Excuse Me

Salt N Pepper

Salt N Pepper

I was sitting in one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants during my lunch our. Within the garbled conversation and slurping of Pho noodles (pronounced fuh, not fo like "What's up fo"?), I'd heard two middle-age men talking.

"Will they gain the life expectancy back with the time they put in the gym?" a salt-and-pepper haired man said.

Let's do the twist!

Let's do the twist!

"Not likely," a chubby-cheeked man said.

"They've done studies where going to the gym doesn't extend life expectancy but usually results in more injury," salt and pepper said.

"It's just a waste of time," chubby cheeks said. "I have better things to do than spend my whole day at the gym."

I wondered how much television they watched and how that was contributing to their quality of life. To some, a lot. To others who like to exercise and have passions outside of creating excuses for themselves, not much.

During my voluntary confinement in my 6 X 6 cubicle, what I'd like to refer to as my day job, my cube mate said, "I'm still carrying weight. I had him like a month ago."

Her cube mate said, "It's not like you're a celebrity."

Before: Dayem!  After:  Damn!

Before: Dayem!  After:  Damn!

One of the things I've done as a teacher, as an actor, and now a writer, is listen to what people say and do. You can read a lot about a person by what they're saying. In both the above cases, excuses are being fed to themselves and each other about not doing something, exercise. But the excuses could've been anything:

"I don't have time to pursue my art."

"My passions aren't going to pay for my bills."

"It's just a hobby. I can do it anytime. But with work, family..."

"I don't even know where to begin. And who am I to think I can paint?"

"I don't have them money to start this."

I've definitely used excuses. What are they good for? Ultimately, excusing yourself from knowing the truth. What might that truth be? How powerful we are.

To attain anything great, we must first realize that we are capable. Once we become too entwined in our own self-doubt, we begin to create roadblocks that actually block us from moving forward.

Hell no we won't go!

Hell no we won't go!

I can't tell you how many people widened their eyes and told me how impossible publishing a book can be. But the only way I can become a published author is to first write. If I don't write and only focus on how difficult the road may be, I'll never take the first step to get published. Does that mean those thoughts don't occur in my head? No. I just focus on the task at hand, which is simply to write.

There are pundits at writing conferences that say you have to network, have a web presence, have white teef (teeth for you ghetto challenged), walk the walk, talk the talk, and be one with the all mighty universe (that would be Oprah) to get published.

Be as you wish to seem -Socrates

But none of that is important until I write. Writing to a writer is the most important task. Obvious write (right)? This simple philosophy is lost at writing conferences.

No Pain, No Gain?

No pain, no gain.

Ronnie Coleman is an 8-time Mr. Olympia.  Mr. Olympia is the pinnacle competition for bodybuilders.  Arnold Schwarzenegger has won it seven times.

In anyone's travels to the top, which I hear is a lonely place, there are sacrifices that have to be made.  Especially in the sports arena, a lot of athletes work with the adage "No pain, no gain."  I've also heard the downside of that philosophy, over working, over training.  Let's face it.  Too much of anything is bad.

We can't go more than a few days without water.  In an apocalyptic world, water would trump gold any day.  But drink too much water, and you'll die.

I've been going to the gym for many years.  I've seen many of the same faces.  And many of the same bodies.  Now, I can't really judge their intentions for going to the gym.  Some need the exercise, prescribed by their doctors.  Others want that rock-hard, beach-ready look.  I can, however, read their intentions by their actions.  And I'd say most people who go to the gym want to look good nekked (naked for those who is unfamiliar with Eddie Murphy).

Here are a few indications:  the gym is pact during New Years and Mondays, guys grunt needlessly as they lift, others talk about their fast cars when scantily clothed females are near by, and still others roll up their t-shirt sleeves, glaring at themselves in the mirror.  Even worse are those who spend endless hours on the treadmill or stationary bike, reading books.  But rarely do I see any change in their body composition over the years.

What do people do instead?

Whine and quit.

So, maybe, no pain, no gain is the way to go.

When I first started training, a friend of mine would go lift with me.  Not only did he have the worst form, but his diet was full of crap food.  And within a couple of months, his strength gains and build had improved faster than I've ever seen.  He was also very athletically gifted, and suffered no "pain".

Recently, I had talked to a kid who was going to the gym four times a week.  He'd been working out for several years but made little headway to the physique he wanted.  Looking at his body, I asked him what he did.  Once he became aware he made little progress, he did a little researched and realized he'd been complacent.

Now, every single workout is different.  It takes a bit more effort, putting more thought into his workouts, most of his sessions are difficult both mentally and physically.  I see him.  From the very first set to the last, he pushes hard.  I feel the pain as he hammers out each set.  As a result, he's able to lift more weight than a lot of the bigger guys in the gym.  And he's reaping the rewards.

The key here is that he became aware and made changes.

So life isn't just about no pain, no gain as much as noticing where you are, what have you done to get to where you want to be, and do you have to make changes that may be uncomfortable to fulfill your dreams.  For some, it's painless.  For others, it's not.


When I taught at my old martial arts school, one thing we taught was intensity coupled with kiaing.  For those of you who don't know, kiaing is a short or long scream or yell while striking.  But let me tell you.  Our school used to kiai at the top of our lungs (one of the reasons I left the school). First off, no one fights like this.  You'd spend more energy yelling your head off if you did.  The worst part is when a student ends their technique with a five minute kiai, long after the strike has been delivered.  Their philosophy is that in a fight or a life and death situation people tend to forget to breath.  And that's true.  That's why when you listen to boxers fight, they breath out crisply with a hiss.  Kinda like a cobra striking.

During belt tests, we would watch students scream as they performed their techniques.  We would then convene and discuss each students' intensity as if we were judging the taste of wine.

Pure crap! (see my bio)

Then I go to the gym, and I see very little intensity.  I'll give you an example.

This girl who was doing leg presses caught my eye.  Now, I know what you're thinking.  She was hot.  Just because she wore tight black ankle pants that showed off her narrow waist, flowing down to her round hips, a bright pink top that accentuated her bust line, showing off her flat stomach, and she pouted her red plush lips and flung long brown hair, doesn't mean I found her attractive.  What caught my eye was her lacsadaisical leg presses as she leisurely texted on her blackberry.

I don't think she's very focused.

Or a guy who does one set of  curls, talks to his friend for twenty minutes, does another set, wipes his forehead, and continues his conversation about the the hot girl doing the leg presses, is not focused on his workout.  Then he complains that whatever he does, he can't seem to get the definition or size he wants.

I wonder why?

I love working out, but I don't spend much time at the gym.  Do your workout.  Hit it hard.  Get your heart pumping.  Increase your metabolism.  Then leave.

Is this prevalent in other gyms?