I was teaching math at the local high school at that time, and had an after school job instructing in the ‘Y’ weight room. It was late on a Friday afternoon. The place was crowded, and I was busy overseeing the workouts of several high school football players, when this very intense young man in his mid to late twenties walked up and asked for my help in getting started lifting weights.
He said his name was Jason Abraham, but went on to explain that he had changed his name from something more mundane like Roland Ducharme. The reason for the name change, he said, was because he had recently converted to Judaism and desired to have a biblical sounding moniker. I just grinned disarmingly and suggested he try some light leg presses after he had warmed up on the stationary cycle. I had been back working with the other members for only a couple of minutes when Jason approached me again, complained that his legs were “all tingly”, and asked what could be causing this.
“Well, ” I attempted to explain, but was cut off before I could answer by Mike Gittleson, an exercise science major at UNH. “That’s a buildup of lactic acid,” Mike told him, chuckling as he did so, “There’s a drop in pH taking place in the working muscles, with a rise in hydrogen ion concentration that may be interfering with the muscle’s ability to resynthesize ATP from ADP.” Then Mike added, “Go for it, dude!”
Jason, I determined, would be needing some close supervision. “Let’s try some upper body exercise,” I suggested. Then I showed him how to do bench presses with a pair of 20 lb dumbbells, and told him to rest for a few minutes while I returned to the other members in need of assistance. But then Jason approached me yet again. This time he complained that his arms were, “all tingly”, and again he asked me what could be happening to him.
“Y’know, I think…” came my hesitant response, but Mike Gittleson started talking about the pain barrier and somehow or other wove this with the philosophy of Neitczhe.
I told Jason to take a break and had him sit down until he was feeling completely normal. Not five minutes later he signaled me from across the room where he was now lying prostrate on the floor, told me that his head was “all tingly”, and then asked me to call his wife. “Your wife?” I said, not comprehending, “What for?” Immediately, he rolled over onto his back and shouted, “I’M DYING!” And with both arms reaching out toward the ceiling in supplication, he began to pray, “Hear me, oh God Of Israel, oh God of Abraham, Jacob, and Moses!”
Gittleson remarked from across the room, “Hey, Jim…what are ya doin’ to the poor guy?” “Jeeziz!” was all I remember saying at the time, and immediately summoned Dave Peoples, the ‘Y’ physical director. Not wasting a moment, Dave promptly called an ambulance. We all looked on in horror as Jason Abraham, erstwhile weight room habitué, was carted away in a stretcher upstairs and out of the building, wildly waving his arms and screaming his prayers in Hebrew all the way.
When I went to the ‘Y’ after school the following Monday, I touched base with Dave Peoples and was told that Jason Abraham was in no physical danger. “The problem with that guy, ” Peoples explained, “is that the workout in the strange environment triggered an LSD flashback.”
“Gee, LSD?” I said, trying to lighten the tension with sort of a joke, “And all along Mike Gittleson was trying to tell us that it was ATP.” A couple of weeks later I ran into Jason on Bridge St., but he told me he could never train at the ‘Y’ again. He said that he had shamed himself, his family, and his friends. Despite my encouragement he politely declined to ever again pursue exercise.
Today I’m told that Jason Abraham is living on a kibbutz in Israel. Mike Gittleson is strength and conditioning coach for the University Of Michigan Wolverines, and Dave Peoples is building houses. As for myself, I’m still lifting weights and writing about it on the Internet.
There are a million stories in the world of fitness…this has been one of them.