Getting Swoll

I work out.

A few weeks ago, I did not work out. At various other times in my life, I also did not work out, or I did work out, or I worked out the very minimum such that I could say I work out without feeling like a liar. What triggered this last bout was a friend of mine who works out every day was in town, and every day two weeks ago we would work out, running or doing body exercises- neither of us can afford or want a gym membership, and being able to work out without one is a valuable life skill as far as we can see.

This last week I managed to run or do pushups/situps/pullups every day without fail, except for Friday, but I ran today and am going to do tomorrow so I kind of feel I’ve successfully kick-started this habit- I in fact on Friday felt terrible for not working out, and I would rather go running than let that happen again. So hopefully only a couple small bumps around the way, plus I try to talk to my workout friends when I do or don’t do physical activity, so that reinforces the shame or happiness feedback loop.

My current daily workout is thirty pushups a day and one ‘lap’, which is an arbitrary amount path through a neighboring subdivision, out to the main road and back to my subdivision. It’s probably a mile and a half, maybe two. It’s not that big of a deal, but I have to run the whole thing without stopping or I have to start over again; I need to have rules like this or I take a break that lasts forever. I’ll literally be walking half the length of my run, which I feel terrible about.

Gym Memberships have New Years resolution sales on their year memberships, at least in America. They sell the most memberships at this time than any other of the year, and almost none of the people who buy them then are still going to the gym by March. I’m with a lot of people who want to work out and don’t bother; the primary reason for me is that I don’t actually enjoy working out, or at least I didn’t. And when you dread doing something, or no one is making you do something you don’t want to do and won’t enjoy, then you aren’t going to keep a habit for very long. And when I run, I hate the idea of starting running and I hate pain in my side and I hate being out of breath and I hate expending the extra energy and I hate being boring without music or anything if I do it for too long. So really, what I have to do to keep this habit going was to find something enjoyable about it, find something I loved about working out so I would keep going back several times a week.

A couple of Thursdays ago, me and two buddies of mine left my friend Rob’s house. Our goal was six laps from a bench, across a field and up a hill, then running some other distance back in an oval. I couldn’t estimate how long this was, just that the uphill run was what killed me. I was honestly winded from the run from Rob’s house to the bench. With each lap, I literally did not believe I had the energy or willpower left to do another one. Peer pressure was apparently enough to keep going, and we did rest, but each time my entire mind, heart, and body was like “Nope, there is no chance whatsoever I can make it over this hill one more time. I might as well die now. Nope.” But no one wants to bitch out in front of other people, so up the hill I went.

And while the running was terrible, the feeling of accomplishment was awesome. Because I literally had no faith in my ability do run this much (or do a lot of things that are physical; while I am in decent shape and have a decent weight, 156 pounds or so I think, I think I am absolute shit at things like this. So every time I do anything I am pleasantly surprised). But the fact I did anyway feels great; and I want to feel that. So when I run my daily mile (1.2 miles according to Google Maps, I just checked) I feel great when I do it, because I doubt I can make the whole mile. Some days I doubt I can even start, it seems so impossible. Once I am confident in my abilities I’ll have to increase the distance or run it twice, I suppose.

I did mention earlier that no one wants to be a bitch; because only a bitch would quit half way through the workout. This is of course fucking nonsense, a product of some hyper-masculine culture that no one cares about, and is probably slightly misogynist to boot. I don’t think like this in most circumstances, but we say it to each other when trying to work out, despite the fact it’s stupid, perhaps because of it. It’s one of those myths that aren’t actually true, but it helps to believe anyway; without it I might not have found the motivation to run up that fucking hill six times. Broscience and nonsense abounds in fitness circles anyway, but sometimes you have to believe it anyway. For example, lets say you are lifting weights, say you’re doing 3 sets of lifting x number of pounds ten times each. The first set is a warm up, the second set maintains you at your current level of fitness, and it’s the last set that actually builds muscle. Of course there is no way this is actually true, but I believe it when I’m at the gym- after all, if you quit before the last set that means you’re not actually accomplishing anything, so why are you even here? Quitting would just be folly; only a fool would not lift the third set. And this is absolutely true at the time, even though this believe if quite silly, even quaint, when I write a blog post about it.

There is another thing I wish to talk about on my quest to become Swoll. (Obviously, getting swoll is the only way to get women. This is certainly not a myth, swoll men are always surrounded by beautiful women that work on the sets of supplement commercials, everyone knows this.) I actually went swimming yesterday, and I have always had this strange relationship with swimming. I took lessons as a small child, but I’m pretty sure they had almost no effect; this was probably because I didn’t care if I could swim at the time, or believed that going to lessons would magically give me the ability to swim without any effort on my part. This didn’t happen. I was also scrawny and had almost no body fat when I was young, which had the effect of me sinking like a rock weighed down by other rocks thrown off a boat in the middle of the ocean by the rock mafia when they realized he was ratting them out to the rock FBI. The first time swimming was actually important was when I was in the Boy Scouts, and you need to pass certain swimming requirements to attain the rank of First Class, which is the first serious level you need to get to to start working towards your Eagle. I also worked towards a Swimming Merit badge later, which I never got, but that was beside the point. Well, having never learned to swim, I just didn’t have the ability to pass the swim test- two laps or 100 meters with certain strokes or whatever it was. I could backstroke, and that was about it. I also hated the water- I hated Chlorine and hated the way swimsuits cling to my skin and hated being shirtless around people and hated being wet and hated not being able to run in the pool grounds and hated the fact that the pool always felt so cold because to this day I still take really hot showers and pools feel cold by comparison. So for literally years I was physically incapable of passing this test, and for some reasons all the strokes for swimming felt alien and I couldn’t get the hang of them, combined with the fact I was always sinking. And because I couldn’t swim, and I couldn’t see the moment any real amount of water got in my eyes without goggles, I had this constant fear of drowning. It was terrible, and at summer camp I wouldn’t even try passing the swim test you need to go swimming, I’d just do other things for the week instead.

But I had to pass this minimum swimming requirement to get to First Class, and it came to the point where passing the damn swim test was all I had to do to get the rank. And, I remember quite distinctly, my first scoutmaster, Mr. Naprstek was there, and we were working on this all week and Camp Loudthunder, which was near the Illinois-Iowa border. And I managed to swim a little at a time, getting better each day. And finally I felt ready, and took this test with the aquatic staff at the camp. There were other boys at the pool, many from my troop and others, and I remember being cheered on as I made my last lap. It was a great feeling, and I had this tremendous sense of accomplishment, and at last got my scoutmaster’s signature in the little box in my scoutbook.

Yeah, I pretty much never swam after that.

Until my friends decided to work out, and decided to do so in a pool, and it was too late for me to use a bitch ass excuse like the fact I had no idea if I remembered how to swim to not go with them. So I went, forgetting my towel at Rob’s house (he swears he handed me one, but he never told me he did, just threw it on the couch next to me, and I didn’t notice, and besides I forgot that pools made you wet). And I did swim several laps. Less than anyone else, but that doesn’t matter. I genuinely surprised myself each time I made it across, even though I was slow and had terrible form and it was exhausting. But I did it! Even though I was given shit for doing, generously speaking, two thirds of what my friends were doing, I"m pretty sure none of them were wondering if they would drown before they got to the end of the pool. They at least had faith they could make it- it wasn’t like I was actually in danger, but a small part of me wondered. And even though I didn’t like being tired, the fact I could do something I literally didn’t think I could do was immensely rewarding, and I would do it again. That’s the sort of reward that drives me to do physical things, and it’s far, far greater than any temporary pain of doing them. And it drives me to constantly improve, hopefully, because once it becomes easy there is no enjoyment in doing it later.

And that’s why I’ll get up and run a mile tomorrow. Because when I get out my door there is no fucking way I’ll have the ability to run a mile, but I’ll do it anyway.


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