First Things First

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It's Your Privilege



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It is not a rare occasion that I sit before the computer, its unyielding screen barren and bleakly illuminated and its mysterious black box emitting a hum as provoking as an echo from an empty Coke bottle. The longer I sit, the longer I stare, the less likely I will write anything sensible. The startling deed, however, is that I sit before a naked and dizzying screen at all: remember, I am a pad and pencil man from earlier generations.

Whatever the medium of my scribble, the circumstance is the same… thoughtlessness in abundance. My shoulders are slumped and aching as they support my conspicuously empty head; I'm reminded that we must do pullovers and hyperextensions, faithfully, to accommodate this nasty condition.

This day, and most days, the only thing of significance I have to offer you who read this weekly rag is my insistence on persistence. However, simple plus basic does not equal easy. Add the variable "long-term performance" compounded by a "focused undying spirit," and most folks, the great-unconditioned masses, have a tough problem. Yet it is within the energy of these prime factors that the solution to the problem is discovered; they supply the answer needed for advancement.

Commonly, the difficulty is not exercise or smart eating. It's not the all-too-familiar scapegoats, time and priorities, although we're getting close.

Can we intelligently argue that our daily obligations are more important than our health? It is our health, ultimately, about which we speak. It is, more precisely, the failure of application of the two obvious prerequisites for a sufficient length of time.

It eludes us that practice is the most direct way to establish this inspiring and self-perpetuating habit, this marvelous life-giving, life-sustaining practice: a thing of substance as alive and endearing as a best friend, a diversion of choice more productive and fulfilling than fly-casting, a rascal to tame and arouse the rascal within, a discipline that builds momentum like a rollerblader in San Francisco. Sadly, the high road to our freedom takes our breath away before the fragrance of the fresh air is enjoyed; we lose heart as a kettle loses steam and direction as the wind in a retreating storm.

May I take a deep breath and generalize and mumble out loud over these hot lines as you go about your personal affairs? Thanks. I'll only be second…

What is it that prevents physical culture from taking off? Fact is, it shouldn't have to take off because it shouldn't have crash-landed in the first place. A scary topic that can be inflammatory to those who think we're meant to think only and the body is to carry on obediently to serve us willingly. Are we lazy; are we glutinous; are we spoiled rotten; are we just plain dumb?

I think we're scared. Scared to go to the gym, to meet the challenge, to expose our self to ourselves and others, to work hard, to compromise, to instinctively listen to our needs, to stray from the societal norm, to be alone without numbing sight-and-sound distraction, to be alone… at all, to trust ourselves, to trust ...at all, to stand tall without conceit, to admit shortcoming without self-destruction, to accept help without submission, to hope.

Been there, still am. The human condition, ever-ready for service and repair.

Take the gym away from the people I know and the road is too tough. Can't make it up the hills, handle the curves, the stop and go and the speed and the heat and the endless stretch ahead. A good gym is a way-station, a refuge, a place of your own to lick your wounds or prepare you for the good race tomorrow. The field, the track, your garage or the neighborhood weightroom, the gym is where you cleanse, restructure, restore inside and out -- no miracles, no magic, no kidding. You forgive, you forget, you remove the thorns, you ease the pain, you count your blessings like reps and sets. You become reunited with yourself as a friend who's worthy; and, silently, those around you know you better and enjoy you more and life is good for a long time.

You still there? Somethin' else is buggin' me. About gyms: If it's not the right gym; if it's a zoo and the animals are ferocious and too cool; if the operators collect money with a grin and stash it in their shirts; if the personal trainers are about 13 and teething -- this could hold you back. If the music is heavier than the gravity and the trendy-ness makes you want to lose your protein, if the on-going fashion show looks like The Oscars and the ever-loving sales team has cheerleaders, perhaps you need to seek another refuge. If the chalk is flying and the dumbbells don't come in pairs and guys with cutoffs are sitting on the equipment with their babes in mini-wear, this is probably not good either.

Did I mention "physical culture" and its whereabouts? Is it not taught in schools, elementary, middle and high? Is it not taught at home? Are there no consciously funded programs in town, the city? We're a wealthy and sport-minded country. Why, if I were president, there'd be a gym on every corner and tuna on every table... men with strong backs and women with triceps and abs...we'd laugh and play and practice Olympic lifting. We'd sleep a restful eight hours and live to be a hundred.

You need motivation to work out? It's your privilege.

Be strong. Be courageous. DD

*****

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