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“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”
 – Epictetus

As I was briefing the 10am class on “Angie” today – a brutal high-rep chipper of pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and squats – I began to review the standards of the push-up.  What ended up coming out of my mouth as I exhorted all of our members to meet the standards on every rep was a bit of a preemptive reaction to what I would be thinking if someone decided to NOT meet the standards.  I said, “Show some respect for the other athletes in class that are doing the same workout you are, and get your chest all the way to the ground.”  I immediately recoiled a bit in my head and the little angel-coach on my shoulder said “Take it easy, bro.”  You don’t want to know what his devil buddy said.

To those in the 10am class, I hope you know I didn’t mean to call anyone out before the workout even started, and I certainly don’t mean this blog post to be about anyone in particular — this is something we all need to think about, myself included!  Those of you that have worked out with Denee and I have undoubtedly heard her yell at me to “stand all the way up in that squat!”  And there are those that although they understand the standards, cannot meet them because of mobility constraints.  The struggle is real, keep grinding away and get a little better every time!  But I do feel strongly about meeting agreed-upon standards, and I thought I would try to explore why in this week’s post.

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?  Bad news, I thought you’d say that.  If you said good news, you’re a weirdo, but I guess go to the next paragraph first and then come back here.
When you choose not to meet a standard, it’s not a victimless crime.  Whether you’ve done 100,000 or 100 push-ups in your lifetime, you know that it’s not an easy movement, but it’s doable and some might even say worthwhile to build physical and mental endurance.  If you start cutting some reps short and other people see you do it (and guess what, they do), it affects them in the sense that it dampens their will to compete against you because they know the deck is stacked, and maybe even creates a lack of respect.
It also affects you!  Lowering your personal standard in order to put up a good score or beat someone else reinforces that nagging feeling that maybe you’re not very fit, or that you can’t compete straight-up against your peers.

Phew!  But now the good news.  When you do consistently meet that standard, there is a positive consequence to you and others.  To others — you motivate them.  They see you working hard and they want to emulate what you are doing.  You are a role model.  To yourself — by upholding the standard that you understand and outwardly agree to, you are practicing a value that we call integrity.
Integrity is when your thoughts, words, and actions are aligned.  Practicing integrity, being honest with yourself and others about what you say or think you’re going to do, is something that gets easier with time.  When you break that bond of integrity, the confidence that you will maintain it in the future erodes.  But the more that you keep your word — when you follow through with consistent actions — confidence is built up and your character will grow strong.

In conclusion, the answer is yes.  You do kick ass.  You are prioritizing your fitness and your happiness above many other things in life that don’t deserve as much attention, and that is amazing.  Take some time in the new year to think about what your values are.  If integrity — holding yourself to a high personal standard of matching your thoughts, words and actions — is one of them, I applaud you!  If it’s not now, but you would like it to be, treat your time in the gym as not only a time to gradually increase that level of fitness, but also a time to practice integrity.  Understand what needs to happen, internalize it as your personal standard, and then hold the line.