Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

By Michael Krueger

As anyone who reads this column knows, I’m an obsessive log keeper. Give me any day since 1983, and I can tell you if I trained on that day as well as how I performed. For whatever reason (obsessive compulsive disorder comes to mind), record keeping is just a part of my personality. Because of this, I have problems understanding why other people don’t keep track of their progress, but I also know that this is my problem, not theirs.

I was discussing this with a client recently, and she agreed that I was obsessive and that I do bring up keeping a good log more often than I probably realize. Then she said that I say it’s good to do to keep track of your progress. But, what if it’s little more than a log of demoralizing failures?

Hmm, first I felt that this was simply a negative and defeatist attitude, but then I realized perhaps she has a point; I need to think about that.

 

Yesterday

When I speak of yesterday, I’m referring to all the days that have come before. More specifically for this conversation, I’m talking about everything that has shaped your current physical self-image for both good and bad. We can’t escape our history, but we can learn from it and put it in perspective.

When I was a kid, I was always picked last for participation in any playground game. This was back when kids made the rules without any adult intervention. No one cared if a kid got his feelings hurt because he was the last one to be picked. Then there was the time when the kid who was the captain with the last pick said that rather than pick me, “We’ll just play one player short.” That was a long time ago, and my guess is that now I could kick his backside if it came down to that.

Let’s jump ahead a few years. When I joined the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), I was slightly older than most of the recruits. It wasn’t a big enough difference that I was concerned about being shown up physically since I was still only 22 years old. I soon realized that I had the advantage of a few years of experience and perspective that they didn’t have, and I worked this to my advantage.

As I moved up in the USCG, I advanced into a more administrative position. At this point, I found myself sitting at a desk more than I ever had or ever wanted to. I noticed my fitness, and therefore my operational readiness, began to slide. This was unacceptable to me and I set out to remedy the situation. The thing was, for the first time in my life, I needed to directly address fitness rather than rely on youth, sports, or job activities to keep me on top.

Your yesterday is probably different from mine. If you are still in your 20s, you may still be living in your “yesterday.” “Today” begins when you realize things have changed and you make a conscious decision to take control and responsibility for what is happening in your life. You accept the influence, but you don’t blame your past for your current condition. You also accept that it’s up to you to create the life that you desire and you commit to doing it; and you accept that it’s going to be tough.

 

Today

You have chosen a profession that requires you to physically perform up to an externally applied standard. Whether this standard is codified, implied, or peer enforced, it’s still there. When you look around your department, you know those crew members who are the top performers and those who fall short. You know who works hard every day to improve physically and operationally. You see those who take the time and make the effort to learn new skills and those who don’t. You know who you are most comfortable working with and those who cause you concern.

The most important thing to remember is that while the readiness of others can affect you in a huge way, it’s not directly your problem (unless operations and organization actually happens to BE your problem); you can only ensure that you are absolutely on top of your game.

I haven’t been under a minimum fitness/readiness mandate for a long, long time. Even when I was, I always far exceeded that minimum. It was a point of pride for me, in part because my primary responsibility was administrative and I didn’t want anyone on the boat crew to ever be concerned when they saw my name of the crew list. It was cool when the coxswain would see my name on his duty section crew list and give me a high five rather than a scowl.

My fitness “today” started a long time ago while wearing the uniform of the USCG and continues still. Since my early 20s, I have never allowed my fitness to slide below what I considered to be my minimum life requirement. In the ensuing years, there have been ups and down, pounds of muscle and fat gained and lost, annoying strength and endurance fluctuations, happy and sad life experiences, and occasionally onerous job demands, but I never dropped below my self-imposed standard.

 

Tomorrow

So, what happens next? Really, I have no idea. We have no guarantee of even having a tomorrow. It could be that this is my last day, or I could barely be past the halfway point. My health and fitness might deteriorate until I’m just a shell of what I am now, or I may continue to improve for years to come. I’ve been alive long enough to have seen friends suffer through illnesses that afflicted them for no other reason than “bad luck.” They heroically endured long and arduous treatments, and they still died a slow and painful death. I also know people my age who, because of choices that they made, can’t walk up a flight of stairs without needing to rest. I have friends who can’t experience life to the fullest simply from having made so many poor decisions; and yet, they still blame circumstances and others for their situation. If I think about it too much it makes me a bit angry … but more sad.

I have every reason to be optimistic about my “tomorrow” because I’m still working hard on my today. Tomorrow for me doesn’t begin until I can no longer live my today. I can still do all that I want to do despite passing years and some chronic injuries including osteoarthritis. I continue to train hard and consistently, because I refuse to give into age and discomfort if it means that I won’t be able to live the life I want and do thing things that I want to do.

 

Continuum

So, how does your “tomorrow” look? I guess that question’s answer lies a lot in what your “today” looks like.

If you are eating well, training hard, learning every day, playing well with others, avoiding negativity, and living your life to the max, tomorrow probably looks pretty sweet …

…keep it that way.

 

Michael Krueger is an NSCA-certified personal trainer. He got his start in fitness training while serving in the United States Coast Guard. He works with firefighters and others in and around Madison, Wisconsin. He is available to fire departments, civic organizations, and athletic teams for training, consulting, and speaking engagements. He has published numerous articles on fitness, health, and the mind-body connection and was a featured speaker at the IAFC’s FRI 2009 Health Day in Dallas, Texas. E-mail him at MKPTLLC@gmail.

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