Lifting is not who I am, but rather it is what I do. However, it is something I do not want to do without at this time. I have previously written about the situation with my arthritic shoulders. For those unaware, over 40 million Americans suffer from arthritis and it is the leading cause of disability in the US. By 2020, it is estimated that 20% of the population will have arthritis. I was lucky enough to be born into a family with a long history of sufferers. It eases my mind somewhat to know that regardless of my lifting, my fate was inevitable. You cannot avoid fate by fleeing it. I would have had this sooner or later, but I just hastened its arrival. I have never had any patience. Since my last article I have been relieved to discover that not all orthopedic doctors are arrogant self-centered pricks and that I may not be destined for the equivalent of a weightlifting death penalty, at least not yet. Who says the appeals process is a bad thing? It is only deemed negative if someone else is involved or if one’s political leanings are to the far right.

Lately I cannot sleep and I am continuously restless because any period of down time leads me to self loathe and to ponder the ongoing issue of my lifting. I realize that it all seems so irrational, petty, and to many downright stupid. The idea that cold, hard, inanimate, and unforgiving iron cannot be discarded like yesterday’s trash. Many say, just quit and throw in the damn towel. It may be difficult to fathom, but I can’t, at least not at the present. I grew up in a somewhat dysfunctional family headed by a hardworking mother and a father who was not always present because of a passion for the bottle. This has since changed and he is a dad I have come to respect and in many ways emulate. Dad never saw the glass as half full because to him it was half empty and in many cases it was totally void of anything. To me, lifting is representative a several values that were instilled in me while growing up in a community of hardheaded German Catholics. Lifting in my eyes reflects how hard I have worked and how I have refused to quit because of discipline and tenacity. Most people I know cannot relate to my quandary over lifting because they have never been dedicated to anything for over a month in their life, much less for over two decades. And unlike others, the iron has always been a continuous presence. A bad workout has always been better than none at all. I was really never praised growing up, so it allowed my ego to be stroked by outsiders who did not really know me, but admired me nonetheless because they knew they did not have what it takes to do what I did. It is the great equalizer.

I fear two things on a consistent basis which are the loss of my beloved dog, Cheyenne, and the inability to lift heavy iron. This gnaws at my very being and actually haunts me to the point of causing periods of overwhelming anxiety. I have promised to halt my quest for maximum weight on my 40th birthday. My boxer is eight and will be ending her earthen journey around the same time based on average life expectancies. I foresee the loss of two of my greatest friends and life partners at around the same period in my life. The absence of them will be incomparable to any loss I have experienced. It may sound weird, but these two have always stood by me unconditionally. What else can you ask of friends?

Enough boo-hooing and lamenting. Now for an update on my chronic shoulder condition and what I plan to do in order to facilitate my lifting. I paid a visit to my chiropractor who has been nothing but supportive and upfront with me. He looked at my recent x-rays and was astonished at the degree of arthritis and the sheer size of my bone spurs. He even remarked that it was rather impressive, but “nothing to be proud of Rusty.” I have more spurs than a typical rodeo or a Clint Eastwood western. Some are the size of Luxembourg. Actually, to be more accurate, a few record breakers are the dimensions of the tip of my pinky down to the first crease in the finger. My chiropractor hinted that it was time to hang up my six shooters by prodding me to focus my energies elsewhere. He urged me to channel my energies to different facets of my life. Yeah right. Channeling my energy is like roping a tornado. It is not like I only lift. I do admit that it is tough for me to do something else for a hobby or pastime because at school where I teach, for example, I am known as the Power B or Big B solely based on my lifting prowess. Am I supposed to be like Jesse Ventura and evolve from the body to the mind? I envision my latter years as the “power instructor” or the “power philosopher.” I lift therefore I am. I think not. Hell, in the classroom I even pull a Bob Dole and speak in third person. The Power B says test tomorrow. It is like an alter ego or even an escape mechanism similar to my dogs when I use them to pick on my wife. For example, the dogs said that your roast was not up to par this time honey. Boy, this alleviates a lot of stress and accountability.

I met with a new orthopedic doctor recently and I can honestly say that I left his office with a bounce in my step and a slight smile on my face which is much better than leaving with a puckered asshole as I did at the previous doctor. Everything he said made me pucker. The new doctor actually told me that I should not stop cold turkey on the lifting. He remarked that the cat was already out of the bag, so keep doing what you’ve been doing. I informed the new doc that I have only been hitting the bench every other week and I never go to the chest on my reps. The typical depth of my pressing motion is a 2 or 3 board. He agreed that my approach makes sense and is reasonable. My options are sparse for my shoulders. There is a 50/50 chance that shoulder replacement surgery will be in my future, but by then I predict that technology will be advanced enough to allow me to be like Steve Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man! Johnny Hydraulic! I also have the option of a so-called clean up surgery and I have started Vioxx for inflammation. My new doc seems to understand me a bit better and this makes all the difference for a proper mindset and to avoid assault and battery charges.

I will share certain strategies for lifters who are experiencing similar problems and for those who want to prevent what happened to me. A well known nutritionist who works with weightlifters offered several techniques to reduce my inflammation. He recommends drinking at least 4 liters of water per day. I also increased my consumption of Omega 3’s, while limiting Omega 6’s. Oils such as olive and flaxseed are mainstays in my regime and I recently added fish oils in the form of gel -caps. I am confident the fish oils will work because in my whole life I have yet to see an Eskimo at an ortho’s office. It is suggested that protein should be taken moderately while supplementing with moderately high dosages of vitamin C (3-6 grams per day) and a joint supplement such as glucosamine, chondroitan, and MSM.

As mentioned previously, for the last couple of months I have only benched once every other week. This has lessened some of my pain and oddly enough has not hindered my lifting, especially repetition work. The following are some of my workouts from the past months:

Reverse cambered bar up to 405 for 17 reps. Best ever is 18 reps.
Steel log for 53 reps off the floor

Rug Press- like a 2 or 2 1/2 board up to 455 for 10 reps
5 boards up to 455 bar weight plus 130 lbs. of chain for 10

2 boards up to 455 bar weight plus the monster minis doubled
D-bells up to 120’s for 15 off the floor and 150’s for 10.

I have also hit 500 for 10 off 3 boards and 615 for 5 off 5 boards straight weight. The point is that I have maintained my strength, but I have reduced my amount of sets and exercises thus decreasing my overall volume. I did remove plyometric or ballistic type movements because of the excessive jarring of the shoulder joint. Personally, the absence of full ROM presses has garnered me the most relief from pain.

*I have been doing tons of back work and I use the kettlebell for swings which seems to aid my shoulders by opening them up.

I know a lot of people say they save their lifts for a meet and that gym lifts are not worthy and a waste of time. I have been told to save myself and hit some big numbers before I hang it up. Why? I tend to disagree that I should devote my energy and resources to post meet lifts only. For whose pleasure? I always try to beat my gym records and I train hard all year. I honestly care more about beating a PR on my gym’s record board than a useless award, trophy, or accolades that get me no where in life, especially economically. I believe I at least have the capacity to logically see that when lifting infringes on my well being or that of my family it is time to cease and desist. I will quit when I start having to say, “I used to do that.” I do know that my competitive nature will not lead me to golf, shuffleboard, or Frisbee football. Man, I always wanted to rock. I do believe a guitar purchase is on the horizon. Boy, max effort guitar work on Saturdays emphasizing heavy riffs and speed day on Wednesday sounds good.

“In youth the absence of pleasure is pain, as you get older the absence of pain is pleasure.”

Good lifting!
Maximus Creppitus