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Where I contemplate this “fitness game”

by John on May 1st, 2014

I really didn’t like the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance — I watched it in an airplane and, well, maybe it’s because I’m not a golfer, but the movie just seemed pointless to me. But, one moment of the movie stuck with me — Matt Damon’s character is talking to some kid about why he loves golf, about how it’s a game, essentially, against yourself. Sure, you play against other people – but, when it comes down to it, you’re the only one who matters when it comes to your own game. And a few recent events have me applying that logic to myself, as a non-golfer1.

In the past few weeks, I have been frustrated and elated more times than I can count. One day, I’ll manage more reps, in a set, of a given exercise than I’ve ever managed before (pure elation) — and then, after a day of rest, I won’t be able to complete the previous workout’s warm-up set (frustration). Frustration in having to walk during a race, to see any time goals that I had set on myself pass followed by the elation of running a damn-near-perfect-for-me race.

But, more than my own struggles & triumphs, there is what’s going on around me.

  • A college classmate completed the Boston Marathon in less than 3 hours . . . which means that not only did he qualify for the Boston Marathon (meaning he completed a qualifying marathon in less than 3:10:00), he ran the difficult Boston course faster than he’d ever run 26.2 before . . . this with me still trying to break four hours in the same distance. If I run as fast as I can, for a mile, I’d likely complete said mile between six and seven minutes. This college classmate did that, and then ran another 25.2 miles at the same speed. I would need to chop a good two minutes, per mile, off of my “just go out to run” pace in order to match this. If you’re not a runner . . . well, chopping 15 seconds per mile off of your pace is no small feat. Chopping 15 seconds per mile off your pace is cause for celebration. Two minutes per mile? Well, it just tells me that this college classmate is in another class of runners than I am.
  • I see countless people following the Couch to 5k training program — a program that I, myself, followed, back before I was Daddy Runs a Lot. I find myself answering pacing and posture questions that seem second-nature to me . . . but, well, I’ve been through all of that before. Obviously, I help where I can — but it’s strange to be taken back to “just getting off the ground” when it comes to running.
  • I’m in this funky bodyweight resistance routine lately2 — I want to be able to do some freaky things with my body: handstands, pullups, planches, pistols, one-arm-push-ups, muscle-ups, front-levers. Some days, I’ll have a good workout & manage to do things that I was never able to manage before. The next workout, well, there are times when it feels like I’m starting over again. The path, to be able to do any one of these exercises, is long. It’s so very frustrating to want to be at the end, but to have to acknowledge that every step along the trail takes you closer to the end — even if those are teeny-tiny steps.
  • The other day, one of the regulars at the gym came up to me. “I tried one of those funky push-ups that you do.” (I think he was referring to pseudo-planche push-ups, as those are the oddest of the push-up exercises that I do) “I made it down and wondered why you got all sweaty doing yours, and then I tried to push myself up, but I was stuck. I had to flop around just to get myself standing. What muscles do those things work?”

    My only response was “all of the muscles.”

    He went on to talk about thinking about trying “that weird one-legged squat you do” (A pistol squat) but I can’t figure out how you don’t fall over.

    This man bench-presses twice what I’m able to bench-press and can squat significantly more weight than one-rep-maximum squat.

  • Crossfit is big right now — I have friends, left and right, who are incredibly successful transforming their bodies and workout routines with Crossfit. But, with Crossfit comes the Crossfit Games — basically, a “best of the best” within those who truly excel at Crossfit — but many of the exercises demonstrated in the Crossfit Games are more advanced than these friends’ best efforts at present. And these friends are really, really fucking good at what they do.

All this just reminds me that we’re all on our own course, we’re working toward our own goals – it doesn’t matter what other people are doing.

This isn’t to say that one should keep from thinking of “being among the elite.” When I write (be it a song or fiction or a silly little blog post), I like to think of myself getting break after break and becoming a famous songwriter, or playwright, or novelist. And when I’m running, I like to think of myself winning the New York Marathon. I think it’s important for our dreams to break through any glass ceilings. But, when our imaginations return to the ground, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Are you making progress to your goals? Are you pushing yourself? Do you have your goals in mind? Are you ignoring what you need to ignore and doing what is best for you (because, really, you’re the only one who can determine that)?

If you’re doing all of those things — well, you’re doing quite well in this game we’re all playing against ourselves. If you’re one of those people who enters every race or competition with the true hope of winning it . . . well, good for you — just know that I’m playing a different game than you are.


1 I’ve been golfing twice in my life. The first time, I shot a 106 and thought I was a natural . . . after-all, isn’t “100” what “weekend golfers” usually strive for? The next time I went, on the same course, with near perfect weather conditions, I shot a 140. Now, I have a bum elbow that makes a golf swing….awkward. While I like being outside, I have very little desire to actually learn to play the game, or get better at the game, or to find another activity that would eat up hours of my week.
2 I work out in a great big Planet Fitness — as with most of the “factory gyms,” most of the place is dedicated to cardio equipment. I ignore that. Lots of space is dedicated to muscle-isolation exercise machines. I ignore those, too. There is a small, core group of regulars that congregates at the back of the gym with the free-weights — among these, there are lots of “appreciative nods” as people watch the silly routine I do.
4 Comments
  1. Games against myself are the only ones I really enjoy. I’m competitive in a way, but I like besting myself the most. Hoping for halfway decent weather on Sunday, so I can try a second sidewalk run, and maybe do better than “not vomiting afterwards.”

    • You know, “not vomiting during” is, sometimes, my beacon for whether or not a run was a “good run.” I’m serious. There are times that I run to fight the blerch and, well, they turn out predictably disgusting.

  2. Kim permalink

    This is a lesson I must keep re-teaching myself… I am only competing against myself…

    Thank you for the reminder 🙂

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