I don’t usually blog about exercise for a few reasons:
- I’m not exactly the Bronze God I claim to be
- I’m not an expert at exercising
- There are a short-ton of people who are experts already blogging about exercising
But January is that magical part of the year when half the country decides – with a sweaty, wheezy cry – to get its collective ass to the gym to lose weight, look better, or any of the myriad reasons people have for suddenly deciding exercise is something they want to do. Personally, I go to the gym because it keeps me sane. I gave up on that whole lose weight look better crap a number of years ago when I realized I like food too much to ever look like a sculpted bronze god. Punching, kicking, and lifting weights let me get my aggression out safely. I also use the time to think about plot lines for books, solve complicated problems at work, and other such things. It’s almost a meditative thing for me.
January is rough, though, because my normally placid gym (The JCC in Albuqerque) gets chock full of people for a few weeks. You know the people I’m talking about, the jock who used to be able to lift 400 pounds back in high school but hasn’t touched a weight set in twenty years and just dropped a huge amount of weight on his chest, or the people who are struggling with how to do exercise x, y, or z and failing miserably at all of them. People in spandex flexing in the mirrors. The kind of people who hurt themselves trying to get their fingers around the body society tells them they need to have.
The gym will be crazy for a while; I’m kind of resolved to that. It doesn’t really impact me all that much since I usually go at 5am and only lunatics like myself are there. Sundays, though, are a regular gym day and they can get pretty hectic. All through December I dread the arrival of the New Year’s Resolutioners. They’ll tear it up for a few weeks and then disappear. But while they’re there, things can get ugly.
Then those people all fade away, their New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight and look better forgotten and replaced with stale Cheetos and re-runs of B.J. and the Bear. New Year’s Resolutions lack staying power and the brief, desperate desire to lose weight and look better comes with a sudden realization that exercise is hard work.
Hard work is anathema to most people. Especially when you’re engaging in hard work to look better for someone else or fit someone else’s idea of what you’re supposed to look like. And that’s unfortunate. I used to really get frustrated with people filling up my gym for a couple weeks before they faded back into the couch cushions but I’m beginning to wonder if the problem isn’t the people: it’s the resolutions.
If your sole goal for going to the gym is to lose weight and look better you’re in for a long haul. If you hold up fitness icons as your ideal and refuse to accept anything less than perfection you’re likely going to be disappointed. I used to look at people like Joe Manganiello or any of those people who are paid to look buff and wonder why I couldn’t accomplish that. The simple fact is, I probably could, but it takes an enormous amount of time. Actors, fitness models, professional martial artists – all these people look the way they do because they’re paid to look like that. That is their job. My job is to try my damnedest to be a good husband and father with a side of slinging code around. Looking sculpted is way down on my list of things to concern myself with.
So, how about going to the gym and just enjoying the feeling of exercise? Sure, it hurts at first. I’ve been doing it for years and I still get sore sometimes, but I’ve found I’m in a much better mood and have much more focus when I get my heart beating and sweat a little. Plus, it’ll make the 3rd Black test a bit easier.
I’m not big on motivational speeches. People have asked me what it takes to write a book and I paraphrase Neil Gaiman: Start writing. Keep writing. Quit when you’re done. Start the next book. The same thing holds true with pretty much everything else in life. If your New Year’s Resolution was to get in shape, just go do it. Keep at it. And don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. If it’s important enough to you, you’ll find the time to do it. I won’t promise it will be easy, but it will be worth it in the long run. Just be smart about it. There are always trainers who are happy to help you learn how to do it right. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t worry about how you look.
Just do it. Do it and never look back.