December 2006 - Cheers not Jeers

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I have been a regular at the neighborhood gym for over 20 years. Just like many of you, there are days when I think I just cannot find the time or the energy to get up and go workout at the gym. Although I am devoted to fitness, I must admit there are times when I feel that life is short and I'd better take some time to enjoy clogging my arteries with French fries and a cheeseburger. In fact, there are days when I've convinced myself that working-out is useless torture that will not stave off the aging process and is likely hastening my demise; that I should go have a bowl of butter-pecan ice-cream and enjoy the time I have left on this Earth. Yes, I'm the first to admit that staying on a consistent fitness routine takes discipline and motivation–both of which seem to be in short supply during the holiday season.

But sometimes, motivation comes in ways that you least expect. I'm not talking about fitting into a smaller pair of jeans, the guy with the rippling muscles, or even the aerobics instructor who's a perfect size 8. Instead, I'm talking about the motivation that comes from seeing someone's sheer will do better so that they can become a better version of themselves.

While working out at the gym recently, I noticed a morbidly obese young lady working out with her personal trainer. She was clearly on a mission. Before beginning her session with her trainer, she spent time on the elliptical runner machine doing her cardio-no I-pod, no television, no newspaper-eyes straight ahead, focused on getting warmed-up. When she began her workout with her trainer, there was no stopping to take a break, no whining, no begging for mercy, no looking around to see who was wearing what-simply focused on getting her form correct, completing her reps, and moving on to the next exercise. Although people were staring at her, she never acknowledged their stares (or their snickering)-she just kept on working her program.

After a few weeks of this, something wonderful began to happen. Some of the people in the gym stopped staring and began to cheer her on. Every so often, someone would stop by wherever she was to offer a word of encouragement, sometimes to tell their own story of struggle, or to say how great it was to see her make the effort. We all know how hard it is just to show up-let alone to show up in an environment where bodies are scrutinized for how well they look and perform. I think we all admired her bravery and her willingness to do what it takes to get in shape. We all wanted to motivate her to continue on her journey to wellness. I also think, in her own way, she motivated each of us to stop whining, to get moving, and to strive to be our own personal best. And some days, we all need that motivation-no matter what shape we're in.

With you on your journey to wellness...
Dr. Mary Harris

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