It was just a little thing, poking up out of my arm. I had finished my half hour cardio workout, given my body a good stretch, and moved into the weight training part of my routine.
I was straddling the seat of the machine, straining to bring those weights up one more time. Don’t get the wrong idea. I have no desire to look like a female wrestler. I’m just going for tone and definition. I use light weights, but after several reps my arms were worked and weary just the same.
“One more,” I said to myself, “you can do it.” My arms cried out in protest, and then I noticed that thing – that odd bump – out of the corner of my eye.
I finished the drill, then examined the arm more closely, curious. The thing had not been an adrenaline-induced product of my imagination. There, underneath the padding of my arms, was a small but well-defined and rather rock-solid muscle.
I noticed more of the little creatures in my thighs as I went through my leg routine. And the day only got weirder from there. At work, I ran into a colleague I haven’t seen in the month since I’ve been back in the gym. It is summertime, and he had taken an extended vacation.
The first thing he said to me after our hellos was “you look like you’re losing weight.” Then, not realizing he’d just bought himself at least a week of sending me emails full of emergencies of his own making without me calling him a wanker, he went on about his day.
This past Friday marked our one-month anniversary in the new gym. We’ve been going religiously, four to five times per week. I do cardio and weights each time. At least 2 times a week, we take an additional trip just to treat ourselves to an evening hot tub, steam room and swim before bed. It does wonders for helping my insomniac brain settle down for a night of uninterrupted rest. We’ve been eating healthier too. More chicken and fish, less burgers and hot dogs. More salads and fresh veggies, and no fries.
That is all to the good, and I am proud of us. But it has only been 30 days. I’ve been down this road before. Lee and I went to the gym for almost two years straight, and transformed our “little extra to love” into leaner, stronger bodies. Then we got lazy, and I got re-addicted to writing and traded 5 am workouts for extra hours of time in front of a computer. My word counts grew, and so did my ass.
If you don’t use it, you lose it, they say. And judging by the return of some extra padding, we lost it.
Or did we?
I recall Round 1 of our Great Fitness Initiative like it was yesterday. I remember how I felt after a month in the gym. I was still tired and scrambling to fit everything I needed to do into my days on top of work and all the time in the gym. My muscles ached as I tried out new routines and found what worked. My cardio workouts were still an exercise in sweaty, winded torture.
At the end of that first Month 1, I was proud of myself for sticking to it. I was starting to build a little bit of stamina. But I still felt fat. I certainly wasn’t noticing any muscle definition poking its way up through the padding of my arms and thighs. And no one in my circle looked at me that early on and asked if I was losing weight.
This time around feels so much easier. I have miles to go, but things seems to be happening faster. It seems the muscle tone and definition I built last time didn’t go away so much as get buried under some extra layers. The first time, I had to build them pretty much from scratch, while simultaneously working to remove a lot of extra fluff. This time, they’re already there, and aren’t quite as many fluff-layers to peel away before they can be seen.
The muscles aren’t back out in full force yet, but they’re waking up and poking out long enough to say “Hello. Yeah, I’m still here. Now get this extra crap off of me so we can get on with it, huh?”
There’s a lesson there for me, and anyone else who has worked to achieve a goal and fallen off the wagon. Even if you didn’t quite meet your mark, your efforts were not wasted. You made progress. You built foundations that are most likely still there waiting for you when you are ready to dig through all the other layers of life and get back to them.
My Life List Club goals center on fitness and writing. The value of my previous work in the fitness arena has been evident as I pick up where I left off. The value of my previous writing initiatives has been harder to see. In that area, it is much easier to kick myself in the butt for all the unfinished work and wasted years. But if I really think about it, I can see that my younger years as a writer did give me some building blocks and make this go-round a little easier.
– I know the enemy that is writer’s block, and how debilitating it can be. I battled it before, and lost. This time around, I can sense it while it is still snoozing but threatening to wake up. I have learned how to recharge my batteries, refocus, and lure that monster back to sleep.
– I know the concentration that is required to write successfully. Before, my busy life and work-weariness not giving me the time or energy I needed to write beat me down. This time, I fight back. Woe to any circumstances that will not give me my “me time” to chase my dream. I no longer see that as a privilege, but a right. If my job or life stressors try to take that right away from me, I will smack their sorry asses.
And this time around, I’ve got the muscle to do just that, even if it is buried another an extra layer or two.
Your efforts are never wasted, even if you left them under years of dust. All that you learned and all that you became in your earlier attempts will guide you in your next go-round. Instead of beating yourself up over abandoning your efforts before, take time to notice how the progress you DID make is helping you get even further this time around.