“Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.
You forget some things, dont you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”
--Cormac McCarthy - The Road
The Road is an excellent book about the travels of a man and his young son through a post-apocalyptic world. A read without defined chapters it tends to flow as a series of conversations and events that never seem to take pause.
Your training life will see many programs and many exercises. There will be deadlifts and squats, and surely plenty of curls. Sprints on a track and long jogs down winding roads. There will be circuits of burpees, bunches of crunches and maybe even Zumba dance or two.
Every week of training will flow together just as the night flows into morning and day into dusk. Just as days begin to run together as you age, so too will your training sessions. Sure, there will be PR's and great achievements that dot the landscape you have painted into your memory.
Yet, do you really remember a specific squat?
Can you distinctly note every pound and every mile you've ever moved?
The answer is no. It is why we keep training logs. Our memory, no matter how hard we try, will not grasp onto the minutia of every set, every rep, and every step we complete. It is just far too much data to store into an already busy mind.
It doesn't mean we don't try. We speak on yesterday's deadlift and reflect on our last race. Our bodies remind us as we move, or attempt to move, throughout the world in the days that follow a session. An hour of heavy pulls and squats make scars of our glutes, and scars do remind us that the past is real.
Our memories take note. We are trying to move forward in our lives but our mind and body won't let us escape so easily. Every ounce of soreness is filed away in the same place we store our 95% max weights, and our mile times.
Why then, do we choose to look beyond our beginnings?
With every positive adaptation we make in life we tend to distance ourselves further from who we used to be. This is no truer than in the realm of fitness. In a world driven by Instagram posts of bubble-butts and bulging biceps, shredded abdomens, and perfect thighs; we find nothing about flabby stomachs and soft limbs.
Arrogance replaces the humble desire to be better. There is no moment you stand more exposed than at the beginning of a life change. Your actions scream "I need to be better' I am not good enough!". You expose yourself to be judged.
Yet, as you succeed your message becomes..."Look how great I am". You expose yourself simply to expose yourself.
Let's not forget our beginnings -
Why did you first find that dumbbell in your hand?
What made you hit start on that treadmill?
Not everyone will have a transformation story. Not everyone will need the drastic actions that are required to drop hundreds of pounds. Most need more activity and less shitty food. Most will need an action plan that leads them to their goals and the drive to fulfill it.
Everyone will need the vision to see where they could go.
What are the efforts that lie ahead going to do to me?
Yet, for fitness to even begin there must be an impetus.
What made you do it?
For me, I found my passion for fitness not long after seeing the first Fast and Furious movie. I wanted my triceps to look like Vin Diesel's when he was calmly dragging his car down an LA street. As he gripped the wheel his arm flexed all the way into his shoulders...
And so I wanted bigger arms...
Piece by piece I began to refine my desires. It began with arms and quickly became abs. For years I followed the standard bodybuilding splits, skipped legs too often, and never did cardio. I've since gone through phases of powerlifting, spent months doing strictly the olympic lifts, and trained legs as much as four days a week.
Now I find myself with a healthy balance of bodybuilding, heavy lifting, power development, sprinting, and metabolic conditioning. I have even sprinkled in yoga and pilates.
But it all began because Vin Diesel flexed his arm as he "drove" his car in a movie.
It is important to be proud of what you've accomplished in building your own body. Hour after hour of concerted effort in a direction of your choosing is the ultimate exhibition in free will. You chase what you choose.
Yet, embrace that everything wasn't always what it is now. They say we feel pain so that we can better appreciate pleasure. Our memories prove this.
If you let yourself go there you'll snap back to the beginning. The scrawny arms and flabby body will rejoin your soul and you'll find yourself feeling that desire that once chased you like a lion. Your memory will not fail you.
Try as you might to forget your humble beginnings...they are always your humble beginnings...and they will always be inside of you.
Respect it. Let it burn like a fire that drives you to always be better. Let it serve as a reminder that what is, wasn't always and doesn't promise to always be.
“You have to carry the fire."
I don't know how to."
Yes, you do."
Is the fire real? The fire?"
Yes it is."
Where is it? I don't know where it is."
Yes you do. It's inside you. It always was there. I can see it.”
--Cormac McCarthy - The Road