A few days ago my girlfriend told me about the “lunk alarm”, a gimmick Planet Fitness uses to make its facilities more attractive to those who rarely go to the gym. Marketed as a judgment-free workout zone, Planet Fitness sets this alarm off whenever a patron makes too much noise during their workout; upon repeat transgressions, the gym’s managers will ask these people to leave in order to foster a less intimidating atmosphere — or so the reasoning goes. When she explained this to me I managed to meter my incredulity, but only just so.

The gym I go to has six rooms: a basketball court, an elliptical room, a racquetball court, a room for free weights, one for group exercise, and a resistance training area. For the unindoctrinated, dumbbells and bench presses are free weights, whereas the equipment featuring cables and pulleys lifting stacks of weights vertically fall into the category of resistance training machines. Generally, aspirational gym-goers start with the latter and then work their way up to the former. Thus, Planet Fitness, resultant of their goal to cater to the greatest common denominator, carries many more resistance training machines than free weights, and penalizes anyone who comes to their gym in search of a serious, strenuous workout. One could certainly make the case both for and against this practice or their advocation of resistance training over free weights, but that is neither here nor there.

When I started going to the gym about four years ago, I stayed in the resistance training room for the better part of a year because I felt I was not yet strong enough to go out and lift free weights. I didn’t avoid free weights because I felt intimidated by those who worked out in that room. In fact, the guys out there were some of the nicest I have ever met, and much nicer than those who frequented the other areas of the gym. When I finally worked my way up to curls and bench presses, they often gave me helpful advice that led to both a better workout for me and kept me from hurting myself in the process. The most important thing I got from them, though, they gave me without even knowing it every day I walked into that gym: aspiration.

Every day I came to the gym, walked past the free weights, and saw someone pushing some seven hundred pounds on the leg press, or another with my body weight on each side of the bench press, or still another with a fifty pound dumbbell attached to his waist to make pull-ups harder — seeing that gave me a goal to work towards; watching someone lifting so, so much gave me the extra push I needed to bump my own weights up an extra ten or fifteen pounds in pursuit of him. I knew it would take a long time to get there, but I had a goal to work towards and so I did: I worked and worked and, eventually, began lifting a respectable amount. I would have never reached that point without those “lunk heads” though, and so for their influence on my fitness I am very thankful.

In the context of this blog and the readers this will reach, following other successful writers gives me something to work towards; it helps stay the slip into mediocrity I would have undoubtedly reached had everyone else at my gym been just as fit as I. Just as an aspiring writer would never surround himself with similarly-skilled individuals and still hope to improve his ability to craft words into compelling narratives, it would be equally ridiculous to surround yourself with individuals of equal fitness levels and expect to make any significant progress. You must have a catalyst pushing you further than your comfort zone would traditionally allow, for only through the pursuit of that hard and fast goal will you have any hope of achieving greatness in any aspect of your life.