Sunday, November 7, 2010

Liar, Liar! Arm's on Fire!

I’ve been working out at the Y several mornings a week. They use a great system called ActivTrax that helps novices like me who want to increase their strength. I suspect other people may have other goals, but I only know about mine.

I discovered during my initial meeting with a physical trainer, I had chosen wisely when I focused on strength. I don’t care to go into details about the pitiful showing my muscles made against the Cybex machines, but needless to say, it confirmed my worst fears about the effects of physical lethargy on my aging body. The trainer programmed the results of my embarrassing performance into the ActivTrax system, and the genius of the machine was set into motion. Each day the computer gives me a print out of what exercises to do, indicating the amount of weight and number of repetitions. After I complete a workout, I record the number of repetitions for each activity. ActivTrax then charts my progress and plans my next training session.

I have come to trust this program. I have learned to love the tingle of muscles being challenged to do more than they cared to do. I have secretly gloated over the rising line on my performance graph.

Last week I picked up a couple of weights and headed confidently to the bench I had already positioned for the prescribed routine. I straddled the bench and planned to swing into action. Yikes! I was shocked by the difficulty. I could barely lift the weight, and that was with my stronger arm. The full maneuver was impossible.

What idiot of a computer would have programmed such an impossible task—one I clearly wasn’t ready for!

Then I remembered… There were times when I had been running short on time and skipped some routines. Or times when the workout area I needed was full of real jocks and I had walked away from the humiliation. I never doubted my ability to do the routine at the time. I assumed I could do it satisfactorily if I had the time or the space.

Of course, I didn’t tell the computer, but I did have to put the number of repetitions for each exercise or it wouldn’t give me the next routine. I simply recorded the number I thought I could do—if I had actually completed the task. So the computer was only responding to the information I had given it, and it clearly was under the mistaken impression I could lift more weight than I actually can.

Is it lying if you don’t give a machine the truth? Is it lying if you honestly over-estimate your own strength? Who are you lying to if you breach a contract with your own intentions?

It has been three painful days since my misguided attempt at that particular routine. Yes, my arm is still a little tender. But so is my conscience. The experience makes me ponder how often in other areas of my life I over-estimate my own ability? How often do I fall short when I volunteer for a task for which I am not prepared? Have I hurt other people because I speak with an authority that is unsupported by knowledge and experience?

I am considering anew the perils of impatience and pride, particularly when they keep me from pursuing excellence. I am praying for a steadfast pursuit of the right and purposeful ‘next steps’ in every area of my life. I am asking for the wisdom and humility to make an honest evaluation of my own abilities.

A burning muscle in my arm is a small price to pay for the lesson I am learning.