gymnasties-1There are only so many heartbeats that each of us are assigned in this life; how we use them is completely and totally up to us. Whether we choose to waste them at a rapid pace by activities such as “exercise” or we choose to maximize our life time-schedule by sitting on our collective asses, it is a purely autonomous decision. At least, that is the theory put forth by a former co-worker, who described this life philosophy to me while consuming his daily dollar Whopper lunch. Amazing what we can learn in a firehouse.

I’ve had a torrid affair with the gym myself. In days past, it was a habit as a means of staving off the effects of aging, Midwestern cuisine and the maddening expansion of the waistline.  Then along came family and all the so-called needs they needed fulfilled. I’d go through jags where the gym was a middling priority, abandoned as soon as the Next Great Endeavor was attacked. And outside of the weekly hockey game and momentary fits of chasing the boys around the homestead, the affair waned while the pant size waxed.

In its latest manifestation, my relationship with the gym has been in dire need of a motivational factor. To most people this would involve getting hooked up with a great yoga-lates class and taking cues from all the fit and trim and beautiful people. Maybe this might involve getting some P-90X routine or perhaps a new Super Gazelle Strider Machine, complete with healthy fitness models telling you that, yes, you too can look like them in an incredibly short period of time.

This is not for me. These people, all ripped, cut and mad about abs generally serve to UN-inspire me. They’re already where I want to be, and in my insatiable desire for instant gratification this seems like a near-impossibility. There is no need for them to even be there, save to humiliate me. No, I FOUND my motivation: those poor souls worse off than me, sweating like Northside hookers at Confessional, truly swerving close to crashing into a real cardiac event. And in no way do I mean this as a slam or slight; these folks are attempting to honestly affect change their life. I admire the living crap out of how they are not there to impress the opposite sex, that there is no meat market aspect to their presence at the gym.  Maybe the pessimist in me finds solace in a half-empty glass. That sense of half empty means potential. Means hope.

As I watched some half-crazed sweathog pound his way around the track, I felt this sense of admiration grow with each lap he made in front of my bike. There he was, gallons of liquid fat emanating from his pores, lap by lap, taking real control of his health and his future. He’s willing to risk possible stroke in his efforts. I found myself cheering him on with each 1/7th of a mile wanting to raise my fist to him and shout “KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON, BROTHER! YOU GOT THIS THING!” I have no doubt that had I said that, he’d have come over and stomped me into a puddle of liquid waste; plus, it might seem like I was being rude. THIS is the kind of ad campaign that the YMCA needs to be running with real people like you and me and my (unbeknownst to him) new workout partner. Losing 1/4 to 1/2 of a percent of body fat is of no consequence to me…..this man dragging his caboose round and round in front of me has triple digit weight loss goals, and he’s there day after day, distancing himself with each pace away from the inevitable diabetic loss of limbs.

So there we have it. Outside of an admiration of Chuck Norris being Chuck Norris, I never again want to see some fit celebrity hawking the latest crunch/reclining device. It serves no purpose other than to repulse me when I read about how Madonna’s hybrid Tantric-Kabbalah-Step routine has resulted in her looking like a freakishly strong heroin junkie. I envision a future where one day, it’s Al Roker versus Willard Scott in a foot race through Central Park while trying to broadcast the weather, each in the throes of arrhythmic spasms; that’s motivation, my friend.

I don’t know if my new workout partner knows the kind of inspiration he’s providing me, since he doesn’t even know who in the hell that is shaking his fist at him with each passing lap. I think I might need to work on my socializing skills. Maybe I’ll bring it up, post workout, when I see him down at the doughnut shop