by Sean Toohey
Lots of people neglect the importance of balance. I’m not talking about the kind of balance necessary to do a handstand here… I’m referring to balance in the sense of your life. Lifters, particularly the bodybuilding variety, tend to obsess about things. The need to them is obvious! Either barbells and muscles become your life, or you simply won’t make it! Well, that is a fallacy. As a matter of fact, this particular obsession will slow your gains down, either by causing you to overtrain in frequency or volume, or do something really silly like spend all your money on muscle magazines and supplements.
Having someone in your life that creates balance is certainly one way to accomplish this. My wife, for instance, simply cannot see why I am involved with heaving iron in our basement, and why this is important to me. Don’t think this could possibly help? Neither did I, but it did.
A few years ago I really applied myself to getting my squat up into the big weights. Naturally I went through a string of PR’s at a time, and like most guys I was getting pretty impressed with myself. Well, as circumstances would have it, I was confident I would nail 275 or so that evening for 20 clean reps, and naturally I wanted to share this experience with the person I love the most!
“Hey honey? Can you come down here and count for me?”
“Count what? I can’t even count on you taking the trash out and you want me to count something for you?”
“Uh.. yeah… the trash.. Ummm… I’ll get that later. This is important!”
“Fine Mr. Man.. I’ll be right down. Will this take long?”
“Nope.. 10 minutes or so.”
I was psyched! Yep, she sure was going to be impressed with her man now! I wandered all over my basement flexing at inanimate objects and growling at the walls. “20 reps! 20 Reps!” I said. I turned around and flexed my quads for emphasis. Wouldn’t you know she was standing right there.
“Ummm… Sean? Are you feeling alright?”
Sheepishly I muttered yes and moseyed into my power rack. “20 reps honey.”
“20 reps. Got it.”
I started squatting. Reps 1 through 5 went off like a shot, very little rest, fairly typical. Big lung bursting breathes between reps. Yessiree! This was going to be great!!
“Sweetie? You aren’t going to hurt yourself are you? That’s 5 reps by the way.”
“I’m fine!! I growled.” I was starting to have doubts about this participation thing…
I kept squatting. My focus was solid, reps felt hard but good…
“Do you think we should put up curtains down here? The neighbors can probably see you. OH! And did you see how I rearranged the candles in the living room?”
“Aiiighhh! I yelled! JUST COUNT!! HOW MANY REPS IS THAT?”
“I don’t know.. probably 6, right? Weren’t we on 5 a minute ago? Don’t yell at me either, you jerk, I’m helping YOU out, remember?”
Well, I was already well past 10 reps at this point and I thought my head was going to explode. My wife was pissed off now. I was going to pay for this at dinner.. I kept repping.
“8, 9, 10… are you sure you are ok? You sound sort of strange over there. What’s that smell, anyway… have the dogs been down here or is that just you?”
I had never experienced a set like this in my life. I must have been approaching 20 at this point. My back was shot, my legs were shaking, and I’m certain my eyes were bleeding. I let out a sound that no human being should ever make. When written it looks something like this:
“JUST COUNT!!! HOW MANY REPS IS THAT??”
“16 AND QUIT YELLING AT ME! Do you have to breathe like that, you big jerk?”
I repped out two more…
“YES!!” I shouted amidst furious panting, “Oh GOD!! HOW MANY REPS??”
“WAAAHHHH!!!” I screeched. I kept going.
“17, 18, 19…. 19 and a half…. 20!”
I collapsed in a heap. It was all I could do to remember my name. The oxygen wasn’t sufficient and I passed out for a moment. When I came to, I was looking up at my wife.
“You are a very odd man.” She said. Then she wandered up the stairs.
I lay there on the floor for about 20 minutes, just trying to remember who I was. In the aftermath of that incredible set, I realized it was my wife who had just driven me to nail something like 30 reps, but with the accuracy of the counting, who really knows? I crawled over to the stairs, managed to pull myself to my feet and slowly made my way to the kitchen. Once at the top of the stairs I realized the lesson of balance. Good things come from the unexpected! I told her I loved here and promptly collapsed for the evening.
I gained something like 5 pounds that week all from just 1 set of squats. Far more than the obsessive/compulsive methods employed by the bodybuilding crowd.
Hard work, good food, plenty of rest and fresh air, and don’t obsess!
Oh… and spend some time with your loved ones! It is very beneficial!