Monday, September 8, 2014

Everything I Need To Know, I Learned at the Gym.

Lately I've been thinking very deep, philosophical thoughts at the gym.

This is OK, because Adam, the founder/owner/head trainer at Grit Gym, is a deep, philosophical thoughts kind of guy.

It's also bad, because usually those deep philosophical thoughts cause me to lose my focus. When that happens I tend to do things you shouldn't do at the gym, like hit myself in the thigh with a 12-kilogram kettlebell (yep, that hurts).

But it's also good because I've come up with some solutions to real-world problems by applying my gym-world philosophy. Or maybe they are universal truths that I can see played out in the microcosm of the gym, kind of like seeing how the trees are the forest

Or maybe it's the effect of oxygen deprivation to my brain, because sometimes I forget to breath when I'm lifting.

In any case, here it is: Everything I Need To Know, I Learned at the Gym.

Just Do It. I know, Nike had a successful run with this. But I add this corollary: Waiting Doesn't Make it Easier. This is one of the first lessons I learned at the gym. I was doing one of my least-favorite (at that time) exercises and procrastinating between sets when I realized it didn't matter how long I waited between sets. I still had to finish them. And putting them off... dreading them... wasn't making them any easier.

This was a very deep, philosophical thought for me because I am a world-class procrastinator. I'm always putting things off until tomorrow or next week. But there in the gym, I could see instantly the error of my ways. Ugh. There were still straight-arm marches to be done (think plank, but worse).

I still procrastinate – at home and sometimes even at the gym – but I tell myself those straight-arm marches aren't going to do themselves, and I think I get back to work sooner.

There's Always a New Challenge. I get a new workout program about every four weeks, so just when I think I have everything figured out and I'm feeling pretty comfortable and confident (and maybe complacent), everything changes. The practical reason, I'm sure, is to work different muscles, and to work muscles in different ways. But it's also good mentally: I have to learn new things (sub-lesson: It's OK to Ask Questions), I can't get complacent, and I have to focus (see above).

It has also taught me that there are things worse than straight-arm marches. Like Turkish get-ups (I can't even begin to explain), which I thought were the world's worst exercise until I had to do a one-leg bear crawl with a slider (insanity), which was recently replaced by the feet-elevated Spiderman pushup (pfshhhh + eye roll) as my least-favorite exercise.

This, too, has real-world applications. Things might seem pretty crappy right now, but I will get through it. Things might get even crappier. But I'll get through that, too. Because I can. Because...

I'm More Stubborn Than Even I Realized. Sometimes I surprise myself by how hard I keep trying. Success, even in small amounts (five pounds here, a few more yards of bear crawl there) is a great motivator. Failure motivates me, too. I hate “not achieving.”

Sometimes real-world successes are harder to recognize or measure than achievements at the gym. Knowing that I have pushed myself and have achieved goals at the gym helps me believe that I can push myself and achieve any goals I set.

Goofy example: I was at the gym, mid-workout when I decided that one way or another I was going to go to the Billy Joel concert in Chicago. I thought of all I have accomplished since starting at the gym and realized downtown Chicago traffic was no match for me! And I was right.

A Little Support Goes a Long Way. There have been plenty of times when I've read through my workout and gave Adam a “You've got to be kidding me” look. He just grins and nods, and sure enough... well, maybe I can't do it the first time, but it's not a total failure, either. Adam has a knack for finding great staff, too! I appreciate the way they explain what I need to do, increase the weights when I'm reluctant, encourage me and give me the confidence to try.

This is one of the lessons I hope I use everyday with my students, friends and family. Tell someone, show someone you believe they can do great things. Just knowing someone has faith in you can restore your faith in yourself.

Everyone Needs a Medicine Ball and a Concrete Wall. I'm convinced the world would be a better place if everyone took 10 minutes each day to work out their frustrations by throwing a heavy ball around. I know it improves my day! Oh yeah, and it works your core muscles, too.

I'm a Bad Daisy. Actually, the quote Adam used was: “A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms” (Zen Shin). I've learned I'm a bad daisy. I still compare myself to others at the gym. But I use it as inspiration instead of as a source of envy. I know how hard they've worked to achieve their goals. I wish I could lift as much as some, or that I could be as flexible or graceful as others, and I know what I need to do to bloom.

I admire successful writers, teachers, and parents too. I know they've worked hard for their achievements, and I know I have the tools and the drive to succeed, too.

This Daisy is on the Right Track.


  1. This is fantastic.

    Thanks Joanne. Always full faith in you.

  2. Well put, Joanne! YOU are an inspiration.

  3. Yes, I'm behind on my blog reading! What did I learn?
    "I can do anything for 20 minutes" Maybe not Turkish Get Ups - which SUCK - but wall balls, lifting and even running. I can do anything for 20 mins.
    Like you - it transferred to my personal life as well. I can put up with anyone for 20 mins. Did I write that out loud?????