Holding Out for a Hero

Superman saves the Daily Planet building in Su...

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When I was a kid, I used to watch Max Fleischer Superman cartoons with my dad all the time.  As a result, the classic description of the Man of Steel is burned in my brain: “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…”  I’m not sure why (maybe this happened in one of the cartoons?  Maybe it was just my childhood brain conjuring an image of strength and locomotives?), but for some reason I always think of Superman standing on the railroad tracks, in the path of an oncoming train.

Oh no, Superman!  Watch out for that train!…What?…Wait a minute, what’s he doing?  Why, he’s stopping the train!  My word, isn’t Superman amazing?  He just stopped an oncoming train with nothing but his own strength!

The train just sits there, probably letting off steam, its front all crinkled and folded in on itself.  You know the way metal gets when there’s a man made of steel there to cease its forward momentum.  Of course everyone inside is safe.  And who knows why Superman stopped the train in the first place?  He has his reasons, there’s no need to question.

Why am I relating this constructed scenario that I’ve had lodged in my brain since my childhood?  Because I have a point to make about momentum–the kind of momentum that Superman is powerful enough to stop in its tracks.  If you’ve ever hit on a streak of workouts, you’ve experienced how great momentum can be.  Once you’ve hit your rhythm, you feel like nothing can stop you.  You’re exercising consistently, you’re feeling great, and you can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose the momentum you have.  Unfortunately, though, there’s always something that pops up out of nowhere.  You get sick, you have to travel, maybe you have to schedule a meeting during a time when you would normally be at the gym.  Whatever it is that happens, it cuts your streak and your momentum is lost almost instantly.  In a relatively short period of time, a different sort of momentum starts to build: that of inertia.

Inertia may be one of the worst curses known to an exercise routine.  Regardless of how much better you feel when you’re working out consistently, your inertia will try to convince you that you’re better off just skipping your trip to the gym, or your run in the park.  Inactivity sets in, and as soon as that happens, it’s hard to feel like you’ll ever get moving again.

So how do you stop the inertia locomotive?  Sadly, this is not a case where Superman is going to swoop in out of nowhere and stop that train for you (you know, the way he does in my imagination)–there’s no mysterious secret to getting back on the wagon.  Sure, you can read blog posts and articles that list tips to get you motivated, lay your clothes out the night before so that you are more likely to go running in the morning, and try to incent yourself in some new and exciting way, but chances are pretty good that the more time you spend devising plans for your comeback, the less likely you are to actually make said comeback.

Instead of waiting for Superman, you have to take matters into your own hands, and stop that train yourself.  How do you do it?  Stop laying your clothes out, and put them on.  Then go outside.  Then start exercising.  That’s it–the only way you can overcome the workout inertia is to put yourself in front of that oncoming train, summoning all the force you have, and stopping it yourself.  No one else can do it for you.  You have to be your own superhero.  And once you get your exercise momentum back, you’ll only have yourself to thank.

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  1. really cool analogy. i feel like i never think of intellectual concepts like this. 🙂

    i don’t even lay my clothes out… but you are 110% correct about the difficulty of getting back in the swing of things!

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