I'm working out with Birk and Mike Morris on Monday morning. That's "Superstar" Mike Morris, the KFAN morning radio show host, former Vikings long snapper and proprietor of the MILO Barbell Club in Burnsville.
MILO stands for Mike's Insane Lifting Order. Milo, Morris informs me, is also the Greek god of massive pecs, or something like that.
Working out alongside Birk and under Morris' direction will introduce me to Upchuck, the Greek god of projectile vomiting.
The challenge: Enduring the same, torturous workout that Morris puts Birk through. Birk is working out with Morris this summer instead of in the Vikings weight room. I can assure Brad Childress that Birk is not slacking.
Today is chest and triceps day. And rope and truck day.
There is a difference in our workouts. Birk, a surprisingly lean-looking 317 pounds, uses dumbbells the size of Mack truck tires. I use small, pink, plastic dumbbells that say "Rainbow Pony" on the side. Otherwise, we go through roughly the same routine.
We start with what Morris calls "pre-exhaustion" chest exercises -- incline dumbbell bench presses, fly presses, then regular bench presses. After four sets of each, we head to the parking lot, and Birk unfurls the rope that, I'm guessing, was used to haul King Kong off the island.
Birk and I take turns raising the rope over our heads and flinging it to the ground, with the goal of making half the length of the long, long, rope jump. It's harder than it sounds.
After a few sets of that, we take turns pulling hand-over-hand, hauling the rope that's now tied around Morris' waist. Then we grab both ends of the rope, which is again around Morris' waist, and execute explosive pulls, activating our hands, forearms, hips and backs.
"When you play football, and you're out in space trying to block a linebacker, you need a different kind of strength than the kind you get in the weight room," Birk said.
Birk backs his truck out. The parking lot is long, and I steer while he pushes his truck its entire length. Then -- and this isn't quite fair -- I push Birk's truck with him in it, all the way back. Twice.
Birk does this a third time, with Morris steering, while I go into the bushes and eject my morning Starbucks.
Birk and Morris find this a convenient time to tell stories. Birk, who attended Cretin-Derham Hall High, said then-Vikings offensive line coach Mike Tice sent him to Morris to get stronger. So Birk showed up and worked out with Morris and Vikings such as Todd Steussie in Morris' basement, and Birk became one of the great overachievers in NFL history -- a sixth-round pick who has been selected to six Pro Bowls.
Birk, after his first MILO workout, found he couldn't bend over to touch his knees. And he urinated blood for a few days.
"I asked him if he had gotten that looked at," Morris said. "He said 'No.' It went away. So I guess it was OK."
Morris shrugged, and we head inside for four sets of two different triceps lifts. I'm hurting now, but it's not really my muscles. It's that, while pushing the truck, my internal organs fought like divergent Middle Eastern religious sects.
I eject more Starbucks in the bathroom, then finish the sets. Birk hardly looks tired.
Heading into his 11th season, he says he has never felt stronger. When tested at Vikings minicamp, he was 10 pounds lighter yet carried four more pounds of lean muscle than the last time he was tested. He had also dropped 4 percent in body fat.
Birk works out four times a week with Morris, and does two days of agility drills and football-specific running. The gentlemen in the gym note that Birk suffered his hernia injuries while working out under the Vikings' auspices, and that he has made his greatest gains and had his best seasons after working with Morris.
"Tice sent me here to get stronger, and then he becomes head coach, and he tells me I have to work out with the team," Birk said, chuckling.
Morris has worked out with or trained other luminaries such as Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, Chris Hovan, Robert Smith and Brock Lesnar, and now instructs everyone from chemotherapy patients to Marines to high school athletes to stir-crazy office workers.
"Working out like this kept me in the game, because I was very limited in ability," Morris said.
"I feel like I'm still getting stronger and still improving," Birk said. "This is where I need to be. I'm excited because I'm in good shape, and because of the guys we've got on our team."
Pro athletes have good lives. Some work harder to earn them than others. Birk and Morris don't have to torture themselves daily, but they do.
It would sound dramatic to say I couldn't move the day after working out with them but, actually, I felt great.
I was so inspired I worked out again Tuesday, without the truck, rope and projectile vomiting. Just me and my Rainbow Pony dumbbells.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. firstname.lastname@example.org