When I arrived at the gym last Tuesday, I found Dr. Delts trying to get on a Swiss ball. Something fishy is going on here, I thought. He usually scorns such equipment in favor of more metallic, manly gear. But at times he’ll try almost anything. “Hey! What’s going on?” I asked.
“I know, I never use this thing, but I saw this guy on YouTube doing squats on a Swiss ball, and I thought it looked pretty amazing. Plus I’m bored with regular squats”, Delts said. Ah. This explained the weight bar leaning against the wall nearby with a couple of plates on it. I wondered if he seriously thought he was going to squat with a barbell while balancing on the ball. Knowing Delts, my wonderment quickly turned to certainty.
The Edumacation of a Bodybuilder
He knelt on the ball, and and struggled to maintain his balance. I tried not to laugh. I grabbed another Swiss ball, and knelt down on it without too much trouble. He’s way stronger than I am, but I do have better balance. Frowning, and calling me a show-off, he tried again. He rolled off a couple more times until he got his balance and fought to stay on. Then he decided to push his luck and try standing on the ball. He attracted the attention of onlookers as he fell off about a dozen times.
Finally, he managed to stand shakily on the ball. “OK, Dave, hand me that bar”, he said breathlessly.
“No way,” I said. “Are you insane? I’m going to put 9-1-1 on speed-dial. What’s their number again?”
“Go ahead, hand it to me”, he insisted, working hard to stay on. “Oh oh,” said Monica, our accomplished athlete friend nearby.
Instead, I walked over to a weight rack and picked up a 2-pound dumbbell. “Here you go”, I said, holding it out to him.
Smiling but annoyed, and now attracting onlookers, a couple of whom were laughing, he replied, “No, give me the full bar.” He wasn’t about to back down in front of an audience.
I shook my head. “I’ll give you ten bucks if you can stay on the ball while holding this,” I said, again offering the small pink dumbbell.
The Accidental Gymnast
Money talked, and he reached out for the 2-pounder. I passed it to him. Immediately, he was in trouble. Desperately fighting for balance, he thrashed back and forth. After some seconds, he rolled off the ball while falling forward. The mini-weight went flying, and Monica managed to make a great catch before it could hit anyone. Delts’ legs went out from under him, and his stomach landed squarely on the ball, causing himself to bounce back up in the air. He spun sideways, inadvertently executing a full twist, and landed on his hands and knees, breathless and red-faced, but otherwise unharmed.
When they could see he was OK, people nearby broke into cheers and applause. I held up an imaginary sign and said, “9.25, slight form deduction”. Delts likes attention, and he’s almost as happy being noticed for failure as well as success, a really good sport. Still red-faced, he took a small bow, saying “I meant to do that.”
“Maybe we should take it down to 1 pound”, I added.
You Just Never Listen
Delts is almost immune to any advice the first time you give it – he just has to find out for himself. It drives me nuts, but at the same time a small part of me wishes I could lose the caution and be more of a risk-taker like him. Of course, it’s a little easier when you’re a natural athlete and can get away with all kinds of nonsense, like over-training, doing ill-advised exercise moves, and generally asking for it. We often disagree about exercise technique, both of us having strong opinions. But I find him endlessly amusing and a great friend. He laughs at my jokes, and actually does take some of my researched training ideas seriously.
The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
Early on, before I knew him that well, he was in the gym bench-pressing, and I decided to also do a set. This was also before I had any significant training knowledge. I took on too much weight, and was starting to lose it after a couple reps. I struggled to get the weight off my chest. He was between sets and watching nearby, and saw what was going on. He ran over, pulled that bar off of me, and racked it like it was a toy. Tremendously relieved, I was grateful and don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t been there to help. Since then we have become the best of friends, and I have tried to reciprocate by doing my best to protect him from some of his crazier ideas. Someday I may actually succeed at doing so.