The power of 10,000

Digesting ideas in chunks of three is an everyday occurrence. Search for “the rule of three” in any browser (you probably won’t), and the results will yield applications to photography, writing, mathematics, business, philosophy, and sexual intercourse (OK, you might actually search now).

Attacking ideas in chunks of 10,000 is less commonplace, but it turns out the number 10,000 can be found in many people’s everyday lives.

  • Many languages have a very specific word for 10,000. Myriad, for example is the English translation of a Greek word meaning 10,000.
  • Before Millionaires became a commonplace, 10,000 was the go-to for expressing “a very large number.” (The land of 10,000 lakes, or The $10,000 Pyramid for example.)
  • We have been exposed to the notion of 10,000 steps a day being an important component of a healthy lifestyle for decades at this point.
  • In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, we were given the idea that, to truly become an expert in an area, one should spend at least 10,000 hours practicing it.

So while three seems to be the number for measuring concepts, 10,000 might just be the number to measure self-improvement.

I decided to shoot for moving 10,000 pounds of weight as a measure of a successful trip to the gym.

With that in mind, I recently wondered if there wasn’t a better way to feel motivated while at the gym. I wanted an easy system of measurement that would help lead to physical fitness and personal transformation, but didn’t require mental contortions in addition to physical ones. After reading various articles about different approaches to exercise, I decided to just shoot for moving 10,000 pounds of weight as a measure of a successful trip to the gym.

So by way of example:

40 “bend and reach” exercises (right hand, left toes, left hand, right toes)5 lbs credit per toe touch40 x 5 = 200
40 barbell curlsUnit of weight being curled. 15 lbs, for example.40 * 15 = 600
40 chest pressesUnit of weight being pressed. 50 lbs, for example.40 * 50 = 2,000
10 pull upsWeight being lifted (assisted pull-ups for me, which offset my weight by 150 lbs).10 * 50 = 500
40 pull downsUnit of weight being pulled. 25 lbs, for example.40 * 25 = 1,000
Total up to this point4,300

I figured that some days I would do low weights with high repetitions, some days I would do more weight and fewer repetitions, and on days where I wanted to burn my way to 10,000 quickly I could shoot for legs or strength. The idea originally occurred to me just before the Thanksgiving holiday, but I waited until after Christmas to put it into practice (I generally take Thanksgiving through Christmas off, diet and workout-wise, just to avoid guilt and stress).

To get ready to put the plan into place, I purchased a simple hand counter. To avoid carpal thumb syndrome, I planned to just count up by 1 on it for every 100 lbs.

When 2020 started to show up on my calendar, it was time to test the theory.

Running total:

Total Number of Weight Sessions in 2020Total Pounds of Weight Moved in 2020
8 in gym days, 1 home gym days, 8 no weight days75,000

January 2, 2020: I am fortunate that the gym I frequent is a small, strip-mall style affair in an industrial complex. Most members are there for the convenience of proximity to work. As such, on the day after New Year’s Day (that magical time when resolvers are gonna resolve), I am one of only three people occupying the space in the early AM. I decide to just shoot for 5,000 lbs today, and to work my way up to 10,000 over time. I reach the 5,000 threshold fairly easily doing lots or repetitions of low weight.

January 3, 2020: My belief that my gym might be immune to the “new year’s bump” is tested by arriving early in the morning to find a contingent of young to middle-aged women working out in the space. It’s only a total of nine of us, but that’s 200% more than I usually see. Not one for wearing workout gear, I am working out in slacks (if you don’t own a pair of these, then you’re not allowed to judge; they’re awesome for the gym) and an under-armor style running sweater. I am normally not self-conscious at the gym, but it really feels like some of these girls are staring at me. I assume it’s because of my choice of attire, or my unruly beard, or some of the boomer angst that’s so popular at the moment. I shoot for 6,000 lbs today. Again, I make the number pretty easily by simply adding some bench presses to the routine I followed the day prior. I leave feeling like this is going to be a workable plan, and vaguely suspicious that I was on somebody’s TikTok or Snapchat feed.

I did the entire hour’s workout on the weights / treadmill with my fly open

PS – When I get to the office and head into the restroom to take my “dude shower,” I discover probable reason I was feeling the extra eyes at the gym. I did the entire hour’s workout on the weights / treadmill with my fly open.

January 7, 2020: After a three day break, I up the weight goal by another 1,000 lbs for a total of 7,000 lbs. by carrying a 50 lb free weight in each hand around the gym 10 times. I notice that the gym is back down to the “regulars.” Reflexively, I check my fly. It is zipped.

January 8, 2020: Just one other person sharing the gym with me at 6:35 AM. Today’s goal was 8,000 lbs, and I met it by doing 7,000 lbs of work before the treadmill and 1,000 lbs of work after the treadmill. This is the first time that I have had to do more than I actually felt like doing to meet my goal.

January 13, 2020: Upped the total to 9,000 lbs. I counted the time shoveling the driveway this morning as 300 lbs. I don’t feel like that was cheating, at all.

January 14, 2020: 10,000 lbs! It seems to be an attainable goal at my fitness level, but I did have to break the workout into 8,000 lbs before the treadmill and 2,000 lbs after.

January 15, 2020: 6:30 AM. 10,000 lbs two days in a row! I wound up doing 6,000 lbs pre-treadmill, and 4,000 lbs post-treadmill.

I am really not making the best first (or second) impression.

January 16, 2020: Another day, another 10,000 lbs! An added bonus of a brisk walk from the gym to my workplace with a “feels like” temperature of -20 F.

PS – That group of women from the 3rd was back in the gym this morning. I instinctively grabbed my crotch to check my fly when I walked in and saw them. I am really not making the best first (or second) impression.

January 17, 2020: Because of a predicted snow storm, today was a work@home day. I used my at home sit-up bench, a 20 lb kettlebell, and two 20 lb dumbbells to get to 10,000 lbs today. Since getting to 10,000 lbs in 20 lb increments means 500 repetitions, I really tried to get as much credit from sit-ups as I could (translation: sore belly and sore shoulders tomorrow).

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