"Looking kinda fit there, Arnold."
That was a comment my sister made back in 1999, when she came over to watch the home video of my trip to Maine. I don't normally bore people with Blair Witch Vacations, but this one was of particular note, as it marked the first time my wife -- born and raised in Queens, New York -- had ever been "to the sticks."
My sister was referring to, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Whether she realized it or not, it was the highest compliment I could have received. Growing up in the 80s, with no Internet, no texting and no Call of Duty, there wasn't much to do in my small town except sit on the couch and stare at the idiot box.
HBO did not disappoint.
That's where I would watch -- and record via VCR -- countless Ah-nuld movies. Terminator and Commando were my two favorites, because not only did he have an incredible physique, he was also invulnerable. That man could destroy anyone on earth.
As a wimpy kid being pushed around at school, that was something I latched on to.
So when the day came when I picked up my first dumbbell (her name was Tara), I unstapled my collector's edition of Muscle & Fitness magazine, carefully removed select pin-ups, and hung Schwarzenegger photos all around my basement.
I lifted weights because I wanted to look like Arnold.
What surprises me now, looking back, is how motivated I was by staring at those pictures. I wasn't interested in becoming a bodybuilder, but for some reason, I was inspired by the way he looked, as well as the way he carried himself.
Looking like him wasn't a realistic goal, but sometimes you need a dream to chase.
A heavyset lady friend I went to high school with joined my gym a few months back. I was helping her get her sea legs and when she asked me how I got into fitness, I told her I wanted to look like Arnold when I was younger. She laughed and said, "What a coincidence, I want to look like Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2."
In my head, I was thinking she should probably shoot for Linda Hamilton from Terminator 1, then go from there, but I guess it would be hard to motivate someone if they were chasing the image of a regular-looking person, whose only claim to fitness fame was that they weren't obese.
It's okay to dream big.
You'll get a lot of platitudes in the fitness industry, designed to elicit motivation, but usually do the exact opposite more often than not. That's because they fail to establish any sense of urgency. One of my favorites is, "Today, I will strive to be better than I was tomorrow, nothing more, nothing less."
Oh, shut up.
I'm not going to tell a guy who weighs 398 pounds, "Look on the bright side bro, yesterday you weighed in at 400." What the hell is that? Most people can drop two pounds with a bowel movement, it doesn't mean they crossed some imaginary finish line.
Keep your daily progress a secret, even to yourself, as it's your best defense against being discouraged.
Think long term!
Now that I'm older, my fitness goals have changed. In fact, I'm now older than Arnold was in those pics I used to admire, so it was time to find a new dream to chase. There is a guy in my network who is 11 years older than I am, yet he can run circles around me.
I don't like that.
His conditioning is so much better than mine, I feel embarrassed to even work out around him. But at the same time, I secretly tell myself, "One of these days I'm going to smoke this fool." Even if it doesn't happen, I've got something to strive for.
Hell, I've got 11 years to get there.
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Young or old, it's good to have a general idea of what your ideal physique would look like, even if you know you may never attain it. It can be a celebrity, a fitness professional or maybe just someone you've seen at your gym. So I ask you, dear reader, who motivated you to start your first workout?
And who's currently keeping you there?
Fitness Friday is sponsored by ViSalus. Opinions expressed are solely of the author. For more information on the ViSalus line of products click here.