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We Outlive the Discomfort

bodybuilder exercising

I’m about to leave for the gym. It’s a sunny day, Sunday, one you might call perfect; low 80s, light breeze and no humidity. There are things I could do other than work out with the weights within the gym walls—more appealing and exciting, perhaps—yet to the gym I am bound. Why? What is the draw, the attraction, the force that persuades or, rather, compels me to attend the movement of heavy metal through a series of laborious sets and repetitions? A mystery.

I know what the motivations are for me, can guess what they are for you and only suspect that the two in their variations may coincide along the way. For this musclehead, the workouts have to be done, come rain or come shine. The value of yesterday’s workout and other days gone by depends on today’s; the workouts of tomorrow and the days to follow are founded on the ones before them—in particular, the one upon which I am about to embark. No single training session is more or less important than the other; they are equally important. They are intertwined, interwoven and interdependent, like words in the sentence of a complete and undefiled thought, a truth.

We often think, “If I don’t work out today, I’ll work out tomorrow.” But what do we say tomorrow if we don’t work out tomorrow? “I’ll work out next time”? And so the conversation goes until it fades to guilt, or a forgotten subject.

I’m training this afternoon because it promises good—challenge, joy, exhilaration, reinforcement, order, stress relief, camaraderie and inner conversation—and links me securely and properly with the days ahead. I need to express myself physically that I might be healthy and whole. Daily activity and busy-ness fall short of this role and certainly do not provide sufficient exercise; they only accentuate the need for it.

This day is not just another day. What day in your life is “just another day”? Today is a miracle, one surprise after another, sometimes shouting, often whispering of the hope of more to come. The man or woman who thinks tritely of life will endure a trite existence. This day, today, is the most important day.

Exactly your point, you say. Why waste it or use it up in the gym under the iron? I say, so the sun will shine tomorrow and the next day and the next… in your heart, from your soul and upon your strong back.

As there are the moments, minutes and hours before the gym and its industry, there are the corresponding times after. Who among us is not disheveled and misshapen when we miss a scheduled workout? We outlive the discomfort; we rationalize our choice to forego exercise; we defend our lame excuses—after all, we are a free and unfettered people, not chained to the conventions of absolute discipline or, more appropriately, boring habit. We could use the rest and fun and, really, we do have forever. But our once-enthusiastic plans, the proper self-image we fashioned, the promises and commitments we made to ourselves are weakened.

Where we might dread the resistance the weights present and anticipate with shortness of breath a run on the endless treadmill and long for a stretch on the couch with the remote at our command, we are able to reprogram our minds with thoughts of purpose and fulfillment and development and accomplishment. Don’t weaken under the weight of your own flesh and bones that beg for your attention. You’re not lazy or lost or dismal; it’ll take more than a few poor choices and rationalizations to bury yourself in that infertile ground.

You’re building a palace for tomorrow, rooms for the future, and the work is evident in the structure. The sketches are in your imagination and alter with time and living day to day. The foundation is sound and development is taking place regularly beneath the floorboards and walls. Wiring and pipes and reinforcements and security systems cannot be seen, yet your mighty hands install them.

It may require effort of mind and will, but think of the good of the pushing and pulling, filling the lungs with oxygen and the muscles with blood. Ponder the goodness of the warmth of energy that spreads through the body and the moisture of resolute toil worn like a shield.

Oh, the thrill of a workout completed or the unbearable woe of yet another put aside.

It’s getting late, and the last train for Paradise is idling at the station, waiting for all to board. I hate to keep the train and its spirited passengers waiting.

Sometimes bombers take the train—keeps things in perspective.

—Dave Draper

Editor’s note: For more from Dave Draper, visit www.DaveDraper
.com 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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