The Growing Workout
Once upon a time there was a tall, skinny young man who trained in a well-equipped basement gym in his parents’ house and who wanted, more than anything else in the world, to look like Lou Ferrigno. The young man trained very hard. He had lined the gym with pictures of Ferrigno. He had cut out and pinned up every routine of Ferrigno’s ever printed and he followed them slavishly. Unfortunately, however, other than having the same number of arms and legs at the various four corners, the young man looked nothing at all like Lou Ferrigno.
One rainy morning the skinny young man stood in his underwear shorts, gazing sadly at himself in the full length mirror. The week before he had gone to see Ferrigno’s movie, “Hercules”, which was playing at a downtown theatre. The young man had already seen it seventeen times, but this time he made the mistake of taking his girlfriend. When Ferrigno appeared on the screen, the young lady gave a strangled gasp and sank her nails into the back of the young man’s hand. On the way home, over hamburgers and milkshakes, the young man confided in her that he had been striving for years to look like Lou Ferrigno. She cocked a cynical eyebrow at him and murmured that one would have never known.
The young lady declined a second hamburger but remarked that it would be a good idea if the young man ate a dozen or so. She also declined a stroll through the park, pointing out that it was dark in there and might be dangerous for her what with the caliber of protection young women had to rely upon with these days.
She said goodnight quickly at the door, and for the rest of the week a series of hair-washing obligations, blinding headaches and unforeseen events rendered her totally inaccessible. Furthermore, she observed regretfully, there appeared to be little probability of change in her tight schedule in the near future.
The young man dressed and ate breakfast – two bowls of cereal, six eggs, a quarter pound of bacon, four pieces of toast and a glass of milk – while he poured over the yellow pages in the phone book. Then he put on his raincoat, got into his car and drove downtown. He parked and walked half a block in the rain until he came to a window filled with pictures of astonishingly muscular men in various stages of tension. He walked through the front door.
A large, bulky man in a blue track suit was standing by the counter eating a sandwich. He beamed cheerfully at the skinny young man. “How are you,” he said. “Lovely day, isn’t it?”
“Are you the owner?” the young man asked him.
“I am indeed,” the large, bulky man assured him. He peered over the counter at the young man’s feet. “You’re dripping water all over the floor.”
“It’s raining outside” the young man told him.
“Is it?” the gym owner said. “That’s probably why you’re dripping water all over the floor.” He put on his friendliest smile. “Anyway, what can I do for you?”
“I’d be interested in training here,” the young man said. “Under certain conditions.”
The gym owner broadened his smile. “Step into the office, my boy, and we’ll talk about it.”
They walked into the office. The gym owner laid his sandwich on the desk and shook hands with the young man. “Sit down,” he said. “Please.”
The young man wiped mustard off his hand and sat down.
The gym owner opened a desk drawer and whipped out a contract. “We have the ever-popular single life membership,” he said. “Or, if you care to bring your wife or someone else’s, we have what we term the joint life and last survivor plan.” He rummaged through the drawer and brought out a pen. “Cash is preferable, of course, but since we operate in an atmosphere of complete trust and harmony a certified cheque will suffice.”
The young man held up his hand.
“Just a minute,” he said. “I told you there were conditions.” He leaned forward and looked the gym owner in the eye. “Have you ever,” he said slowly, “seen anyone who looks exactly like Lou Ferrigno?”
“Actually, no,” the gym owner said. “But I have a mother-in-law who looks like Raymond Burr.”
“Well, that’s the condition,” the young man said. “Guarantee me that I’ll look like Lou Ferrigno and I’ll train here.”
The gym owner closed his eyes and thought about what he would say to the young man. Everyone, he thought, has his own potential and his own individuality and the important thing is to develop that potential without regard for outside comparisons. He cleared his throat. “Everyone,” he said, “has his . . . “
“And don’t give me any of that crap about individuality,” the young man barked at him. “I want to look like Ferrigno and that’s that.”
The gym owner closed his eyes again and weighed the slight monetary advantage of the young man’s membership against the enormous emotional satisfaction of throwing him through the window. What the hell, he thought, we were all young once. “Take off your shirt,” he said, “and let’s see where you’re at.”
The young man peeled off his shirt and took a deep breath. “Anything like Ferrigno?” he asked.
The gym owner coughed slightly.
“Your hair’s about the right colour,” he said. “But other than that . . .”
The young man flexed his arm. “What does that look like?”
Actually, the gym owner thought, it looks like a piece of unthreaded gas pipe. But he said, “How have you been training?”
“On Ferrigno’s routines,” the young man said. “I’ve done them all.”
“That’s been your mistake,” the gym owner told him. “It’s the most common mistake in bodybuilding. You’re not ready to train like Ferrigno.”
“Why not?” the young man asked him.
“What do you weigh?” the gym owner asked.
“About a hundred and fifty-three.”
“Ferrigno weighs around two-eighty,” the gym owner said. “How do you expect to look like him?”
The young man gritted his teeth. “Then I’ll weigh two-eighty.”
“But you won’t,” the gym owner told him. “And you never will. At least, not the way you’re training.”
“Your metabolism isn’t right for it yet,” the gym owner said. “And you don’t assimilate your food properly. You don’t gain weight easily. Lou Ferrigno can probably gain weight just thinking about it.”
The young man sagged in his chair.
“So what do I do?” he said. “Quit?”
“Not at all,” the gym owner said. “Just train differently for a while. Learn to gain weight. Work on a growing routine.”
The young man brightened. “And then I’ll look like Lou Ferrigno?”
The gym owner looked up at the ceiling. Strange, he thought, there must be an echo in here. He leaned toward the young man. “Understand this,” he said. “I can’t guarantee you that you’ll look like Lou Ferrigno anymore than I can guarantee Lou Ferrigno that he’ll look like you.” Not, he thought to himself, that he’d ever want to. “But what I can guarantee you is that if you train like I tell you, you’ll gain lots of weight and someday, if you’re lucky, you might look like Lou Ferrigno.”
The gym owner took a blank workout sheet out of the drawer. “I’m going to give you a workout to do. Don’t do any more and don’t do any less. Give it your best shot for three months and then, if you’re satisfied, come back and we’ll talk some more.”
The gym owner filled in the sheet:
Bench Press . . . . . . . . . . 3 sets of 15 reps
Rowing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 sets of 15 reps
Curl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 sets of 10 reps
Press Behind Neck . . . . . . 2 sets of 12 reps
Squats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 sets of 15 reps
Light Pullovers . . . . . . . . . 2 sets of 20 reps
Stiff-legged Deadlift . . . . . 1 set of 20 reps
Crunches . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 set of 25 reps
“Don’t rush through it,” he said. “Take your time. Drop the weight about 10% for each of the second and third sets.”
He handed it across the desk.
The young man looked at it. “It doesn’t look like a Lou Ferrigno workout.
“It’s not,” the gym owner said. “It’s far too basic for him. But it’s just right for you. You’ll gain weight and improve your assimilation. Then you can start training a little more like Ferrigno and you might even start looking a little bit like him.”
The young man thought it over.
“I’ll try it,” he said. He wheeled around and, remembering to keep his lats spread, marched out.
Three months later he came back. He’d gained thirty-one pounds, his old girlfriend was begging him for a date,
and four new ones were keeping him awake with obscene phone calls. He burst through the office door and yelled,
The gym owner bit the end off the pencil he was chewing and leaped to his feet. Then he smiled and put out his hand.
“Lou Ferrigno,” he said. “Nice to see you.”
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