Oh, I know, the Democratic National Convention is going on. And last campaign was all about “Yes We Can.” I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s the case.
I’m not going to weigh in, because it’s time for Fitness Friday.
And that means no politics, just pain (with eventual gain).
Speaking of weighing in, I punched 15 pounds of fat in the face over the last 5 weeks. Yay!
So what that means is I had way too much on me already, and so a slight diet change and a lot of plain old boring exercise got the job done. Now that the easy part of getting started is done, I imagine I will have to push it harder to make more progress.
My body rebels at the thought.
Good thing my mind is here to tell my body to shut its mouth. (Shut it, mouthbreather!)
I’ve mentioned before that I spent a couple years as an indoor cycling instructor. I had a friend who was a regular, and he told me the Spin class is awesome and challenging. I said something along the lines of “Psssh… you’re sitting in a room riding a bike to nowhere. Is that even a workout?”
I went to one class and got destroyed. But I fell in love. This is a workout, more than any other, where it’s all up to you. You’re only working out as hard as you make yourself work. You’ve got the resistence knob. No one (usually) comes and turns up your resistence for you. You’ve got to bring it all by your lonesome. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and you might as well have stayed home on the computer (in my case) or couch (if computer doesn’t work for you).One of the instructors that inspired me to pursue that certification had a favorite phrase. Every time he told us to spin that resistence knob to the point that our legs started screaming, he would growl out this sentence:
You can do this. Be strong. Your mind gives up long before your muscles give out.
This is nothing new. The concept of willpower is not a recent discovery to the world of sports.
But sometimes we need reminders.
It’s not always what you don’t yet know that defeats you. It’s what you know but don’t live out.
This is true in many areas of fitness. It matches up with everything I’ve heard from distance runners. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other, because you know you can keep going. I know sprinters probably get tempted to quit when they’re getting ready for their next interval. I’m sure that lifters hit a moment just before muscle failure where it’s easy to think, “I’ve worked pretty hard. These last two reps probably don’t matter.” Or is that just me?
Apart from physical therapy, no one’s going to come move your muscles for you. No one’s going to run behind you and push you along. You might not have anyone around when you hit that wall and feel like giving up, so you won’t hear an encouraging shout or a friendly challenge. All you’ve got is the little voice in your head saying, “Your mind will give up long before your muscles. Be strong.”
This isn’t just an athletic concept. This applies to all of life.
When you are learning somehing new – piano lessons, perhaps, or economic theory, or whatever floats your boat – you have the choice. You can apply yourself and push hard. Or you can take the easy way out
Emotionally, when life is hard, you can follow the path of least resistence and sulk about how unfair it all is. Or you can rise above, and remember that your mind wants to give up before you really get to the point where you can’t go on.
Spiritually, you can be content with where you’ve been, with the comfortable, with whatever you’ve done before. Or you can pursue the something more that you know is out there waiting
Building any form of discipline will take work. Good news! You are up to the task. You are strong. Yes, you can.
Welcome to the new category, Fitness Friday. This is the first such post, and here’s what to expect: I am no fitness guru with a wealth of information about how to squeeze out that last little bit of performance or lose that last percentage of body fat to meet your goal. I was a certified indoor cycling instructor and taught classes for a couple years, but I’m no expert.
However, I have lots of time in the gym spent thinking about exercise and how it relates to the rest of life. There are lessons that apply not only to physical fitness, but to mental and emotional health, and even spirituality. And the first lesson is: Fitness is about me, not anyone else.
No one runs my race for me; no one else can push me to my maximum effort. How fast or slow another person runs means nothing for my fitness. I am only competing with myself.
When the Air Force gives me a fitness test, it doesn’t matter how well everyone else can do push-ups. It doesn’t matter if someone next to me can’t do a single sit-up. If that guy over there has a bulging waist that causes him to fail, that doesn’t affect my test.
I’m up against me.
Competition can be healthy, don’t get me wrong. It can spur a person to new heights of performance. It can push us past what we might have thought of as our limit. Athletes strive to be the very best, with good reason.
But when I exercise, it’s not about everyone else’s condition. It’s not about how strong the next guy is or how fast the woman is doing sprints. It’s not about how much better I am, either. Comparing myself to others is silly, because everyone has a different fitness level.
I have to find my motivation and push myself. I have to make my workout worth the time I’m spending. What matters is this: Am I challenging myself to be better than I was before? Am I running my race with 100% effort? Am I lifting weights that challenge my muscles and make me stronger? Am I straining against my personal limitations?
This applies to mental fitness as well. Am I always learning? Am I growing, developing my skills and my awareness of the world around me? Or am I content to remain ignorant?
Spiritually, am I pushing myself toward intimacy with God? Or am I stagnant, content to rest on what I’ve done in the past? Am I like a former Olympian, sitting in the gym, thinking and bragging about the glory days of what I once did, but growing weak through present inactivity?
Paul wrote to one of his churches about “some of those who commend themselves.” He said, “when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12 NASB).
What he’s saying is, when we look at each other and say, “I’m faster than him, I’m smarter than her, I’m more patient than him, I’m more spiritual than her,” we miss the point.
It’s about living at our personal maximum potential. At the end of his life, Paul looked back and was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 NASB). He wasn’t concerned with declaring himself better than anyone else, or claiming to be the best. He was concerned that he had given his all for the cause.Whatever your cause, give it your all. Don’t hold anything back. Your race isn’t against me or anyone else. It’s against a version of yourself that is content with mediocrity and being less than all that is possible.
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NASB).
The stopwatch is ticking.
The home of David M. Williamson, writer of fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, and cultural rants.