Posted on September 21st, 2011
What is wrong with you? Why would you do that to yourself? What about your knees…Your back? Don’t you have anything better to do? Any other hobbies that could possibly occupy your time that don’t require so much, well, self flagellation? I mean, Ouch.
Is all the pain worth it? Here is a tale, a quip, and a warning for you to consider. And of course, my answer. A Quick Tale
It was routine. Just a few warm-up reps before the first workout of the day. Just like every other day, only not. It could have been the unusual heat that caused it. Maybe being outside made all the difference — that direct sun laying over that bar, imparting a scorching heat.
James set his grip tight around the metal. With a quick kip, he elevated his chin high over the bar. As his body recoiled in preparation for the second big pull, that’s when the hand ripped, splaying open like a bloody blossom.
In a situation like this you’ve got two options. One, you could just quit. Most people, including your precious, loving mother, would find this to be the prudent choice. It’s the easy thing to do. Why go on to risk serious injury? It’s just a competition. You could live to fight another day, or something…
Or, you could seal your hand in duct tape. If you get a tight enough wrap, it might just hold that raw meat sock of a hand together. Your brain would probably release enough endorphins to deaden the pain, fooling the flesh into reflexive action. That would only be temporary, of course, but you’d have plenty of time to do forty-five pull-ups. To clean and press a 120 pound stone twenty-seven times. James chose the latter. Dude, your mom would be so pissed right now.
For the other athletes competing that day at the Faction Games, I’m not sure many noticed the injury. This is, after all, a very common thing in gyms like ours. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. Injuries and pain are ever-present. Muscle, sinew, and skin are fragile. Backs stiffen. Joints ache…There’s always a measure of dread and doubt before a tough workout. Such is a life spent in pursuit of performance.
Just like Magic
It’s not a question of desire. Every human out there currently trapped inside a burdensome husk of flabby flesh would much rather be strong, fit, lean, sexy, and all around gorgeous. Isn’t that much obvious?
It’s just that this whole fitness business can be tough. I mean, you have to really exert yourself. Lifting really heavy stuff is hard. So is pushing your steaming carcass around a discernibly endless track. You definitely can’t eat all that stuff you know you should not eat, but you really want to eat, and fuck it, I’m just eating it because I had a bad day at the office, life sucks and woe is me…so there!
But what if you could just skip forward to the end, getting all the benefits with none of that nasty pain and sacrifice? You know, just take a pill and become that which you desire. Wouldn’t that be grand? It would, right?
Those days are rapidly approaching. As we speak, there are ongoing studies of magic pills, potions and treatments designed to double your endurance, pack on exorbitant amounts of muscle mass, and basically turn you into a real life Captain America. Best of all, you won’t have to do much more than drag your butt away from the TV just long enough to make it to the nearest clinic.
I hope you have your checkbook ready. What? You didn’t think it would come cheap, did you?
A Warning – Don’t Miss the Point!
For what it’s worth, humans can be really dumb. Despite what we may think of ourselves, by default, we remain overly predictable little primates with modesty developed, tinkered brains. Don’t believe me? Prove it to yourself. All it takes is a simple experiment. Take any human with a pulse and sit them down in a chair. Present them with two options for getting the thing they want. The first choice will involve a few years of hard work, dedication and toil, with eventual success and a fulfilling sense of accomplishment. The second will involve a few weeks of passive treatment with magic potion X, followed by immediate reward. Oh, and absolutely no pain or discomfort. What do you suppose?
This sort of choice is presented to cardiac patient’s everyday. As your doctor, I could ask you to get off your fat, lazy ass. You know, maybe exercise? Maybe give up the cheese and tobacco filled puff pastry strudel? That would surely get your cholesterol in check. Or, I could just pump you up to the gills with Lipitor. Oh, you like the sound of option two? Yeah, I thought so. Could I also interest you in some Zoloft, Plavix, Abilify, Vytorin or Viagra?
A measure of high cholesterol is just an indicator for the havoc being wrought within. Driving some number down with a drug won’t do much to change that. No, you’re only going to feel better about yourself during your daily macro-breakfast gorgefest. But isn’t that the only thing you really want? And what if a new prescription or treatment could give you that body you desire? Would you actually be healthy and fit? Or is outward fitness just a positive indicator of something more precious than big muscles or six-pack abs? Something spiritual, perhaps? What if, in your pursuit of the “thing”, you missed the whole point?
So, is it worth it?
When we enter the gym, we are weak, fragile, and poisoned with doubt. Yet, we are hopeful. With every accumulated repetition, as the bar grinds and gnashes our bodies, we become mindful of our potential. We begin to realize that pain is not to be feared, but embraced. It points out our weakness. It is our teacher, steeling the mind and strengthening the flesh. From that moment on, we are immune…More than what we were. To paraphrase William Henley, we become the masters of our fate. We are the captains of our souls.