In our continuing quest at BoomerCafé to hear about baby boomers’ backgrounds, Alan Paul of Hawthorne, New Jersey, wrote to us about his lifelong affinity for weight training. He gave his story a name that should explain itself — even the punny part — but we don’t leave anything to the imagination around here, so we’ll just remind you of Mel Gibson’s movie many years ago, The Year of Living Dangerously, when we tell you the title of Alan’s piece: The Years of Lifting Diligently.
I don’t look much like a bodybuilder, owing to less-than-stellar genetics and my lifelong affinity for pizza and other foods that I should clearly be much more prudent about ingesting.
And yet I lift weights. I began as a teenager back in the Sixties. I was a somewhat sickly kid who was fortunate enough to have an older friend and mentor (and, in truth, guardian angel) living nearby, who introduced me to weight lifting and taught me (among other life lessons) how to weight-train safely and successfully. His tutelage proved so fruitful that I went on to play football and lacrosse in high school and into college. I developed such an affinity for “resistance training” that I have performed it diligently, on and off, my entire life. Even now I continue to train at least five days a week.
Where my years of resistance training have served me well is in the area of strength-gain. Today, at sixty-nine years of age, I am still able to perform many resistance training exercises using weights equal to, or greater than, those of many fellow gym rats one-third my age. Yes, this surprises me, but there it is.
Back in the day, I did my weightlifting mostly in garages and basements, among friends who had a similar passion for developing muscles. At the time, we did it partly to increase strength and fitness for football but, truth be told, we did it primarily to attract girls. I don’t know that it did any of us much good for girl-getting, but it certainly produced some strength and mass gains, and imparted a degree of friendship and camaraderie that I still share with some of the guys with whom I trained all those years ago.
We used to read the muscle magazines back then, like Joe Weider’s Muscle Builder (later renamed Muscle & Fitness), Bob Hoffman’s Muscular Development, and Dan Lurie’s Muscle Training Illustrated. We worshipped guys like Steve Reeves, Dave Draper, Larry Scott, Sergio Oliva and, of course, Arnold himself, who was arguably the greatest competitive bodybuilder of all time. At one of these basement/garage gyms where I trained, my muscle-headed comrades and I used to wear our cutoff sweatshirts inside-out, because our gym’s motto was “Turn it inside-out,” meaning, train as hard as humanly possible during each and every workout. Years later, the phrase “No pain, no gain” became the preferred weightlifting war cry in gyms the world over.
Twelve or fifteen years into the future I would become Editor of one of those magazines I had read as a teenager, Muscular Development. I had the opportunity to meet Arnold, Reeves, Scott, Oliva, and many others. I even trained with a few of them on occasion. I produced the publication for the next eleven years, becoming deeply immersed in the glamorous and glitzy, if sometimes also dark and dirty, professional bodybuilding culture.
I wasn’t unhappy to leave the world of competitive bodybuilding and go back to my basement gym, wearing my inside-out, cutoff sweatshirts. While they were neither glamorous nor glitzy, they were always clean. And I felt quite comfortable in them.