"Driven" in the Right Direction
By Paula Schaffer
I had my first child at age 16 and three more by age 24. Beaten down physically and mentally by an abusive husband, I contemplated suicide many times. After over 16 years of mental and physical struggle, I sought help through counseling. My misdirected faith in what I thought God wanted from me was corrected and the healing began.
Then, as if, by accident, I discovered a secret desire that even I didn’t realize was buried deep inside. A passion hidden under the numb, dead like existence that comes from such a depravating relationship. To be alive! To value myself and to be valued. As I healed mentally it was natural that the body should follow.
I first tried walking. It was a 10th of a mile to the top of the hill, up the road from where I lived. Somewhere between a size 14 and size 16 at 5 ft. 4 inches, I’d tell myself, “when I can actually make it to the top of the hill without stopping, I’ll be in better shape.” That habit was hard to keep. I had so far to go to get in shape that self defeating thoughts kept me from getting started.
Then a good friend, (who also had 4 kids the same age as mine) and I joined the YMCA aerobic dance classes. HA! What a joke. Have you ever tried to keep up with some dance queen, let alone learn any of the steps. I use to swear that she was there just to show us how cute she was and to make us look bad by comparison. We tried several different aerobic dance classes over time, only to give up before we’d see any results from the sheer torment to our already suffering self esteem. And, by the way, can someone tell me, why did most of the instructors have so much cellulite on their butts and thighs?
Once and only once, we tried a women’s roller skating class designed to help lose weight and get in shape. We couldn’t believe it when the instructor rolled in. And I do mean rolled in. She had the most unbelievably huge thighs! Poor woman. We all just looked at each other and I’m sure they were thinking the same thing I was, “RUN! I came here to get skinnier not bigger!”
Then came the organized floor exercises to music at Elaine Powers. No equipment except for some ankle weights & elastic bands. That was pretty fun, especially the part after class where we felt that we deserved a reward so we went out for tacos or pizza & apple fritter from the Safeway bakery. I must have gained another 10 lbs. with that one.
Then, I got lucky... my ex-husband got a girlfriend!
Looking back now, it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but at the time, the stress of the ordeal made it nearly impossible for me to swallow food. I’m not sure what I ate, I do know it wasn’t much. I lost a lot of weight, very fast! Not a good idea.
Although I was not eating properly, I unintentionally stumbled upon one of the missing factors needed to succeed in a sound conditioning program. Are you ready? You can’t dance it off! An over all reduction in calorie intake is necessary to reduce body fat Profound, uh?
I’d never recommend taking that route -- it’s painful and very unhealthy. The body loses more muscle and preserves the fat for survival because it thinks you’re starving. Thin may be in when you have your clothes on but a size 1 after 4 kids, after being a size 16, looks pretty sad naked.
Stephen, my one and only real husband says that I’m driven. Maybe that’s why I kept going. The fear of how divorce would affect my kids, how I was going to feed them, how would I keep my ex-husband from keeping his promise to kill me if I ever left, or from stealing the kids and hiding them from me, was unbearably stressful. That’s when I discovered strength training. I truly loved it! My family had always said that I was stubborn. They just didn’t recognize determination when they saw it. Now I had a positive place to use it.
Silly as it may sound, the television show, The American Gladiators, stirred up an excitement I hadn’t felt before. It just felt right for me, to be strong, with a hard body. Maybe get something back that I had given away. Little did I know that I would surpass, by far, my own expectations. For now, my body is not only hard and very strong, it’s a safer place to live. That’s a statement that many women will understand. Strength training has allowed me to develop a greater inner strength and the realization that I belong to me and not to an abuser.
At 102 lbs, I joined a small, women only gym and did my best to figure it out. Since I wanted to look like a hard bodied woman without looking masculine, I did the recommended light weight, high rep, forever and forever, hour and a half, do I have to do my abs every day, work out. Four days a week! I had to beg, borrow and steal just to get time to go. Since the gym was a half hour north from my house and my, NEW, full time job was an hour drive south, 4 kids the job and trying not to loose my marbles, I’d say I did well to stick with that for about a year.
Then, this is where it gets good. I discovered a Nautilus gym almost next door to where I worked. I booked an appointment with a personal trainer for an orientation.
I have to back way up for a moment. When I was a little girl with little girl legs my brother would ask me, “are those your knees or are you smuggling door knobs?” We’d even pretend that you could grab them and turn them like doorknobs.
Anyway, with that beautiful childhood memory stuck somewhere in the back of my mind, I walked into the Nautilus for my appointment. From across the foyer a handsome, kind of rugged looking man in too small black shorts points straight at me and says, (in his big voice) “look at those knees!” What a guy.
As I slid, kind of squatingly, to the nearest bench, he walked over and sat next to me. I’m guessing because he realized, from my sudden paled expression, that he’d mortified me and owed me an explanation. He began by telling me that his name was Stephen Schaffer and that he was going to be my trainer. And that his comment regarding my knees was due to the fact that he had never seen such long muscle bellies on such a small skeletal frame. I decided that, in his own strange way, he meant it as a compliment and that he wasn’t a crazy friend of my brothers.
Stephen was recently certified as a Nautilus trainer and was a avid pupil of Mike Mentzer. One of Stephen’s favorite quotes still is, “there are no experts, only ardent students.” So my first training sessions were the standard Nautilus work outs... twelve exercises incorporating all major muscle groups, one set to failure.
Stephen was incredible! He knew what he was teaching and has the talent to really bring out the best in his students. We would preform feats for him that we didn’t know we were capable of. The workouts were amazing! I’d never felt anything so intense and rewarding. It gave me such a sense of accomplishment. This time, my hard work was for me. The realization that I was stronger, more powerful, more determined than even I’d realized.
Today, people see me train and think I’m crazy, some think I’m amazing, some leave the room. I hope it’s because they’re challenged. It all starts in the mind and I knew it! Strength begins from what you believe, how strong your mind is and how unwilling you are to give up.
For several months I faithfully followed the work out that Stephen designed for me. Without a training partner, that kind of intensity is almost impossible to generate. So from time to time Stephen would come over and spot me and encourage me on and to laugh that maniacal laugh that he’s known for. He seems to find it pretty exciting to see his clients achieve feats they would never have believed they could achieve. Either that or he’s sadistic!
One day, at work, I received a phone call from an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator -- it was Stephen, of course. He needed a training partner. Perfect, he had the knowledge and I didn’t know when to quit. At first we trained 4 times per week. Splitting the body into two different workouts then alternating every other session. Monday & Thursday we trained chest & legs then Tuesday & Friday, back & shoulders. All on Nautilus, all one set to failure, just the way Mike Mentzer said. I was having too much fun watching my body change into a hard body to realize that I was tired and still only weighed 104 lbs.
Fortunately, Stephen read Mike’s book Heavy Duty. It takes a confident man to admit that he made a mistake. In Heavy Duty, Mike said that he had made an error in his recommendation regarding frequency. He was now recommending a further decrease in frequency allowing for more recovery. Stephen was smart to wean me slowly. For me to give up training time to gain muscle was a frightening idea. We first dropped to three days per week.
Skinny and scared and only 8 months of training, I entered my first competition as a novice. At 105 lbs I looked like, what someone called me, a miniature body builder. Standing behind me, Stephen stood me in front of a mirror and said, “you’ve worked hard for this, now smile.” For the first time in my life I truly, confidently, smiled and I haven’t stopped since.
Hot pink posing suit and nails, covered with Pro-Tan and too much oil, I slithered around on stage. It was so incredibly exciting when the audience howled at the pose in which I elevated my entire body, up from a split position on just finger tips, and almost fell. Wherever that “too-insecure-to-look-you-in-the-eye” woman went that day, I don’t care. All I knew right then was that I was shining. When they handed me that 3rd place trophy I was so proud, and so was Stephen.
Now we had proof that Heavy Duty training worked. We entered several contests, including the couples class with good to excellent success, never leaving without a trophy. There were many other steps along the way. We’ve seen many changes both in the industry and in our bodies.
In 1992 Stephen began an association with retired US Army Major Tom Grace, (former head of the physical education dept. at West Point) then owner of Hammer Strength Northwest (Tom is now the regional representative for Med-X). Stephen was the exclusive personal trainer for the Hammer Strength show room, training amateur and professional athletes, always using High Intensity methods.
Our friendship with Tom brought opportunities to meet, consult with and sometimes debate with many authorities in the field of strength training and exercise physiology. I don’t think Bill Pearl will ever forget us! Because of Tom we were privileged to the most cutting edge, scientific information available: Arthur Jones’ work being carried out at Med-X, numerous conversations with Hammer Strength equipment designer, Gary Jones, conversations with Kim Wood, strength training coach of the Cincinnati Bengals and part owner of Hammer Strength, regarding use of High Intensity for professional athletes.
Stephen’s constant reading of every Mike Mentzer publication brought him to question the possibility that we were still overtraining. Being open to the idea, (because it came from Mike) that less may be best, Stephen dropped to a two day per week program. Training the entire body in each session.
Being skeptical, I followed a few weeks later after seeing a significant improvement in his body. After over 20 years of lifting weights, this reduction brought about such dramatic improvements in his physique, I thought I’d better try it. Guess what, I got legs! The kind that when I stood on stage I could hear, from the audience, “she’s got legs!”
Stephen likes to push the edge, or me over it. At a body weight of 114 lbs and a hydrostatic body fat of 5.8 %, I entered the Vancouver Natural. After placing 2nd in the toughest, largest lightweight class I’d ever seen, he suggested that to gain even more development, I make an even more radical reduction to train upper body once per week and legs once per week! One would think that by now I’d learn not to debate him and just follow along. I’ve never been accused of being docile. But, once again, he and Mike were right, I saw even more development, especially in my legs.
Stimulation and recovery. I could work most men under the table but I didn’t know how to recover. Rest and relaxation were never part of my vocabulary. They are now. You could stimulate until you drop dead but without recovery you’ll hit a dead end or a plateau and wear your body out getting nowhere. Nowhere, but very, very tired was where I was getting until I listened to my trainer, Stephen.
Now, I weigh 114 lbs with biceps that measure out at a whopping 11 3/4 inches! We both train one day per week, the entire body. Stephen’s routine includes the Hammer Strength Leg Press, Hack Squat, Cable Row, Dips and Abs. Then the alternating week, Dead Lift, Bar Dips, Biceps Curl (done due to degenerated cartilage in his shoulders), Calf Raise and Abs.
My routine includes Hammer Strength Leg Press, (my favorite) Hack Squat, (sumo stance, for that no-man’s land inner thigh area, that Mike says isn’t necessary but I still haven’t given up), 11-14 Pull Ups, 10 degree chest, (because I have to have cleavage up to my chin!) or Hammer Strength Wide Chest, Biceps Curls, Overhead Press, Calves and Abs.
The alternating week is the same for legs with the addition of a hyper extension, because I have degenerated vertebrae and can’t Deadlift. Pull Ups, Stiff Arm Lever, Wide Chest, Biceps and Abs.
We have concluded that a balance of stimulation, recovery and nutrition are critical for maximum human performance. Reasoning is the most important function of the mind and mental approach governs all action. What you believe is your reality, therefore it is necessary to examine your beliefs.
There certainly have been many interesting stories along the way. Here’s one you may enjoy.
Stephen and I were offered the opportunity to model in a nationally published book on strength training, The author is famous for his many books on the subject and the founder of a world famous gym chain. It was a great deal of fun knowing that we’d be seen nationwide and viewed along with those that, “have arrived” in the field.
The author and photographer were very impressed with my development and after two 12 hour days of photo shoots I was asked to outline my training routine, which I did, gladly. They couldn’t believe that anyone could become so highly developed without steroids following such a short and infrequent routine.
As a matter of fact, during the shoot, the author and I had several conversations about his great knowledge of strength training and the methods he used as a young man and still uses to train his teenage son. I was amazed how this person could have come so far in this field and know so little. I especially felt sorry for his son who obviously worked very hard to keep up the ridiculous high volume routine placed on him.
Several weeks later we received a letter saying I had been chosen as the female profile for the book. This, over a woman who was then part owner of 8 Gold’s Gyms in the Portland, Oregon area. The letter included a proof of their version of my workout. Surprisingly the volume of work was dramatically higher than what I had written. It included moves, like squats, that I can’t and wouldn’t preform and as many as 6 sets per exercise. A volume, that with the intensity I use, would have killed me! Actually, the routine was nothing like mine.
While I didn’t want to chance losing my prestigious place in this wonderful book, I couldn't resist writing back to explain that a mistake had been made. Perhaps the outline I had given them had been lost and that this wasn’t even close to the work out I use. After receiving the letter, the author graciously called to explain that the outline hadn’t been lost but that he felt no one would believe my actual routine would allow for that kind of development, so a little professional embellishment was in order.
To our surprise, when the book was published, the described workout more closely approximated the original routine given. We suspect that the supplier of the Hammer Strength equipment, used in the book, may have affected the author’s decision-making process. Consequently, that gentleman knows Stephen quite well and would have conveyed the dangers of lying about us.
After having been through all of that I have to say this: I am in management for a major coffee company. Therefore I spend 45 to 55 hours a week working with the public. What I see truly scares me. Humanity has gone beyond stupidity -- they’re brain dead! People will allow (no they prefer) themselves to be lead around rather than to go through any effort of reviving even a small part of their brains for use. They would much prefer, in every situation, that every decision be made for them and “while you’re at it could you do it for me tooooooo?” I fully expect that some day, soon, my staff and I will hear an adult voice from the restrooms, “Mommy. come and wipe my butty!”
I use to believe that Mike Mentzer’s writing was crass and harsh. While I still think it’s a little crass, Mike, you’re too easy on people. They’re screwed up! Stephen & I have tried to figure out why we don’t seem to have quite that same level of brain degeneration. We just watch, in amazement.
The only thing we’ve figured out is that we don’t eat meat, of any kind, we filter our water & we don’t watch T.V. Could that be it? Are people brainwashed by that wicked device? Do they believe that watching 90210 is as good as having a little hard butt or a nice chest? Get a clue! And please, I don’t even want to know what they do for sex... virtual reality sex? We’ll take the real thing. Especially with a strong body.
You should tell women how strong their orgasm becomes as their body becomes stronger. Oh, forget it, that would be too hard on their men. They might have to give up that Victoria’s Secret body concept. That a body would break if a real man made love to it. I think the tube type body is for men who are intimadated by a strong woman. Stephen thinks that type of woman’s arms would come off at the shoulders if they tried to make love like we do! He says “don’t enter a donkey in the Kentucky Derby of the human race.” Always train for maximum performance.
It seems to me that if we aren’t making an effort to evolve mentally and spiritually, to educate ourselves, to fight off aging by taking the best possible care of our bodies and to offer the same information and encouragement to those who are interested, then we are just existing. What a waste of life!
Recent statistics show that 51% of all new gym members are women. It would be great to see Heavy Duty training information available in more widely read publications than bodybuilding magazines? Perhaps something that women would read. Our experience has been that women grasp the Heavy Duty training concepts much more readily than men. They usually have no preconceived mythological concepts to overcome.
While I'm somewhat opinionated, I haven't given up on people. You shouldn't either.
*** *** ***