Rebuilding

When I landed at a vacant Hartsfield-Jackson, I did not mind waiting a few hours for my sister to pick me up. I was delayed on my Denver layover unsure whether I would even escape a looming spring time snow storm. My flight got into Atlanta late. Unfortunately, she was working even later.

Her text said it would be a while on account of the Louisville championship celebration. I camped outside the North Terminal with my three bags and watched as car by car, each passenger from my flight slipped away into the twilight. Nothing but the faint treble from my headphones and the incessant sweeping of cigarette butts and old luggage tags from the sidewalk. By 3:30AM the terminal trickled back to life as risk averse travelers began to arrive for their 6AM departures. I don’t remember the last time I had been back to Atlanta. I was just happy to be home.

After two days of restless sleep and suffering from a plague of pine pollen, my mind was already beginning to wander towards basketball. There was still an eight day eternity before my flight back to SFO and a highly anticipated return to working out at Stanford. I don’t do well when it comes to taking time off. It didn’t help that I had been dreaming about a weight room and regular workout program ever since I resorted to doing push-ups and sit-ups in my apartment bedroom. All I could think about was how far behind I was. Not that our marathon season of back to backs, insane traveling, sleepless nights, and continuous grinding had come to an end.

I resisted the urge to workout. I stuck to stretching and rolling on my lacrosse ball. As an athlete and competitor, sometimes the toughest thing is to acknowledge when we need a break. We’ll tear ourselves down, give every last ounce, chasing our goals and dreams. I gave what I had this season. Nothing I did on my vacation would change that. I needed rest. I needed to take my mind off basketball.

I spent my remaining days in Georgia rubbing my eyes, sneezing and enjoying the company of my family. I found joy in the small things. I babysat my nephew. I had meme wars with my younger brother. I ran errands with my sister. I talked life with my mother. When basketball dominates your life, sets your schedule, cancels long standing plans at the last minute, tells you when to wake up, reminds you to eat, etc., it takes time to readjust to the world outside. I’m glad I did. The break reminded me of what is important. I’d be gone soon. As I washed clothes and packed up my last days at home, I had already begun to miss it.

Stanford was just as I remembered it. Sure, there were a few new construction sites sprinkled across campus, but no surprise there; the constant change is one of the things I remember most. It’s a strange feeling returning to a place you considered home for so long. You’re sitting there with the slightest doubt in mind betting yourself you can still navigate the whole damn place blindfolded. But you don’t take yourself up on it. Instead you stick to biking the main roads, the edges, and dart through the heart of campus only when necessary. The same happened the first time I returned to Phillips Exeter Academy. The memories are good enough.

 

The mini-Maples weight room had not changed a bit either. I just could not get over how much heavier the weights felt. I guess that is the distortion that occurs when you have not lifted all season. I was only a third of the way through the second circuit and I had some serious life decisions to make about my first set of SA DB Alt Bench (single arm dumb bell alternating bench press).

If I go with 60s like I should, I’ll just be a bit sore tomorrow. If I push for 75s, my arms will hate me. If I get ambitious and go with what I used to lift way back when before the season, chances are I will have no function in my arms. Hell, maybe no function in my life since I’d probably drop the dumb bells on my face. I wince at the thought.

It’s my first day back so I don’t have a sheet with my weights written down. Indecisive, I ask our strength and conditioning coach which weight I should start with hoping that he will save me from the decision. He must have taken heed to my e-mail when I said “we’re going to be starting from ground zero” with my strength and fitness. I grabbed the 60s and finished out the circuit.

By the end of the workout, I find myself hunched over in a pool of sweat and glued to an empty bench. I should probably down the two post workout protein shakes sitting at my feet but all I can think about it how much a mistake it was to do 90s on that last set. It feels good though. I just keep reminding myself to be patient.

You don’t get it all back in one workout. Take your time.

JR takes a seat on the adjacent bench. He’s getting ready to start a lift of his own.

“How you feeling, JO?”

At this point there is no hiding the obvious.

“Tired as shit,” I confess. I pull my head up from between my shoulders as he pauses looking for a response.

“Yea, man. Just makes you feel alive.”

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