So much fitness advice is framed like this:


I’ve shared plenty of tough love myself. Make excuses or make it go, “secrets” never work unless you work for them, train hard even when the motivation carcass is being picked by crows, whatever. Here, however, I want to talk to you in gentler tones about fitness.


Although fitness requires work and effort and sometimes feels like a stormy love affair that you just can’t quit, too much lectern-pounding bust-your-assery can hold you back and even burn you out. 

The key is balance, in knowing when to steam and when to stroll, when to brace up and bear down and when to back off and breathe. Go, go, go versus slow, slow, slow.

And that balance is often hard to find in the fitness racket. Everywhere you turn there’s another hard-faced hardo bellowing about cooking up the suck and injecting it into your veins so you can earn the aftermath one sweat brick at a time.

So, with grumpy faces and slash-and-burn advice in more-than-ample supply these days, I want to offer a counterpoint—a few gentle fitness reminders that acknowledge that sometimes you need to growl and gut it out, and sometimes you need to grin and give more leash.

  1. Everyone wants to tell you what to eat, what not to eat, what burns fat, what doesn’t, what’s evidence-based, what isn’t. But ultimately, whatever works for you is valid. Your fitness is yours. To explore. To evolve. To enjoy.
  2. Train at your own pace. Progress is progress. Sometimes it’s in stone’s throws, sometimes in country miles. I’m cheering for you just as you’d cheer for me because we all want to live in a fitter and healthier world.
  3. Some days are easier, and some are harder. Your best workouts are rarely the easy ones, though, and your hardest workouts aren’t write-offs. This is just the way the cards come out sometimes.
  4. It’s okay to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing because even the fittest people in the gym didn’t always know what they were doing. They learned as they went along, and they made many mistakes. You can too.
  5. Some workouts you just have to finish and get rid of as best as you can. Sometimes, as Jerry Garcia said, you go diving for pearls and come up with clams.  And that’s okay. You did what you could. Tomorrow is a new day.
  6. Even a little can go a long way. A 30-minute walk every day can kickstart the process that transforms your body and life. A huge triumph. Most people transform themselves once every never. So start slow if you need to.
  7. Sometimes you have to trundle through a spate of not-great workouts before you have a great one again. It’s normal. The good and bad are just part of the process. Press on.
  8. Motivation isn’t a puddle that fades in a balmy afternoon. It’s an ocean. It ebbs. It flows. But it never runs dry. It has murky depths and roiling whirlpools, shiny treasures and sparkling beaches. Sometimes you sink. Sometimes you swim.
  9. Comparing yourself to other sweat junkies is a sure way to feel lousy. There’s always someone who looks better, lifts more weight, and has more of whatever you want. The deck is stacked. You can’t win. So turn your gaze inward instead, looking only at who you were, are, and hope to become.
  10. Once you’ve found a setup that has upgraded your body and health, offer it to others for their consideration. Leave a light on and ladder out for those coming up behind you. Show them your map so they can better draw theirs.