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Almost Fiction: Excuses

By Sam Jones

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As a kid sitting in the congregation at Sunday School, I can remember the preacher trying to embellish the subject of his sermon with a little fable. Within his tirade about going to hell or not going to heaven or rejecting the demon rum or staying away from women of the night or… well… I can’t remember what the point was he was trying to make, however, he included this little parable:

“There was a man who loved music. He went to a piano recital, sat in the first row and was enthralled with the concert pianist’s great talent. Afterward he met the man and said, ‘That was wonderful, you have an amazing gift. I would give half my life to play the piano like that.’ ‘I did,’ the musician responded.”

The subject of the sermon is lost to me, but I remember the point of the allegory. You can’t play the piano unless you practice. If you want to play well, you must invest a great deal of time. And if you want to be a concert pianist you have to devote half of your life. You can’t play the piano by just shooting off your mouth.

Good point. That translates to everything.

If you want to hit a curve ball you have to get in the batting cage and swing the lumber.

If you want to be a poet you had better learn iambic pentameter and write some poetry.

If you want to race a motorcycle you had better get some track time. The examples are endless.

When you are 20 years old you figure you can waste a little time. There is plenty left; in fact there is an endless supply. As you get older and you realize that yes there is an endless supply of time, but only so much is allocated to you. It is then when you start tightening things up and make mental lists of what you wish to accomplish with the time you have left.

The movie The Bucket List makes this point very well. Two men, both of whom are dying of cancer, make a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket.” They then go out together and cross those things off their list.

I am not dying of a dreaded disease, and if I live to be 103 years old I have plenty of time to finish all my projects and go around the world. However, lately I haven’t felt strong and I realized that I’ve been wasting a great deal of time. Going back to the gym is a big item on my list.

So, that is what I did. Back to the gym, back to the machines, back to the weights, back to the bicycles and treadmills, back to the steam room; it is time for me to get back in shape.

“If I were to hire a personal trainer, which one would be best for me? I have bad knees and arthritis in my shoulders. Who knows the most about knees and shoulders?” I asked the question of a half-dozen people at the gym and they all pointed to the same person.

“Hi. If I were to hire you as a personal trainer what would we work on and how would you get me back in shape?” I asked.

“What are your goals? What do you want to get out of the workouts?” he asked.

“I have always been strong and competitive and I miss that now. In three months I want to be strong enough to ride a motorcycle on the Continental Divide Trail, the dual purpose dirt trail that runs from Canada to Mexico along the continental divide. And I want to do some training in the ring. I see these guys boxing and sparring. I did that in college and it was fun; I want to do that again.”

Every time I say something like that I get blank stares and comments about my age and about my knees and a thousand other reasons why I should act my age and grow old gracefully.

I was waiting for some negativity from this trainer, however, there was none. “OK, we know where you want to go. We can get you there. We will work the muscles and not the joints.”

I hired him on the spot.

I reject all of that “grow old gracefully” crap. Look at Jack LaLanne, the robustness health guru to the world, the godfather of physical fitness. He was 164 years old when he died and that was only because he was shot by a jealous husband. He called bullsh*t on all of the excuses we have for not getting in shape.

Excuses are what I have been telling myself for the past few years. “My shoulder hurts; my knees hurt.” I actually went to the doctor, a knee specialist, and moved my legs in a certain way and said, “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” And yes, like the old joke he said, “Well, don’t do that.”

Woe be unto me, I made the mistake of listening to him and stopped going to the gym and stopped doing most everything because it hurt. The result? I felt a thousand times worse and now I have to make up the time I have lost.

It’s pretty simple. If you want to play the piano you have to practice. If you want to spar in the ring you had better work out, strengthen your arms and shoulders so you can hold up your hands for three rounds. If you want to ride 3,000 miles from Canada to Mexico on a dirt bike, you had better get the miles under your belt so you don’t die in the wilderness.

Two days a week with a trainer, a couple more on the treadmill and the weight machines, riding the motorcycle every day, the excuses have stopped. I pay a trainer to get me ready for the world. If I don’t put in an appearance, stay home spending my day downloading porn, I still have to pay him. I’m too cheap for that and refuse to lose money on the deal, so I show up, push the weights and hit the bag.

My bucket list is simple. I don’t have to fly to India and see the Taj Mahal. All I have to do is get off my ass, go to the gym and ride a motorcycle.

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