Monday, April 26, 2021

Mak ye Divel Paye

 Once upon a time, I was greatly impressed by C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, and I was particularly struck by a passage in which Screwtape (a senior demon specializing the temptation of human beings) remarks that, while he is willing to see people get pleasure, if he must, the summit of his art is getting people to sin without conceding any pleasure in return.

I conceived then of the motto for a family crest, which my mind's eye saw (and my mind's ear pronounced) in Middle English: "Mak ye Divel Paye." Abandoning sin, I recognized, might be beyond me, but I could at any rate insist that the devil pay up. I would not guiltily bolt forbidden fruit: I would savor it.

That was nearly fifty years ago, but the motto has lingered, in the persistent way of one's early perceptions and resolutions, and it came into my mind slantwise in regard to exercise when my back is wonky. The connection, as I try to make it explicit, is tenuous, but it is similar somehow. My back pain can make me stop doing some things, but I can insist that it actually make me stop them. After a couple days of initial recovery, I go straight back into my workouts, unloading them or abbreviating them as necessary. My deadlifts today were two sets of zero x four: grasping an imaginary bar and lifting it four times; resting, and doing it again. That's it, and it was iffy. But the point is to not cede any movement territory to the Devil unless he really means to take it. No avoiding things on the off chance that they might be too much. Just find out. Sure, there's some chance of making the problem worse: but the real risk, the existential risk, is being put off of movement. That's when you really lose capacity.

Your mileage may vary, of course. And this is assuming that there is nothing actually structurally wrong; no "issue in the tissue." One never knows, unless one has a personal MRI and radiographer on call.


Von Tal frowns, nearly deletes all the above text from yesterday, but leaves it, for the moment, at least. He suspects it doesn't actually make sense.

What Dale did today, he thinks, is more to the point. He's getting worried about not getting much aerobic work (as we ancients call zone 2 training): but it's damn hard to get if your lower body is offline. It would be easy to trash one's shoulders or elbows trying to make aerobics out of, for instance some mix of push ups and pull ups. But it's been over a week. "Come on, dude," said Dale to himself (because in addition to referring to himself in the third person, his diction swings wildly into bro-isms when he thinks about exercise.) "If you found yourself legless after getting run over by a train, or blown up by a land mine, you'd know you had to figure out a way to get your aerobics anyway. So figure it out."

He's not even really legless, in fact. He can still do, say, heel drops. And he can even do a very shallow squat, if he's well supported. So his dip station -- which is the inside corner where his kitchen counter makes an 'L' -- turns into a squat-and-bob station. He supports himself as for a dip, but does a shallow squat instead; and when that gets tedious he leans forward and bobs: does a thing that's halfway a dip and halfway a hip hinge. He looks like a damn fool (though rather, he thinks cheerfully, like the American Dipper that is his totem); but he actually manages to generate a burn in his quads, and even some work for the glutes, after just ten minutes. Dude. This works, for leg day. Add some inverse rows, and Bob's your uncle. Or a least a second cousin. You've got something kinda sorta like a zone 2 workout. 

"Hah! Mak ye divel paye!" He thinks.

Von Tal frowns again. "I do not think you really know what that motto means, Dale."

"I don't really care, dude. It's my motto, and I'll do what I like with it."

In this mood, it's best to leave him be. And anyway, the metabolic press is on again. Let the back complain all it wants: we're doing this thing anyway.

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