Monday, January 14, 2013

The Gambler

Growing up my brothers, sister and myself were huge Kenny Rogers fans. Well, that's not one hundred percent true. My mom had a Kenny Rogers tape that she liked to listen to and by default us four kids grew up knowing the words to "Lucille," "Lady" and "The Gambler," among others. From time to time we will still break out into a four-part harmony of "Lucille." It's like second-nature to us.

My favorite Kenny Rogers song (I never thought I would write that) has to be "The Gambler." Its not just because of the catchy music. Man, those lyrics ring true.

               You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
               Know when to walk away and know when to run.

"Really..." you might be thinking, "what on earth does this have to do with fitness?" So, let me tell my story.

I was at the gym today, working on my military press and accessory movements when on two occasions I spotted the opportunity to help someone. Both instances turned out completely different, and both left me feeling fairly dissatisfied. Here's number one.

A guy I had seen at the gym on several occasions was deadlifting. He walked in, loaded the bar with a 45-pound plate on each side (135 pounds total), and started pulling away. Everything looked good from the beginning (he even took off his shoes!), except when he got to the top. Rather than remain "dead" through the arms at lockout, he was bending at the elbows and doing something sketchy with his upper back. It was like a train wreck; I couldn't help but look.

I knew in my heart what he was doing was not good, and since doing some research (read: asking some meat-head friends about bent arms while deadlifiting and sifting through various forums and sites on the Internet), I have found my suspicions have been confirmed. Bent arms while deadlifting can lead to injury. While I doubt he was lifting heavy enough to tear his biceps (135 is generally a warm-up for me), do you stop someone, especially of the opposite sex, to tell them what they are doing is wrong?

You got to know when to hold 'em. 

And scenario number two: I'm working on my close-grip bench when a woman, probably close to my age, comes over to the bench next to me. With no warm-up set she loads the bar with a 25-pound plate on each side, for a total of 95 pounds, lies down and starts pressing. After a couple of sets she motions for me to come over and spot her. Of course I oblige.

She says she's going for three, and yes, she'll take a lift off. I put my hands on the bar to assist her and without any further communication, she lifts the bar and starts going. She gets an easy three, though she's basically lowering the bar to her collarbone, and quickly racks her weight. As she's sitting up, I tell her that she could have definitely gotten more reps on the set, hoping to encourage her and perhaps even open up a dialogue. She says she's trying to take it slow. I then start to tell her to bring the weight down directly across her chest, motioning with my hands that the bar should pretty much come down even with her nipples (I didn't actually utter the word "nipples" to a total stranger at the gym). Before I could continue trying to help her out, she starts up a conversation with an approaching friend and cuts me off. I didn't even get a "thanks" for the spot.

You got to know when to fold 'em. 

So today's workout brought good old Kenny Rogers to mind and made me wonder just when is the right time to offer up a piece of my mind. Its probably hard for a man to take advice from a woman in general, never mind at the gym. But what he was doing was potentially detrimental to his health. Add another plate on there and he's probably going to be in trouble. I only hope he doesn't go for a max lift with bent arms.

But my fellow sister in iron... don't you want to get better at what you're doing? I'll admit that I can be intimidating at the gym. I lift heavy weights, wear a matching weight belt and shoes (so lame!) and walk around like I own the place. But being a woman in a predominately male environment, you've got to try and stake your claim, and my claim is usually one of the squat racks. When people approach me, though, I will generally greet them with a smile or joke--unless of course they plop themselves down on a piece of equipment I'm using. In that case, out comes the death stare.

I guess I'm just wondering at what point do you reach out to someone at the gym? With my female friend on the bench, I figured it was the opportune moment to help someone. She had asked me for a spot, I gave her encouragement on her lift and tried to offer what little advice I had, only to pretty much be ignored and dismissed. She had shown promise, too. Not often do I see women at my gym on a bench, not to mention benching 95 pounds. Sad, I know.

So next time I see something I question at the gym, I'll have to ask myself if I should hold 'em, fold 'em, walk away or run? Or do I put myself out there and say, "hey... can I show you something...?"