Whose Need is Deep Enough?

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January moving into February is a promising time at most gyms, with more folks showing up day by day to restore their neglected fitness. The first visits, or more accurately, encounters, are pensive, tentative and self-conscious. The returnee is mixed with hope, relief and urgency; neglect has been contained and hurry has become its substitute.

Recalling that last workout probably in November, sometime around Thanksgiving (can that be, was it that long ago, where does the time go?), the person loads the bar with the same weight used in the fall after a season of bombing and walking the line. The defeated notion that we can resume where we left off two months and 10 pounds ago is crushing, both physically and morally.

The barbell comes down with certainty, and there it stays. Oomph...

Overcoming humiliation is a powerful experience. Humility is a powerful attribute. Welcome to the gym, where the fragile are broken, only to be rebuilt stronger and more enduring.

By the middle of March, some will have dropped the excess 10, regained the dynamic strength and added indelible quality to their characters. Next year, perhaps, they won't need to endure the expensive and painful refresher course. No more layoffs for them!

Concealed as one of them, wearing a distressed face and lifting belt, let's watch the procession of recommitted trainees and first-timers from a bench in the corner of the gym floor. A young woman, not yet 20 and wishing she was invisible wanders over to the cable machine and curiously pushes a dangling handle. She stares as the thing swings and jangles, and wonders what it does beyond that.

We can't help but imagine the dear girl has taken one of the most important steps of her life -- she entered the land of physical fitness -- and has concluded that instead she is in alien territory amid grimacing faces, clanging machinery, thuds, grunts and groans, with an exit less than 25 feet away -- just a brisk walk to freedom.

But that's not freedom. That's not liberation; that's captivity. That's enslavement. The world without exercise and muscle and strength and right eating is barren, lonely and fruitless. It's difficult, dangerous and demanding. It's exhausting.

We need to prepare ourselves, develop our personal resources and be our best. Someone must tell her, now, before it's too late: Don't go!

We continue our observation of the unfolding scenarios:

A heavily muscled guy in his late 30s, vigorous yet haggard and wearing a Patriots t-shirt over a small paunch, sits at the bench with the bar supporting four big wheels. He's been there and done that, though it was a long time ago. We watch him and the bar closely.

An average man, under-muscled from head to toe, smiley and animated, examines the glute ham raise. And what exactly is the function of this interesting device?

About to engage a treadmill, we see a woman with the kind of weight that accumulates slowly but surely over too many years of agreeing that something needs to be done, but doing nothing. The treadmill starts with a whirr and she grabs onto the rails for dear life. Oh, my!

There they are, the most recent aspirants of restoration and rebirth. But for two arms and two legs, the candidates are nothing alike. However, what they want, where they're going and how they get there are not very different.

Take a deep breath and contemplate the direction and fate of each in their quest for muscle and strength and condition. That's what they ultimately desire, once you pare down the definitions of their various purposes and goals. Getting in shape, looking good, feeling good.

Whose need is deep enough?

Who wants it badly enough?

Who realizes its vital importance? Which have the courage? Is it vanity or responsibility that'll drive the achievers? Will it be survival?

Discipline, weak will, persistence, intelligence, procrastination, sacrifice, excuses, reasons, levels of commitment -- how will the variables play out over the weeks to come?

Where they exercise and who influences them early on is a deciding factor of the attitude and triumph of the player.

The gym, the atmosphere, the people and the resulting personality of the training ground in large part determines the quality and completeness of the product produced, the trainee developed.

The advice and encouragement from the work crew and co-members can make or break a searching, out-of-shape person who knows defeat all too well.

We -- you and I -- can turn the meek into the strong. The right words at the right time will keep the troubled and the doubtful and the scattered focused on the good thing.

Recognition for hard work and accomplishment can crank up the intensity of a striving kid or a retired life-loving senior.

The enthusiasm and dedication of the powerful and committed under the iron inspires the weary to come back tomorrow and the next day.

This stuff works. Doubt, and we invite hesitance and excessive caution into the fresh, new training endeavors.

The exhilaration and progress experienced by timid exercise is too slight to inspire. Find the horns of the thing, grab hold and don't let go.



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