An Open Letter To Leaders In The Fitness Community….

Dear Fitness Leaders,

Congratulations, you are a leader in the fitness industry – I bow down.  Whether you lead by the dozen, or lead by the millions, the eyes of your followers are on you.  Please keep in mind though, that the eyes that follow those who follow you, are also on you.

Whether you are new to fitness as a career, or you are one of the many established “experts” in the field, please allow me to share my thoughts with you, on how to better conduct yourself in an industry that isn’t just evolving, but one that is erupting vomiting its way into chaotic advancement. 

Don’t forsake the trust that got you where you are…

Understand that when people choose to follow you, right off the bat, they have given you something sacred, and something that should be most coveted by you – they have given you their trust.  Nurturing that trust may be the key to both longevity, and respect in your fitness career.  I’ll suggest that your career will be only as fulfilling as your respect for that trust goes.

You can use the trust of those who follow you to advance your career.  Or, you can use the trust of others as an opportunity to grow with them, to learn more on their behalf, and to advance the causes of fitness as a whole.  I think this is a good way to be.

People have chosen you.  Regardless of their reasons for that choice, they have placed their trust in you.  They hear the words you speak, they read the words you write, and they retain the actions they witness from you.  If you’re going to lead, lead with honest words, honest actions, and humility.

If you refer to your followers as disciples, I’m asking you right now to wear a tin foil hat so I know who you are.

Shut The Fuck Up Settle down Francis…

Making noise and rattling cages to prove yourself right is only slightly less savory than making noise and rattling cages to prove others wrong.  You may be wise.  You may be educated.  You may be experienced.  You may be all of the above, or some combination, and you may even be right.  You don’t however, always have to establish yourself as right. 

It’s actually not too hard to be right, and to be quiet – simultaneously.  This skill will serve you well in your career.

Don’t just lead, support…

Don’t lose sight that among our primary roles in this industry is the role of being a support system for those who follow us. 

To properly lead, it’s not enough to just point and say, go!  It’s of greater importance to understand the horizon from the vantage point of those furthest back.  Remember to stand beside those who follow you at the most critical times, maintaining awareness and respect of the differences between their view of what’s ahead, and your own view.

Ideally, the best support system a student or follower will have will be their friends and family.  Too often though, this proves not to be the case.  Though it’s not possible to be emotionally available to all of your students, all of the time, I’ll suggest you strive to be as available as you can be when needed – and you will be needed.  This will go a long way in helping them fulfill their goals.

Lead by example…

As a leader in my own community, I strive to ensure that I lead by example.  Some days that example is better than others, but I live with the knowledge that the eyes of my community are continually on me.  Whether I am in a grocery store, a restaurant, an athletic field, or a bar, my community is watching.

Though I often joke that at the end of the day it’s all about Roy, at the end of the day I know this is not really true.   

At the beginning of the day, fitness leadership is about sharing.  At the end of the day, it’s all about reflecting, to better share the following day what I have learned today.  In-between the beginning and the end of the day, fitness leadership is about many things, but above all else, it’s setting good examples.

You’re not that grand, and neither is your idea of fitness…

It’ pretty easy to believe, and subsequently suggest that being “fit” is the right way to be and to live.  Fit, at best, as a vague term which can mean many things. 

Too often leaders in the fitness community strive to pass off their own fitness values as an improvement to someone else’s life.  I have been guilty of this myself.  Often times what we pass off as fitness can be detrimental to longevity and physicality.  This is something I continually struggle in coming to terms with. 

Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should do it – or that it’s going to help me live longer and better.  Notwithstanding, suggesting that others do it may be detrimental to their physicality, their longevity, and their health. 

Circles beyond our own…

There many people in the world who never formally exercise or eat “clean”.  There people who could care less about a lunge, a set of repetitions, a chicken salad, or a WOD.

Humility

There are many people who are content with who they are and have no desire to look like an action figure.  There are even people who are obese and okay with it, as there are people who are out of shape and okay with.  There are people who live to eat, and not eat to live as we always suggest.

That those people don’t play in our fitness circles makes them no less valid, no less worthy, and no less of a person.  I know of many great people doing amazing things in the world who eat Pop-Tarts, tater-tots, and other hyphenated non-foods.

I know of family leaders, business leaders, community leaders, and just plain salt of the earth folks who could give a frog’s fat ass about what we think is so important in the name of fitness.

I’ll finish by suggesting that each of you step back, take a good distant look at you consider fitness to mean.  Then, take a good distant look at the rest of the world and consider, for just a moment, what they might believe fitness to mean.

From this perspective, to truly quantify and establish how exercise may benefit someone’s life – how it may benefit society as a whole, is much harder than science has lead us to believe.  In fact, it’s not possible.  And you, you little fitness expert, are no more of a spec on the ass of humanity than I am, and please never forget that.

Go now.  Mount your high horse and charge on!

Sincerely,
Aggressively Humble Guy

PS: If you are a political, business, or spiritual leader, same shit goes for you.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what  happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head. 

Roots Canal…

Jersey Boys…

In 1968 my father, a successful business man, plucked our family from our suburban New Jersey home and planted us in Colorado. He did this largely I believe, so my brother and I would not grow up to be dock workers, cops on the take, or apartment superintendents with a 3 donut a day habit, cigarettes rolled up in our shirtsleeves, and America: Love It Or Leave It bumper stickers on our Chevy Impalas. This was the single best decision my father ever made for his family.

Friends Can Be Bought…

Shortly after we settled in Colorado my father bought my brother and I bicycles from a little shop in our community. My brother’s was a green upright Columbia 5-speed cruiser. Mine was a black & white Columbia 5-speed, with a tandem seat, and a throttle shifter. It was like a rocket ship built for and 8 year old. That bike would become my horse, my best friend and my only means of escape until I outgrew it in favor of my brother’s hand me down.

My ticket to freedom as a child...

My ticket to freedom as a child…

Waiting Out Winter…

It was the long months of a largely non-biking winter which made me appreciate my bike so much when spring arrived each year. Since my mother worked mostly evenings as a nurse and my father traveled extensively, winters meant reading, eating, and watching reruns after school – a life lived mostly indoors. Summer meant freedom from that. We lived in an area in which everything that mattered was bike riding distance from home.

I would ride my bike to school in spring and fall. I would ride to the store to do errands for my mother if she asked, and I would ride it to visit friends of course. I would also ride to the community pool nearly every day in summer. When my parents were fighting, which was often, I would ride for hours just for the sake of thinking, imaging or to feel the freedom which came from the wind in my hair.

Livin’ The Highline…

A large portion of my bike riding youth was spent riding sections of the Highline Canal Trail which was traffic free, and offered easy access from our high altitude home to the rest of the community. The canal road, as we called it, efficiently linked our neighborhood with all the services we needed and beyond. As I got older and ventured further, I would learn that the canal road linked a good part of the southeast Denver area – I tested those boundaries well into my teens.

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Many of the best memories of my youth involved that black and white bike, and riding the canal road alone.

Faster Forward…

I am now nearly forty years removed from that childhood scene. I have been married, divorced, and helped raise a kid of my own. She rarely road her bike. A bike is less a priority to a child than it once was.  That makes me sad, but that is an essay for another day.

I have owned many bikes since my childhood.  I have ridden thousands of miles on trails, roads, and highways throughout the west. After a 15 year stint in Southern California, I returned to Colorado last month where biking is part of the culture – it’s in our green and white DNA.

My most recent bike, The Redhound, was stolen just days after I returned to Colorado. I was heartbroken. That bike has meant as much to me as my 5-speed Columbia ever did. More perhaps.

Stolen, or perhaps just reassigned...

Stolen, or perhaps just reassigned…

I immediately replaced my stolen bike with a very basic road bike because I have limited funds due to my move.  I just needed to get out there – ASAP.

A new friend...

A new friend…

Yesterday I broke in my new bike. I rode a good stretch of the trail that so well medicated my childhood. I was on the canal road for the first time in 38 years. If it sounds hokey to say I shed a tear or two as I reminisced, please forgive me. I passed the community center where I swam in my youth, and the cottonwood tree where my friends and I once launched ourselves into the canal from a tire swing. I rode to Bible Park, a place for pickup football, meeting freckle-faced girls, and later on for drinking beer after dark with my puffy armed friends.

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For a couple of hours yesterday, the 12-year old Roy and the Roy in his 50s got to hang out together – they made fast friends. Now that we’ve met, I hope we continue to see each other. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from Butch Hancock. Enjoy…

 

 

Successfulish…

 This is Part I of a 3-part intermittent series on education, success, and how I fell through one but still landed in the other. Part II will show up some time down the road.

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My Father’s Path…

For a majority of my life I have had a conflicted perception of the word success, and all that goes with it. Like his father before him, my father raised me to pursue excellence in life. He dedicated much of his life to providing my brother, and I opportunities to create successful lives. He did this with diligence, and a great deal of love if not with an overwhelming passion.

My father’s idea of success was linear, direct, and had a clear progression; college, business, suburbia – man in a gray suit kind of stuff. What he really wanted, I believe, was for my brother, and I to take his path, but to find better results than he was able to. I have often wondered if my father sacrificed his visceral idea of success to better enable the superficial idea of success that society, and his own father immersed him in.

What my father had really wanted in life, he confessed to me in his later years, was to have taught school in the winter, and run a camp for kids in the summer. At some point though, with a wife, a mortgage, and kids of his own, I believe he became driven by dollar signs rather than canoes, and campfires, and the gravity of the business world drew him in.

The man with the plan, and the pocket comb.  Each successful in our own ways...

The man with the plan, and the pocket comb. Each successful in our own ways…

Against The Grain…

My definition of success has always been murky, malleable, and has evolved through the years. By the time I was in my late teens though, my definition of success began to solidify, and was in obvious contrast to my father’s intentions for me, and to the flow of common American culture.

As I began to explore my idea of success, the distance between my path, and the path my father laid out for me grew further apart. Looking back today, I am better able to reconcile my father as a young man, with the man he would go on to become. When I was younger, I couldn’t comprehend this.

By my father’s standard, and by the standard of culture art large, the first step on anyone’s path to success is obtaining a college degree. My father had been down many career paths, but he began as an educator at the high school, and college level. He would often say to my brother, and I,

“Get your ticket punched boys, and you can go anywhere”.

Inferring that a college diploma was guaranteed a ticket to success. This was so heavily instilled in me that by the time I was in my early teens I came to believe that people without a college degree were a lesser form of life, and less worthy of life’s rich pageant.

In truth, I believe my father wanted me to feel this way. He would often take time to impress upon me the toil, and struggles of those went through life with a wrench in their back pocket, pushed a broom, or drove a municipal bus. Because he was my father, I believed him. I have only recently come to see that this isn’t true, that there’s no shame in hard work, and that success is simply a state of appreciation.

American Dream…

My American dream has always been more simple than most; I don’t want to be forced to do the goosestep down Main Street. That’s it. I would like to have access to water, shelter, and to have the opportunity to work hard for anything beyond.

One does not need a college degree to pursue shelter, food, and a few nice things. One simply needs to have ambition, a good work ethic, and reasonable expectations of life. Those too, are qualities my father instilled in me, and they have served me well.

I recognize that I’m a minority with this way of thinking, and I don’t wish offend anyone who has worked hard to reap, and enjoy the finer things in life. That has just never been my trip. I have always been content with just enough. I often suggest to friends that my dream house has four wheels, and gets good mileage. I am approaching that dream house, and hope to move in within the next 3-5 years.

My dream house.  I will never again by a car I'm not also able to live in...

My dream house. I will never again buy a car I’m not also able to live in…

School Is Out Early…

I struggled with school from an early age. In elementary school, reading could be so strenuous that it often lead me to nausea. My math skills were several years behind, and I barely survived middle school with Ds. Despite this, I was advanced into high school.   In high school it became clear to me within weeks that I would probably never graduate. The text books I used seemed to be written in a different language. I failed typing, Art, and even PE.

With an open campus, and a modular schedule, I could go to high school every day, never walk into a class room, and just sit and visit with friends in one of the three cafeterias which were available. This was my existence for a year and a half. I would register for school, never go to class, get Fs, and placate my parent’s attempts to get my head right by promising I would try harder. In a school of 4,500 students, I fell through the cracks.

At one point I was even put on the short bus to study with all the other challenged learners. Unfortunately, most of them were there out of laziness, and not need. I was surrounded by stoners, with teachers who weren’t dialed in, and nothing was being done to help me improve my lack of learning skills. One day at 16, I just released myself on my own recognizance, and never looked back.

I would spend the next couple of years working odd jobs, sleeping with the television on, lifting weights, and trying to figure out what success truly was, or if it would ever be within my grasp – largely disbelieving that it would be.

Though I would ultimately take my GED, and attend college, my father’s notion that success, a college degree, and a suburban mortgage were synonymous, became a poison in my veins that has worked against me more than it ever served me.

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Please check back in a few weeks for Part II of this series. Oh, and there’s this from Albert King.   Enjoy…