ErwinMcManus wrote. "We want to feel good about ourselves more than we want ourselves to become good." (Stand Against the Wind).
We want to feel like we’re smart more than we want to study and learn. We want to feel like we can sing all the notes more than we want to devote endless hours studying the music. We want to feel like marathon runners more than we want to do 22-mile training runs. We want to feel like we are getting stronger more than we actually want to use our strength to help people.
So Wednesday morning I went to Cyndi’s Body Pump class at Gold's Gym at 5:30 AM. I have been going to this particular early class since last spring, yet, I can’t think of anything I do more against my basic nature than getting up at 5:00 AM. My goal is to make at least three Pump classes each weak, and I go early on Wednesdays only because Cyndi teaches and I want to be in her class.
I have been doing Body Pump workouts for about four years now, and I can tell I have put on significant muscle mass. I am stronger today than I've ever been, including back when I was much younger.
Body Pump is a group exercise class using low weights and high repetitions. The weights are easy to adjust, and the challenge of the class is to put enough weight on the bar to create a meaningful workout yet not so much you can’t complete the routines. There is some trial-and-error involved in converging on the perfect weight. My personal goal is to have enough weight on my bar that l can't actually complete every single rep. I want to get stronger, and the only way I know how to get stronger is to lift as much as possible, and the only way I know how much is possible is to have enough weight so that I can't keep lifting it. I’m sure that isn’t the officially recommended method for weight determination, but it’s my theory and practice.
That means that while I’m getting stronger, I’m not that good at the Body Pump routines. I have to take breaks and miss reps.
One of the reasons I don't worry as much about perfect Pump routines as I do about actual weight lifted is because of something I read in an Outside Magazine. The article said our goal shouldn't be simply to excel at the gym machines and classes and all that. Too many guys workout hard mainly so they can be good at working out. The have perfect machine-technique in order to be really good at the machines.
Our goal should be functional strength, not gym technique. I don’t want to just be stronger than I was before, I want to be strong enough to run marathons, strong enough to help friends move into a new house, strong enough to play all day with my nephew or someday with grandkids, strong enough to haul a 65 lbs. backpack seven miles up a trail at I0,000' altitude, and strong enough to be able to keep doing all that stuff for a long time. I want to get stronger because I want freedom of choices.
All that work in the gym is mostly worthless if it doesn't translate into real life. If it doesn't make a difference in how I live and relate to other people, it is just busy work. Maybe being fitter will allow me to live longer. but who cares that I live longer if I’m living only for myself.
Later Wednesday morning, after class, as I was working on my lesson for Sunday’s young-adult Bible study class, I couldn’t help thinking about my early morning gym workout. I thought about how my biceps and shoulders were a little sore every time I moved my backpack. I realized it doesn't matter how much I teach about Psalms (this week's lesson: Psalm 5I) or how good I teach, or any of that, if what I learn doesn't make a difference in my everyday life. I don’t want to simply feel good about myself as a teacher. It is wasted effort to get pumped-up spiritually just to be better at what happens inside the church building, just as it is a waste to get pumped-up physically just to be better inside the gym. I don’t want to merely feel good about myself, I want to become good, I want to do good.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32