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Four Minutes to Nowhere

People just don’t get it: bodyfat up, muscle tone down; disease up, health down; lethargy up, vigor down—just another dysfunctional roller-coaster ride at the less-than-amusing amusement park called life.

You can’t miss the place. Snuggled between 31 Flavors ice cream and Ace Hardware in the Pacifica Shopping Center is a Four Minutes to Fitness Gym. Yeah, you got it right; not a three-minute or two-minute, but, thank heaven, a four-minute fitness gym. What’s the rush, right? Might as well kick back and commune while you’re there, have a green tea, talk abdominals.

The location is a busy stretch of shops, eateries, a thriving Safeway and a sheriff’s outpost. It takes 10 minutes to find a parking place, gather your gear and walk the 50 yards to the inconspicuous and harmless little gym. Let’s face it, how conspicuous and harmful can a gym be that offers strength and health in 240 seconds? Not very.

Imagine: In those precious fleeting minutes of parking and walking to the front door, a person could have knocked out two workouts and had a couple of minutes to spare for rest and recuperation. I hate to waste time; time is money. Oops, another fast and fit workout lost while signing in, saying howdy to the counter person and unloading my gym bag—straps, wraps, lifting belt, Gatorade, smelling salts.

What now? Do they throw you into a machine vaguely resembling an oversize clothes dryer, slam the lid and press the “on” button? Is there a conveyor belt and assembly line beyond the door marked Enter that expels fit bodies out the door marked Exit in exactly four minutes, like baggage at Southwest Airlines?

“Can I take my iPod with me? An extra pair of shorts?”

Call me old-fashioned, skeptical, crazy, annoyed, amused, confused and disappointed, but, well, where were they 50 years ago when I first started in the lean, mean iron-tossing scene? The time, energy, pain and sacrifice saved would have been enormous. I could have become a doctor, a palm reader, a tattoo artist, a goatherd even.

Wonder if they offer a four-minute diet plan. Gulp.

Inspired, I’ve considered writing a series of catchy fitness courses: Think Fitness, Fitness While You Sleep, Eat Up—Shape Up, Daydreaming Your Way to Physical Perfection, The Nod Bod, and Muscle and Might Overnight, by Swift, Simple and Sassy Systems Inc.

The average person is not fit. He doesn’t exercise, he eats foolishly, he’s undermuscled and generally overweight. Oh, really? I hadn’t noticed. His gross fitlessness is not new or a secret or a taboo subject in mainstream conversation. It’s big business, and it’s a big problem, and it’s growing big time.

I’m amazed and encouraged by the broad and bold coverage TV news has given the subject of health, obesity and fitness in recent years. Good for them. Every people-popular magazine at the checkout counter offers tips on diet and exercise—three cheers. Additionally, of course, there are as many gyms in town as there are gas stations—and they’re less expensive. Yet I’m more amazed that the combined efforts have proven ineffective in stopping the flood, averting the disaster, engaging the careless and saving them from themselves.

People just don’t get it: bodyfat up, muscle tone down; disease up, health down; lethargy up, vigor down—just another dysfunctional roller-coaster ride at the less-than-amusing amusement park called life. 

People are hardened. They tune out or change channels or bury their heads in the couch. They munch and nibble and slurp and burp. Rather than conscientiously respond to the persuasive words of warning and encouragement, they roll over.

Kids, their parents and their parents’ parents want to be strong and healthy and in shape, but they don’t want it enough—not enough to apply discipline, not enough to be responsible, not enough to exercise and eat right. The weak excuses—too busy, poor genes, wrong metabolism, the kids, job, dog, cat, canary—like water-logged corks, no longer float to the surface. Entire families carelessly, helplessly, hopelessly accept their fate, and down they go, remote in one hand, cell phone in the other and a doughnut balanced on their foreheads. They sink, and the good stuff is left on the water’s rippling surface: spirit and courage, muscle and might, figure and form.

Enough, already. Next you’ll be telling us the condition is a reflection of—and contribution to—the world’s greater mess (look around) and the way the downward spiral continues unchecked while the inhabitants slouch. Though you’d wish it was the majority, aren’t you glad you’re one of the minority, an exception, a bomber?

So what’s that got to do with Four Minutes to Fitness—and a better world? Absolutely nothing. The blink-of-an-eye four-minute fiasco is just another rip-off of the already-plundered market of health and fitness, smart exercise and right eating.

What’s so difficult and objectionable about smart exercise and right eating, anyway, especially when the rewards and benefits are so great? It’s not as if you have to eat mice and lice and drink ginger spice. It’s not as if you’re addicted to Camels, champagne and crack cocaine and have to abstain.

We’re talking about yummy, yummy, good for the tummy—tantalizing, energizing and muscularizing—meat, fish, poultry and milk products, fresh vegetables and fruits in moderation and order. He and she need to exercise regularly and with good intentions, not dig trenches on the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan or potty-train lions and tigers and bears in the wild.

Got life? Work out, eat smart, be strong, be happy, be respectful, be worthy, be sure.

The most difficult and objectionable thing about smart exercise and right eating is getting started. The knowledge needed to start and get rolling, build up speed and put in the miles isn’t hidden or complicated. It’s the basics, always the basics, from here to eternity. I don’t know anyone who is or has been a champion who needed special knowledge to become great.

Understanding—well, that’s another matter altogether. Though confused with knowledge, understanding is discernment, awareness and perception—an invaluable by-product that comes only with time and guts, consistency and practice, observation and trial and error. Take pleasure in gaining understanding because growth is its faithful and constant companion.

Four Minutes to Fitness. What a joke. But wait, there’s more: In the back room they offer classes in finance, “30 Seconds to Wealth.” And for the medically inclined on the go, you can sign up for a 60-second tutoring, “How to Perform Brain Surgery in the Backseat of Your Car With a Tire Iron and Monkey Wrench.”

Four minutes, and I’m still in the john washing my hands and tucking in my shirt. Give me a break.

Also, give me a clear runway and wings to the sky, plenty of time and the will to fly high. IM

Editor’s note: For more from Dave Draper, visit and sign up for his free newsletter. You can also check out his amazing Top Squat training tool, classic photos, workout Q&A and forum.

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