Fifty years ago, if you'd told me that one of my pastimes as a
senior citizen would be "pumping iron"... I would have sniffed
suspiciously at your "Steve Zodiac" thermos bottle.
FIVE years ago, I would have made a comment like "That wacky
tobbacy isn't legal, yet."
But... here I am, sixty years old, and twice a
week I do dead lifts, cleans, presses, squats, and jerks, all
the stuff I used to tune past during the Olympics. I
finally got tired of being creaky, of having no range of
motion. Of having to kick a dropped pencil somewhere near
a table or wall so I could crawl down and drag myself back up
It's done wonders. I can now squat down like a big league
catcher...holding a 150-pound barbell. My knees hardly
ever hurt anymore. I can trot up stairs without having to
hoist myself up using the handrail. Even better, knee pain
used to make sitting in the cockpit excruciatingly
painful. No more...building up my leg muscles took care of
Lifting weights is a lot like flying an airplane. It's
easy to do...anyone can lift a few pounds, and it takes but a
few hours of instruction to solo. But you spend hours,
years even, mastering the techniques. You train yourself
to fire a sequence of muscles in a very precise order. It
seems hard, the bar is heavy, until one lift it all "clicks" and
the damn thing seems to float up before your eyes. Like
flying, the joy is in doing it *right*.
There's something else similar to flying: You can hurt
yourself pretty bad. Sure, you probably won't *die* from
weight lifting, but you could cripple yourself for life with bad
technique or not stopping when your instincts tell you to.
The saving maneuver is called "dropping the bar"... basically,
no matter where you are in the lift, you do whatever it takes to
escape, NOW, without harm. Generally, you just push the
bar away and let it fall. The barbell is five feet long, the
weights on the ends are well clear of your body. The floor
is covered with dense rubber. The only thing that can get
hurt is *you*, so the main goal is to ensure your safety;
separating you and the barbell as much as possible despite how
embarrassing it might look.
I've done it about three times in 30 months of training.
Generally, in mid-lift, I've realized I've lost my concentration
or one of my limbs isn't positioned properly. Stop, drop
the bar, step back, and re-address the bar for a repeat try.
Today I "dropped the bar" with the Fly Baby.
Beautiful day...mid 70s, no wind. I've put about five
hours on the plane in the ~3 weeks since the condition
inspection, and everything is working perfectly.
Today was actually the first time I ran a sequence of
touch-and-goes...all the previous flight had fairly strong
crosswinds and I was just satisfied with landing safely.
The first two touch-and-goes went smoothly.
The third? Sitting here, now, I *still* don't know what went
wrong. I seem to recall thinking I was getting too slow on
short final. I was coming in pretty steep, so eased back
the stick and prepared to add a burst of power.
But...unexpectedly, the plane ballooned. I remember
thinking, "How can we be ballooning if I'm so slow?" The
nose rose higher. I was disoriented, plain and
simple. I had lost situational awareness.
So I "dropped the bar," aircraft-style: Firewalled the
throttle and went around. I could have blipped the power,
caught the balloon, and salvaged the landing. But my mind
was just not there, I was way behind the airplane, and instinct
called for speed and altitude.
Didn't even touch the ground. Don't know how it looked to
a observer, but I Got Out of Dodge in a hurry.
Around the pattern we went...me fretting, a bit, that I'd
somehow lost "the knack." Disproved that with a good
three-pointer, followed the next time around with a smooth
tail-low wheel landing for a full stop.
During training, we've all learned about doing a go-around with
necessary. But most of us fight it...thinking, probably,
how bad it'll look to anyone watching. It's like dropping
the bar when weight-lifting; it's an admission that, right then,
you weren't ready for the task. It probably looked ugly,
and some observers might have snickered.
But... then again, TOMORROW is going to be a nice day here, too.
"Dropping the bar" today assured an intact plane and pilot for
new fun-and-games for the next session at the airport.
Seems reasonable to me....