Two ways to build muscles

By Joe Rector

The first thing I did when I reached the age of 65 was to set up my insurance and take advantage of Silver Sneakers. After a couple of years, the YMCA no longer accepted that membership, so I moved to Planet Fitness. Doing so was because one of their facilities was close to the house.

My appearance has changed little over the years because of my visits to the “gym.” Covid managed to undo all the work I’d put in. Additionally, finding a schedule that isn’t interrupted by doctor or dentist visits each week is close to impossible.

I watch the members at the gym and marvel at their gigantic muscles and the amounts of weight they lift. The serious bodybuilders use free weights, as opposed to machines. I’m a machine man because just keeping balanced the little weight that I use in exercises is difficult enough. Although most would consider me a weakling, I still have increased from my original numbers. This weightlifting stuff is supposed to be good for my health, but workouts used to be much different.

As a child, I was fat. Mother cooked and we ate; nothing was left on plates save bones or hunks of fat. My workouts back then consisted of cutting the grass from around the house’s foundation and from around rocks that lined a dozen or more flower beds. I also picked up sticks and limbs in the spring so that they wouldn’t be run over by the push mower that my older brother Dal used to mow more than an acre of grass. Jim and I were considered too wild and careless to be left with a mower. As we grew older, the expectation was that we could move rocks from one flowerbed to another and that we could pull or hoe weeds in the gigantic garden our parents planted. Our neighbor, Mr. Long, hired us to work on his farm. The work consisted of using sickles, axes, and mattocks. Few muscles developed, but plenty of poison ivy covered our bodies instead

Not until I played football in high school did I ever hear talk of weightlifting. Coach Wells had a multi-station machine installed at the old Karns football fieldhouse. The team completed exercises on that new-fangled machine, as well as with free weights. I gave it my best shot but never much cared for the time spent lifting and squatting hunks of metal.

I left weight training to others for years. By my senior year, I’d lost about 35-50 pounds through the use of a self-made diet. Any time I was hungry, I drank a coke and smoked a cigarette. I wasn’t strong either mentally or physically.

The strongest guys in our school never lifted a weight. Engaging in something like that seemed ridiculous. Their strength came from loading hay bales on a flatbed trailer or digging holes to set fence posts. Farm work develops strong young men quickly. No, their bodies weren’t ripped with muscles; none of the guys I recall had a six-pack set of abs. However, our lines in football were manned by boys who lived on farms in Hardin Valley and Solway. We called them “Hardin Valley Hogs,” and they could defeat the men across the line by using those hay-baling muscles. During my years at Karns High, the football team’s only losing season was my freshman year. The rest of the time, country boys blocked, tackled, and ran with speed and power.

None of us will find more hogs that play football. Hardin Valley has turned every farm into a giant subdivision. However, no one is concerned because plenty of weights and machines are in a dedicated area. Instead of hauling hay and grubbing stumps, boys are working out year-round to become bigger and stronger. As for me, I’m just trying to keep mobile and strong enough to take care of chores at home after my workouts.