A good training partner is worth his weight in parakeets.
Article originally published in Fitness Motivation Newsletter of July 2008
I was probably 12 years old that Sunday morning as I sat in church with my family. Like many youngsters, my mind was everywhere except on the sermon. That is until the moment when the priest mentioned something that made my ears perk up. He told the congregation to imagine a strong-man lifting the very heaviest weight that he possible could. In my mind I could see that guy pressing the loaded bar over-head with arms shaking. The priest went on to say that if a parakeet flew out of the sky and landed on that bar, it would crash to the floor because that man would have exceeded his abilities. The priest then went on to say that God’s abilities are limitless and, right about then, my mind went off somewhere else again.
Now, each of us is aware of our limitations. I, for example, can chest press 205 pounds, (on a good day, when all the stars line up for me). That is my personal limit. I know it, well. But what makes you and me similar to each other, and, different from non-exercisers, is that we continuously strive to increase our personal limit. You see, each of us has some undefined genetic limit that is dictated by hundreds of factors unknown to us. And each of us is somewhere between “close to” or “far away from” our genetic limit depending on our personal efforts to date. One thing’s for sure, if we do nothing, or continue doing whatever we have been doing all along without change, our hopes for huge improvement are very low. I learned that the hard way, years ago.
At the time, I was about 25 or 26 years old and I was a hard-core aerobic-holic. I loved running and bicycling and that was the extent of my exercise. My body was plenty lean but also free of annoying muscle mass! A friend of mine who was into strength-training invited me for a work-out with him. At the bench press that day I was totally embarrassed when I could not chest press even 85 pounds! Looking back on it now, I should have concluded: “I need to do some strength training to improve this shortcoming of mine”. Unfortunately I wasn’t that smart at the time and, not wanting to embarrass myself again on the chest press I decided, “strength training just isn’t for me”. I didn’t try strength training again for another 18 years. I guess I was just too happy with where I was with my aerobic work and as a result I missed many valuable years of muscle building opportunity.
You know, our friends can sometimes see things that we cannot because we are too content and comfortable with where we are. Often, we reject well intended suggestions and advice because it doesn’t seem to fit our mode of thinking at the moment. This is unfortunate because if we would only keep an open mind, occasionally, our friends can lead us to something really, really, good. Over the years I’ve easily worked out with more than a hundred different people. And I would wager that I learned something from almost every one of them. No two people train exactly the same way. And there are lessons to be learned in all that variation. The more years of training we have under our belt, the more things we have to forget. The other day I saw a guy doing “Zottman Curls”, an exercise I had totally forgotten about. (I wrote about Keith Shultz doing Zottman Curls in the June’s issue of the Fitness Motivation Newsletter.) I used to do “Zottmans” all the time but somehow I had forgotten about them. So, what things have you forgotten? By keeping our eyes open and observing others as they go through their routine and by “working in” and training with others we can be reminded of those things lost to that recycle bin in our brain.
Now where was I?
Oh yes, the “training partner – parakeet” thing. I often work out by myself and I think I give myself a pretty good workout. But working out with a partner who is tuned in to me enables me to perform at my very best for that day. A good training partner will shoo away that parakeet before it lands on your bar thus enabling you to do whatever physical endeavor you desire; faster, higher and stronger than you could ever hope to do on your own. And of course, you then have the joy of returning the favor. And let me say this about that; it is most satisfying when your words of encouragement and subtle confidence-building helps your partner to push to a new personal limit.
Everybody’s a winner in that game.
Thanks for reading,