First Things First

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Start with the Edges


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The race is on. We're rounding the turn and coming into the first all-out stretch of the year. In a month the record-breaking winter will be at our heels and the quick spring laps will be before us. I'm holding back, letting the less-experienced animals take the lead. They have power and they're wild-eyed, but they have not yet learned to pace themselves with enduring ease.

The spring will draw to a close, as it always does, and one-by-one the spirited flashes and streaks will fade, lose direction, run amuck, come up lame or quit when they spot a patch of grass that is greener. I and steeds of my kind (you) will plod on, heads high, and launch ourselves into the summer's exciting straightaway, our bodies sound from steady rhythm and certain focus.

No records are set, none are sought. It's the journey... the pace, not the race.

There's no finish line as one perceives a finish line. You run till you're done... you've won.

And now for the irony of the matter, the sad reality, the hypocritical truth: It's time to hit another workout and our spirits are in the dumpster. We've got the barbell blues. The body aches all over and the training attack is a blur. It happens; that's life in the inside track.

Here we go again, bombers, another strategic battle (nuclear war, more like) to recall, invent, uncover, stumble upon, scrounge up, gather together, falsify or otherwise concoct anything that resembles incentive to go to the gym. Ugh! Can't we just stare? Play dead? Hang by our thumbs? Take poison?

The latter options, of which there's always a long list, never work; they are simply the first reactions -- freak-outs and tantrums. Pouting usually accompanies the whiny threats before Big B, our bigger, more-mature self takes control. Big B wastes no time in gathering slick motivation and persuasion from the assortment of characters lurking within.

We're never alone. At least a dozen confused personalities take refuge in the average musclehead, ready with garbled advice when prodded, poked, slapped around and pinched.

Recognize any in particular?

~ Me, the pragmatist: Ask yourself, “What if I don't go?” That dopey question usually works. Let the five one-syllable words tumble around your head for a few agonizing minutes and...

Off to the gym you go like a scolded child.

~ Myself, the negotiator: Think of how much better you feel when you're done. Go. Set yourself free. The clever statements trick me every time. I'm dimwitted. I admit it. Maybe you are too?

Off to the gym with a sappy grin.

~ I, the ego: Oh, no! The arms are the first to go. They hang like buggy whips in the wind. Then the shoulders, slumping forward, narrow, bony and powerless. Loose fat collects immediately around the navel and love handles. The pecs droop, airless balloons.

Absolutely unbearable. Zoom. Gone to the gym.

~ College professor: Now is not the time to pause, neglect or doubt. With haste summon your discipline and perseverance, your most precious assets long in development. Let this day not pass without continuous and virtuous triumph. Live, lift, learn and grow.

Off to the gym you go, a brilliant and assiduous student of life... D-

~ Fatherly persuasion: Be brave and courageous, my child. You're in the shadow of the valley of tedium that must be traversed before ascending the noble and exciting mountains ahead.

You hike to the gym in mountaineering boots.

~ Street talker: Don't think about it, man. Just do it, you'll like it.

Off to the gym you go, a free spirit... with a millstone chained to your ankle.

~ Philosopher: Be strong. These are the times that test the soul.

Go boldly to the gym, heart in hand.

~ Big brother talk: Nerve and guts, that rebellious pair of wiseguys, can always be counted on when the going gets tough, you little punk. You got any nerve... any guts?

You squeeze into a tanktop and shuffle off to the gym.

~ Cheerleader: No wimps allowed. I'm counting on you. You can do this. Let's make this work big time. Go get 'em. Give me a B, Give me an O, Give me an M, Give me a B.

Gym-bound, pompoms in hand.

~ Burly coach: Listen up, Draper, and the rest of you lugs out there. Treat every workout like it's your last workout. Every workout counts. Never say, “I'm not up to it, I can't do it, I don't have it in me.” Stand tall, throw your shoulders back, spread those lats, flex those tris, grab the iron and push. Never quit! Never surrender! Never give up! Squats and Deadlifts and Presses and Curls.

Coach's orders.

~ Fatalist: Miss one workout, miss two. The terrifying training gap has been established. Miss two workouts, miss three. You're a goner. There's no recovery, no turning back, you're a dead man walking. You cannot let this happen. Do something. Do something now or we all die... aaarrrgh!

Off to the gym or you're dead meat.

~ Psychiatrist: You're crazy if you go, you're crazy if you don't go. Don't go, they throw away the key and you can't get in. Go, they throw away the key and you can't get out.

Goodbye, cruel world. Admit me to the Dumbbell Ward.

~ Psychoanalyst: You think you're depressed now; forego your workout and the world will come tumbling down on you. Hope surrenders to despair, compassion morphs into anger, enthusiasm dissolves into apathy, fear thwarts joy and light fades to darkness.

The gym, now, or shrivel.

~ Cop: Drop the Bomber Blend, hands behind your head, down on the floor, spread 'em and don't say a word or it will be held against you. What's this about not going to the gym? Don't answer that. Get in the patrol car and watch your head... kaboink... you're going to the gym. 90 minutes, hard labor.

Off to the Iron House: Voluntary incarceration.

Any more ironheads to the rescue?

It's good to know you have friends, advocates, confidants and guardians looking out for you -- nevermind they're goofy, inept and fictional. Beats self-reliance, guesswork, flipping a coin... black magic.

Inspired, you proceed to the ironworks without another thought, heart pounding and stinky, rumpled gym bag in hand. Now you have to filter out the various personalities that bombarded your head earlier with irrational notions. Where do they all come from, you wonder as you attach a thick bar with precision to that beautiful cable system.

A puzzling puzzle: How could we for a moment question our workouts, doubt the gym and resist the iron?

Each piece of iron makes the puzzle complete.

Hint: Start with the edges.

Go... Godspeed... DD



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