Monday, February 23

The Basement Treadmill Of The New Millenium.

Wii Fit
was going to save my life.

Like most, I instantly heralded Wii Fit as a brilliant masterstroke, along with the fine, efficient Japanese workhorses responsible for such an ingenious and useful product. After all, here was a video game conglomerate using its powers for good. Inventing the cardio-friendly Wii wasn’t enough on its own; they actually went the extra step and attempted (and succeeded) to make exercising super fun and original.

It was, for me, one of the brightest spots of 2008. While American car companies were busy blowing smoke up our asses about going Green, while simultaneously begging for billions because they missed the Green Boat years ago and watched their consumers turn away from a fleet of obsolete automobiles, here was a multi-billion dollar company that saw an open and evolved market, tackled it in a new and exciting way, and also slimmed down a few fat-ass gamers in the process. Wii Fit was a success in every possible way.

I purchased Wii Fit mere days after it was released. In an almost identical fashion as to how I stumbled upon a Wii, I was in the right place at the right time, threw it into my cart and hit the road. Wii Fit was going to change me. It was going to save me the cash of buying into a Health Club, save me the burden of packing a duffel bag and leaving my home, track my progress, whip me back into fighting shape and be a whole lot of fun in the interim. $100 well spent, if you asked me.

My first week with Wii Fit was a complete success. I plowed through the Yoga poses, mastered the balance games, jogged in place, worked up a sweat and lost nearly three pounds in the first eight days. I had an after-work routine in place, and much like the first week spent in a Health Club, I felt extremely good about myself. I finally found something I could stick to; something that worked for me.

Almost a year removed now, and Wii Fit sits underneath my television, nearly as new as the day I bought it. Apart from two unrelated and random workout sessions (including one that took place while I was eating a slice of thick-crust Domino’s pizza), I haven’t touched the thing since the first week I bought it, and I’m not alone.

Human beings like the idea of Change. We love planning for Change; we love fantasizing about the end results of said Change, but tend to forget about the middle part which requires the most effort. We’re more than happy to throw hundreds of dollars at the Health Club membership, the jogging outfit, the new shoes, the water bottle and iPod; but when the time comes to put that preparation and positive attitude towards…you know…the thing that gets you from Point A to Point B, we tend to lose steam and once again attempt to determine the Path of Least Resistance. After all, preparation for positive change is the funnest part.

We all certainly know how to spend money. Spending money is easy, and we love finding excuses to do it; excuses that make us feel like we’re accomplishing something noble. In this case, a new iPod or track shoes won’t suck the belly fat off of our torsos or tuck the second chin back into our necks all on their own, but the idea that they will is present when we justify our rationalizations. After all, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, right?

In this regard, the Wii Fit tucked under the television is the Basement Treadmill of the New Millennium. The Bowflex that we hang our clothes on. The NordicTrack that we sold at a garage sale for $20, which now sits unused in someone else’s’ basement. And why? Was it because we lacked the self-control and determination needed to commit to an act as difficult and tedious as weight loss and muscle conditioning? Was it because we realized early that we were in way over our heads; that we didn’t fully realize how much we had to break our irresponsible daily routines to make way for such dedication?

Well, of course not.

Besides, it’s Wii Fit’s fault for not planning our exercises and scheduling everything out for us like a real-life Personal Trainer would. Taking away the variables of variety and allowing us to slack. Not literally pulling us off of the couch and onto the Balance Board. Calling us obese when we first stepped onto the scale. Not our fault, nope. Besides, I don’t have time for this. I need to look for instant results; I’ve heard that getting your stomach stapled can be done on an outpatient basis now!

This is typical, normal, and indicative of moments we’ve all probably experienced at least a dozen times. It doesn’t mean that you’re a loser or quitter (well, it kind of does, I guess); it just means that you weren’t up to that particular challenge at that particular time. Maybe another time, maybe a slightly different challenge. Hey, if it needs to be done, it’ll get done. Millions of years of Human Evolution have brought us to this point; we’re a versatile bunch and we’ll damn sure rise to any challenge…eventually.

Most of us- not all of us, but most- have a basement treadmill. A Wii Fit that’s still in the box. Some sort of glaring monument to our lack of commitment to something that, at one time, seemed so important to us. Something we’ve turned our backs on because it was too difficult. Because our priorities have changed. Because we stopped caring. Because we’ve lacked the determination and foresight to maintain an eye on the eventual goal.

One of the reasons that we’re so prone to turn our backs on something we’ve failed at is to save face. After all, who wants to admit personal defeat? The frustration here lies not in the money spent on a toy that’s not being used, but the embarrassment in knowing that the toy reminded you of your shortcomings as a person. We don’t like to be reminded of that stuff, and rightfully so. Who would want to admit that they’re just not motivated and determined enough to lose the weight, quit smoking, become a better spouse or merely lay off the meth a squinch? After all the effort, all the optimistic, borderline-delusional glimpses into our future, to fall short is usually too much of a bummer to revel in for an extended period of time, so we just make a pithy excuse and move on to our next project. And why wouldn’t we? It’s an instinctual defense mechanism; I’m not going to let a goddamn toy remind me that I’m weak. I’ll return it and buy a game that I can win. I’m still in charge, here.

In these instances, we’ve been taught that this is the precise difference between winners and losers in Life. Losers do exactly what I described: make an excuse for their shortcomings, tuck tail and run. While winners do the opposite and valiantly fight back, persevere and shine through. They throw the cigarettes in the trash. They flush the cookies and meth down the toilet. They strap on the sweatbands and make that Balance Board their Prison Bitch for the next eight months straight. Truth is, however, it ain’t that black and white. There can be a certain degree of nobility in quitting, and there can also be failure in the perception of individual success.

The perfect personal example that springs to my mind was my big health kick of 2007. After competing (and totally succeeding) in my first 10K run in 2006 (on a last-minute dare, I might add), I realized that not only was I able to knock out anything that I could put my mind and body into, but that I was kinda sorta good at it, too. So in 2007, I literally hit the pavement running, armed with the optimistic knowledge that I’ve seen the top of the mountain once before, and I could probably do it again in half the time with the proper motivation.

A month later, and I was diagnosed with shin splints in both legs, and a fractured tibia that I actually ran three miles on before completely blowing it out during a 5K. From that day forward, there’s still considerable pain in my ankles when any pressure is applied, and my running days are as good as over. Like it or not, I’m probably never going to be able to compete in distance running ever again; something that I was once pretty good at. So I threw the track shoes and jogging pants into the closet and moved on, happy as a Christmas Clam that I pushed myself that far and saw what I was made of. It wasn’t the happiest ending imaginable, but I emerged from the fiasco stronger than ever, based solely on the fact that I went outside of my comfort zone (and straight into Physical Therapy and an MRI machine). I failed miserably on an external level, but boosted my confidence and self-faith exponentially.

So, what’s the point, here? What’s to be learned from these experiences; these little tests of self-will? Is it about picking your battles wisely, or merely the lessons learned from their outcomes? Probably a little bit of both, provided you at least make a concerted effort to take something positive away from every success or failure.

You know me pretty well by now. My entire life (and subsequently, my entire writing career) has been about making mistakes and learning from them. Stumbling ass-first into bad luck and attempting to laugh it off. Bruising up the ego a bit, but remaining intact as a constantly evolving human being. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s all one huge defense mechanism set in place to keep me from stepping in front of a cement mixer, but hey, sometimes that’s all we have.

So, here comes the part of the essay where I attempt to tie this in somehow with the Inauguration of our new President, and the current message of self-motivation for the long-term outcome of positive national and global change.

Let’s be real. We probably won’t live to see an Earth that somehow got Global Warming under control through a massive Tipping Point concerning major ecological and environmental breakthroughs. We probably won’t live to see an Earth where things like racism, homophobia and ethnic stereotyping become truly obsolete, instead of merely ignored (and don’t pretend it’s not). For you agnostics and atheists out there, we certainly won’t live to see an Earth where the irrelevance of un-evolved religions are left in the Stone Age, ushering us into a veritable Renaissance of culture, forward thinking and global peace. For these reasons alone, it may seem for some like a waste of time to venture along this rough evolutionary path, knowing full well that we’ll never be able to visualize and reap the fruits of our labor. Just do whatever makes you feel good and doesn’t hurt anyone in the process. Live your life, take care of your family, and that’s it.

But it has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now? Rage Against The Machine was right, man! Why didn’t we appreciate them before they broke up and kind of got back together again when the royalty checks ran dry? Damn!

Look, we’re a nation of nearly a billion people, and it’s almost frightening how easy it is to make a drastic difference and change the perception of the majority. Hell, depending on what you believe, you probably represent the majority right about now (and believe me, I feel just as uncomfortable about that as you do, assuredly). Not to get too philosophical and sentimental here, but on Inauguration Tuesday, I felt as if I finally saw the official beginning of the 21st Century. The New Millennium, to me, finally began in January of 2009, and it brought with it the idea that in the face of failure and uncertainty, there were lessons to be learned and optimism to be mined from their experiences. Still no jetpacks or Hamburger Earmuffs, but I feel like we’re finally in the Future that I envisioned as a kid.

And quite frankly, I very much preferred the symbolic start of the 21st Century in comparison to the actual January 1 of 2000, which found me vomitous, reeking of vodka and passed out on a filthy mattress in an unfinished basement after being duct-taped to a hot water pipe. True, sad story.

I’m going to wrap this up before the preaching gets any thicker than it already is, but I’ll say that things never evolve if they never up and fail. Things never change if you ignore them and take them for granted. The Wii Fit can’t help you if it’s tucked underneath the television; the treadmill can’t help you if it’s in the basement; the major changes that we want to see made in our world can’t happen if we just assume that someone’s handling it for us. If you fail, you fail. At least you know what you were capable of. This life isn’t a dress rehearsal; if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but for whatever reason, abandoned it out of fear of failure or situational apathy, why not now to try again?

Spring is coming. Do something. Anything. It doesn’t matter how insignificant it appears.

Me? I’m pulling the Wii Fit back out.

...and I was just about to spring for Wii Fit, too. One minor request/suggestion - larger font size on the new template. Small makes my eyes hurt.
D-don't you see? You should spring for a Wii Fit! Spring for whatever you want!

I'll work on the font thing, btw.
My basement treadmill equivalent is college. I grew up convinced that all those people who said it just wasn't possible to succeed without a degree were wrong, and I've spent my whole adult life working to make sure I proved my point. Only now, I've reached a sort of plateau in my career and I'm being told that without that paper I've reached the end of the road - at my current place of employment, at least. I have the knowledge and the skills, and the work ethic behind them, to do higher level financial accounting and budgetary work (and, in fact am delegated that work on a regular basis these days), but without meeting the degree requirement I'm not going anywhere. So, as of this summer, I am starting the process. I'm going the easy route and taking a Lit or Composition class first. But I'm not looking forward to it.

Now, on the topic of the 15 year old sister uses the heck out of her Wii Fit - she loves the yoga. My husband and I are thinking of getting it, since he wanted to buy a stationary bike and I balked at the expense after shelling out several hundred dollars on surgery for the dog.
Right on, man! For what it's worth, I broke a good six year slump of not enough exercising (based quite heavily on my own experience with shin splints and other maladies associated with my earlier athletic career), by jumping on a bike and hitting the roads/trails. And now I've also been doing a 3x/week gym routine for the past 5 months, and I feel friggen great. It's anything but easy, but if something's really worth it to you, you've just gotta plow through and do it.

Ahem. Motivational speeches aside, I really do agree. We only get one shot at this whole crazy thing called life. Why put things aside?
I feel ya on the college thing Maus. So far I thing I've done a good job of proving that college isn't always necessary.
MAUS - Way to go! You see what you want, choose your path and barrel towards it. You rule for taking the initiative; we all know how difficult it is.

Oh, and the Wii Fit is cheaper and more fun than a Health Club; totally worth the money (if you use it).

EMILY - Exactly. I had an awakening in January, and the time for coasting is over.

Have I mentioned recently that you look like you're in awesome shape? Cuz' you do.
HATHERY - Judging by the (at least) three grammar errors in your comment, I'd say that you need to do a better job of proving. Guffawguffawguffaw.

You know I'm kidding. College is not for everyone, no doubt about it. Based on your idea for the future, College can range from a complete necessity to a total scam.
It actually kinda pisses me off that there's such emphasis placed on having a college degree. Yes, there are certain jobs that absolutely should require a great deal of schooling and the finishing of said schooling (things like surgeon spring immediately to mind).

But I've known college students/grads who were complete nincompoops, and I've known people who never went or dropped out who were incredibly intelligent, well-rounded individuals. The latter, however, are too often blocked in their search for meaningful work by the degree requirement. Honestly, can't we deal with a bit more variation and subtlety in society?

And this goes without saying, but I don't think that anyone should have to pay for Education, ever.
I'm lucky, because I can apply for employer paid tuition and a book scholarship (and I might get to take the classes during my workday, because, well...they're right downstairs). One of the few true benefits of the job. Of course, if I'd been like most of the people I work with, I'd have been taking advantage of this from the beginning & I'd be halfway to a BA by now.
I have a degree in Graphics. I manage a wine store. I'm putting my education to great use!
Music Production, Music History and Sound Engineering, here. Comes in handy when I'm calculating exam statistics at work.
I have a degree in Computer Science and, er, I'm a computer programmer.

Anyway, I kinda think the same as Maus does. I have a degree in my field, but has that degree helped me? Not much. Most stuff I use I taught myself (being able to teach yourself is, to me, a requirement for a programming position). And the day is coming when my employer will ask me to get my MBA. I don't think I want one -- most people I know with MBA's are worthless and understand less about business than I do. Not all, but most.
My degree is in English and Theatre...and I'm a writer who sometimes acts and organizes shows. But! If it's any comfort, it's not like I'm actually making any money with which to pay off my student loans. Hooray!
Indeed. If anything, all the money I spent at college went towards what became my hobbies, NOT my means of income.

I don't regret it, but everyone has their own experiences.
How are you not paid to write this stuff?
CARROT - Well, I get paid in that I sometimes do freelance stuff. Oh, and book royalties and merch sales and whatnot. But yeah, I won't even pretend that I wouldn't want to do this for a living. Thanks much, man.

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