Pain! Pain!! Pain!!! Why is it that, in a lifetime full of suffering and hardships, some of us will take it upon ourselves to inflict even more pain? As I sit here and look back on the Michalik era, it is not difficult to understand why I would subject myself to such torture. My perseverance stemmed from wanting to win, the will to become a champion. We all have it buried somewhere within us. We all have the desire to accomplish goals. Sometimes we make excuses for our shortcomings. But, there are no excuses. A champion is a champion, and will never succumb to the obstacles that are thrown in his path.
Mr. America's Gym. Michalik struts across the gym floor with a set of 60 pounders for incline flyes. I know the routine. Three benches, three exercises, all sets to failure. Nonstop ass-kicking supersets. Steve begins with almost 300 pounds on the incline Smith machine. He then proceeds to the second bench to complete a set of incline flyes, and finally, pullovers across the last bench with a 100 pound dumbbell.
He moves methodically like a cyborg on a mission. I can see him out of the corner of my eye, on my way to the flye bench. He is indestructible, but I can't slow down or miss a beat because within minutes he will circle behind me and humiliate me. I realize now that I have not been training at this level since I left Steve years earlier. On the third cycle of exercises I feel exhausted and I begin to panic. Just as fear starts to overtake me, Michalik screams, "Come on, look at you! You pathetic piece of shit. What the hell have you been doing these last couple of years? Sitting on your ass eating nachos?"
Oh, man, I'm pissed off now and I manage to find the energy and guts to shift my body into high gear. At this point I must have totally lost my mind because I remember yelling, "Come on! Bury me if you think you can... Just try to put me in the hospital again. You'll be the one driving off in the ambulance Mr. Champion!" Oh, shit. I couldn't believe it. Those words actually came out of my mouth. I started to sound like a Michalik clone.
As I sit here and remember that moment, I wonder how many brain cells were missing from my cranium when I was born. Too many to count, I guess. "Masochism - n. a condition in which the subject delights in being hurt or humiliated." "Masochist - n. John DeFendis." Michalik was right. I was a very brash, cocky kid. But at this point in time, I was a brash, cocky kid who was about to get the beating of a lifetime.
My pathetic statements fueled the madman. His distorted face was overcome with a rage and fury that could have sent chills down Freddy Krueger's back. He grabbed me and threw my body up onto the pec dec.
Then he frantically started running around pulling pins out of the various pieces of equipment in the gym. It didn't take me long to figure out what was about to take place. I predicted pain and suffering ahead.
He strategically placed the pins in the weight stack, all five of them. The first set would be the entire stack, and as I completely failed with each weight, Steve would make me do a couple of forced reps before he extracted the pin. The pain was unbearable. I wanted to quit after the third drop but I knew it was not an option. To quit was to die. It felt like hours had gone by when I finally completed the series but it had only been minutes. Now, it was the Master's turn.
I would thoroughly enjoy the moments that would lay ahead. His pain was now my relief and happiness. "Sadism - n. the deriving of pleasure from inflicting pain on another." "Sadist - n. John DeFendis and Steve Michalik." Michalik churned out rep after rep. He made it look easy at first but started to grimace after he completed the second set. After his final reps on each set, I rapidly yanked the pin out so that he wouldn't get a second to rest. I wanted him to die so that I could go home a winner. Okay, maybe I would have been happy just being able to leave alive and in one piece.
Before too long I found myself back up on the machine. "Second round coming up," Michalik shouted. I knew that there would be five rounds. This was one of Steve's favorites. He wouldn't be content until I could no longer move. He wanted to teach me a lesson by annihilation. Finally, I completed my last set in the series. I remember whispering to myself, "Get me the f*ck away from this machine!"
As usual, there was a crowd of wannabe Michalik trainees standing around, waiting to see if I would fail or quit. In all the years that Michalik trained with aspiring champions, there were only a select few who could keep up. Most of them are in isolated rooms at the mental hospital. If you get close enough, you can even hear them screaming, "No more, I can't do another rep. Let me go home now!"
"Intensity Or Insanity Training" was not only a method of training that enabled me to become a champion, but it was a time that cannot and will not be duplicated. It was an era when most bodybuilders relied on ballistic and animalistic training to get big and grow strong. Bodybuilders utilized nutrition and vitamins to make progress and supplemented with minimal steroids in order to survive the torturous workouts.
Now, with drugs like growth hormone and IGF-1 accessible, the bodybuilders of today are crying "overtraining" consistently. With steroid use and abuse running rampant, I feel that the complaints of overtraining by a young, strong, juiced up "Champion" is unwarranted. But that's just my opinion. And, we are all entitled to our opinion, aren't we?
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