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The Perfect Set

The workday is about to come to an end. I turn off all of the machines, and as I walk the room, I walk slowly, standing tall, chest out, feeling powerful, breathing deeply. I know what is coming.

I walk the same way to the faculty room, heat up my chicken and rice, and walk back to my room and sit down at my desk. As I sit, I eat, chewing slowly, thinking about training. I plan the session in my mind. I perform the exercises in my head to help make my selections for the day. My heart rate is slowly rising, and as I continue to eat, I am conscious of increased blood flow to the muscles. I sit tall in my chair, chest out, stomach out too, feeling full from the food and all of the water I’ve been drinking all day. Everything is falling into place.

On the ride over I sit up in the seat, chest out again, lats spread so that they are crowded into the side supports of the sport seats. The workout is taking place in my head and I notice very little bit of what is going on around me. I drive on, and as I get closer, pull out a faithful, trusty tune that has been the prologue to many intense training sessions. I park in “my” spot, shut the car off, and let the song finish. I tell myself “This is serious business”, and awkwardly climb out of the car, as would a 330 pound powerlifter or off-season bodybuilder.

I walk slowly, and powerfully, breathing deeply, heart rate rising. I open the door, scan my card, head down the stairs, and open the door from the corridor. My house. This is MY house.

I head toward the mats, acknowledging the regulars, and stretch gently while I finalize plans for the workout. As I sit, stand, and stretch, my heart rate is steadily increasing. After seeing the successful workout several times in my mind, I head over to the bench, squat down and stretch some more, using the bench for assistance. I’m ready.

After adjusting the height of the uprights, I begin loading the bar. Everyone knows me, but they still look twice when they see my tiny warm-up weights. My heart rate continues to rise, as I progress up through the warm-up sets. Blood is moving into my chest. After each set I do a few shrugs with no weight and blood begins to move into my traps. My heart rate climbs higher. I’m getting an overall “pump” as general circulation increases. It’s time, brother; it’s time.

I load the bar, and as I add plate after plate, even those who have not before experienced my greatness look to see what is going on. I put on the clips. Still standing, I center the bar. I hold the bar, feeling the iron in my hands, knowing that THIS bar is going to do it for me. I NEED this. I own this. Ésta es mi casa.

I pace once or twice, pause, breathe deeply, and feel blood in my thighs and glutes. Blood in the lower body gives me a solid base. A solid base means a solid lift. Fight or flight has taken over as I literally shake from the adrenaline in my veins. I feel huge. I feel strong. I am so scared. Everything has fallen into place. Everything is right.

I motion for my spotter, turn and sit down. Getting firmly planted in the seat, I lay back. Feeling the blood in my lats I “crunch” back to put a hint of an arch in my back, glutes and upper back firmly against the bench. I let my arms slowly lower out to the sides and do a fly. I squeeze at the top to let my chest know it is about to do some work. My head tilts back slightly. My hands wrap around the bar. The thumbs loop back around with the other fingers. I adjust my feet, both flat on the floor with the right foot slightly farther back, and I brace myself.

I TEAR THE BAR OFF THE RACK LIKE IT WAS BOLTED ON. Deep breath. In and out. DEEP breath. Chest and stomach out. I lower the bar, elbows wide, and touch my chest, with just a hint of a pause I reverse direction. OH YEAHHHHH. Pushing…pushing…up…to lockout, pause, and BREATH DEEP. Lower again, staying wide, touch, reverse, and press. Three times and then the last rep. Hold it at the top. Several DEEP breaths. “I’ve got this, Paul.” “This is everything. This is everything. This is my world”. Lowering, touching, pressing. Slowing down, time to focus on the right side. OH YEAHHH comes out of me as I finish the rep, barely moving up. A lock, and a rack. The set is done.

I sit up, heart pounding, totally and completely high from the experience.

Pride. Power. Self-respect. Blood flow. A flood of emotions. Near tears. This is mine. This is mine