Rocky de Leon
Carlos stared at the worn-out weight bench in front of him. The leather was cracked, the angle adjustment creaked more than the average set of joints at a nursing home, and the caster wheels had chunks taken out of them from being rolled over, he presumed, jagged rocks and 67 miles of coarse grain sandpaper. Still, it came at the great price of, “get this off my lawn.” Beside the bench lay a rack of what he imagined must be simple blocks of iron at various weights that someone managed to shave just enough away from the middle such that they could be marketed as having a “handle.” They were rough, unpolished, and just generally unpleasant to hold even with gloves on, but they served their purpose.
“You know,” he murmured to himself, “it’s about this time in the protagonist’s story arc that the director would insert a training montage.”
…but as it happens, that sort of bullshit only happens in movies or TV shows aiming to parody the trope. Rocky exhaled, took a big swig of water, and picked up the iron chunk with “30” gouged into each end. His arm was promptly thrust toward the floor as the force of gravity exerted upon the weight was far beyond that which his muscles were able to provide in the opposite direction. He continued down the rack until reaching the exceptionally demoralizing 10-pound weight. “You know, every time they say the pen is mightier than the sword, they fail to inform you that the dude holding the sword will still knock your block off if all you ever use is a pen.”
Carlos began the first of many sessions of moving the iron from one location to another. Over. And over. And over. Sweat poured from his brow, and it felt like he was swimming in his shirt. His breathing was labored, his muscles ached with fatigue, and his mind begged him to provide his body sweet release if not from the workout then from this mortal coil. He accepted defeat, set down his weights, grabbed his stopwatch, pressed the button, and read the display.
——————— one month later ——————————
As it turns out, the adage of “eat less, move more” is highly accurate when it comes to weight loss, but it is also wildly oversimplified (on top of being relatively unhelpful). Even more complex is the reality when one desires to both lose weight and add muscle to a dough-covered frame. Four weeks after his first workout, Carlos stepped on the scale. He eyed the number. He took off his towel and continued to stare. Surveying his body, he took off his college ring and, in desperation, his glasses. The scale both rewarded and mocked his effort, ticking down 0.1 pounds for the removal of his pride. 243. He had lost only 7 pounds – less than two pounds per week. He stared at the figure in frustration, and briefly debated hurling the scale at the closest solid wall. Instead, he walked from his bathroom and gracelessly flopped upon his bed.
Logically, he knew that he had also realized some “gains” from his workouts. He was now able to handle a solid half hour weight session, he had graduated to 20-pound dumbbells for curls, and he wasn’t even skipping leg day. That knowledge didn’t make the most quantifiable measure of his efforts sting any less. If his resolve wavered, that diversion was fleeting and momentary. He pulled out his journal and a pen; while Carlos’s professional work product was always ultimately typed, the act of writing required the tactile sensation of pen nib scraping on paper. His thoughts and emotions flowed through his mind, his arm, and his fingers. The pen was the final link of that chain, and the ink flowed as his blood on the page. It was his life, his essence, in every drip of the world’s most expensive consumer fluid from a Uniball Gel Micro. Also, the notepad was next to his bed, and the computer keyboard was waaaaaaaay over there. Standing seemed hard. Walking more so.
Every day, I gain newfound appreciation for these muscled braggadocios. The words that flow from their mouths reek of pure arrogance, but that arrogance and confidence is well earned. As I write this, collapsed on a pile of “medical grade” latex foam that passes for a mattress these days, I watch yet again the recording of PRIME greatest hits that I made over the years, recording live competitions to DVR. I see herculean athletes throwing other men my weight (only far denser, as I don’t believe anyone on this screen exceeds 7% body fat) as though they were rag dolls. Every inch of this paradoxically square ring is their domain, and they, every one of them, walk it as if they own it. And yet, each one of them has the exact same goal despite knowing it is impossible for more than one of them to achieve it. That belt. That shining beacon that shows the world, “I am the greatest. I know it. And now they know it, and they cannot deny it.” That belt is glory; that belt is everything. I want it, and, I tell myself, I will have it. One step at a time, I will get to the top of that hill. The first step is simple – get out of this bed.
——————— six months later ——————————
Carlos noted his measurements in his tracking app, taking results for diameter of biceps, thighs, shoulders, waist, and chest. He flexed in the mirror, admiring the results of his dedication. He could no longer pinch even an inch at his tummy where previously he grabbed handfuls of flab. Replacing his former storehouse of winter energy lay a set of abdominal muscles you could bounce a quarter off. His arms were no longer his, but rather must have been borrowed from some comic book super hero. His legs now more reminiscent of Saquon Barkley than Paul Prudhomme. Veins popped out a little in just the right places, and at just the right depth to be aesthetically pleasing. He stepped on the scale for the last time before formally beginning training for his professional wrestling career. There was no mockery or sadness in the digits before him – there was nothing but pride, arrogance, and confidence as he deftly wrote in his journal and savored every single pen stroke.
Two. One. Five.
He got dressed and headed out the door. Looking at the belt around his waist, he adopted a grimace of disgust, for this belt was wholly inadequate. It was time to get a new one.