Working out isn’t just for kids, meatheads, and steroid abusers – it’s keeping me happy and fit at 50
“DO YOU EVEN LIFT, BRO?” is what my son always says when I announce that I’m going to do some weights in the Top Room.
Like much of what has come out of his mouth since he was eight, the phrase: “Do You Even lift…?” is an ironic Internet meme; this one raising an eyebrow at my athletic pretensions.
According to Q&A website Quora ‘Do you even lift..?.’
is usually said when a man tries to do something that requires physical strength and fails or has delusions of grandeur about being able to perform an act that requires physical strength that the man clearly does not have.
Now, that’s unfair. I may be knocking on, but I can lift. Some.
Serious trainers would probably think I am simply mucking about with weights.
I don’t have a proper bench, I can’t press more than 150, and the free weights I use for my shoulders and lats are, quite frankly, risible. But, despite all that, lifting has become an important part of my life over the past few years.
At least once a week, I set aside a couple of hours and Chest Press, Dumbbell Flye, Shoulder Press, Bicep Curl and Lat Raise myself into a shape that I like.
At first, I found it terminally dull.
Carefully picking up bits of heavy metal, lifting them in the approved, most ergonomic manner and putting them down carefully again, in a fashion designed to avoid injury, is not exciting. Certainly not in the way that a 25-yard-screamer or a straight six was, back when I still played team sports.
Lifting is slow and stop start, and so gives you ample opportunity to think about being somewhere better – while running and cycling grip the athlete by perpetually compelling them to think about moving forward. One push at a time. one foot in front of the other.
Whatever. Lifting is a bit dull. So I put on the TV: sport, Netflix. Even BBC documentaries about the Tudor Navy or the Byzantine Empire are enough to take my mind off what I am actually doing
I break it up a bit by doing jobs around the house between the actual grunting and hefting – a bit like Jo Pavey, the European Champion runner, who used to do her strengthening exercises as she looked after her babies and emptied the dryer.
Chores such as the washing and bed-making are ideal to fit in between lifts and, that way, you feel like you are Getting Shit Done as well as getting buff.
Lately, moreover, lifting has become a valuable go-to activity when I am stressed or down on myself – because I know that just pushing a big weight up into the air is immediately calming and reassuring.
Look what you can do, I think. See how strong you are.
When I feel the tension, the strength, in my obliques and abs, I feel that I am carving a better me out of the poor clay – crisp and beer-corrupted – I give myself to work with.
I Side-Plank and Sit-Up and Deadlift my beer belly and veiny old legs into something approaching acceptability – happily accepting the slight cold-like symptoms I get in my limbs for a day or two after, while my muscle fibres reform after being broken.
And – unlike most other forms of exercise – lifting gives you an immediate visual payback because your muscles swell hugely for about 15 minutes after a session, before fading back into something a bit less Hulk..
So I look at myself in the mirror and, of course, I’m no Charles Atlas. No Arnie (thank goodness!)
I would still like a smaller waist, but on the other hand, I can see that I possess triceps, which not many middle-aged men can boast.
I can’t do the Pec Pop Of Love like The Rock in Journey 2 The Mysterious Island, but I ain’t got no Moobs, neither, bro…