The Ghost of Gains Past

When I turned 40 I looked at myself and didn’t like what I saw. I don’t mean spiritually, I mean physically. I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t turn 50 as the same fat, tired, and weak dude that I had become. I made it to 42 lifting weights and doing cardio on a regular schedule. And then I started chasing money and promotions in the job place, and my whole life began revolving around what I did for a living instead. I kept shitty hours, barely slept, ate junk food from vending machines, and stayed buzzed on caffeine drinks so much that on the weekends when I didnt’ need them I got withdrawal headaches.

I tried getting back into weight lifting while I was at the Home Depot. I started taking pre-workout and was hitting PRs and having crazy workouts. Then one day at work a couple of people told me I didn’t look like I was well, and I went to the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror, because as soon as they said it I realized I didn’t feel very well. My face was red and my ears were purple, my heart was hammering in my chest and I could hear the blood rushing in my ears.

The doctor told me my blood pressure was super high, and on top of that the cholesterol in my blood was not good either. Here I was, a middle aged fat supervisor working himself to death, and for peanuts. It was better than I had ever done in my life before, but it still wasn’t great. It wasn’t what I had aspired to, and it was already killing me. Everything I had learned about going hard from the military and from playing sports was conspiring with my unorganized personality and tendency to be monomaniacal in my pursuits and it was killing me. Depression wasn’t helping, either. There are plenty of people who do those jobs and don’t have the problems I did, I know. But I will say this, every one of my peers seemed to have the same black humor about it. For me to be successful in that life my personality required lots of sacrifices that perhaps normal, well adjusted people don’t have to make. Again, I know this is a me issue more than anything. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that what I was doing was inherently difficult, just that for me personally it took a toll on my soul.

Finding my place in life, finding my station in life, working out the difference between what I want to have and how hard I want to work, this hasn’t been easy for me. I’m too old to really have a professional career, I think. Like I’ve said before, the corporate myth of work-life balance isn’t something they’re really going to help you with anyway. Since resigning from my last managerial position and trying to figure out what I’m going to do with myself to maximize my life I have returned to the vow I made at 40. After all, I have everything I need in a home gym: a cage, a set of barbells, iron plates, and dumbbells. I’ve even got a treadmill for cardio, and a lat pull down attachment for my cage. I have literally zero excuse to not do it.

The Ghost of Gains Past haunts me. As I’m struggling with starter lifts it’s reminding me that I used to lift heavier. As I’m walking on the treadmill it reminds me that I used to run wind sprints and speed run the stairs at the stadium. It reminds me that if I stop this time I will have outgrown my XXL shirts by the time I reach 50 instead of putting on muscle. It’s a bit like going back to Mario Kart after five years off and not being able to catch my own ghost racer in speed trials. It fucking sucks.

I’m not going to try and keep a regular progress blog this time. It didn’t really help me last time, but I suppose I am going to talk about the subject here from time to time. I am just refleceting here on the fact that I made myself a ten year pledge, and now I’ve got three years to accomplish it. Like everything else I do I’ve squandered my head start and waited until the last minute to get seious about it. I sometimes tell myself that I work better under pressure, but that’s not exactly true. The truth is that I only work under pressure, because without pressure I don’t seem to actually work at all. If I can change one thing about myself it should be that. But here we are, back at square one again.

Still, I would rather be a perpetual beginner that just give up on something. The thing about the Ghost of Gains Past mocking me for having been better at 42 than I am at 47 is that I know that I can do this because I was well on my way before. What it is my goal exactly? Hard to say. I guess you could say that I want to look like I lift weights without having to take off my shirt, and for people to know it without me having to tell them. That’s vague, but achievable, even for an older guy like me. Can I do it before I hit 50? Even if I don’t, I am still running off the promise that I won’t be a physical wreck by that milestone. The Ghost of Gains Future is beckoning me.

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