The 12 Gifts of Fitness, 2015 Edition: Day 9 – The Gift of Knowing You Can’t Phone It In

As we move into a new year, reflections on the true gifts of fitness…Today, I offer you thoughts on the 9th of 12 gifts of fitness: the gift of completely knowing that you can’t phone it in, and why that’s such a good thing.

You can't phone in fitness. And that is a very, very good thing. (Image courtesy of Stoonn at
You can’t phone in fitness. And that is a very, very good thing. (Image courtesy of Stoonn at

The 12 Gifts of Fitness

Some things can be faked (like pretending to listen in on a work conference call when you’re really checking your email). And some things just cannot be faked (like trying to run a marathon when you haven’t really trained for it).

You might finish the task, but it won’t be  your best. And even if it looks good to the rest of the world (“Look, Ma, I ran a marathon!”), in your heart, you know the truth. You could have done much better.

The ninth gift of fitness in these waning days of 2015 for me is this: it’s impossible to phone in good health. And it’s especially impossible, at least for someone like me without any particularly good athletic genes tooling around my DNA, to phone in good fitness.

And that is very, very good news.

More than ever, I’m inspired and completely impressed by people who had to dedicate themselves to a task over many years or decades to make something amazing happen. (I won’t beat this horse too much in the coming weeks, but if you want to have some fun, look at how the national press was writing about Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson when he signed a grownup contract last summer, and how they’re writing about him now.)

I especially love the part in the first article I referenced about how Wilson, a Super Bowl champion, was reportedly not worth “Aaron Rodgers money.” Rodgers has exactly the same number of Super Bowl rings as Wilson (1), and Wilson has been rewriting the record books this season. Wilson works for it. That’s it. He doesn’t phone it in, ever. And his results show it.

Three times in my life, I have trained completely correctly and properly for a marathon. Those three times were, coincidentally, the three times I set personal bests at the distance. (I’m not counting my first-ever marathon, a 1993 Boston that I did as a bandit back in the days when that wasn’t a horrible thing to do—just the races where I bested my previous best time.)

I’m thinking especially about my most recent personal best, set in December 2011 when I finally cracked the four-hour barrier, by a bunch. All that year I was training well. I woke up early to get in my swim laps at the gym pool before work. I pushed hard during interval training. And then got somewhat surprised when I started throwing down race times I’d never dreamed of before (a sub-50 minute 10K, a 5K at 7:30 mile pace…those are really good times for a turtle like me).

Why the surprise?

I wonder to this day why I was surprised that hard work equaled measurable success in fitness. This is the ninth gift of fitness: showing you the value of cause and effect. Demonstrating that hard work will help you achieve all of your dreams.

Dedicating yourself to a fitness lifestyle means you’re working for it. You’re getting up when you need to get up in order to fit in your workout around your other responsibilities. (Yes, I am writing this as the mother of an infant. I have to get up earlier than him in order to fit in my workouts some days. That’s just the way it goes right now.)

You’re disciplined. You get things done.

And here’s the true gift of all of this: being able to get things done in a workout program (especially when you’re training for an event of any sort) trains you to expect to get things done in other areas of your life as well. You might find yourself getting far more organized. Getting more done in less time. Not paying attention to things that are distracting (like a certain presidential primary season—oh, if I want to start the day depressed, all I have to do is read the national news these days).

The gift is knowing where hard work leads. You can’t phone it in—it took all of me to clock that speedy (for me) marathon four years ago. But why would you want to? Doesn’t it feel way better to do the work, to put in the time, to dedicate yourself to a goal? That way, when you actually achieve the goal, it feels like exactly what it is.

An achievement.


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