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Everybody in the fitness biz talks about hitting plateaus in your workout regimen, times when you don’t seem to be progressing toward your goals and, thus, need to change your routine. I manage to avoid plateaus not by changing my routine, but by refusing to set any goals.

Now, I know this can be a problem — at least I’ve read as much. I mean, why go to all the trouble of working out at the gym if you don’t want to tighten up your butt or break the three-hour barrier in your next marathon — or maybe run a three-hour marathon with a really tight butt.

Anyway, it occurred to me the other day that I am bereft of fitness goals. My butt is just my butt, and I’m really never going to run a marathon. Like any good Minnesotan, all I really want out of this new fitness regimen is the satisfaction of a job well done. Or something like that.

I’m not being evasive here — I like the way I feel after a good workout, and there’s evidence that I’ve dropped a few pounds and built some muscle over the past 16 months, but all I’ve really needed to get me to the gym most days is the knowledge that this stuff is keeping me healthy. For a variety of reasons — not the least of which is my desire to enjoy this world for awhile longer than my father did (he suffered a heart attack at 51 and died of cancer nine years later) — I don’t need a lot more prodding than that.

Besides, any goal I’d set for myself would be pretty arbitrary, wouldn’t it? (Joe Hart discusses arbitrariness and goal-ness here.) I mean, rather than challenging myself to hobble a mile on the treadmill twice a week — which would greatly irritate me (not to mention grind up the faltering meniscus in my left knee) — I could set as a goal pedaling in a leisurely manner three times a week on a stationary bike — an activity recently made more compelling by the little TVs that have been installed between the handgrips.
No pain, no gain, you say? I say: a tiny bit of discomfort, a small and perhaps faintly measurable reward. Or, put another way: no pain doesn’t hurt a bit.

But, if I must set goals, I must set goals. So here are 10 things I’m going to try to accomplish at tonight’s sweat-a-thon:

1. Avoid sudden — or even gradual — cardiac arrest.

2. Wipe the sweat off my face without knocking the glasses off my nose.

3. “Run” for awhile on that elliptical thingy without holding onto the handles (or falling off). See if I can get my heart rate into the mid-120s. Or not.

4. Take time to stretch after “running” on that elliptical thingy. Try not to look like a dork, but also don’t pretend that I know anything about stretching.

5. Work my abs for once. Jeeze.
6. Resist the temptation to roll up my sleeves to expose my rippling biceps while I’m doing curls (ha ha ha ha ha. . . .).

7. Abs. Really. I mean it.

8. Fail. As in lifting to failure — at least some of the time. OK, twice. . . . Once? No, do it twice. . . . Because I said so. . . . Shut up.

9. Work those #@$%&*#@$ abs, you sniveling maggot!
10. Maintain a positive frame of mind.

Unless I’m unable to achieve goal #1, I will report back tomorrow.

Thoughts to share?

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