Mind as muscle. (Working out: suggestions from a non-professional.)

This is for anyone who’s decided to start working out, has started working out, and is now wondering, “How can I continue to do it?”

I’ve been asked. There’s no single answer. I can suggest, though, that one way to stay committed to working out is to stay interested in working out, and one way to stay interested in working out is to focus – not on other people, and not on yourself, but on what you’re doing.

That’s the key: In order to follow through on your commitment, you have to stay interested.


Fire in stone


1). Here’s my first suggestion:

Don’t compare yourself to others. 

Those people working out around you? Ignore them.

2). My second suggestion is the one that’s the most important to me, personally:

Focus on the fight in front of you.

Don’t focus on all the fights, all at once. Just on the one directly in front of you right now.

If you balk at the word “fight,” remember that “fight” is a common word, and that most of the time, we don’t use it in a violently combative sense.

Fight cancer, fight fatigue, fight the urge to laugh, fight the impulse to say what you’re thinking, fight for air. Fight for equality and justice and rights, if you’re so inclined. Fight for your family. Fight to defend yourself. Fight to stay alive. Fight back.

Fighting is a mental endeavor, first and foremost.

When someone says, “You have a lot of fight in you,” that’s high praise. It suggests that you’re mentally strong. You persevere. You don’t give up. You’re brave.

Imagine taking that perseverance and bravery with you when you go to work out. Imagine setting small goals to achieve your long-term goal in increments. Each small goal is a fight. Focus on it, and you may find that your interest is held because you’re immersed in a moment that has an end goal.

Fitness goals come from somewhere. They come from your mind. They come about because you’ve thought about them. You had a thought that became a decision that led to the statement “I’m going to work out.”

That’s a testament to your strength, already! You’ve declared that you’re going to work out, and it was your mind that got you over that hurdle. Your mind already did the hardest part, so you can trust it to help you follow through.

What about confidence, though?

I remove confidence from the equation because I don’t consider it to be the means to an end. I would suggest, “Just focus on what you’re doing. Don’t worry about confidence.”

After your workout, you can exult in the confidence you’ve gained knowing that you gave your ALL to that workout.

Your confidence will increase each time, developing gradually as a result of what you’re doing. Eventually, you’ll carry it with you into your workouts without even knowing it. It becomes a force that you can access subconsciously.

Going into your fitness endeavor trying to believe “I’m confident” is setting yourself up to focus on that. Your focus should be on what you’re doing, not on how you think you should be feeling.

My two suggestions are interrelated: If you compare yourself to others while you’re working out, your focus will no longer be trained on what’s in front of you. What’s in front of you is the goal you’re aiming to achieve in that moment. It’s your fight… use it to direct your focus and to keep your focus where it can benefit you the most.

SIKA BOOM-E Mousse Expansive

This morning, I was in the bathroom when Callaghan came in with a can of liquid Styrofoam, a product I never knew existed. The label on the can read: “SIKA BOOM-E Mousse Expansive.”

He started shaking it. He shook it vigorously for a long time using all of his upper-body strength, or so it seemed. “Let me guess… that needs to be shaken,” I said, observant as usual. He laughed. Why is he always laughing at me? This was the third time he’d laughed at me today. I can’t figure it out.

Anyway, then he began his task of spraying the Styrofoam along the wide crack that runs the length of the wall (where the tile floor meets the tile wall), and some vertically in the corner, too, where the walls meet perpendicularly. (There was an equally awesome crack that rose from the floor halfway up to the ceiling.) He explained that after about thirty minutes, the Styrofoam would expand and dry, filling the crack and blocking out the cold air that had been blasting in. I was fascinated.

“What happens if you accidentally swallow some – would the Styrofoam expand and kill you, or would your saliva and acids in your stomach prevent that from happening?”

“Uhh… ben…” (pronounced “bahhh”)

“…I mean, would it expand and blow up your stomach?”

“Yeah, you’d die. You don’t want to swallow it!”

Of course I wouldn’t swallow it. I already had this ghastly mental image of someone’s stomach exploding with a growing blob of Styrofoam, kind of like how a baby grows in the uterus, except that the uterus is specially designed to stretch with the growth of a baby, or, I guess, an expanding uterus-shaped blob of Styrofoam. Also, an expanded baby can exit the mom’s body by way of the vaginal canal, so the mom wouldn’t explode, anyway, whereas there’s no such escape route for a blob of Styrofoam lodged in the stomach.  You couldn’t even throw up the Styrofoam if you wanted to, for obvious reasons.

“Does the label warn against swallowing it?” I asked, very concerned. Callaghan examined the label. “No, it does not say ‘Do Not Eat’,” he answered.

Now it was my turn to laugh at him. I also laugh when he pronounces “focus” like “fuckus,” only he doesn’t say that word often enough for me to enjoy the hilarity of it.