Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Wall, or Should I Say “The Impenetrable Shield Being Projected From A Nearby Forest Moon”

I hate exercise. When people often point out my obvious weight I tell them “I didn’t sculpt this body running marathons” while sardonically grabbing some fold on my body. The idea of mindlessly running in a gym has never been appealing to me, I have weak ankles, I get asthma attacks, I get itchy when I sweat. I have an archive of excuses about why I hate working out.

I like playing though; playing sword fights in the SCA, playing against my friends with pull up contests or arm wrestling, playing on a wakeboard – but God no, not “working out”. For some reason none of those excuses matter when I am playing, if I need to hit my friend Clifton with a stick I swing through the breathlessness, when I go wakeboarding I make sure my bindings are REALLY tight. My excuses let me do the fun stuff but mystically prevent me from doing the boring stuff. One day I called bullshit on myself.
During runs, marathon runners often reference “the wall”, that spot where everything in your mind is telling you that you are done, and you should stop. For them it happens somewhere around the 20th mile, for mortals like you and I it is closer to the 1st. That is where most of us stop, because we hate running. Running is boring, it’s sweaty, and there are litanies of other things you could be doing that are far more comfortable. During these tough times I remember my motivation, I press on thinking “trooper’s gotta troop”. If I am going to wear the white, I gotta put up the fight. I think about all the money the armor is going to cost, and all the work I am going to be putting into it. I think about how I want to look in that armor and how I want to tell people I earned it. Then I own it, crank up the Imperial March up to 11, and press on.
Motivation is key to pressing on, there is a reason you came out to the gym, so don’t stand there doing everything but working out. I feel like the comic I linked gives off the impression that running for vanity, for being healthier and slimming down, is somehow ignoble. If we are going to be honest with ourselves there really is nothing wrong with running to trim a few pounds, after all no one is running to get better at 12oz curls and pie eating competitions.  That said, avoid being that person who goes to the gym and calls it a job well done just for showing up. The person who blithely walks for ten minutes while reading, or drinking some water, and then gets in their car and leaves, that person is just there to be seen and no one likes that person.
Remember, it’s easy being a Stormtrooper when it’s all hanging out with Dark Jedi’s and raiding Dantooine, but every now and again you have to earn it with a battle of Hoth. Here are some tips to trooping on:
Set Yourself Workout Goals, Then Stick to Them
This is where I started, I wanted to FINISH a 5K, not finish in 30 minutes, just finish period. My first 5K I finished in 35’30”, which isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. I am no Usain Bolt, but I got there. Once I got there, I could work on speeding up.
Broadcast Your Workout Goals
Like most people in the world you are probably on some social networking site. Use this as a support network. When you set a workout goal, post it on your site of choice and then follow up after the work out with the results. The ground swell of “likes” and “+1s” you get will be a huge motivator.
Celebrate Success
When I complete a goal, I take a “screw the haters” victory lap back home. Sweaty, staggering, and completely shirtless I run through my town back home. My fore mentioned layer of “jolliness” means I am not exactly Brad Pit, but anyone judging me can jump off a bridge. How many fitness goals have they hit today? How hard did they work? You earned the right to celebrate, whether that is on Facebook, or streaking through your neighborhood.

Forget the Failures
If you weren’t able to complete your goal, if you tried but you fell short, don’t worry about it, no one is going to force-choke you for it. You lapped everyone at home who sat on the couch, and you trounced that naturally skinny person who strolled on the treadmill while texting their friend. Broadcast the failure just like you would success, the amount of “you will get them next time”s and “you still did good”s mean that even when you fail, you succeed.  Once you get comfortable with failure, and the struggle against it, every trip to the gym will be a success.


  1. Great write-up Ben. I like your writing style and your humor definitely translates well into blog form. I am interested to see where your story takes you and will be following along as you post more. Keep up the great work and remember that though the dark side may have cookies.... you don't have to eat them all!

  2. Thanks Bak! Remember, always go with the dark side, because force lightening is cool and black is slimming.