your family suffer the consequences. Those are just two quick examples. It's damn challenging to maintain balance. Hell, it's challenging to balance training for a full powerlifting meet—squat is up and bench suffers, bench is up and your pull has gone to shit. It's hard to hit on all cylinders, especially for those of us who are not twenty anymore. To be candid, I think I've yet to do it.


“I live alone. I train alone. I’ll win the title alone. I can’t be beat…and I won’t be beat.”

- Clubber Lang, Rocky III

I've been living alone in a one bedroom apartment for the last six months. I'll keep the reasons to myself (at least for now), but they pertain to the usual stuff—career, life, and providing for a family.

The decision to rent the apartment I selected was, at its core, an economic decision, which is to say that I elected to go discount over premium. I've been living frugally over the last several months—envision more Clubber Lang and less Donald Trump. Most of us start our lives comparable to where the original Rocky did and where Sly Stallone did, which is at the bottom, pitching our respective scripts. Scratching and clawing to get ahead. I’m on a first name basis with scratching and clawing.

It's 10:30 p.m. on a frigid and rainy Tuesday, and I'm driving into the apartment complex, just getting home from work. I'm tired—tired and frustrated, and discouraged because I haven't been training regularly. Yeah, I’ve been getting to the gym now and then. From time to time I handle some weight. However, what I'm doing isn't really training. I'm comparable to an alien from outer space trying to blend in at a gym, just going through the motions, just doing enough so that I can rationalize "at least I’m doing something."

"What training program are you using?" Phil asks me. I don’t know Phil well; I met him only a couple of times while training in a commercial gym. Phil is an ethical hacker.

"None," I respond. "I'm just trying to handle weight while I wait for my 'eye of the tiger' to come back."

Phil looks confused, but I keep my mouth closed.

I want to say, "Phil, don't worry about it. I'm confused too. I'm confused and I feel as old as fuck."

My apartment complex technically doesn't offer assigned parking. I lean forward, peering between my worn wipers and notice that there is a green Lamborghini parked in the thin row of spaces in front of my unit. What the hell was a Lamborghini doing in my parking space? To that question I still have no answer.

It's hard after a fourteen-hour workday to hike a quarter of a mile in the rain to get to your cold apartment, especially when you're in a bad mood and/or when your knees are sore from getting too far forward on a squat and/or when you're just missing your family. I'm older now. Older and pissed. I'm not quite sure what happened. It kind of snuck up on me all at once.

The Beginning

In 1976, my Great Uncle John and second cousin Stephen inadvertently planted the seeds that grew into my participation in the Iron Game. I was six years old and living in Stratford, Connecticut, at the time, and I was a frequent visitor to their house, a modest cape also in Stratford. Great Uncle John, then fifty-five, and Stephen, a young bodybuilder, were always in the basement. I had no idea what they were up to down there, but having the curiosity of a precocious young pipsqueak, I desperately wanted to find out.

Eventually they permitted me access. Either they figured I was at an age where I couldn’t get into too much trouble, or more likely, they weren’t given the choice. (Great Aunt Helen probably had enough of me messing up the upstairs while running amok as children do). That moment was thirty-seven years ago, and it marked my initial introduction to weight training and the home gym concept.

I can tell you there was no elitefts™ equipment. Great Uncle John was sprawled across a homemade bench, padded only with a thin carpet remnant. He was banging out the reps with a traditional bar (not an Olympic bar) and cement-filled plastic weights from Sears—the “Ted Williams Line." Stephen was across the concrete floor, working through some high-rep breathing squats with an Olympic set and homemade free-standing squat stands—two thick pipes welded into old wheels, which served as the base. There was no spotter or cage in sight (strictly old school— failure was not an option).

I didn’t fully understand what they were doing, but on some level I knew they were working to get stronger. They were doing things I couldn’t do, and though only six years old, I wanted to be a member of their club. Their hard work, straining under the iron, provided irrevocable experiences that would forever change my life.

The Recent

"Then I realized, I’m too old. I’m not lost in my twenties, looking for love, a career and stability. I’ve found who I am. I may or may not like me, but I’ve got to accept me. Whereas when you’re young and dumb the world is your oyster, your dream is to conquer it. And then you get old enough to realize it’s not only beyond your grasp, it’s beyond anybody’s grasp, you’re gonna be here, then be gone and be forgotten, so you might as well enjoy the ride."

- Bob Lefsetz, author of "The Lefsetz Letter," an email, newsletter, and internet blog

It’s roughly thirty-seven years later. I'm trudging back to the apartment. I'm holding a backpack containing clean training clothes, a fraying briefcase, a small and worn coffee thermos, and a tired sports coat. My cell phone rings as I reach the Lamborghini, and I accidentally drop my coat and briefcase into a murky puddle while trying to answer it.

That’s when the rage strikes me. It twists my civility like a Ronda Rousey arm-bar. Suddenly, I’m hit with an irrational urge. I want to key the Lamborghini—just scratch the shit out of that sleek green fucker. I’ve never vandalized anything in my life, but at the moment, I’m overcome with irrational anger and frustration.

My keys are balled-up in an angry claw, rearing back like an angry cobra ready to strike.

What am I doing?

I don’t do it.

Of course I don’t do it.

I quietly pick up my stuff and trudge up the stairs and into my mental abyss.

My frustrations are valid, but my problems are nothing. They’re all manufactured. They aren’t real problems, only speed bumps on life’s road. We frequently forget how lucky we are. I share these life trials, not to complain, but to let you know, dear readers, that you’re not alone. We all fight these battles. We all have our internal wars.

I’m writing because it’s cathartic. I’m picking myself up off the canvass as I type these words (I feel as though I’ve used this expression before).

I need to stop complaining and move the weight.

The Present

This past Sunday I began to read The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield discusses overcoming what he calls The Resistance in order to increase productivity. The book is probably worth your time. Fifty-seven pages into the paperback, I dog-eared a corner, threw it on a chair, and donned my shorts and Chucks.

Thirty minutes later I was in the gym moving weight. It was that easy.

I’d overcome The Resistance.

I felt alive again, but most importantly, I felt magnificent.

As Jennifer Petrosino would say, I’m back on the path to restoring my BAMF status.

Keep scratching and clawing.

Overcome The Resistance.