I’ve heard people claim that prejudice is dead, replaced in the modern era with acceptance and equality. I’ve heard it said that racism, bigotry, and body-shaming were a thing of the past. Call me naïve, but I believed that. I thought there was movement, positive steps taken to solve the issues we faced as a species—thanks most passionately to the fat Healthy at Every Size heroes. Today, however, I realized I was wrong. Today I discovered that prejudice is alive and well, and that I am not exempt from its assault.
I was attacked by a police officer yesterday for no reason other than my mere appearance and desire to perform perfect squats. He had no well-founded purpose for his actions, no motive for his assault, just a hatred—or perhaps jealousy—for the way my body looks and the sheer depth of my squats.
It all began at around 7:30pm, my body sore and weak from the typical Tuesday leg day. For hours I had toiled away, squatting, pressing, lunging, curling, and calf-raising my legs into tattered, useless hunks of meat. All had gone well—my front squats were deep, back squats heavy, hack squats slow, and all accessories fully extended and in the highest of reps. It seemed a typical night.
As I crawled back to my car, legs dragging behind me like two limp, muscular strands of spaghetti, I briefly contemplated calling a cab. I knew I was in no condition to drive, despite the knowledge that D.W.I. (Driving While Inflamed) was not illegal. However, glancing down at my watch, I noticing the anabolic window would be closing soon. I needed to get some protein or I would lose my gains. I opted against the choice of waiting fifteen minutes for a cab and getting my car in a few weeks, once my Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness vanished—a decision that would come to haunt me.
I continued lat pulldown-ing myself toward my car, hitting full extension on each rep against the abrasive parking lot tarmac, until I was alongside the driver’s door. A quick one-handed pull-up against the door frame—careful not to allow the exercise to become cardiovascular—and I was in. I was feeling pretty confident as I lowered myself into the seat. Although my legs had less functionality than Christopher Reeves’ after a marathon, I was sure I would have little issue controlling my automobile for the five mile drive back home. I started the car, lifted my leg up with my right arm, and placed it against the brake and gas pedals. I put the car in drive.
Everything seemed to be going well enough at first. The car slowly began moving as I applied pressure to my leg with my palm, arms acting as make-shift quads. I cautiously cut the wheel, exiting the lot and driving onto the main road. I maintained a nice, slow speed, following the curves of the streets that I had driven thousands of times before. Memory took over, my mind automatically steering me home. I thought back to the day’s workout, recanting every rep to ensure I had gotten the most out of the workouts. The third rep on my last working-set squat, it really left a lot to be desired. I didn’t hit parallel, instead stopping just before. It was a mistake, an unforgivable error—a wasted rep, worthless and pointless. I just didn’t expect the guy next to me to drop the weight on the floor. Plus, my form—
The car lurched forward as my legs regained consciousness. The thought of squatting had forced my heels back, taking the weight of the imaginary barbell. The gas pedal was flat against the floor, engine screaming as it accelerated. I tried desperately to pry my leg up, quads bulging under the hypothetical weight. Despite my greatest efforts, I could not pry myself from the gas pedal. The demand for strict form kept my leg pressed flat. I knew I needed to finish the mental sets before my body would permit me to relax.
I closed my eyes, car speeding perilously down the two-lane road. The fourth imaginary rep was heavy; it was difficult to reclaim my composure after the earlier mess of a squat. My body began to lock under the weight as I hit parallel, mind still frozen with the embarrassment of the previous rep. I refused to surrender. Pushing through my heels, I slow rose up, triumphant, and prepared for number five. Two to go.
A siren blared behind me, my eyes opening to lights flashing in the rearview mirror. A police officer was following me. I bent my pointer and middle fingers in the international shape of someone squatting and held them out the window, alerting the officer that I was mid-set. His sirens continued to blare, a motivating rhythm to complete my lift. Comforted, I closed my eyes and began the fifth rep. Down. Parallel. Up. I had found my groove again, it was seamless. I opened my eyes and glanced at the speedometer, which was now nearing 110 mph. The road curved up ahead, I knew I had only a few more seconds to finish my mental set, but I didn’t want to rush myself. Nice, slow, controlled reps were all that mattered.
I closed my eyes again, core tight as I mentally lowered myself. Nice, solid, tight. Great rep, awesome form. I practically felt the floor against my butt, knees nearly head-level. I exhaled as I pushed myself back up. I had one more in me and I knew it, screw stopping at six. The curve would have to wait.
The siren wailed behind me, engine screaming as I swerved blindly around cars that I guessed where there. I opened one eye, peeking through the rear-view mirror at the officer. I wasn’t sure why he was still chasing me—he knew damn well that I was mid-set and couldn’t just stop. I wasn’t at failure yet. Taking a rest now would basically be the same as going home, eating a salad, and then killing myself. I did the international sign of squatting once again, then closed my eyes for the last set.
I sat back, weight over my heals and spine neutral. Great form. Solid, tight. Nice and deep. The weight, it was my bitch. I exhaled again, body far below parallel, and brought myself back to my feet. I leaned forward, placing the barbell back on the squat rack, and opened my eyes.
My quads immediately relaxed, foot returning back to its limp-spaghetti state. The car slowed, officer now pulling alongside me. He pointed aggressively to pull over. I did so, ready to tell him I no longer needed a spot. He had missed his opportunity. Not like I needed one, anyway, but the moral support always helped. What happened next I never expected.
The officer did not offer me a spot. He did not congratulate me on six solid reps of PR weight, and one less than notable half-rep. He didn’t give me a high five, or some tips on really getting that hip thrust. He didn’t offer me suggestions on starting a cycle, nor did he even try to lightly spank me like athletes do to congratulate one another. Instead, he demanded I get out of the car. Told me to leave the vehicle and get on the ground, hands behind my head. I tried to explain, let him know that it was leg day and I simply couldn’t stand up. I told him that the anabolic window was quickly closing, and that I needed my protein. I explained I would lose my gains. All he did was shout, demand, scream at me to rise up and get out.
I don’t know what to say, other than to admit that I surrendered. I was weak, tired, desperate for protein. I pulled open the door and flopped out of the car, legs still locked in place at the pedals like a dry pool noodle. I pulled myself forward, performing a solid diamond pushup to elevate myself slightly and get a minor pump in my triceps. The officer pushed me toward the ground; I allowed him to, lowering myself flat. I expected him to stand on top of me so as to add additional weight to my pushup. To my surprise, he instead removed his handcuffs and placed one around my left wrist, then pulled my right wrist toward it. My lats, pumped from the earlier crawling pull downs and pull up, prevented him from placing the cuff around the left. He tugged, ripped at my arms to bring them together, but my body was simply too large. He grabbed an extender, telling me I was too wide for his cuffs—mocking me for my size. I had too much mass, too many gains for his “everyday person” handcuffs. He had to link them together in order to oppress me, in order to ruin my week’s gains.
I missed the anabolic window because of this officer. I spent the remainder of the night in a holding cell, gains slowly draining out of my body. I pleaded—begged—for so much as a gallon of whole milk and some creatine, but was provided nothing. Not even casein. By the time I woke up, I had lost all of my gains. The cuffs no longer needed the extender. In fact, the cuffs no longer even remained around my wrists. They simply slid off, like a condom on a melting Popsicle. My body was no longer an homage to the Grecian gods, but more like that of a holocaust survivor. The police had shamed me, abused me, and—worst of all—stripped me of my gains.
I used to believe the world was changing, that we were coming to a time in which equality was not a dream, but rather something we experienced every day. Now, however, I realize my naiveté. I realize my ignorance. The world hasn’t changed, it’s exactly as it was. The swole are to be shamed, displaced, and cast aside, like second rate citizens with bodies of the gods, making Driving While Swole a crime punishable by death (of gains).
Don’t make the same mistake as me. Don’t miss the anabolic window.