by Thom Van Vleck
I was going through some old magazines recently. These aren’t just magazines that are old…they are magazines that have been in my possession since they were purchased by me from the newsstand (yes, we had one in Kirksville…and it’s still here!) since I started training. The past 20 years I have spent a lot of my magazine time on the ones that my Uncle’s gave me from the 50’s and 60’s and the ones my grandfather gave me from the 30’s and 40’s plus some I have bought over the years from collectors or “inherited” from other old club members who know I will keep them and take care of them. I have ignored the 70’s, 80’s and up. Partly because I see those era’s as tainted by steroids and partly because I felt like the commercialism really got carried away (I know, I know…..all the early mags sold stuff too….and were practically catalogs for products….but it just seemed to get worse!).
At any rate, I dug out some late 70’s mags recently. This included some old “Muscle Builder” mags by Weider. There’s a reason I hadn’t looked at these for years! I bought them back in the day because there was little information available and I took what I could get! At any rate, as I thumbed through a 1979 issue a piece of paper fell out. It was folded up note book paper with the vertical red line on the left side where you would start writing and the blue lines so you would keep things neat and straight plus three holes to put it in a three ring binder. I felt like I had to describe that as I don’t think the younger kids would know what I’m talking about!!!!! The paper indicated to me it was from school and it was probably something I had wrote while goofing off and avoiding class work. I often would sit and draw pictures related to lifting, sketch out workout routines, write out goals, or just about anything you could imagine related to weightlifting…..from the age of 15 to 18 I was as fanatical as they come!
This particular piece of paper was jammed in an article by Mike Mentzer on calf training. I recall that article well! It almost landed me in the Emergency Room. I often was too impatient (that’s what they called Attention Deficit Disorder what I was a kid) to read all the “details”. My calves were as skinny as a marathon runner and I wanted to gain some size. This article detailed about a dozen or so exercises and in my haste to get “Diamond Shaped” calves I decided to do them all for 3 sets of 20 with maximum weights. The next day my calves were so sore I could hardly walk. It was also a day I was supposed to go rabbit hunting with my Uncle Phil (also an accomplished lifter and as sadistic as they come when it comes to training!). He saw me hobble out (in SERIOUS PAIN) and quickly surmised I was sore from lifting. He offered to call of the hunting but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction as I knew I’d never hear the end of it. So we proceeded to hunt for the next 8 hours in cold, wind, and rain and I’m pretty sure he picked the spots that required the most walking to get to. Finally, we went home and my calves actually felt a little better….until I laid down. Then, they began to feel like they were on fire and someone was slicing them open with a scalpel! They hurt so bad quiet tears ran down my face. My mom found me and evidently I was having trouble hiding my distress and wanted to take me to the ER. I refused, and I recall her going in trying to talk my Dad into “making” me go….but lucky for me my Dad was as sadistic as my Uncle and laughed his butt off as he knew exactly what was going on. I was lost in the memory as I held that paper in my hand.
So, back to my story….I opened up this long, lost paper expecting some workout routine, or something like that….and found a poem. It was a poem I had written when I was around 15 years old. You have to understand that I started lifting at age 13…but on my 15th birthday (because I read where Arnold started seriously training at age 15) I went “all in”. And when I say all in, I was training around 3 hours EVERY DAY and lived, ate, and breathed lifting every waking moment….and then I would DREAM about it at night! Evidently, I had run out of routines and things to write about and had written a poem. While I write a lot and always have….I haven’t written a lot of poems. I don’t remember writing this one, but I do know I wrote it as I recognized my handwriting. I peeled the yellowed and folded pages open and began to read.
In Part II, the poem.