Chatting With Alvin – Things I Forget to Remember

On Saturday I went down to campus and got in a good little speed upper training session which was moseying along pretty well. Part of my speed work I do chin ups with a weight attached to me for sets of 3-5 focusing on fast concentric (lifting my body up) and controlled eccentric (lowering myself). The goal here is to recruit high threshold motor units without having to use maximal loads. I utilized relatively brief rest periods with high total training volume on the Prillipen chart. I’m super setting this with close grip speed bench with some chains added to the total bar weight for their accommodating resistance aspects.

Notice how self-involved that paragraph seemed with a bit too much analysis (not to be anti-intellectual but I’ll explain more on this in a later post).

Enter Alvin.

Alvin is an older gentleman that I’ve seen in the gym consistently for the past year I’ve been training at the student rec center on campus. He’s a lean older gentleman who is probably about 6’2” and pretty lean. Not overly muscled but he has bicep veins that stick out like he has pencils under his skin. I’m doing these pull ups and he compliments me on doing the weight like that. I tell him thank you and something along the lines of “sometimes I like to add a bit more to body weight” and Alvin tells me to keep it up. I go back to the speed bench and come back to more pull ups and Alvin is doing some weighted dips (with a 25 strapped to him). I tell him nice work and he says thanks. Things go on and we both hit our own independent workout. He wraps up before me, so I walk up to him to introduce myself. He tells me his name and then tells me somethings that I forgot to remember. He says to me (best as I can remember):

“Whenever I come here I always try to compliment the kids on what they are doing. I try to encourage them so they set this habit and keep it up. I went to my 50th high school reunion a few weeks back and those of us that are still around, and a number aren’t, are fat and can barely get around. I just want to make sure they can enjoy their health and moving when they get older.”

In my mind at this point I’m thinking about how I look at some of the crazy stupid stuff I see at the student rec center and how it makes me sigh and want to rant to fix things, but at the end of the day the kids are in the gym. They are doing something. They are moving, lifting, and working. And if we can do our best to help reinforce this behavior we have a better chance of making this world a bit better of a place by one person at a time. Alvin has that figured out, and I greatly appreciate his words. Not only does he understand this, but he encourages them to keep it up.

Who knows how many people walk in to the gym intimidated and concerned about how they look in there? Who knows how many people just need to hear that one word of encouragement or that one high five that lets them know they are on the track and will keep moving where they need to go. Research in the area of exercise motivation shows that at the beginning of an exercise program extrinsic (outside of yourself) goals and rewards are more important than intrinsic (internal validation), but this motivation changes with time to more intrinsic with time. Alvin is the guy who is helping with that extrinsic motivation and giving praise which might be needed by someone on the fence about training. We could all gain in being a bit more like Alvin.

To finish up, Alvin and I chat for a few more before he goes on his merry way and I get back to the training, but I greatly appreciate him talking with me and reminding me what is really important.

Thanks Alvin.



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