I just finished working my quads on a weight machine. My head races and my body hums all in an attempt to lose weight. Only moments ago, my legs worked so hard that they began to fail. They worked so hard that my muscle tissue cried out in pain and began to tear. Now having just finished, my body sweating with the effort, I can rest for a couple of minutes before doing it again.
Each day this week I will have targeted a different group of muscles. Each day I will work them, stretch them, and tear them. Each day, I will work so hard that my heart beats a new rhythm into my metabolism. Each day, my body will set to repair the damage I have done in such a manner that it does not happen again. Each day doggedly break my body down and force it to improve itself. This is working out, this is getting fit, this is what it takes.
As I sit and stretch between sets, my quads still reeling, I scan around the gym. I take in those around me. At this hour, there are few people willing to brave the cold mornings to make the run to the gym. There are two people working with some free weights nearby. They are within earshot and while I am resting I listen to them complain about, work, relationships, their bosses, clothes, their bodies, and their friends. The conversation flows from one topic to the next seamlessly, and it is clear by their candor that they know each other well; that they have been friends and work out buddies for a while. What grabs my attention, however, is not the meandering topics of their conversation, but the fact that conversation is occurring at all.
I ponder this until I start on my second set. As my second set starts, all I can focus on is exercise; flexing my muscles against the weight. During the relatively short time, it takes for me to run through my set and completely exhaust my quads, every action, every breath becomes an exercise in methodical control and economy. Every action I make is geared to the exercise at hand.
When I finish, and I reengage with the world, I come back to the two people and their ongoing conversation. As they chat, they work through a routine of exercises that look habitual and ritualized. When they work their muscles, they go through the motions; intent more on the conversation and company than their bodies.
There is a point to this. There is a myth, an urban legend if you will, that says going to the gym will make you lose weight. It is a logical extension of the same myth that says I need to go to the gym, I am out of shape. These two ideas have become synonymous with healthy lifestyles and fitness. For the two people I observed, simply being at the gym was enough to assuage their concerns for their physical health. The bottom line is that this is an illusion. To make yourself fit, you need to break your body down and force it to rebuild. The idea being that after the rebuild, you will be stronger and fit. This cannot occur by merely being in a gym, or as in the case with the talking pair, this cannot occur by going through the motions of working out.
Before I get accused of being a fanatical meathead, just understand that I carry an extra few pounds around my waist. All I know is that to really make progress, to have physical and visible results, you must have an impact on your body. The kicker is that they almost have it made. These people are at the gym early on a cold morning. They are committed to their weight loss goals. They go through the motions of their exercises like a well-rehearsed dance routine. Clearly, they want to achieve something with their bodies. If they just focused and worked their bodies just a little more; enough, say, to deny them the ease of conversation, then the results would be tremendous.
The whole point is that you have to be clear about what it is you want to accomplish. I know with every fiber in my being, that I will burn off the extra weight around my waist and that I will firm up my desk-loving muscles. But I won’t do it by talking.