It happened. The website that I’ve poured just about every waking hour into for the better part of the last two years is gone, and in its place, we find this shiny new bit of internet real estate. The responses I’ve had come my way following the change have ranged from excited support to outraged condemnation, with some going so far as to accuse us of “selling out” and becoming “mainstream media shills.” I get it guys, change makes a lot of us uncomfortable, and I’m no exception. Coming from a guy like me, that’s never lived in one place for more than a few years and has made a career out of pursuing unusual ways to make a living, it might come as a surprise, but trust me when I tell you that few people dread change as much as I do.
Years ago, back when my wife was still my girlfriend, and my waist was still only 28 inches around, I decided to enlist into the United States Marine Corps because I recognized two things about myself: the first was that I was going nowhere as a college dropout turned mechanic. The second was that something was bound to change, so I could either make it happen myself or wait for fate to do it for me. Faced with the unavoidable understanding that, one way or another, something would have to be different, gave me the motivation I needed to make the decision myself, and in doing so, I not only changed the direction of the rest of my life, but I changed my approach to it as well. Change is a constant; it’s the only way to survive in a world that has little concern for what you’d prefer, and the only way to stay in front of it is to be proactive and find comfort in the uncomfortable. Growth, whether we’re talking about in your quads or your career, requires not only risk, not only pain but a willingness to embrace both. Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.
When word came down from higher that our little corner of the internet was to undergo a substantial facelift, I felt that familiar sense of worry wash over me. Change was on the horizon, and I’d grown so comfortable in my fighting hole that part of me wished I could just stay in it, keeping things as they were, where I felt confident. Of course, that’s the wrong mindset: the transition from SOFREP to NEWSREP was a natural one, and one my hard work over the years had helped draw into fruition. I’m not, after all, a SOF guy — I’ve just been honored enough to get to work among them — but my anxiety forced me to confront my own complacency. Making this change made me take a look at myself in a critical way and make an honest assessment of what I have to offer in an increasingly convoluted media world. I needed to assess my strengths, but more importantly, my weaknesses as we look to embrace our existing audience, and hopefully, over time, help it to grow. It doesn’t matter what job I have to do, it could be mopping floors, doing preacher curls, or writing articles, I’m going to try my damndest to be the best at it — and that means acknowledging my shortcomings and working to correct them.
I can’t tell you if all things in life can be boiled down to fitness metaphors, or if my brain just forces it because fitness plays such an intrinsic role in what makes me who I am, but that sense of longing for more of the same, that anxiety associated with changing things up, extends well beyond our social and professional pursuits — it informs our approach to all things, fitness included. When we begin our fitness journey’s, everything is new and exciting, but over the years, we fall into comfortable niches and regimens. We may switch things up from time to time to keep our body’s guessing, but eventually, many of us find a comfortable range of exercises and activities, plant our roots, and settle into being that kind of fitness person: a weightlifter, a crossfitter, a long distance runner. We strive to improve within the scope of our chosen fitness realm and disregard workouts aimed directly at improving things that don’t fall within it. It’s a normal thing to do, but sometimes it can also be what’s holding us back from achieving things we hadn’t thought possible.
The specifics of my fitness goals change from time to time, but the general shtick is really just to be the most well rounded and capable athlete that I can be. I’ve often characterized it as wanting to be able to compete competently in any physical activity, without necessarily being the best at any single one. The truth is, however, over the years I’ve slowly settled into a number of habits: I lift shoulders on Mondays, I use supersets to keep my heart rate up and although the order of my lifts may change, they really all come from the same rolodex. I might be busting my ass, dripping sweat and throwing weights around my garage so hard that I’m setting off lunk alarms at the Planet Fitness ten miles from my house but I’m doing all of it the same way, for the same amount of time, and to the same end.
How is that supposed to make me any better or more well rounded?
Old Man Fitness isn’t just about me lecturing you on the finer points of workouts and gym culture — hell, a number of you may be in better shape and better credentialed than I am in that regard — the goal of this column has always been about engaging with fitness intellectually in a way many of us tend not to. It’s about looking ourselves in the mirror and embracing what we see as both just fine and worthy of improvement. I don’t sit at my desk and simply spill a bit of my overflowing motivation onto the keyboard for you to see, I come here to share my thoughts and my challenges with you, in hopes that the lessons I glean along the way might ring true for some, or inspire debate and discussion among others. For those of you that are busting your asses every day in the gym, I see myself as a peer, not an instructor. We’re on the trip together, and sometimes the best I have to offer is my own personal realizations — because chances are, some might pertain to you too.
I realized, as I prepared for the transition from SOFREP to NEWSREP, that I’ve grown awfully set in my ways, and that’s true in the gym as well. NEWSREP offers me the opportunity to engage with change in a positive manner, to see what I’m really made of and, hopefully, give you guys more of the sort of stuff you’ve come to appreciate from my work but down in the gym, there’s no corporate decision makers, no brand managers — no one to force me to embrace change the way I once learned I had to if I wanted to keep improving. Down there, it’s all on me.
So, I got some new gym gear that’s going to make it easier for me to do some exercises I’ve avoided for … Christ … years this week.
Where I used to say, “I might as well not do that lift because of such and such injury,” I’m now going to say, “if all I can do is five pounds, then it’s what I’m going to do.”
Where I used to say, “I don’t care about how good my cardio really is anyway,” I’m now going to say, “how far can I make it before it’s my turn to feed the baby?”
Where I used to say, “I’m just going to stick with what works,” I’m now going to say, “let’s find out if this works.”
There’s nothing wrong with a routine, nothing wrong with getting comfortable, but from time to time, it pays to take a step back, look yourself in the mirror and wonder if you could be doing something else, something different, maybe even something more. You might try hitting the pool or going for a long walk. You might try adding some heavier weights to your sets, cutting the reps down a bit and seeing if you like you better with a bit more beef on your shoulders. The more diverse your workouts, the better rounded you’ll be — but more importantly, you might find a whole new avenue of the fitness world that invigorates you to strive for a new kind of success. You might find you love running 5Ks, or competing in powerlifting tournaments. You might even find that there’s more to you than you thought.
Some of you might already embrace change — and you’ve got my respect — but for those of you who, like me, might not have noticed the roots you were putting down inside your own comfort zone, let this be a breakthrough for you and me together. Let’s change things up and see what we get — because change can be a beautiful thing if we’re only willing to try.