Fed to the Wolves: A Blogger at Training Camp, Part 2

Previously: Part 1 of A Blogger at Training Camp: The Combine Drills
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Things to Know If You Request an “Unconventional” Workout
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↵Coming out ahead in life requires serious editing. I met a guy who drove a motorcycle around the world once. He was in Beijing, waiting for the Chinese government to let him have his motorcycle back after they impounded it. He drove through Africa before trying Asia. I asked him what the most bizarre thing that happened to him in Africa during his trip was.
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↵"I don't want to talk about it." He paused for a moment, and it became clear from the look on his face that whatever it was, it involved eight things more horrifying and humiliating than anything you could comprehend.
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↵I don’t know what he learned from his experiences, but I bet it involved men carrying guns, all the money he had, and the necessity of not mixing that money and strange men with guns in your adventures. The central point, though, is that the guy chose to focus on the positive even when life shoveled piles of elephant dung onto his lunch plate.
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↵I choose to do this in the case of my final day of training at D1 Sports. You see, I could write about how I was pummeled by my own lack of fitness, the sheer stupidity of telling a trainer “give me some medieval stuff,” and the even dumber act of actually going through with the whole thing -- especially once you see the evil glint in the eyes of the trainer indicating that you will be watching weakness leave your body at one point during the workout.
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↵“Weakness” in my case meant lunch. “Leaving my body” meant “flying from my mouth into a garbage can.” Either way, I’m choosing to take the positives. I didn’t die, and I finished the workout. Remember: success is all in the editing.
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↵1. If You Start Off Running Backward, You Are In Trouble
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↵Will, my trainer, tells me to warm up by running backward around the field twice. This should be a clarion sign of impending trouble, as running backward for longer than four or five steps feels as natural as drinking through your nose does.
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↵Will has this smile on his face -- I’ve been bugging him for two days now and a certain kerosene glint in his eye fires up from somewhere in his skull. It’s an amusing, almost impish look, really: On anyone else’s face, you’d note how happy he seemed, a man in his element preparing to do precisely what he does best.
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↵This equation changes somewhat when you are the target, and that thing he does best is “working people up to and past their limits of physical endurance.” That limit, unbeknownst to me, is quantifiable and exact: nine minutes of intense physical activity. I will find this out the fun way courtesy of the aforementioned sinister look in Will’s eye, which I've seen before. Where? In the scene from The Road Warrior where Max barrels over a motorcycle gang member with a semi-truck. It is the exact same look. 
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↵2. Very Simple Things Can Kill You in Combinations
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↵True enough. Take a few benign household cleaners and mix them up in your sink and you’ll kill yourself in your kitchen. The same thing applies to simple exercises like pushups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers: alone, they’re fine. Repeated for five minutes straight in 20-second stages they become pure toxic evil.
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↵“Move it. You’ve only got twenty seconds. Go, go, go!”
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↵I’m already winded. If this were one of those nice gentle machines at the gym, the heart meter would helpfully tell me that I’m in the red zone at the top of the heart rate slope and that I should really just go down and have myself a smoothie and a friendly backrub until it goes down into the “fat-burning” zone. It might even tell me to just relax and cool things down while I watch CNN on the television strapped to the machine. “That Wolf Blitzer sure is a serious guy!,” the machine would tell me.
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↵Will is not a friendly elliptical machine. “Those medicine balls need to go to the top of the bleachers. NOW MOVE IT, MOVE IT!” 
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↵3. Gravity + Weight + Poorly Conditioned Writer = Reversal of Fortune

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↵At this point, if I were a ship, the lifeboats would have been in the water and the band would be playing a mournful waltz on the deck. I can’t bail for the boats, though. There are stairs and medicine balls, and no matter how hard I slam the throttle down my body has settled into an inflexible half-jog, half-trudge that no amount of yelling will budge.
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↵On the way down, after grabbing the 20 pound moneyball -- ”Congratulations! You picked the heaviest one for last! YAY! I hate you, sincerely, Life.” -- I head down the stairs and decide, quite involuntarily, that hunching over the garbage can seems like a worthwhile idea right about now.
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↵Then, nine minutes into the workout, I vomit my lunch into the garbage can. For those wondering what you should eat in order to have a smooth transition from the expulsive stage of a workout to the numb, unfeeling stupor of “near shock,” the answer is an energy bar and a banana. This combo is delicious on the way down, and just about neutral in chemical terms coming up from the stomach. 
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↵4. If Kettlebells Are The Easy Part, You Are In Trouble
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↵Will has me doing various kettlebell exercises next. A kettlebell is an old, old Russian weight. Imagine a cannonball with a flat bottom and a handle, and you have yourself a kettlebell. The Russian Army standard issue kettlebell is 53 pounds; the one I’m swinging, pressing, and pulling around is about 16 pounds. Somewhere on the steppes of Mother Russia, an 80-year-old grandmother is juggling three of these and fighting a Kodiak bear for her morning workout.
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↵Oddly, it’s not bad: Kettlebell swings involve taking the prehistoric weight with both hands, squatting, and then launching it forward. The sensation is pleasant, especially with my entire body and soul flooded with endorphins from puking. The worst has already happened, no? What can be worse than the stairs?
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↵“Time. Those medicine balls have to come down now.”
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↵Oh, that. That’s what could be worse. I head up the stairs, fully brain dead and working from only the most primitive centers of my brain. 
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↵5. Flipping Tires Is Best Left to Men Named Magnus
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↵After I hobble down from the stairs, Will waits for me with a tire. A big, big tire. 
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↵Flipping a 335-pound tire once is not impossible; though difficult, it’s still a manageable amount of weight. Doing it 20 times and hopping through the tire after every flip sucks with the deep and eternal suck of the ancients, especially on a 50-yard field where you can look far into the distance with despair and see just how miserably little ground you’ve covered.
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↵Like everything else in this workout, it is meant to shoot your heartrate into the anaerobic range and turn your lungs into riot zones. Like everything else, it does that amazingly well and makes you pray for a swift, merciful death.
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↵“I’ve never seen anyone drool before. Hey, Matt, he’s drooling!” Will sounds very excited about this, and it suddenly occurs to me he is talking about me. I look down and find he is telling the truth. In addition to slogging along with the tire covered in a full soak of sweat, I really am drooling on myself. At this rate, I will devolve to infancy sometime inside of the next two minutes.
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↵My head feels like it’s going to explode. I ask Will for 30 seconds rest.
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↵He looks immensely unimpressed and yet pleased with the wreck of a man he has reduced me to in under an hour. “MMA fighters don’t need 30 seconds. They do this four times a week.”
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↵A smartass insult is somewhere in my brain. I just know it is, but I’ll be damned if I can find it since my body, having taken all the available glycogen out of my liver, has now begun digesting my fat stores, my bones, and my brain. I’d say something clever, but the outer layer of my personality has been digested by my body. Apologies.
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↵6. Sledgehammers
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↵Will has me pound on a tire with a sledgehammer for a while. Again, as long as I’m hitting the tire and not flipping it, I don’t care. I hit the tire, then do some kettlebell, then throw a heavy medicine ball against the wall hard enough to have it bounce back to me.
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↵Maybe we did one set. Maybe we did seven. It would be really nice to have had notes about this, but you can’t take notes when you’re swinging a sledgehammer and your brain has been in the shutoff position for the past 45 minutes. Even if I could have dictated notes, it would have been the words “HELP, OH LORD, HELP!” written on the page over and over again.
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↵I finish. Will tells me to roll the 335-pound tire twice around the field, a request that makes as much sense as anything right now, since everything makes sense to a brain dead zombie too dumb to fall over and pass out like he should. Will could have told me to go out into the parking lot, put my rental car into neutral and push it around the lot for an hour and I would have. That’s the nice part about zombies. They do what they’re told. 
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↵7. Stupidity Is Willingly Stepping Into the Same Bear Trap Twice

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↵Just when I’m waiting for Will to come in and tell me I have to go do 50pull-ups off the rafters 30 feet over head, he says, “We’re done.” Laying on the ground, I ask him what I should do to work out at home, when I’m not in a D1’s torture camp. Lifting? Running?
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↵“Have you considered walking? Walking would be really good for you.”
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↵It would be. But to Rule 6: true stupidity is stepping willingly into the same bear trap twice, and in truly stupid fashion I ... I want to do this again, sooner rather than later. The reasoning is unfathomable, but I suspect that after two days of failing, failing and then failing again to do anything right in a workout, I finally found something I’m good at: not dying.
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↵(P.S. If anyone has a decent tractor tire in the Atlanta area, email me. I know someone who’s interested. He's a … um ... a friend of mine. Yeah.)
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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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