It is two a.m. Dan Gable can't sleep. He gets out of bed and does sit-ups and push-ups. It is eight a.m. Dan Gable is running several miles on a dirt road. It is one p.m. Dan Gable is lifting weights and punching the heavy bag. It is four p.m. Dan Gable is starting a 2�-hour workout in the 95� heat of the wrestling room. It is 7:30 p.m. Dan Gable runs to the local food store, makes a few purchases and runs back to his apartment. It is 10 p.m. Dan Gable is doing isometrics in his apartment.
This is a not uncommon day in the life of Dan Gable, whose labors are motivated by one goal—winning a gold medal in freestyle wrestling in Munich. There is little doubt that he is the hardest-working athlete in the world. Gable trains two or three times a day, seven days a week, at least 40 hours out of a possible 168—always with gusto and usually all bundled up in both rubber and woolen sweat suits. In order to compete at 149� pounds he sweats off 60 pounds a week; during the past decade he has lost eight tons.
Gone is the fresh complexion and boyish look he had a few years ago. At 23 his features are deeply chiseled, bespeaking the punishment he has inflicted upon himself. Often his face contorts with pain—from a badly injured left knee, from all-consuming fatigue, from forcing himself through one drill after another and then, when he is so limp that his eyes are glazed, pushing himself even harder.
"When I'm ready to stop I start wondering what the Russians are doing, and then I keep going," says Gable, who feels he must beat a Russian to win.
If he does, it will be more because of his conditioning than his wrestling talent. Although he is a skillful wrestler, there are others with equal ability.
International matches consist of three three-minute periods and, "Lots of times after the first period the score'll be close or I'll be behind," Gable says. "But after that I often feel the other guy wearing out and then I get him. Foreign wrestlers aren't like our guys. Once you get ahead of them they almost always quit."
A six-time world champion from Iran was flabbergasted when he watched Gable work out at the World Games in Sofia last year. Finally, he sidled up to Larry Kristoff, a two-time U.S. Olympian, and said, "Is there something mentally wrong with Gable?"
In his book Confessions of a Workaholic, Wayne Oates has written: "The workaholic's way of life is considered in America...(a) a religious virtue, (b) a form of patriotism, (c) the way to win friends and influence people and (d) the way to be healthy, wealthy and wise.... He is the one chosen as 'the most likely to succeed.' "
Gable has always been a workaholic. Mack Gable, Dan's father, got him a summer job with a cement crew when he was 15. Recalls Mack, "He was too young to work legally, so I told the boss, 'You pay him and I'll pay you back, and that way it won't cost you anything to hire him.' Two days later I asked how The Kid was doing. The boss told me, 'I got to work at six a.m. and he was there already, lifting cinder blocks. He works so hard I gave him a 15� raise. Forget our deal. He's worth having on the payroll.' The Kid got up at five a.m. and ran four miles to the job. Kate [Mrs. Gable] used to ask me, 'Do you think we're working him too hard?' We didn't know what to think except that The Kid loved it."
Dan Gable has always done physical jobs the hard way in order to strengthen his body. He passed up the power mower in favor of one he could push. During the summer he usually worked in a lumberyard, where he was popular with his co-workers because he insisted upon doing the most rugged jobs himself—unloading trucks of cement bags and lumber. When there were no tasks to be done he did push-ups and sit-ups. At West High School in Waterloo, Iowa and at Iowa State he ran to and from classes. "I don't like walking," he says. "Takes too long to get anywhere."