I’m the first to admit that I love wearing a touch of bright colored clothing while working out. At the pool, one of our Masters coaches loves to tease that I’m always showing up dressed in fluorescent gear. Earlier this week when I showed up at another pool where we both work out, he saw me coming and shouted out, “Chris, over here! You can have this one!”
I walked over to the lane in which he’d been swimming and he chortled, “I can’t see without my glasses but I knew it was you from that bright colored shirt.”
Well, it’s nice to have a personal brand of some sort. But I’m certainly not alone in choosing bright colors for workout gear. If it makes you motivated to get out and do your stuff, there’s nothing wrong with a bright coral shirt and matching shorts.
This morning I put on my bright gear and chose a car from among the six sitting around our driveway. Our band of twenty-somethings each has their own vehicle. That means my Subaru can be three cars in come morning. Sue and I don’t waste time moving cars around if the schedule is tight. We search through the keys and grab a Hyundai or a Mitsubishi or a Honda and just go.
Her daughter Sarah’s car was parked out on the street, which I only knew by walking to the door and pushing the Open Door switch to see which vehicle lit up. The windows were all frosted and I got out to scrape them so I would not have an accident. Then I turned on the defroster full blast and headed toward the gym. Once the heat got going the remaining frost started to evaporate. I gave the windshield wiper lever a tug and it made a sound like RRRRRTT. Nothing came out. Well, I’ll have to fix that for her, I thought.
It’s only a short three-mile trip to the gym and when I got there, I suddenly recalled the conversation Sarah had with her mother the night before. Something about an early shift at her part-time job. Starts at 8:00 a.m.
So I had to take her car back home.
I wasn’t going to shift cars around by that point either. So I set up in our home gym and did some ab work and leg work. My favorite strength-building routine is simple leg dips and lunges with 25-lb. barbells in either hand. It’s amazing how much that single exercise can do to strengthen everything from hip flexors to knee stabilizers. It also works the butt. One could call these the ‘black and white’ exercises of the fitness world. There is nothing glamorous or exotic about them. They rely upon the basics to build strength. Add some weight, bend your knee and stand back up.
One can mix in lunges to stretch and strengthen the hamstrings. Then do side lunges with the weights still in your hands and feel what it does for your knees and glutes. Angle backward at 45 degrees and it accentuates yet another muscle group. Reach toward the ankles with the weights and you get yet another degree of stretching and balance work.
It’s all there in black and white. Simple works best. Even the pro fitness trainers at your local gym have gone back to kettle balls and exercise bands. Back and forth. Up and down. Round and round. Black and white. The yin and yang of exercise is creating positive stress by adding weight or resistance forcing your body to respond.
Black and white
For fun, I mixed in some leg lifts with the exercise ball. In between sets I picked up a book from the shelf in the gym. It’s a biography of the great distance runner Lasse Viren. The book is one of those worshipful hero bios written in the 1980s style about how the Olympian achieved what he did.
I once styled myself after Viren in a number of respects. The chin beard, even my running style and physique resembled that of the Finnish runner.
During my junior year in college, just a year after Viren had once again dominated Montreal by winning the 5000 and 10,000, I ran an indoor two-mile at the University of Lacrosse. With my chin beard and thin blue uniform and gray Luther College shorts, I proceeded with images of Lasse Viren playing through my head. At the mile, I took the lead and never looked back, finishing in 9:30. My coach walked over with some degree of curiosity and said, “Whatever it was that you did to get your head ready for that race, you should keep doing it.”
Those memories play out in black and white. With time the color seems to seep out of your head in certain respects. All that I can recall is the gray fauvism of the race and the wan maroon of the LaCrosse running track. It’s as if our memories get pushed through the Grayscale filter in the Photoshop application.
And that’s okay. There was honor in the use of black and white at one time. Photographers excelled in black and white photography. Ansel Adams, whose work is shown above, was capable of capturing entire universes in black and white.
Newspapers once published all their news in grayscale and halftones. The stories were sometimes long, jumping from page to page, section to section. People took the time to read them because that is what it took to be informed. Print had honor. Even the advertisements were crafted in black and white.
Then along came USA Today. The entire news world got tarted up. Even the Wall Street Journal with its black and white pointillist illustrations succumbed to the drone of color bombing newspapers across the land.
Back then I predicted that newspapers were losing something by trying to be everything to everyone. We now live in an era in which colorful drama and digital titillation washes over us daily. Even the black and white facts of truth no longer seem to have meaning.
This has had a strange effect on how some people perceive reality. The formerly conservative complaint that relativism undermines truth has been abandoned by conservatives and buried under the hunger for power. Even the hard lines of religious conscience have been colored over to convince people that voting for the most colorful candidate is the right thing to do even if they lie for a living.
The Pope himself is left defending those humble words printed in black and white in the Bible. He told the black and white truth in his contention that, “If laws don’t lead people to Jesus, they are obsolete.”
And people hate him for it. They don’t like to be called out for their legalistic ways. As the Catholic Herald recently wrote, “The scholars of the law had forgotten how many times God surprised his people, like when he freed them from slavery in Egypt, he said. They were too wrapped up in their perfect system of laws — “a masterpiece” where everyone knew exactly what he or she was supposed to do; “it was all settled. And they felt very secure there”.
Like the black and white photographs of nature created by Ansel Adams, there is much more to the image we create of God than the shapes we seek to impose on the things we seek to understand. There’s this thing called “nuance,” and it is lost on too many believers in many facets of life.
It all leaves one hankering for a simpler time, does it not? Which is why the clean and clear act of working out may be the only salvation we all have, going forward. The clock doesn’t lie. Nor does the weight machine. But you have to be diligent with the counter in your head that adds up the reps. That’s the real test. Are you capable of being honest with yourself? And if so, does that honesty get applied in the rest of your dealings in the world.
That’s what it all comes down to. Are you being honest with yourself? Are you truly doing the work that needs to be done in these black and white winter months before the first hints of spring break through the dark, wet soil? That’s what will make the difference when you take your show on the road.
It’s all there in black and white.