Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Johann Wagener 1-29-13 

I went to the gym today. Why is that important to mention? Well, I thought it might help folks with putting their lives together. Especially when it comes to the hard stuff, like keeping in shape; both physically and psychologically.

Going to the gym is a part of my daily rituals, many of which are not even worth mentioning since it would be of little or no interest to anyone but me. The gym, I thought, would be familiar to many of us given the number of them that exist and the billions, who others, like myself spend on joining them. 

My motives might differ from others, since I’m not looking for “six-pak” abs or bulging tri’s, bi’s, or lats. As I usually say if asked, I just go to get my heart pumped in order to be able to keep moving through the day.  A battery charge if you will. 

I believe that this now less powerful and sleek machine I call my body needs to be “serviced” in order to maintain it’s ability to function. I believe that, just like any machine, lack of maintenance leads to malfunctions and breakdowns that usually add up to a quicker expiration date. Simple as that? 

Not quite. Maintenance requires time and energy, both of which we have less of these days, which is why we buy all those extended warranties. Unfortunately many of us can’t afford the healthcare warranty so we’re left to our own devices. But that takes “discipline” that invisible kick in the ass we give ourselves when confronted with something that painful or difficult to do. 

When it comes to the gym, if the motive is to pump those muscles and tighten those abs you’re going to need a lot of discipline, believe me. Those ads are a little misleading. That person in the ad did not transform from the “before” and “after” pose on a few weeks, or months. And not on a 1 hour a day schedule. But, hey, it’s a nice fantasy and, if it gets you there, then what’s the problem? 

The problem is, how many kicks can your ass take before you just plain give up the battle with yourself?  Especially when you are beating yourself for not torturing yourself enough.  Sooner or later you realize it’s a crazy adventure and the 1 year membership you paid for is down to a month or 2.  At least until next year’s New Year’s resolution. The gym owners love you.

Now, there are some of us, including myself, who have backed off on the discipline and are simply resolved to do the best we can to stay physically fit. So what if the muscles are shrinking rather than growing. At least we can prevent turning into a blob of flesh; no longer able to distinguish one muscle group from another. 

Even though that’s a reasonable motive in and of itself it’s too much for me. For example, all it took for me to get to the gym today (and for the last week or two) is a shower. You heard me right. I have been going to the gym every day for the last 2 weeks just to take a shower. Why? Well, for one thing they’re free (just kidding). My only reason for going  is that I keep my “routine” going.  

The secret to my successfully going to the gym on an almost daily basis for the last 50 years or so boils down to one word; “routine”.  It’s what I believe we do to define ourselves and the way we are able to make sense out of lives. Our routines are just a bunch of “rituals” stuck together sort of like how our DNA structured. Generic for the most part, but unique in small but significant ways. 

What I've discovered over the years of both successes and failures in living is that, in order to live the life I wanted to live I needed to make and keep a routine. Even though there are times my trip to the gym consist of nothing more than a shower, I have preserved the routine by getting up, piling in the car, and driving there. What I do when I get there is irrelevant.  Not showing up, on the otherhand, would change the routine which is then replaced with something like catching an extra hours sleep, or reading a few more pages of a book. Whatever it is changes the routine and that then becomes the “routine.” It happens many times in our lives which is why we change whether we want to believe or not. This is not to say that we won’t encounter situations that require change whether we want to or not but, for the most part, most of us will persist in creating a routine to adapt to those uninvited changes. 

So, my suggestion to you who are struggling with resolutions, goals, objectives is this. Put all that on the back of your routine. Keep going to the gym, or taking your afternoon nap, or what other rituals you have conjured up to build your life on. Showing up is what’s important. What happens after is TBA. 
And, when you think it’s time to change the routine make sure it’s not because you or someone else has stuck a foot in your "you now what" but rather because you are consciously resolved in making a change. Not because you are forcing yourself in accepting it, but rather because you want to surrender to it.  

Good luck.