Tag Archives: motivation

Health Club Head Games.

By: Chris Warren.

I’m going to say it straight up: I never was much of a jock and do not enjoy going to the gym. Some people are into working out to the point that it’s a full time lifestyle. To me it’s something that needs to be done for my own good, like brushing my teeth. Not quite a drudgery, but not my idea of a great time either. And I don’t spend more time doing it than is absolutely necessary. I may not like working out, but I certainly like the results: It’s nice to be able to lug fifty pounds of cat litter up the stairs without huffing and puffing, or play basketball with my young nephew and easily keep up with him.2f9f5d0f7f07aa3f0f3212c962841122

Today I dutifully reported to the health club and stepped onto the elliptical runner for the first part of my set. With The Howard Stern Show streaming from my smartphone, I readied myself for a thirty minute uphill run. The machines are placed on an elevated platform that has a great view of rest of the facility. From there I can see most everything. Health clubs, especially one like mine that isn’t marketing itself to be trendy, tend to be gathering places for some rather odd people. For my own benign amusement, I’ve given funny names to some of the regulars: Weird Dancing Quarterback Lady, The Solar System, Cute Boy Crew, Colonel Flagg.

What is surprising –and inspiring– is the numerous older people (meaning retirement age and up) working out. They are there, day after day, and keep moving. There are a few who appear to be well into their seventies and are in amazing shape. Being around them makes me want to run faster up a steeper hill. It doesn’t make me enjoy it more, but looking at those old dudes I think to myself, “I want to be like that when I’m 70!” They motivate me without even knowing it.

There is also something to be learned from the people you don’t see. I know they are out there. They are the ghost clients who pay month after month but hardly ever make an appearance. There must be some psychology that convinces them as long as they maintain the membership and thus keep open the option of going, then they have the right to feel like they are doing something. Every single health club in the country would go out of business within a month if they were paid only when someone actually walked through the door.

Physical exercise brought on a new attitude I would not have if I spent that time doing something else. Because I had never been into sports as a kid and was not serious about staying in shape until I was well into adulthood, the feeling was a complete surprise. On the surface it doesn’t seem that running on a machine a few times a week would mess with your head (in a good way), but it does and there is quite a bit of science out there to support the concept. I leave the club refreshed and positive. I’ve never finished a set and left in a bad mood.

The attitude improvement came in many forms but the most notable was my new willingness to give the benefit of a doubt and avoid judging others. How do I know that 250 pound lady did not weigh 350 pounds a year ago? How do I know that guy struggling to stay barely above a walking pace on the treadmill didn’t just have heart surgery? It’s bad for my psyche to concern myself with these matters. I mind my own business and chuckle at Howard Stern. It’s not my place to try to figure out others’ motivations…or lack of them. We are all just a mass of sweaty souls, each at a different place on the path, but still equally on the path nonetheless.

New Year’s Resolutions: As Useful As Last Year’s Calendar.

Editor’s note: January 1, 2015 is the first anniversary of Twenty First Summer! To celebrate, I am reposting my very first article, with a few small edits and changes. Thanks to everyone who has visited my blog and given me a reason to keep doing this. I’m very grateful for the support and look forward to another year of sharing my thoughts and insights. Happy New Year…and thank you sooooo much! 

by: Chris Warren

I sometimes wonder how long ago New Year resolutions came into being. I’m sure some sociologist has done the research. The backstory may be hard to trace but it’s not hard to figure out why anyone would make a resolution.

A little digging around produces anecdotal evidence of one glaring point: Those who make New Year resolutions have no sincere intention of keeping them. And those who are motivated to improve their lives for real don’t need to make dramatic declarations because they are already taking positive action, quietly, every day, without vainly calling attention to their goals.

New Year resolutions usually start getting tossed around at Thanksgiving, when the end of the year is near and self deprecation is trendy. After all, no one ever stood up at a Memorial Day picnic and said, “This year I resolve to ____.”  Resolutions are as much about renewing vows that were never honest in the first place as they are about whitewashing a year of wasted opportunities.

Making promises for what will be accomplished later makes it easier to feel better about the failures of the past. It’s an adult variation on the gung-ho attitude a poor student has on the first day of school after returning from Christmas break: “Yeh, I know I really sucked last semester,” they will sheepishly admit. The hollow pledge immediately follows: “But now I’m going to step it up and pull good grades!”  For them, the scoreboard is reset to zero. Past screw ups don’t count, at least not for the short term. Yes, I’ve been “that student”. More than once. Those making New Year’s resolutions, like born-again scholars, are more likely to be concerned about feeling better than doing better.

It appears that feeling good has become the the goal rather than the reward for achieving a goal. Society schmoozes underperformers so their precious self esteem is not hurt. Everyone gets a trophy. In cultures where an expectation of success is rigorously enforced, failure is a huge embarrassment. The student and the CEO are both motivated to do better because the last thing they want is to be humiliated before others.

Shame is a strong incentive to excel, unless of course you live in a world where being protected from every little disappointment is almost a religion. One of the big differences between a high achiever and a low achiever is that the high achiever knows they will be called out for their screw ups; self esteem is an aside. Our takeaway: The good deed should come before the good feeling. Too many want to get all warm ‘n’ fuzzy on the installment plan. And they almost never pay off the bill.

That circles us back to why New Year resolutions are ridiculous: If someone is sincere about making a big change in their life, why do they need a special day of the year to do it? Isn’t just as easy (or hard) to lose weight, go back to school, quit smoking, take that dream vacation, whatever, on any other day as it is on January 1? For the truly resolved, no calendar is needed. For the pretenders, a lazy excuse is never more than twelve months away.