It Comes Down To Fate

I’m standing in Sam Goody flanked on the right by my brother and on the left by my Mom.

For those of you who are unaware, before Spotify, before iTunes, before the Virgin Megastore and Tower Records and The Wall we had Sam Goody. A commercial record store that populated essentially every mall in the northeast United States and was where you hung out while your Mom shopped the afternoon away at Lerners (which was what she had prior to Vineyard Vines, Chicos, etc.).

We were standing before the stacks of 45s which, again for the unaware, are small vinyl records with one song on each side and is what we had available prior to streaming and downloads and CDs and cassettes.

We were there because I wanted to purchase a copy of Billy Joel’s “Only The Good Die Young” and given that I was only 9 years old, I didn’t have the money nor the wherewithal to purchase it myself.

As I thumbed the slick paper sleeve that featured a small version of the cover art of Joel’s “The Stranger” album from which this single was taken, my mom, concerned by the song’s title, turned to my brother – who is four years older than me – and asked:

“Is it okay for him to listen to this?”

Keep in mind that this is before Ozzy Osbourne, before Tipper Gore and before parental advisory stickers. Before 2 Live Crew and Marilyn Manson and Columbine and every terrible thing that was coming down the pike for a lot of kids over the next few decades.

It is as if my Mom saw it all coming. She was concerned about our influences.

Turns out that “Only The Good Die Young” is actually full of sexual innuendo. Billy essentially trying to convince a Catholic school girl that waiting to engage in intimacy in the name of Jesus was a mistake. We’re all gonna die someday. May as well go for it.

“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.”

But that layer of not-so-subtle urging was lost on my prepubescent brain. Billy Joel was a local Long Island hero. And I liked the strummy, upbeat guitar part.

Unless you are as conservative as the John Lithgow-played preacher in the 80’s classic “Footloose” (please don’t make me explain Footloose) no parent right now is concerned with the lyrics from someone as benign as Billy Joel infiltrating their children’s young minds. Hell, most parents are taking them to see Billy at MSG as part of a wholesome night out.

And all this is my very roundabout way of saying “things change”. And training is no exception.

When I first stepped into the gym at age 15 we knew of only one rep and set range – 3 sets, 10 reps.

We only knew of bodybuilding-style training. Hell, looking like a bodybuilder was the only goal one was allowed to have.

Machines were the answer. Step aerobics was the cure. Why the fuck would you train legs?

Sure, they already existed but we didn’t know much about the barbell or squats. We didn’t know about specificity or 5×5. We were just starting to hear about supplements. We never even thought about drinking water. We didn’t know the difference between protein and a probiotic.

This all leads me to the true paradox of training. The basic way your body moves and what influences those movement capabilities hasn’t really changed much at all for tens of thousands of years. But our understanding of it, the way we try to influence it and our actual ability to manipulate it is progressing at a faster rate than ever.

How can you use this to your advantage?

First, you honor the simplicity of your movement choices. It is a very rare circumstance in which you have to utilize or invent a creative exercise in order to accomplish your goal. There are reasons the basics have withstood the test of time even in the face of incredible innovation.

Creativity is often utilized for no other purpose than to mitigate boredom. Find other ways to keep things interesting.

Second is you either keep yourself abreast or surround yourself with discerning nerds who are keeping up with the latest research, science and practical tactics that will actually push your training forward.

Expertise is a valuable thing. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you know everything because you benched 275 once in college.

Keep the tools simple. Let the methodologies drive evolution.

In a very rare cool move, my brother gave my Mom the thumbs up and I walked out of the Sunrise Mall with my copy of a song that still gets played on New York classic rock radio to this day.

And even though I am now completely aware of the suggestive nature of the lyrics I still mostly vibe with the strummy guitar part.

You can take the boy out of the mall but you can’t take the mall out of the boy.