When I first became interested in how people train I got my fair share of Muscle&Fitness radiation. Back in those days I knew little about training aids, how the body works or what was possible. To me, bodybuilders just did "more" of what other people did. I admired them for the discipline, the time it took to get where they are and the courage to stay at the top. Eating, training and sleeping were all rolled up into one devoted end result - to compete, win and ultimately, be satisfied with who you are. Back in those days I knew who Arnold was, I could recognize Franco Columbu from any shot and I knew who won the Olympia. That was a long time ago, seems like ages separate me from the awe and respect I had for those guys.
Enter the year 2007. I am an NSCA certified personal trainer, more knowledgeable than ever before and climbing a steep and steady learning curve. I don't train like a bodybuilder, and I could describe my current goal as "corrective fat loss". I train weight loss clients, deconditioned housewives, lazy teenagers and promising young career people. I don't train bodybuilders and I probably never will, since I am on the health and happiness side of the business. I will gladly share the iron and brass tools of the trade with the guys from the covers of magazines, but I will not play. It's just not who I am.
Enter last night.
My husband calls me and says: "Hey, do you know who Flex Wheeler is? " and I'm like "Yeah, do you know who Arnold is, c'mon?". Then he says: "Do you want to go out with him, he's in Sofia". So we do. The guy is super nice, friendly and giving. We talk about life, training and happiness. I was really excited to meet him. The hard work someone at his level has put in has layered his personality with extra energy and true charisma.
Here is what got me! I was quite surprised at how much joy and inspiration I felt. The last 5 years I have been so far from the bodybuilding world that all the emotion I had was built on what I once felt for it. The same way a bad emotional memory can come up to the surface, I had a happy emotional memory spring up from my past. Flex's partner asked if I wanted to train with them in the morning, and I said yes, you can't miss such an opportunity, sore trap or no sore trap!
Sunday. I meet them at a large bodybuilding gym, where I find out I will be working out with Flex and all the other people that are gathered around the protein bar are just there to meet him, but will be waiting till we get done.
We move on to work out and there's this large crowd just standing there. There were competitors in skimpy tops, excited girlfriends, and very important people I didn't know. He says: are you ready to go? And we go. I don't know why, but I didn't expect it would be just us two.
He starts and I follow. Bicep/tricep day.
My functionally trained body rebels. I am here to learn, so I have this mixed feeling of...dang I will be sore for my strength workout and my trap is not healed and then the waves of excitement drown all my concerns.
We start of with hammer curls, move on to tricep pushdowns, follow it with one arm bicep curls on machine, then overhead extensions then scott curls, ahhhh. 4x10, 4x15, 4x20. I would rather squat till I fall any day. At one point we were doing machine curls and I said, man...I am not doing another set, this machine sucks. I don't see how the benefits can outweigh the discomfort. So he says, you know what, you're right, let's move on.
What impressed me about the way he trains:
- He looked proud with what he does. It looked like he completely enjoyed and took pride in his training.
- He did what feels good to him. Now that he doesn't compete, I guess he just does what he loves most
- He had rhythm. I tried to talk to him about tempo. He said he just feels it. Wanted me to get a nice music going there for me.
- Focus: Flex was focused and I mean focused. None of what we did was super heavy or scary looking, but he was all into it, thinking and connecting.
He used supersets, short rests, tons of reps and could really push past the point of tired. It might have looked like he was only going to get 8 reps and then he got 20.
Flex was very generous with his time, counting every rep I did with the calm of a partner, didn't push me in a way to make me feel small or incapable. He was attentive, very particular about form and truly supportive. It felt like having a workout buddy, an older brother, just one that really feels comfortable with his game.
I never do any of the isolation work we did or if I play with a curl or extension it's for a very short time. The volume we did was crushing to me.
We were done in a bit over an hour and we decided to see a football game together that same night. Signed photos were in order and then we parted.
I had trouble using my arms for the rest of the day and two days later my arms are still recovering. My soul still rejoices because I encountered a long buried joy with training. I rediscovered a feeling, not exactly the approach to how we built our bodies. I've been very strong in my workouts this week, partly because of that rekindled spirit. It's the same feeling you get when you fall in love, only now you already play the game and you enjoy it more.