The Failure Cushion

The month of January is the carnival of newbie-dom at gyms and health clubs across this nation of amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesty… you know, above the fruited plain and such?  Anyhoo, while I am fully one to applaud the efforts of anyone looking to get into better health and such, there are clearly some hazards.

MSNBC had an article this week on the variety of injuries incurred by those looking to get back into shape or just into shape for the first time ever.  The article itself was not terribly remarkable to me… until I got to the following passage:

In a fit of New Year’s resolution frenzy, Taryn Wright marched herself to the gym and onto a treadmill on a January afternoon two years ago. “I had never — literally, never — worked out before, ever, in my life,” says Wright, who’s 31 and lives in Chicago. But, she reasoned, “How hard could it be? All these muscle heads are doing this high on steroids. I can do this!”

At first, she walked. Then, spurred on by the imaginary scorn of her surrounding exercisers, she kicked it up a couple notches — and couldn’t keep up. She flew to the end of the treadmill, caught herself at the edge and did a weird little hop back to the front of the machine. “It lifted the end of the treadmill and sent it crashing down to the floor,” says Wright.

It’s not the fact of her tumbling onto the floor that caught me.  Believe me, I have had enough near-disasters in gyms to last me a lifetime.  I’m just thankful I’ve come out fine in all of those cases.

But it’s that one damn line…. “How hard could it be? All these muscle heads are doing this high on steroids. I can do this!”

My problem with this line and this mentality is that if people are out there looking to get in shape and immediately start off assuming that anyone who looks slightly muscular is on steroids… well… then they’re simply working from a place of failure from the get-go.  Too harsh?  Honestly, I’m not so sure.

The problem I see with this mentality (and I have heard it from several different people before) is that it is a case of seeing those who are successful and immediately jumping to they must be cheating or taking shortcuts to get where they are.  It’s the act of tearing down others who are in a place we wish we were in, so instead of using them as an inspiration or a goal or even a point of competition, it’s easier to say, “She must have had work done” or “Pfft.  He’s obviously on steroids.”

Are there people in gyms on steroids?  Sure.  Are there people out there who have had “work” done on themselves?  Of course.  floor-cushion_main

But here is the crux of the matter: if you start in a place that anyone who is leaner  or stronger or has a better build or whatever it may be cut corners to get there, all you are doing is building your cushion for failure… because hey, if you cannot get into the shape they got into, it’s because you have ethics or morals or standards unlike them.  It couldn’t possibly be that you just didn’t want to put in the time or dedication to accomplish those goals.  Oh gosh no!  That requires accountability.

And who has time for accountability anyway?  That takes up too much time from carefully crafting that comfy velvet wrapped failure cushion.  It really does pull a room (or an enormous set of excuses) together exquisitely, don’t you think?

4 thoughts on “The Failure Cushion”

  1. Well, I’m the Taryn Wright in the article, and I would actually agree with the crux of this post. I’m a big believer in not making excuses for things and I agree that it’s not a good idea to set yourself up for failure by acting morally superior to people who have achieved what you’ve failed to reach.

    Trust me when I say I know I got as fat as I did because I was lazy and I ate too much. No excuses. I don’t feel superior to people who work out, steroids or no steroids. I just used this quote to show how insecure I was and how out of place I felt in the gym environment.

    Great blog! Good luck with it, and I’m sorry if I offended you or anyone else with my quote.

  2. Oh this is great! I am glad you found your way over to my blog. I wasn’t offended by the quote, but it did sound reminiscent of what I have heard from others who act in a way that they are looking to give themselves an easy way out.

    But you know what? You went into the gym and decided to DO something positive for yourself. As much as people will criticize gym newbies, I at least find hope in people who are giving it a shot to improve their own lives. I think that is excellent.

    I really do appreciate your feedback. Keeps me honest and grounded on the fact that even when I respond to an article from the Internet, it’s about real people with their own unique thoughts and emotions.

    I am looking forward to checking out your site!

    I am going to check out your site right now. I really do appreciate your feedback

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