by Al Myers
Big Al in 2060 (ha-ha)
I fumble my way into the Dino Gym for another workout. I can’t believe it has been over 70 years since the first weight was lifted in the Dino Gym, and I’m still at this obsessive behavior of lifting weights. And especially now, because the sheer thought of getting stronger is a distant memory, only stirred when my wrinkled hands grab a weightlifting bar and stimulates the thought of a long ago personal record. But besides the passage of time, and the fact that I just had my 94 birthday, not much has really changed in the gym. We still lift on all the equipment we acquired back at the turn of the century, and the same guys are still the core gym members. Tuesdays nights have become legendary in all of our minds, as this has always been the day that we have our heaviest workout of the week. These workouts come and go, but there are will always be those that I will never forget.
As has been the custom, I am always the first one to get to the gym. I like to do this because it gives me time to “clear my mind” and focus on my workout goals of the day without distraction. That is the one thing that I HAVEN’T lost – the passion to lift weights and the joy that comes with succeeding in this ongoing battle, despite the weights I lift are less than my warm-ups 50 years ago. I start my routine, and after several pops and crackles in my back, I finally get my lifting shoes on. I consider that my first stretching exercise. As I’m looking at the pictures on the gym walls, I think about the good ole’ days, and in walks my longtime training partner Chad. Chad is still one of the youngsters of the gym at only 88, and walks without a limp. I’ve always been envious of Chad’s natural abilities, and even more now that I refused to get that hip of mine replaced, and got to use a dreaded cane to move around while Chad walks like a youngster. On top of that, I see now the benefits of Chad keeping his head shaved all of his life. I counted my hair the other day and finally my age outnumbers my hair follicles. Ever ambitious, Chad is ready to start lifting! I say, “let’s warm up with some light benches”. Unbeknownst to Chad, I like to start our workouts out with the bench because that is one lift I can still get him on. I have always been able to sucker Chad into anything. I lie down on the bench and crank out 5 solid reps with the bar. I once told myself that when I could no longer bench the bar it would be time to hang it up. I’m not so sure about that anymore, as the bar seems to be getting heavier with time. “Chad, give me a hand so I can get off this bench before I fall asleep”. As you get older, workout partners take on new roles besides just spotting you on a heavy set, you rely on them to help you up when you fall down, and with simple tasks like helping you put on your lifting belt.
Next in comes part of the Salina crew – Mark, Darren and Scott. Mark is the elder of the gym, and soon will be the first gym member over 100. At least he has the Super Masters Class to look forward to and the many possibilities of new age group records. Mark in the old days was the biggest of all of us, but now he barely tops 200 pounds. His wife talked him into liposuction many years ago and now he has the slimmest abdomen of all of us. He even has a handful of dark hair still left on his head. He doesn’t look a day over 70! Darren is the next one in the door, banging his walker on the doorframe to announce to all of us that he made 4 whole workouts this month! Like THAT is something to be proud of, but some things NEVER change. However all those years of pacing himself with his workouts has helped him in the end, because besides his four archilles tendon reattachments he is still in pretty good shape. Scott brings up the rear. I remember the day when Scott was the first in the gym among the Salina guys, but now he is the last one in, and walks like a zombie on a caffeine overdose. I told him years ago that strongman was going to eventually tear him up, but he wouldn’t listen to me, and he kept competing until he destroyed every joint and muscle in his body. I have always admired Scott’s tenacity about training, and marveled at his will to push himself through pain and continue to lift. But he has paid the price for it! I have lost count of his joint replacements and back fusions. “Where’s Chuck?”, I comment to the guys. “Oh, he’s not going to make it this week, but I did see him squat 200 pounds last week”, said Darren. I think to myself “that’s Chuck, a gifted lifter who can still squat big weights and miss Tuesday night workouts”. I have always wished I had his squatting ability. Finally in walks Big John, and he’s sweating profusely. “That walk from the car was a killer!”, he remarks. He huffs and puffs a few times as he collapses on the bench. Even after all these years he still doesn’t realize that his conditioning is his biggest nemesis! I look at him and ask how his cardio training was coming along. Big John replied, “well, I hope to only use a quarter of tank of oxygen tonight”. “That would be an improvement, all that oxygen you use makes me light headed”, I respond.
The crew is finally assembled for the workout. It’s time to get started. I declare to the group, “tonight’s gonna be a big night for us, we got that All-Round Postal Match with the JWC to do, and we haven’t let them beat us in over 70 years, and I don’t want it to start now!!”