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Fitness, Reality and Honesty; One may be more than None, but not by much…

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Trigger (heh) warning:  This post will delve into honesty.  Some people mistake reality and honesty with brutal honesty.  I am going to try to stay away from the “brutal” part, but you should know, I don’t sugarcoat shit and try to sell it, either.  You have been trigger (heh) warned.

I read a post the other morning and my jaw dropped, just a little bit.  It was from a “This Girl Can” ad that shows a woman laying on the ground as if she were getting ready to do a full (guy’s) push-up… the caption says “One is more than none”.

Way to aim low.  One is more than none?  Just six months ago we had a local healthcare company put out a commercial that poked fun at the “one is better than none – now don’t you feel better” meme.  It went, “Imagine that one was good enough”… a fella comes into a gym,  does one push-up, and leaves.  I chuckled, of course, because that’s the way things go in the whole “self-esteem” industry.  We should all dumb everything down to the smallest possible amount of effort and celebrate that…  Thus, one push-up is more than none.  One marathon, well now you’re talking, but one push-up?  One century ride (100k or 100 miles, it’s up to you)?  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

I’ve got one important distinction to make.  There’s a difference between aiming low and starting off.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to buy a bike and crank out 100 miles on their first ride.  Expecting that out of someone would be stupid.  On the other hand, I find celebrating “one being more than none” equally ridiculous.  One doesn’t help..  Starting may, but the goal is more.  The goal is bigger.  The goal is better.

It’s not simply “do something”, ya know what I’m trying to say?

The core idea of starting a fitness program is to actually get fit.  One won’t do it – and herein lies the rub:  With the “self-esteem” movement, all too often reaching goals is rewarded and we don’t want anyone to feel left out so we dumb down the goals to such a ridiculously minute chunk, anyone can achieve it.  One is more than none.

This is completely bass ackward.

We need to celebrate the process.  The fact that I participate in three or four dozen 100k mile rides and a dozen 100 mile rides in a season is cool, but what I celebrate is the process of riding enough to be fit enough to do all of those rides.  I don’t celebrate that I am fast on a bike, I celebrate the process of actually being fit enough to ride fast.

What matters is the process, not the pieces.

I like to imagine this in terms of recovery, and I actually used to think like this, so I know what I’m talking about, and I’m not pulling punches…  Imagine we celebrate our first full 24 hours of sobriety.  When you’re a drunk you celebrate everything with?  Right, a drink, and with just 24 hours, you’re in no shape to fight back against that urge to celebrate with alcohol.  While I may be happy about that first day, it’s nothing to celebrate.  It’s only the start of the process of getting sober – I need to guard against spraining my shoulder trying to pat myself on the back for something so small, lest I end up hammered.  After that first 24 hours, the work starts.  After that first 24 hours I start working steps, making amends for being a loser, cleaning up the wreckage, and helping others to recover (preferably after I actually have something to offer).  So how about the first year?  Surely we can celebrate that, right?  Well, yes we can but for about 24 hours because we like to tell the noobs, “this is where the real work starts, the first year is a gift”.  This is the absolute truth too, the first year is spent just trying to stay sober.  The next year is spent fixing who we are as a person.  The second year is vastly more difficult.

I’ll be honest, the clouds break after five years but you’re not really basking in the sunshine till you hit ten – and by then you know darn good and well the work never stops.  There is no end zone.  There is no goal line.

Fitness follows the same principle.  Don’t celebrate the minutiae, the tiny pieces.  Celebrate the process.    Just sayin’.

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15 Comments

  1. theandyclark says:

    I understand what you are saying and agree with much of it, but you and I look at 1 is better than none differently. If 1 is better than none, 2 > 1, 3>2, … We all have a point where we reach our current limit. The correct response to this is to push the limit, and not to be discouraged by what you currently can’t do. Even if your current limit is down right pathetic, just getting out there and doing what you can is something positive. And as you’ve said, you will never get to 100 if you don’t get to 1. And then try to do 1 more.

    We people are just weird. So many people hop into exercise and quit quickly. Sometimes they over do it. Sometimes they have just crazy expectations. Sometimes they bump into the uncomfortable fact that they’re a bit on the lazy side. I do think the 1>0 thing may feed a little into laziness, but even if a dude comes in and does one push up a day that may be ok because if they keep doing that, one day they will look over at some dude benchpressing 200 and decide, “hey, why not try a second pushup?” I think the key to exercise is to just keep doing.

    Oh and if you can learn to like being really sweaty that can help too.

  2. janerunswild says:

    Thanks for this honest post! I agree that the process is important, not the end goal. When I reflect on marathon training, those day by day runs are what make me long to get back into it- so that’s a good sign! Good luck with your goals!

  3. Gail says:

    How do I love this? Let me count the ways…This whole post is dead to rights. I am able to do the things I do precisely because I exercise. In this case, my goal is to live properly, not half-assed. One chin up? One push up? Yay for you, but then carry on please and don’t expect accolades and false praise for something every able-bodied person should be able to do. For God’s sake, I think my Irish Setter can do at least one push-up. Are you sure you are not a fitness professional??

  4. Jeff says:

    “the work never stops.” Super point, Jim. The process is where the joy must be found anyway, otherwise the work to reach any goal is never put forth to begin with. Excellent post as always – thank you!

  5. saoirsek says:

    Funny I saw that post too and I found it patronizing, thankfully the voice in my head at the moment is telling me to do more! Got the trek btw🙂

  6. joliesattic says:

    I love the honesty of the work. 1 is just the start but it’s a start and how interesting really how the 1 became cumulative, 1 day, 1 week, 1 year and there you go, the 1 was no longer insignificant. Loved your post!

  7. tammi1438 says:

    I saw that post as well. The first thing that came to mind was something someone said for a gratitude (you wouldn’t believe how hard it is for folks to find things to be grateful for) anyway this person said “I’m grateful I lost a pound”. ONE pound!! I was like really?? I didn’t say anything because I knew she wouldn’t get it. I just shook my head. Good post.

  8. Great post. And yes, the process, that is what it’s about! The start is really important on day one, but it is just that, nothing more than a first step along a much longer journey.

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