Orin Gordon

What is the point beyond which it’s too late to wish someone a Happy New Year? If I hadn’t extended the seasonal good wish to someone within three days of the crack of midnight on Old Year’s night, I would hesitate when engaging them around now. Do I still wish them a Happy New Year at the start of a WhatsApp, text, call or e-mail exchange?

I’m returning to this space after a two-week seasonal break, 11 days into January. Good manners dictate that I still wish you a happy 2022. Or more realistically, that we all have a better year than the wretched 2021. Years ago, I’d still be typing the previous year into dated correspondence deep into January. Today, the wide range of communication tech tools means that we rarely have cause to refer to day/month/year.

If we’re honest with ourselves, some of us would admit that our most recent new year’s resolutions were warmed over from the previous year. We weren’t resolute enough. Many folks’ weight-loss goals took a hit in the pandemic, with lockdowns making gyms and parks off-limits, and giving us plenty of cooking time on our hands at home.

For many of us targeting sculptural transformation, the six-pack to which we’re closest is the one on the shelf of the alcoholic drinks section of our local supermarket. It’s not my place to tell anyone to set realistic goals. What’s realistic is sometimes a function of circumstances. For now, be happy making small steps rather than leaps. And take things one lamppost at a time.

About nine years ago I was uncomfortably chunky, and I couldn’t run one city block without stopping and gasping for breath. My significant other gave me a new year’s gift of a personal trainer’s services for three months. It’s one of those presents from your s/o that can feel like a gift to themselves, but it’s all good if we both benefit.

My trainer Marc made me lift way more weights than I felt was my limit, or run beyond a time and do more reps than I could without feeling close to death. Time flies? Not when your wristband tells you that you’re 15 minutes into a one-hour session with a personal trainer. Or when he’s counted off ten seconds (very slowly, too slowly) of a 100-second plank.

Like Louis Gossett Jr’s drill sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and A Gentleman, Marc saw a bit of verbal abuse as motivational.

“Stop with your loud, embarrassing orgasms”, he’d scold as I groaned under the unreasonable amount of weight that he’d put on the barbell for my chest presses. I’m loud when it comes to grunting under workout load, or sneezing. Ask the neighbours.

“That lady,” he’d say pointing to a slight woman half my weight working out nearby, “is lifting more than you. Aren’t you ashamed? Stop being a wuss.”

Then he’d pass me boxing gloves, and take the trainer’s mitts. I had to land punches in combinations that he’d bark out. By that point I could barely lift an arm. Everywhere hurt. I was exhausted. I must have looked like Apollo Creed and Drago in Rocky IV, throwing tired punches from which I was in danger of falling over. Marc derided my efforts.

About a month in, he declared himself unsatisfied with my progress. He told me I needed to quit the “stodgy carbs”, and he drew up a meal plan. I stuck with it.

Then a funny thing happened. After recovering from the exhaustion of early morning workouts, I began to feel full of energy. I started doing the thing I hated… running. Running when not in my thrice-weekly abuse sessions with Marc. Running at night. I bought some trendy looking running gear, figuring that if I’m going to kill myself, I might as well look cool doing so. But I started to like it, because the pounds fell off and it didn’t feel so punishing.

By now I was running much further than one block. And when I got tired, I willed myself to make it to the next lamppost. As time went by, I ran three lampposts beyond my point of utter, I-gon-dead exhaustion. Three lampposts became ten. Ten lampposts became four kilometres three to four times a week. I ran to music, and had my kick songs, the ones that gave you an energy boost from somewhere, even when your legs are very tired.

My kick songs were “Mister Loverman” by Shabba Ranks (only the beat, peeps… only the beat), and “Pirates Anthem”, by the same artiste, Home T and Cocoa Tea. Marc began to say complimentary things about my progress. Running became addictive, and I overdid it. I strained my Achilles tendon, and because it’s a slow healing injury, I couldn’t pound pavement for more than a month.

In the end, I learned some important lessons about resolve. Take things one lamppost at a time. Incremental gains are fine. Add another small goal, and see how you go. Your progress over time could surprise you.

It can seem unbearably hard, but keep going. The people who wish you well and are invested in your improvement can seem tough on you. Tough love is good. Just learn to tell it apart from demotivational negativity. And find ways to enjoy the ride.

Make 2022 a year of gradual gains.

The author is a media

consultant, at oringordon.com

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