The Road Less Traveled
People often go through their life working-out and going to the gym to get “buff.”For ninety-five percent of Americans that do work out, few can say that they have pushed themselves as hard as possible, but I have the distinct, and often painful, pleasure of knowing that there is another way to work out.This option is unlike any other that I have ever personally been through; and is a way that I would not wish on any average American.4:55 a.m. Seventeen degrees Fahrenheit, a mild breeze of ten miles per-hour– for the fifth day in a row and second consecutive month, it is time for me to wake up, make the face-numbing, core-hardening walk through the snow to the Mildred and Louis Lasch Football Building.
After the half-mile hike, a swipe of my student identification card opens the door.A quick walk to the locker room takes the prisoners of pain into line for their uniform.We pull on stale, manila shirts; manila, of course, from previous uses.Each resembles an old Mexican poncho, failing to conform to our bodies.The matching shorts follow; both shirt and shorts are embossed with one simple letter, “S.”The men, clad in uniform and barely awake, file out of the locker room, silently shuffling down the dimly lit back hallway, dreading the impending infliction of pain.Each socked foot becomes heavier, latching onto each fiber of carpet, but human will, not muscle mechanics, moves our warm, muscle bound, ligament and tendon attached, skin encased carcasses to the double doors.Thirteen feet away, the pungent smell of hot rubber, cool iron, moldy sweat and old coffee collides.Most men gag at this point, but the leader of the pack enters the room and there is but one choice.
Thirteen thousand square feet of machines, weights, ropes, chains, and pain.The fluorescent lamps fill the room with an unnatural light.Sunlight, just like excuses, is not allowed in Satan’s lair.Each horse is paired up with his driver.A seven minute warm-up is prescribed by the trainer, and so it starts.I jump on the stationary bicycle.A light breeze against my bare legs blows gently attempting to cool me, but does little to diminish the internal burn of the quadriceps and hamstrings.Upon completion of the warm up, John Thomas, former Navy S.E.A.L., commands me to join him at the manual neck resistance station.There I am, lying on a bench, neck limp at one end, feet anchored to the floor at the other.Pulling my neck up, immediately I am met with resistance.Twelve repetitions is the goal, but with this vein-popping resistance, five seems to be a much more realistic goal, but Mr. Thomas thinks otherwise.Feeling the flood of blood to my head, my eyes close mostly from the throbbing but also because the visible color spectrum is becoming remarkably dull with each repetition.“Fight, fight, fight…resist at the top…down and good,” the coffee laden breath of J.T. hits me, and it is off to the next exercise.
Literally working our way down from neck to calf, the next exercise focuses on the trapeazous muscles of the upper back.The commander calls for his soldier, and there I am.A vertical row seems easy but with one-hundred and ninety-five pounds, this movement becomes much more difficult.The salty sweat is beginning to form a solid stream down my temples, cascading down my neck and settling in the collar of my shirt.The knots now formed from pushing through fourteen repetitions burn deep into my spine with the heat of an oven turned on broil.Two exercises down; eight left to go.Do not be fooled though; today is a “light day.”
Onto the MXP pull down; this is a plate loaded machine, designed for the lattimus dorsi, biceps and triceps, and front deltoid muscle groups.Seated perfectly upright, much like the spine of a hardbound book, so too am I.I pull down the cool, steel, diamond cut grips to my chest.The fury of intensity and the pleasure of pain numbs the torn flesh as the blisters burst underneath the calluses and soon the trickle of blood slides down my arm and adds to the saturation of the cotton shirt.
Now with half-a-dozen skin flaps on my hands, the next exercise is designed for grip.A five foot long bar, six inches in diameter with an eight foot welded chain hanging from the middle resembles a weapon used in the Coliseum during the times of Roman Antiquity.Standing against the cinder block wall of the torture chamber, I drop my knees into ninety degree angle and remain in this position for the remainder of the exercise.I begin rolling the rust encrusted bar, hand over hand, until the last link of the chain has reached the top of the bar, and then back down in the exact same fashion.Forearms-a-fire, I leave the bar moist with my sweat and blood for the next victim of the wrist roller.
Four yards, diagonally to my left is the.