There is one time in life that I’m singularly ecstatic that I have both an X and a Y chromosome.

YES…Porta-Potty time.

The only time I really need or use them is before I enter into a sporting event, like a run or a triathlon. Nobody likes to run on a full bladder or bowel. I always look after the bowel part at home before a run but our bladders need more frequent attention, yes? Being able to stand rather than sit in a Porta-Potty is a huge perk for manhood.

Despite the gender advantage, I still hate Porta-Potty lines…but I HATE Porta-Pottys themselves more. I probably don’t need to tell you the reasons why, because you probably “nose”…

…it’s fecal aromatherapy at its worst.

port a potty lines

This is a hell-of-a-lot of nervous bowels and bladders…

But let me backtrack here.

I get up most mornings at 5 am so that I can start the day with about an hour or so of physical activity.

I’m a morning person, so getting up this early isn’t too too difficult. Of course, when the glowing alarm clock radio first starts up, I mutter a couple of 4-letter words and feel like I want to cry just a little. But then I accept the hard truth that the night’s sleep has ended.

My “Kate Upton and her SI swimsuit” dreams waft lightly into the ether as I listen to the CBC news for a few minutes hoping the world’s bad-news stories will just keep going on…but then they end, and I MUST get up.

DISCIPLINE is what gets me up.

Discipline is a word with a lot of meanings. But here, I’m talking about the self-discipline it takes you and me to get up each day and carry out our normal lives, do the things we have to do, like work, and eat, and drive kids to soccer or ballet practice, and sleep. Then, on top of the necessary stuff, we discipline ourselves to carry out some sort of physical activity for the goodness of our health.

HOPEFULLY.

There’s enough science out there to let us know that we have to move our bodies in some way almost every day so that we can live longer and healthier lives. Most of us buy into the science – it might have taken a fit, trim 60 year-old Swedish guy in 1970’s Canadian ParticipAction TV commercials to convince us, but we eventually came around – a call to action!

Participaction

National pride is one motivator, but so is personal history. My Dad had a heart attack after shovelling wet snow in his late 50’s and my Mom died from a heart attack at 60 years of age, so health-related motivation is exceptionally easy for me. I just close my eyes, see their faces and think about their shortened lives, and I can get myself off the couch.

But also, to keep myself motivated day in and day out, I set goals. The dangling carrot (carrot cake!) draws me forward each day.

Just to brag a bit:

I’ve participated in a couple of Ironman races, a few marathon runs, and dozens, maybe even a couple of hundred short-course triathlons, half-marathons, 15K, 10K, and 5K runs.

And now to tarnish my swagger:

I’m telling you that I’ve “participated” because I’ve never NEVER ever come close to finishing at the front of the pack of any one of those races. The fact is, I suck at winning. I was pretty good as a little kid, but no more. Like most things I do in life, I’m just an average guy when it comes to my physical pursuits.

But, know what? I’m OK with this.

Larry Ironman 1990

A MUCH younger and MUCH trimmer me in my first Ironman…

The only REAL competitor I have in any event I participate in is myself…or to put it another way, the clock. I’m only interested in beating my own time from earlier events. I love goal-setting, and so my goal is either to beat a previous outing, or to beat a certain time like running sub-40 minutes for a 10K run (which, to be truthful, I’ve never done…23 seconds short!)

I firmly believe that fitness is more in the mind than the body.

Let me repeat: I firmly believe that fitness is more in the mind than the body.

Our bodies are usually ready and able to do far more than we give them credit for. There’s that old (and probably false) expression that most of us use only about 10% of our brains, meaning there is huge untapped potential. We could quibble about numbers here, but I think that most of us leave a great deal of untapped physical energy inside of us because we lack the mental energy to put it to use. It’s the mental energy that’s critical to keeping ourselves motivated.

So how do we develop mental strength for training our physical selves consistently? Here’s a few thoughts:

  1. Believe deeply that fitness and physical movement are as important to our lives as work and grocery shopping. Make activity a scheduled part of the day, just like picking up the kids from school. Physical and mental health will move ahead in lockstep.
  2. Work upwards gradually but consistently. Injuries are the boogie-man waiting to catch you if you try to move ahead too fast. I’ve found that the adage of adding no more than 10% in distance or speed weekly works pretty well. Mental toughness comes gradually too, so while the physical muscles are adjusting, so too are the mind muscles. Even if adding 10% means walking for 1 minute longer, it’s a stepping stone and is progress. Not everyone starts out as a thoroughbred, some of us are plodding donkeys that resist forward movement.
  3. I like Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of working at something for 10,000 hours to become proficient and masterful…like the Beatles and Wayne Gretzky. Physical activity needs consistency to become a part of your life. Habits, good and bad, need repetition to fool the brain into believing this is the norm and not just a one-off affair.
  4. Associate with those who have a positive mindset towards their health and fitness and are working towards achieving things in life. They will rub off on you and boost your motivation.
  5. Pay more attention to the rewards of your success (an extra block walked, a pound shed), and not on focusing on your mistakes (missed activity, a slow or more anemic workout). Do what is necessary today, and leave tomorrow for tomorrow. One step in front of the other takes you to your goals. In writing parlance, E. L. Doctorow said, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Fitness can be like this too. Take it one day, one step at a time and results will come about bit by bit.

Exercise

There’s a “Fitness Taste” of one sort or another for every one of us, regardless of whatever limitations or preferences we might have. I have “Chairman Bill” (wheelchair bound) who comes for a workout at my local gym with a smile on his face, muscles in his arms, and wind in his lungs each day. If he can get out there, so can I.

There are so many ways to move our bodies daily that don’t necessitate queueing up for a public bathroom break. Man or woman, you could go through your entire life never needing to use a mobile blue upright toilet.

But I’m feeling just a bit smug in thinking that entering a PORTA-POTTY is positive proof that I’ve achieved a supreme level of mental strength.

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