When it comes to body re-modeling there are many who say, “I can’t.” I say balderdash… Below is a column that I authored for the Pittston Sunday Dispatch. If you feel you can’t, read on. If you feel you can, read on anyway.
By Joe Leonardi
As I am writing this the Thanksgiving holiday has just passed, it is time to get back on the workout wagon. A day of gorging and feasting is followed by a return to the track to run and the gym to lift weights.
The heating rays of our star Sol barely warm the northeast from November to March, but today’s cloud cover made for a particularly dank, dreary, desolate day. So gray were the skies that my usually high motivation to exercise was replaced by the blahs.
I completed my laps around the stadium oval and drove off to the second half of my daily, personal biathlon. I parked my car, hefted my bulk from the driver’s seat, opened the trunk and grabbed my gear. I slowly passed through the gym entrance closing the door to the dismal day behind me. I peered down the hallway and fought the urge to turn on my heel and exit. Eventually, I plodded my way down what felt like an unending corridor. A stop at my locker to put my clothes away lasted longer than usual. I finally progressed to the weight room trying to come up with any excuse not to.
I scanned around hoping that someone was using the leg press machine – no one was. I stared at the one hundred pound plates I would need to lug up and onto the machine and thought ‘maybe I’ll just use the forty-fives’. My mind and body were both in agreement, I was not in the mood, but I forced myself onward.
As I neared the equipment the sun caught my eye. It was not the center of our solar system, it was the rays emanating from a young girl pausing between sets of her routine. A broad smile dominated her face as she talked with her barking, bellicose personal trainer. She then turned her attention back to the cold, unyielding iron. A smile no longer was apparent, it was replaced by a look of ferocious intensity. It is a look I have seen before; in the eyes of the elite athletes I have trained with and treated over the years – it was the look of a champion.
Then I noticed something that should have been apparent, but I was so caught up in first her joy for what she was doing, then the intensity which she carried it out, I did not see that she was missing one arm and one leg. The inability to grip the bar with two hands did not deter this young person’s enthusiasm for her training. I smiled outwardly, but inwardly I was ashamed at my mental attempts to avoid exercise.
Inspiration is found in many forms, but on this day the ultimate inspiration was brought forth by another’s joy and passion; another’s delectation for an activity that I have had an on and off relationship with since my parents purchased my first barbell set from Sears when I was twelve years old. More inspirational though, was the way she was dealing with what was apparent adversity – seemingly she was ignoring it.
In the last Rocky movie, when junior was complaining about trying to live in his father’s large shadow, Stallone’s iconic character uttered the following statement. “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you!”
Sure it is a line from a movie, but the girl I watched today, she did not appear to cower. Now, I don’t know her story, I don’t know her name, I never saw her before today, I don’t know anything other than the following:
There are many excuses not to do, but there are few legitimate reasons. Life is not fair, it is not easy and no matter what our problems are, whether they appear trivial or extreme, they need to be handled and life needs to be more than just lived.
I was not the only one affected on this day. I chatted with another person who was equally inspired.
Finally, the word “can’t” will be abolished from my vocabulary. When I don’t feel like going to the gym or going to the track or facing a difficult situation I will forever remember what I saw today and will know what can be accomplished.