Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Manhood, Strength, and Barbell Therapy

My wife paid me a totally unexpected compliment yesterday. She thanked me for being capable. Capable of taking care of our daughter (even when she was little) and not being intimidated by young children in general. She is thankful to have someone who can share the load and give her a little relief from the strains of mommy-hood. I took notes, "Be a competent dad, this is good." The compliment was a little out of the blue, I graciously accepted it, and it was confirmation, again, that I married the finest woman on this planet. This morning I woke up still humbled and feeling like I could conquer the world. It is amazing what a compliment from a man's wife can do for his sense of duty and service to his family (take note ladies). I got to thinking about why I feel capable of doing or handling... well... just about anything fatherhood and life can throw my way, and I think the answer lies, spiritual aspects aside, in a thing I've always referred to as barbell therapy.

At least 3 days a week I find myself in a steel storage building in the middle of an amalgamation of rusty iron plates, sharp knurled barbells, and a delightful assortment of strongman implements. And for those three days I press, lift, push, pull and squat myself to a special kind of exhaustion that rids me of most nervous compulsions and gives me a clarity that would gain the envy of a Buhddist monk. In the southern summer heat I sweat gallons, soaking through t-shirts, drinking water by the quart, in humidity so hot and thick it feels like you're breathing the air rising from a boiling pot of stew. It is a self flagellation that makes pain a welcome companion and deep muscle soreness seem normal. I love it. And one of the more benificial by products of such torture is the accumulation of useful skelatal muscle, and the curious notion that maybe being a father, husband, provider, and protector is not the anxiety riddled task men of weaker substance can portray it to be.  When you push yourself to your limits, and exceed them, it can give you strength to meet the demands of daily life with vigor, and have enough gas left in the tank to serve your family and neighbors the way God intended.

I've often said that if the monotonous daily grind (ie. wake up, go to work, come home, deal with kids, watch TV, go to bed) is the most strenuous challenge you face during any given week, you will find yourself neither physically or emotionally capable of handling life when one of it's severe stresses comes knocking at your door, or when you need to change a flat, move a piano, cut down a tree, or prove yourself physically competent in the chores of fatherhood.

Perhaps it is my heavy sense of nostalgia, or maybe I was just born 30 years too late, but, for men in the digital age, physical culture is a lost art. Becomming technically proficient in regard to strength has been replaced with searching for shortcuts to look good in an Under Armour t-shirt. Basic nutritional principles in regard to muscle growth have been substituted with scouring the shelves of GNC for the magic elixir that will replace the hard work and caloric intake needed to develop muscularity. The old time sportsmen are going away, they are drowning in an ocean of faux-hawks, tribal tattoos and flat billed caps... All show, no go...

So, fathers and husbands, buy your clothes at Tractor Supply, tear off a callous gripping a heavy barbell, gain 20lbs., eat a steak and be the kind of father that your daughters are afraid to introduce potential suitors too. Don't flee from life's discomforts or, especially, it's responsibilities, but engage in some form of basic training and prepare yourself for the challenges ahead. Explore the fundamental physical activity of strength training, pick up something heavy, and get some stuff out of the basement.  It will clear your head, strengthen your hands, and make what is required of you feel like a lighter load to bear.

Be good men, be strong men, the world needs you.