Intensity Or Insanity
By John Defendis
PAIN! PAIN! PAIN!!! Why is it that...In a lifetime full of Suffering, Pain, and Hardships, some of us will take it upon ourselves to inflict even more pain? As I sit here and look back to the Michalik era, it is not difficult to understand why I would subject myself to such torture. My perseverance stemmed from wanted to win...The Will to become a Champion! We all have it buried somewhere within us. We all have the desire to accomplish goals. Sometimes we make excuses for our shortcomings. But, there are no excuses. A Champion is a Champion, and will never succumb to the obstacles that are thrown in his path.
Circa 1982: Mr. America's Gym...Michalik struts across the gym floor with a set of 60 pounders for Incline Flys. I know the routine. Three Benches, Three exercises, all sets till failure, nonstop ass kicking supersets. Steve begins with almost 300 pounds on the Incline Smith machine. He then proceeds to the second bench to complete a set of Incline Flys, and finally Pullovers across the last bench with a 100 pound dumbell. He moves methodically like a cyborg with a mission. I can see him out of the corner of my eye on my way to the fly bench. He is indestuctable, but I cannot slow down or miss a beat because within minutes he will circle behind me and humiliate me. I realize now that I have not been training at this level since I left Steve years earlier. On the third cycle of exercises I feel exhausted and I begin to panic. Just as Fear starts to overtake me, Michalik screams, "Come On, Look at you! You pathetic piece of shit. What the hell have you been doing these last couple of years? Sitting on your ass eating nachos?" Oh, man, I'm pissed off now and I manage to find the energy and guts to shift my body into high gear. At this point I must have totally lost my mind because I remember yelling, "Come on! Bury me if you think you can...Just try to put me in the hospital again. You'll be the one driving off in the ambulance Mr. Champion!" Oh, shit. I couldn't believe it. Those words actually came out of my mouth. I started to sound like a Michalik clone.
As I sit here and look back and remember that moment, I wonder how many brain cells were missing from my cranium when I was born. Too many to count I guess.
Masochism - n. a condition in which the subject delights in being hurt or humiliated.
Masochist - n. John DeFendis!!!
Michalik was right. I was a very brash, cocky kid. But at this point in time, I was a brash, cocky kid that was about to get the beating of a lifetime! My pathetic statements fueled the madman. His face distorted and was overcome with a rage of fury that could have sent chills down Freddy Kruegers back. He grabbed me and threw my body up onto the Nautilus Pec dec. Then he frantically started running around pulling pins out of the various pieces of equipment in the gym. It didn't take me long to figure out what was about to take place next. I predicted Pain and Suffering ahead. He strategically placed the pins in the weight stack, all 5 of them. The first set would be the entire stack, and as I completely failed with each weight, Steve would make me do a couple of forced reps before he extracted the pin. The pain was unbearable. I wanted to quit after the third drop but I knew...that was not an option. To quit was to DIE! It felt like hours had gone by when I finally completed the series but it had only been minutes. Now, it was the masters turn. I would thoroughly enjoy the moments that lie ahead. His pain was now my relief and happiness.
INTENSITY OR INSANITY
Sadism - n. the deriving of pleasure from inflicting pain on another.
Sadist - n. John DeFendis and Steve Michalik.
Michalik churned out rep after rep. He made it look easy at first but started to grimace after he completed the second set. After his final reps on each set I rapidly yanked the pin out so that he wouldn't get a second to rest. I wanted him to die so that I could go home a winner. Okay, maybe I would have been happy just being able to leave alive and in one piece. Before too long I found myself back up on the machine. "Second round coming up," Michalik shouted. I knew that there would be Five rounds. This was one of Steves favorites. He wouldn't be content until I could no longer move. He wanted to teach me a lesson by annihilation. Finally, I completed my last set in the series. I remember whispering to myself, "Get me the F--- away from this machine!" As usual, there was a crowd of wannabe Michalik trainees standing around waiting to see if I would fail or quit. In all the years that Michalik trained with aspiring champions, there were only a select few that kept up, and most of them are in isolated rooms at the Mental Hospital. If you get close enough, you can even hear them screaming, "No more, I can't do another rep, let me go home now!"
"INTENSITY or INSANITY Training" was not only a method of training that enabled me to become a champion, but it was a time that cannot and will not be duplicated. It was an era when most bodybuilders relied on ballistic and animalistic training to Get Big and Grow Strong! Bodybuilders utilized nutrition and vitamins to make progress and supplemented with minimal Steroids in order to survive the torturous workouts. Now, with drugs like Growth Hormone and IGF-1 accessible, the bodybuilders of today are crying "OVERTRAINING" consistently. With steroid use and abuse running rampant, I feel that the complaints of overtraining by a young, strong, juiced up "Champion" is unwarranted. But...that is just my opinion.
And, We are all entitled to our opinion aren't we?