When Once I Am Convinced

Sometimes before I close the gym, usually at night or on a Sunday morning, I stand in front of this poster and I think about what I know, what I’m convinced of, and what’s worth hanging onto so hard I never want to let go.

Unfortunately, in the fitness industry this usually leaves me feeling like Lear’s Cordelia.  (At another time we can unpack why she is the fictional character I most often identify with.)  I am unwilling to say we can change your life and fix an entirety in four weeks.  I’m sorry but it takes longer, and we would be dishonest to tell you otherwise.  We look at the long game.  It is about a lifetime of strength.

I am unwilling to say that you are brave for trying hard and making a fuss in a room where everyone else is trying hard.  I’m sorry, but cancer patients are brave.  First responders are brave.  People who fight their fears to show up every day are brave.  Working out itself is a fait accompli most of the time.  When you can’t work out and you have to move, when you have to just get off the toilet without a crowd yelling hosanna in the highest…will you show up?  Can you be brave then?  That’s the endgame.   This is a lifetime of strength.  We look at everyone who walks into our gym through those lenses–how can we help you stay active and be strong and move well for 40 years, 50 years?  It’s not about the workouts, it’s about the work.

I won’t place your success in the context of what the halest can achieve.  It matters that you get up and down, not that you back squat or front squat.  The goal is for you to load up and move your hips, not to chase someone else’s numbers.  You are strong and powerful because you show up and move and listen to your coaches.  This is a lifetime of strength.  This is something we can build upon, always.  When you allow yourself to be motivated by success and not cozened by sweat, you can win every single day.

That is what convinces me.  And that’s what we won’t ever let go.

It’s Not A Hobby

It’s something I do 3 or 4 times a week.  Sometimes 5 or 6.  Other times 2.  When things are bad, it’s bad and it’s none.  7 is a magic number but I only get there during certain, penitent seasons.

It’s a hobby.  But it’s not a hobby.   Hobbies take you to the door of the meeting hall.  They put a mint on your pillow, straighten your tie, and drive you in a well-appointed sedan to the destination of your choice.  But you need to turn the doorknob, and then it’s on like Donkey Kong.

When I stop at 4 and could have done 7 but won’t do 1 next week if I’d tried to do 6, it teaches me to value process in service of goal.  If this is a hobby, it’s a valuable one.

When I put the bar down without screaming, when I nod my head and tell myself one thing is done and now it’s the next, it teaches me to live one moment at a time.  If this is a hobby, it’s an instructive one.

When I get deep down in the guts of a thing, when I wonder if I have what it takes to do thing two, no words will suffice.  Nothing anyone else has told me about myself will carry the day.  No nicknames, no flattery.  No nothing.  It is only what I know I have done and that I know I have continued to move.  If this is a hobby, it is congruent with the idea that you keep moving.  That you stay hungry.  You don’t accept that throwing a heavy stone into an ocean is enough because it was so heavy.  You stay hungry and you figure out how to make yourself stronger and you stop talking about how heavy the rock is.

It’s not a hobby, but if it is then it’s a good one.

You’re Good With The Comments Section, But How About Real Life?

I read a post on FB recently concerning a celebrity who’s been suffering from an agorophobic type of disorder.  To read the comments section, you’d believe we are all Mother Theresas on the road to Calcutta.  (Actually Mother Theresa wasn’t Mother Theresa, thanks Hitch, but that’s a little farther afield…)  Oh my goodness, you poor thing, oh my goodness, you are so brave Celebrity A, oh my goodness Beyonce you are the Queen.  (Okay no one said that today, but they will tomorrow.)  We are all wonderful counselors in theory.

But at the risk of sounding…I don’t know…like a scold…there are people here in the actual real world who could use your support and your help.  I see people struggle every day, and they don’t call attention to themselves, so they don’t get the pats on the back and the offers of an ear.  I guess that’s on them, and I guess we all live in the world we create but goddamn, how about we up our game and treat everyone the way we say we’d treat a celebrity if he or she were magically deposited on our doorstep?  It’s a little more involved than a sad face emoji, but it’s probably worth it in the end.  You learn a lot when you humble yourself to be a helper.

Up Your Game.

I’ve been training a young kid for the past couple of weeks.  Like many kids of his age, he’s self-conscious about his appearance, despite being of perfectly normal size, shape, and whatever.   A great kid.

And I wish I could tell him that people stop talking about the way you look as you walk further on down the road, start a family, build a business, do things that you’re proud of.  But they don’t.

I have a beard, a belly, and I lift weights.  Over the last three months, I’ve heard the following things about my appearance, unbidden:
“most people think child molesters look like you”
“fat”
“old, haggard.”
“scary”–this is an all time favorite.
“someone kids wouldn’t want to play with”
“ugly”–I didn’t think that old chestnut would make a comeback but hey, it’s 2017.

This isn’t to make anyone feel sorry for me.  First because I’m awesome.  And second because I dust that stuff off and I laugh about it because most of it comes from people who have very strict rules about what government and social media should do but apparently ignore the very real ways you can actually just intend to be a nicer person to the actual people you encounter every day in your actual real life.

But it does piss me off.  I don’t want to hear bromides about kids being mean to other kids from adults who spend their lives talking shit about other people.  Fucking up your game.  The stuff the kids say doesn’t come out of a vacuum.  When a perfectly awesome kid tells me he’s worried about the way he looks, I wonder where the fuck that shit comes from.  And then I remember…we’re all really good about making speeches, not as good at actually putting the cotton in our mouths when it comes to the way people look.

Here’s To The Triers

Today I read something on Facebook that, admittedly, was poorly written.  The subject matter was difficult, pretty personal, and the writer didn’t handle it as well as it could have been handled.  The bloodbath in the comments section (yeah, don’t read the comments) was as predictable as it was depressing.

The easiest thing to do is nothing.  To not try.  To never put yourself out on a limb and show your ass.

From that vantage, you get to proctor life.  You and your monocle.  Nothing’s cooler than the dude who sits at the back of class and doesn’t do anything but take shots at others.  No thought, no kindness, no nothing.  No risk.  Just scorn.  You get to be a hero in the comments section of life.  You and your monocle.  That’s the thing about looking at life from thirty degrees–when you don’t care, you’re in third dimension and the people coming at you on the level might as well be Ward and June Cleaver.

The flip side of the coin is that you get to play the victim if you want to.  Everything anyone else tries and is brave enough to care for at length, well, that’s a personal shot at Y-O-U, and you should cluck your tongue accordingly.  You don’t have to try because everything is an attack.  There is this weird thing in American culture where someone else’s success and happiness or even their fucking opinion, all of which have nothing to do with you…well, they’re actually all about you.   I’m in the gym business and I see this all the time. Workout plan does wonders for someone else?  It was written and enacted to spite you.  Couple of simple diet tricks that help people get closer to their goals?  If they don’t work for you, they’re daggers.  Take cover.

My screen is turning pink so I should stop typing.  Every now and again this shit really gets to me and I wonder what sort of a world I’m sending my kids into where everyday sincerity is mocked and feared more often than not.  And now my screen is really turning pink.  Anyhow, here’s to the people who try.  Keep trying.

Stop and Mop

Scene 1: Dude is tired but doesn’t want to go to bed yet and has a thought that pleases him.

Scene 2: This is scene 2, dude writing about it for five minutes:
Today I mopped the gym.  This is no big deal–I do it, most of our coaches have done it, some of our members have.   Usually I put on some music and feel good about doing the kind of work most of us did when we were in school.  My first job in 8th grade was helping the custodian at our church.  Think about that for a second…you don’t want to fuck up or goof off too overtly when you are, like, CLEANING A CHURCH.  So you learn to dig into the process on its own merits.

But today felt different.  I’m not sure why.  Today was the first time I mopped the gym where I felt like what I was doing was actually a privilege.  This won’t be some hooey phony oh my God I’m lucky I don’t live in East Wherever so you should eat all your green beans deal, I promise.  Plus it’s late and I want to go to sleep.

The privilege was that tomorrow there will be 50-60 people over the course of the day coming in and out of that place with intention to make lives a little bit better over the course of an hour.  To help with a little dab of Pine Sol on the periphery of so many awesome and beautiful life projects is Fuck Yeah This Feels Good Territory. You don’t get to feel this good when you scratch out a couple of Holiday Hundred Thousands, so…I don’t really know how to end this.  Not something I just wanted to do, mopping; now something I feel lucky to do.

Scene 3: Still don’t know how to end this but will post to Facebook nonetheless.

Scene 4: There will be days when I totally don’t want to mop but I will never write about them because then this post just sounds dumb and a guy’s got to have some secrets.

Day In The Life

I see things, man.  Weird things.  I read a lot of day-in-the-life type posts from coaches and trainers and sometimes I am left scratching my head.  All the obstacles and all the triumphs and all the drama.  What’s the message, that you’re a superhero because you do things that every other working person does?  Nah.  That’s not the deal.

I love coaching.  I love owning a business.  I busted my ass to get to the point where I have a life that affords me a lot of flexibility and puts me in daily touch with people I adore.  It didn’t come on a silver platter, but we know most worthwhile things in life don’t.

And I think the world needs coaches.  I think the world needs great coaches.  So I want to write something that highlights a pretty great day.  Do the grunt work and listen to people who are smarter than you are and work towards owning your days as best you can.

7:30 AM: Woke up.  Kids have been up for an hour; I should’ve been up with them but I went to bed late last night so I slept in.  I drink my coffee and text with one of our awesome coaches Amy–we had an awesome first Open prep class today–while my oldest plays some geography games on the computer and my youngest does his Legos.  At 8:15 we begin the daily negotiations on clothing, jackets, etc.  I drop them to school.

8:45 AM: Empty and then refill the dishwasher.  My first client is at 10 today so I have some time.  I should (should is a funny word) work out, but I’d rather answer some emails.  My business manager comes over and we go over the week’s deposit and some purchases we’re making.  2017 has started out really well for the gym and I think that’s in no small part because we are all having so much fun.  I need to remember this when it’s February and there’s ten feet of snow outside.

10 AM: Grab another cup of coffee on my way to train my first client of the day.  He is running through a variation of Rip’s novice program–we squat, push, and pull.  Between sets I enter notes into his file on Evernote–he and I can both see what we’ve done, the things we’ve talked about between sets, and the recommendations I’ve made for weightlifting shoes.  It’s an awesome platform.  Everyone in the gym is working really hard and another of our awesome coaches Alicia is running a great open gym–people are moving, laughing, and getting great coaching.

11 AM: Meet with yet another of our awesome coaches Erin to check in on how her evening classes are going, among other things.  We talk about some longer-term projects she is interested in.  This kid is a keeper.

11:30 AM: Do a half-hour check in with one of our veteran athletes who is fine tuning some performance pieces (nutrition and movement)–sometimes I think I can get more done in a half than a whole.  Great session…we’ll see some really cool results.

12 PM: Step outside for a phone call with one of my mentors.  We’re bouncing around some pretty cool ideas, and standing in 50 degree weather in the middle of January in New England is a pretty rare blessing, so I’m happy to workshop this stuff for 45 minutes.  Great call.

1 PM: Alicia and I meet with a wonderful local photographer, Mollie McPhee, about some new photos for our new website.  I’m really excited to have a site that reflects our community’s joy and achievement.  Mollie is great–we really click.

2:15 PM: I read a couple of articles and then hit a 45 minute PT with one of our student athletes.  This is one of the most rewarding parts of my day; this kid is tuned in, works hard, and lets me teach.  We’ll make a ton of progress for spring sports over the next two months.

3:15 PM: Local high school rowing team files into the gym; they rent space for a couple afternoons a week.  Great kids.  (I say this a lot!)  I hit the post office to send a couple of t-shirts to one of our members who lives in the Midwest now.  Pretty psyched to be sending our gear out and humbling to think about someone representing us like that!

4 PM: Write this blog post while eating pepperoni slices.  I forgot to pack my chicken for lunch, so I’m hungry.  No big deal–should’ve remembered to make a note of this.  We’re having philly steak wraps from realplans.com for dinner tonight and I will search and destroy.  My wife Beth is lifting downstairs while our kids play Bounce-Off and eat pepperoni with me.  I’ll shut this down in a few and make appointments for my lunch prep and workout tomorrow morning–when they go on my calendar, I get it done.

Days aren’t all this cool, but by and large they’re pretty alright–I work with great coaches in service of great members, I have a good degree of flexibility, and I’m not any kind of superhero for getting this done.  I love what I do.  And I will eat two steak wraps.