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Get up early Finish what you start Make your plan

You. The individual that is ending your membership to the gym (any gym, not just ours). The one who is on the cusp of walking away from the one thing that is guaranteed to bring about positive, long lasting change to your life. What the hell are you doing? Have you thought this decision through? Clearly, you have not. Please allow me to talk you through the finer points of the colossal, and completely avoidable, mistake you are about to execute.

No, this blog post is not going to make you happy. It may even sting a little. Tough luck. Suck it up buttercup. If you need a good proverbial smack to your brain-housing group in order clear the fog from between your ears I’m happy to oblige.

I hear the same three reasons over and over for not going to the gym. Ask any coach who has been around for while. The same tired excuses are given.

“I can’t afford it”

Baloney. Throwing down the monthly payment is easy. Hell, anyone driving a car made in this decade, or carrying around a fancy mobile phone with an unlimited data plan, or wearing the latest fashions, or going out to eat one or two times per week can afford what most high quality gyms ask, given what is offered. The real question is, “how can you afford not to?”

“I just don’t have the time”

I don’t know if there is a worse excuse for not getting into the gym. I mean, this one just wreaks of self-sabotage and irresponsibility. There are 24 hours in a day. Are you really trying to convince me that the world is going to end if, on a few of the 7 days in a week, you take 1-2 hours to get in some much needed exercise? Some of my Marines would make the mistake of thinking they were indispensable and that our unit wouldn’t survive without them. I happily reminded them that there were entire graveyards full of indispensible Marines.

“Lifting weights doesn’t work for me, I need more cardio”

OK Richard Simmons, sure thing. You need more cardio like you need another piece of pie. The results you are not getting are lying right there for you just out of reach on the other side of, “put forth greater effort”, and right next to “stop eating like crap”. Unless you are part of the ~4% of the population with a thyroid disorder or the 110-144 out of every million people with adrenal insufficiency the second you decide to show up consistently, work out intensely, and get your nutrition on track you will get the results you need.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Those that scratch, and claw, and plan, and fight to go to the gym simply have different priorities. The hardest part of getting into the gym isn’t paying the tab, nor is it making the time, and it sure as hell isn’t because it doesn’t produce results for those that work hard. Nope, those three reasons are nothing more than thinly veiled excuses given by people that are simply afraid of the busting their humps. Hard work is all it takes, but in a world that embraces facebook perfection, iPhone app instant gratification, and cyber adventures over calluses, rusty barbells, and manual labor, sweat and toil are in short supply. It is far easier to use one of the three classic excuses not to show up than it is to get into shape and take ownership of ones fitness. For God’s sake, look at all these weak and helpless college kids protesting on campuses like Missouri State, across the country. Have you seen a group more singularly prepared to become the next generation of gym dropouts? They are being groomed, perfectly, for ignominious failure. They have been taught to find value in an excuse rather than in changing one’s circumstances.

You can afford it, you can make the time, and you can get results.

In my college years I was living a pretty busy life. To say that I had a full plate was an understatement. I was going to school full time and bartending 40+ hours/week. I also ran my snow plowing business in the winter and my black top sealing business in the spring, summer, and fall. I played rugby and served as the team president then as the team captain, and continued to box competitively (as an amateur).

I don’t remember the exact reason I decided to undertake the feat. I have a decent memory. I thought long and hard on this one and I cant for the life of me put my finger on anything other than the fact that I was driven. I thirsted for a challenge. The reason, however, is moot. What matters is that I decided in spite of all my other commitments I was going to complete 365 workouts in a year’s time. My friends and family though I was nuts. The more people told me it wouldn’t happen the more fanatically committed I became to doing what ever it took to accomplish my mission.

I made a giant, 4’x4’ year-long calendar and hung it on my living room wall. I planned my year’s worth of workouts as best I could marking down each day that I was going to go the gym. I annotated the days I knew would not be able to make it and would need to find a good substitution. I marked the days I knew that I would not be able to get in a workout of any kind and designated days that I’d do a double to make up for the missed workout. I looked at that calendar everyday; it was unavoidable. The more I looked at it, the more resolute I became in my intent.

I learned to get creative. I couldn’t always get into the gym so I would run to and from work. In order to keep myself challenged I’d add things to my run. I had a 4’ section of railroad tie that I’d carry across my back as I ran down the road heading in for my shift at TGI Fridays. I guarantee there are people reading this blog post and laughing because they remember seeing me running down Niagara Falls Boulevard with that damn thing slung over my shoulder. It wasn’t easy to do things like that. On blustery and cold winter nights with snow piling up by the foot and knowing I had a long night of plowing ahead of me and school later that day, you better believe it was tempting to accept a ride home. I’d always decline. My gut told me those were the most important PT sessions to complete. Those were the ones that were going to make me old school strong, and mean, and committed. It was those damn runs at 0200 in 12” of snow with a 4’ chunk of railroad tie on my back that were going to change me right down to my damn DNA. And indeed, each lash of the wind’s whip against my numb cheeks reminded me that PT sessions done under the least favorable conditions while facing down ever increasing temptations to quit were the strongest stitches in the fabric of my will to succeed.

I was becoming unstoppable and I was going to achieve my goal.

In the summer time I also worked at the Pier, a now long-gone lakeside patio bar. Summer time was always my busiest blacktop-sealing season. The hours for both tending bar and sealing driveways were long. There were a two weekends that I didn’t sleep for 48 hours, literally. I chose to stay awake so I could make money and get in my training sessions. Friday morning we started sealing driveways at 0600 and finished around 1800. I showered, ate, and then with a weighted backpack hopped on my mountain bike to knock out the challenging 16-mile route I had picked out to get me to the Pier for my 2100 start time. Back then in Erie County the bars closed at 0400. I don’t know what time they close now. By 0430 I was back on my bike riding home arriving in time to start sealing driveways again by 06-0630. We sealed driveways all day and into the evening, eating while we worked. Saturday evening I did it all over again – hopped on my bike, rode into work, slung beers and cocktails from 2100 until 0400, then got in my final workout of the week by riding home as fast as I fast as I could while wearing my weighted pack and navigating the 16 mile partial off road course. I felt pretty damn good having knocked out 1 workout on Friday, 2 on Saturday, and 1 more on Sunday. Hell, I was plus 1 for the week, if not a bit delirious from lack of sleep.

My calendar was filling with checkmarks. Slowly but surely, my dedication and stubborn determination were paying off. It wasn’t long before I was down to fewer than 100 workouts remaining. Each check mark symbolizing a completed workout was a source of ever deepening pride and self-assuredness.

I checked off my 365th training session of the year with no pomp and circumstance. It became fait accompli that I was going to hit 365 workouts in as many days. I had created a habit of completion, a habit of winning, a habit of accomplishing the mission, a habit of finding a way. In my mind, there was nothing I couldn’t do.

So I did it again.

Another 4’X4’ calendar went up on my wall and so, too, did 365 workouts in 365 days. And a third calendar brought a third year’s worth of training session. The more often people told me I’d never do it, or that I was going to hurt myself, or that I was insane, the more determined I became to complete the task. I didn’t sleep much during those years. I jokingly say that I never once went to bed in my college years. Between the classes, tending bar, driveways, and the workouts I simply lived nap to nap. If nothing else those three years taught me that I could do anything, literally, so long as I possessed the will.

OK – you are either throwing darts at my visage and ready to burn me in effigy or you are curious as to how to set priorities, establish goals, and how to develop discipline. If you are the former, I’ve got nothing for you. For those of you in the latter group, those that are on the verge of ending your gym membership, to any gym (I’m not just talking to athletes at my gym,) but want to make a positive change, press on. I have 3 tips for you to use to help steer you back on course. Employ these techniques for the next 3 months and will develop all the right habits: the habits of completion, winning, accomplishing the mission, and finding a way.

  1. Get up early. That’s right, Smokey. Get your ass out of bed and get it out of bed early. Getting up in the morning is something you need to learn to cherish. The start of each new day holds endless promise and you need to celebrate it accordingly. Every morning is like Christmas. Think of all the people with whom you are going to interact. Each of them is a present that you can unwrap with sincere words and actions to reveal the gift of friendship and camaraderie. Embrace the start of your day and the countless lives that you have an opportunity to positively impact. And while you are up get your lazy butt into the gym first thing in the morning. Yes, you heard correctly. I’m telling you to get into the gym as early as possible. Start your day by surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who seek the opportunity to be successful and feel good about themselves.

  2. Finish what you start. For the next 3 months, don’t do anything that you are not going to finish. You need to create a habit of completion. Start with small things. Finish every book you start to read. Don’t skim newspaper articles, read them completely. Stop using text as a primary means of communication. Send an email instead, or pick up the phone. Write someone a letter, weekly, and get them mailed. Read longer, more complex books. Read the classics, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, or any of Dickens’ works. It takes discipline, which is exactly what you need.

  3. Make a plan. Decide what days and when you are going to go to the gym. Write it out on a calendar, a big calendar. Hang it on the wall of whatever room you spend most of your waking hours in so that it is in your sight as often as possible. The more you see it and think about it the more likely you are to actualize your plan. Share with your inner circle, the people with whom you have close relationships, your plan of action. The more people that are familiar with your plan the more support you are going to receive when executing it. Looking at your plan, daily, and sharing it with those you care about will bring increased accountability to your life.

Those earlier years proved highly influential. They shaped me, greatly, and helped me become a success later on in life. They established the work ethic upon which I relied while I was in the Corps. On my last deployment we spent most of our time in the dessert and on the hunt; we weren’t assigned to a base. Living out of our rigs for weeks at a time while on mission made workouts a challenge. Like I did when I was in college, I found a way. I’d strip off my vest and my kit and push my uparmored HMMWV around for 30-45 minutes at a time. Old habits die hard.

Use these next 3 month to positively influence who you are. Establish the right habits. Get up early. Finish what you start. Make a plan. Get into a gym; my gym, the YMCA, a franchise gym, any gym. Just get into a gym and get moving. The same habits that are bringing you success in the gym will start to bring you success in other aspects of your life. In short order you will find yourself making better decisions that will bring about the change for which you were longing. If after 3 months you still want to quit your gym then you should enroll in Missouri State.


Semper Fi, Coach Robby

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