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Recently, my youngest daughter married Brian, a former BYU football player, who is also a fitness trainer. When I gave my blessing to marry, I had no idea that my life would be turned upside down. Suddenly, everyone in the family wanted to look like Brian, and Planet Fitness became a family “destination.”
Even my wife, Buffie, joined the fitness parade. Do you hate New Years’ resolutions? Hers was to get us both gym passes so we could enjoy “many long years together.” I think she also used the word fun. I have never considered pain and throwing up fun. Who wants to die sick?
Reluctantly, I agreed. At age 62, I watched many of my piers struggle with cancer, diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, and a host of other ailments that are poor rewards for lives well lived.
Buffie escorted me to Planet Fitness in early January. A teenager behind the counter looked me over and asked why I was there. “To get strong,” I announced. She disappeared (maybe to laugh), but soon she returned and shoved an application at me. Five minutes later, I had a gym pass and a number and a plastic thing that I was to hang on my key chain. I was official!
That was the easy part. I surveyed the people running on treadmills and others straining to heft weights, and visions of pain came to mind. Where to start? Was there a kiddie class in a back room?
We called Brian, who had recently been cast as Tarzan in our community theater. I had briefly imagined that I might try out for the part of the ancient orangutan who eats bananas and doles out wisdom all day…and who doesn’t have to swing on a grape vine! Oh, the lure of the stage, the lights, costumes and adoring fans. It was a fleeting dream. For now, the gym was the obstacle.
Brian was kind and encouraging about our desire to become fit. He was the newest member of the family. What else could he say? First he assessed Buffie and me (I’m grateful it didn’t go to YouTube), and he created a light regimen with the promise of no pain and no throwing up. Buffie was elated. She even bought me gym clothes to celebrate. I looked like a long noodle with a meatball stuck in the middle.
Brian started us out with minimum resistance and weight. Stabilize was the word he used. I was amazed that the routine helped me feel better and gave me more energy. Later, as we mastered the first exercises, Brian added more weights and resistance. For the first week, we struggled a little, but soon we became stronger and felt confident with our program. I began to envision myself as a chest-pounding ape rather than the orangutan.
Part of my regimen consisted of three sets of four different arm exercises. After about a month on the same weights, I gathered courage to push myself and add five pounds. Certainly, that amount would not generate the “throw-up factor.” Surprisingly, I was able to handle the increased weight.
Then one day, I learned a lesson. “Five pounds is not very much,” I thought; “but five pounds multiplied by three sets of four exercises of ten repetitions is 600 extra pounds per workout – almost a ton a week!” A scripture came to mind:
Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. (D&C 64:33).
Small things lead to great things!
I used to feel overwhelmed when I contemplated procuring food storage for a family of ten children. Finally, my wife said, “Leave it to me.” So I did. She handles the household budget, so I was sure she was going to ask for more money. But to my surprise, she drew from the bank the same amount as she always had. Using the Church’s literature, she came up with a plan, and every week, she came home from shopping with something extra that she tucked away in our pantry. Within a short period of time, she had accumulated three months’ supply of basic food items, and within a year, she had a year’s supply of foods that could be used in any number of recipes. She also had procured a supply of household items and medicines.
I never thought it could be done, but she did it in three months!
Doing just a little more could apply to any number of goals. A financial expert calculated that paying half your mortgage every two weeks (not bi-monthly, but every two weeks) would reduce the amount of interest you would pay on a 30-year loan by about 25% and cut six years off your loan. What would happen if you paid just $10 more per payment?
What if you were to invest $100 per month in a conservative financial instrument that yielded 5%? In ten years, your nest egg would be worth nearly $16,000.
What if a group of people adopted the goal of collectively doing just a little more?
When our eldest son was a little boy, he would pepper us with questions that made us wonder if he was gifted or insane. (Turns out he was gifted). “How many people would it take to lift the house?” We didn’t have an answer, but obviously there is one.
His question has nagged at me for the last forty years, so I finally Googled it. According to Snippets, the average weight of a house is one ton per square foot. Our house is 3,500 square feet or 7 million pounds. Now I could give my son an answer: If 70,000 people stood around the perimeter of our house and lifted 100 pounds each, they could lift it up. Out of small things proceedeth that which is great!
President Kimball coined a slogan that fired through the Church: “Measure your service and lengthen your stride.” This time I came up with the crazy question: How many strides to walk around the Earth?
So I Googled it. The distance around the world is about 25,000 miles or 132,000,000 feet. The average stride for a man is 2.5 feet. So a man would take 52,800,000 strides to circumvent the globe. But if he were to lengthen his stride by just three inches, he could save 4,800,000 strides. President Kimball was had a point.
What about adding five more minutes to your daily scripture study? That’s 35 more minutes with the Lord a week or nearly 30 more hours a year. What could you learn in thirty hours? I’ve noticed that inspiration often comes at the end of my study, when I have pushed myself a little longer.
What if you added $5 more to your fast offering? In a year, you would have contributed $60 more to bless the poor. Do you know that $60 would fund a micro-loan for a single mother in a third world country and release her from poverty?
Meridian Magazine has about 80,000 daily subscribers in over 220 countries. What if each subscriber added $5 to General Missionary Fund each month? The resulting $400,000 would support 1,000 missionaries.
If each of those missionaries averaged one baptism per month, our combined contribution would help the Church grow by about two wards a month or about four stakes per year.
Or what if each Meridian subscriber added $5 to the Church’s Humanitarian Fund or to Fast Offerings? Collectively, we could contribute almost $5 million in a year. How many people would benefit? Out of small things proceedeth that which is great!
Perhaps we ought to reconsider measuring our service and lengthening our stride. We could become temporally and spiritually independent and healthy, we could better bless the lives of our families, and we could benefit countless people.
In the meantime, I’ll still be going to the gym, adding a little more weight, striding a little longer and a little faster. Not much, mind you, but periodically a little more. And I think Buffie and I will watch Tarzan in the audience. We’ll be the ones on the front row cheering. I’ll be the physically fit old man and she will be the physically fit beautiful redhead. Be sure to come over and say hi.