Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Just Keep Training - By Jim Duggan

Back in the Spring of 1995, I had the good fortune to attend the Club Industry Trade Show in New York City.  Basically, It was a convention of vendors and distributors of exercise equipment. Most of the well known, as well as the lesser known, equipment manufacturers were in attendance. I attended the show with Drew Israel and other members of Iron Island Gym.  

     Naturally,Nautilus, Hammer Strength, MedEx, and Southern Exercise Equipment Were popular exhibits. For anyone who loved the train, and who appreciated various strength building modalities, seeing all the latest machines and equipment was like going to strength training heaven. This was the main reason for wanting to attend. Another reason was that there would be any number of “famous spokespersons” representing some of the equipment manufacturers.

     Some companies used former bodybuilders from the 1970s and 1980s in the hope of  attracting potential customers. For some reason, seeing some chemically enhanced freak would not inspire me to purchase anything. Other companies used former powerlifting champions from the same era, hoping to appeal to the “lifting crowd.”  And, indeed, there were at least two former World’s Strongest Man winners selling equipment and making themselves seen.

     While it was nice to see some of the legends from the past I got the feeling that they were there just to collect a paycheck,. In other words, they were just doing their jobs. Nothing more and a day's work. Of course, there were exceptions. Getting to meet the legendary “Big Jim” Flanagan from MedEx  was a privilege and a pleasure.  What an impressive man!  He was friendly, knowledgeable, and down-to-earth.  He took the time to discuss his machines without pressuring you. He loved to talk training, and it was quite evident that he was not there just to make a buck for himself.

     Another highlight of the day was meeting Bill Pearl, who won his first Mr. Universe title back in 1956. There is a reason why I distinguish men like Bill Pearl from current crop of glitter shorts wearing pumpers and posers.  Bodybuilders like Bill Pearl trained for size strength and health. His longevity in the Iron Game indicated that his way of training exemplified  the ideals of Physical Culture.  Additionally, when I met him he was nearly 65 years old, but he looked about twenty years younger.  At least.

     Mr Pearl was exceedingly friendly, in addition to being knowledgeable about the machines he represented. He actually had a complete line of machines from the company for which he was a spokesman in his home gym. He confided to us he couldn't endorse a product if he did not actually use it himself. Mr Pearl also took the time to answer questions about his legendary career, is early morning workouts ( he was famous for training at 3:00 AM ), as well as his current lifestyle.  Although nobody in our group was a “bodybuilder,” We were all impressed by his passion for lifting and training.  

     There was one thing he said that has stuck with me for many years. I had asked him for his “secret” for staying strong healthy and youthful at an age when most people are ready to retire.  His answer was simple and brief.  “Just keep training” was his response. At the time, I didn't understand the significance of his advice. I almost felt as if he were brushing me off, but he seemed too genuine to dispense superficial advice. “Just keep training.”  In time, I would begin to comprehend the meaning of what he told me. And it truly was a significant statement. What he meant was if you keep training and lifting, you will discover what exercises and routines work best for you. And by applying the knowledge accumulated over years of experience, you will indeed find the “secret.”  In other words, learn what works best for you and then keep applying it.

     Whenever I think of Mr. Pearl’s “secret advice,” I remember a picture hanging in my home. It is an autographed photo of Jack LaLanne.  The picture is from 2007, and I always think about what he wrote to me. “To my friend, James.  Keep up your workouts always.  Health and happiness always.  Jack LaLanne.”  

     “Keep up your workouts always” was what really hit home for me, as you can imagine. Whenever I have a day where my enthusiasm maybe lagging, I always think about the words that Jack LaLanne wrote for me.  And then I combine his words with Mr Pearl’s pithy advice. I don't think anybody could go wrong following use two pieces of sage advice. They have certainly helped me over the years. 

     I am at an age now ( 57 years old ) where, if someone were to ask me for training advice, I would start with “Just keep training,” and “ Keep up your workouts always.” Naturally, I would give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the two legendary Iron Game figures who were kind enough to share their knowledge with me.  Lifting weights is an activity where we learn so much about ourselves, but sometimes it takes a few brief words of common sense to keep us focused.  I consider myself to be lucky to count myself among the countless number of people to benefit from the wisdom Bill Pearl and Jack LaLanne. Hopefully others will be inspired to keep lifting.

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