What I Learned at the Gym Today – Besides the Fact That Eating Chili and Working Out is a Bad Idea

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As you can tell by the title, I learn some important lessons at the gym. And, yes, I did learn that eating chili before taking a step class will take your workout to a whole new level. But today I learned something even more important.

I’m on the stairmaster, surviving with Aretha, busting a move, shaking my groove thang – and I’m going at a pretty good clip, feeling pumped up like Jennifer Beal on the chair in Flashdance. And I’m just at that part where they are about to throw a bucket of water on me as I leap off the back of the chair, when what’s-his-face gets on the stairmaster beside me.

I am not one who works out in total oblivion to those around me. No, I’m nosey. I have this need to know what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and, even more importantly, are they doing it better than me. And Kelly Competitive rears her ugly head. The same Kelly Competitive who decided in the 80’s that she could make her hair bigger than everybody else’s, by golly, and we have photos to prove it.

So I start sneaking glances at what’s-his-face next to me – assessing his skill level and speed – as the secret urge to be faster kicks in. Wouldn’t you know it, the guy beside me must have been in training for something, because he turns into Road Runner and I am frantically trying to match him step for step, without looking like I’m matching him step for step. And, of course, that’s not good enough for me, I’m determined to run faster, even if my thighs are clapping together like a praise service at my egypt shirt Esther’s tent revival.

Why? Because that’s just what I do.

And it is all out war between us as we set out on an imaginary race that I’m not even sure he knows he entered. And my legs are pumping and I’m pretty sure I had a series of small strokes, but I kept up with him until he stopped and, yes, I crossed the finish line first, thank you very much. And he jumped off and sprinted to the weight machines, while I went in search of a paramedic. And in between heart compressions I realized something very important about that whole experience: My ability to run faster is often a direct result of those I choose to run beside.

If I’m beside someone who is just strolling and going through the motions, then I will only be motivated to work fast enough to beat them. But if I am beside someone who is kicking butt – then I will push myself even harder to beat them.

I see this play out in my own business. When I hang out with people who are doing just enough, I begin to fall into a comfort zone. But when I set my sights on people who are three laps ahead of me – well, a fire starts burning in my gut and my feet start pumping – and I am determined to set a new record.

What about you? Have you chosen your teammates wisely? Are you surrounded by people who encourage you to be good enough – or are you surrounded by people who encourage you to break a new record? Or, bless your heart, are you just now realizing that you’re the only one in the race? The choice is yours. The race has already started. They won’t stop and pull you in. You’ve got to jump in and start running.

So if you ever get tired of surrounding yourself with people who aren’t serious about working out, come get on the stairmaster beside me. I promise I won’t eat chili first, and I promise I will outrun you. So bring it on.

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write by jeff gaither