“The blank serenity of the invulnerable.” Peter Benchley was writing about a barracuda, but the same can be said about strong people. Unless they are attempting a world record, they are calm and unperturbed. You could swear Ed Coan got Botox.
Neurotics stay weak. They doubt their strength to complete the rep, so they panic and cheat. They rush their rest periods because they do not want to miss the latest episode of American Idol or they just remembered they need to pick up dry cleaning—or because their fidgety minds just cannot be still for five minutes, recover, and reflect.
The hyperactive 21st century makes it difficult to stop long before failure and take leisurely rest periods. We need to go back in time to find the patience of strength.
Legendary Strength, Yul Brynner, and Kettlebells
How would Yul Brynner’s character from The Magnificent Seven go about his kettlebell press ladders?
Chris slowly removed his hat and hung it up on a sun-bleached fence post. He stalked the kettlebell hiding from the burning Mexican sun under a shed, and calmly faced it. Clean—with a lighting speed and a practiced precision of a gun draw.
The lazy body turned rock hard to accept the blow. Chris paused with a bell on his chest, the way one does when he does not question his own strength. He powerfully shoved the heavy kettlebell overhead. The abs and the grip tightened while the face remained impassive.
An explosive hand switch and a press with the right. The gun fighter set the bell down, a spent glass on the counter. Ramrod straight, he strode over to pick up his black hat and put it back on. He leaned on the fence and surveyed the desert for several minutes without moving.
With all the time in the world at his disposal, Chris walked over to the kettlebell. Cowboy boots may not be the best footwear for training but they do make one slow down and walk with dignity, hips first.
Clean, press, press. Clean, press, press. The knuckles turned white and not a single facial muscle twitched.
Chris lit up a cigar and smoked it for some time. He finally approached the bell, the cigar still between his teeth, decisively anaerobic.
Clean, press, press, press. There was no way to gauge the difficulty of the set. The pale eyes showed nothing but “the blank serenity of the invulnerable.”
The shadows from the saguaro cacti have stretched long. The sky above the mountains turned purple. Did half an hour go by? Did two hours? Did it matter?
The Old West was history long before I was born. Or maybe it was just a legend. Regardless, I am nostalgic for that lost world of strength and reticence.