Quality is not an option.
Quality is not an option.

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 myriad (see what I did there?) 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.

NOTE: If you are tempted to purchase a similar item, it took me about 90 seconds of being in possession of that hand counter to arrive at the decision to disassemble it and remove the Piezo buzzer with a pair of wire cutters. I am much, much happier with the silent version of the device.

When 2020 started to show up on my calendar, it was time to test the theory. Here are my notes as the test progresses.

January 2, 2020: I am fortunate that the gym I frequent is a small, strip-mall style affair bordering an industrial complex and an older suburban neighborhood. Most members are there for the convenience of proximity to work or walking distance from their home. 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.

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

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.

PS - When I get to the office and head into the restroom to take my "dude shower," I discover the 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: 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).

January 20, 2020: 11,000 lbs today (a mild over-compensation for having missed two days in a row). I’m really starting to dig using kettlebells, and I’m trying to figure out how to shift more of that kind of weight work into the routine without going overboard or derailing the forward momentum I have going this month.

January 21, 2020: 10,000 lbs and a brief flirtation with the dumbbell exercises here. Maybe if I keep at it. Or use papier-mâché dumbbells.

I know more about Jack’s prostrate than I really ever wanted to.

January 22, 2020: 12,000 lbs. I made 10,000 before going on the treadmill, and just felt like doing a little more after the treadmill portion was over.

PS - The strip-mall-gym I frequent was very much the senior social center this morning. Pretty sure one older woman in particular was contemplating shiving me for a spot on the treadmills. Also, thanks to an across-the-treadmills conversation between two older gentlemen, I know more about Jack's prostrate than I really ever wanted to.
PPS - Zach Galifianackis, "across the treadmills" is totally available for your next talk show series. Just saying. 

January 23, 2020: 10,000 lbs. I had to do lower weights and higher repetitions to get there, but I got there.

January 24, 2020: 11,000 lbs. I was reminded this morning that the fastest path to feeling unhappy was to have an expectation of others. Free-weights haphazardly scattered all around the gym (and generally poor conduct from one young woman in particular regarding treadmill availability) made what should have been an energizing start to the day somewhat less of one. But I managed to do my thing (and leave the gym in better shape than I found it by simply counting the act of putting some inconsiderate bastard’s weights away as part of my exercise). Maybe tonight I’ll do a little Church Lady “superior dance” before I go to bed.

January 27, 2020: 10,000 lbs. Thought maybe I would be raring to go after two days of rest and recovery but I opted to do 8,000 lbs then the treadmill and then the remain 2,000 lbs after the walking break. Still counts!

January 28, 2020: 10,000 lbs. All in one session and then on to the treadmill.

January 29, 2020: 10,000 lbs. 5,000 then treadmill then another 5,000.

My first notable sign of progress!

January 30, 2020: 11,000 lbs. A positive side note for today: I have included chest presses in almost every workout so far as a way to accrue some of my 10,000 lbs in quantity (for example, 30 fifty pound chest presses would net me 1,500 lbs). I sat down to the chest press today mid workout and started doing my reps and it felt too light. I assumed that I forgot to check the amount of weight before I started and just decided to go ahead an finish my repetitions and then count whatever the weight value was. When I got to the point where I’m usually struggling to do any more, I still felt good, so I kept going thinking that it was because of the lower weight. It was a pleasant surprise to discover when I finished that it was set at my usual weight all along! My first notable sign of progress!

January 31, 2020: 10,000 lbs. Another day of 5,000 then treadmill then 5,000.

January 2020 Total – 170,000

February 3, 2020: 12,000 lbs. 9,000 followed by treadmill, then 3,000.

February 4, 2020: 10,000 lbs.

It doesn’t sound like much but that’s 50% more than my average day.

February 6, 2020: 15,000 lbs. It doesn’t sound like much but that’s 50% more than my average day up to this point. (I even swaggered a little on the treadmill when “Uptown Funk” hit the playlist.)

February 7, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 10,000 lbs followed by 30 minutes treadmill and then 5,000 more lbs. Today’s swagger song: “Boys Wanna Be Her” by Peaches.

February 10, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 8,000 -> treadmill -> 7,000. There was no swagger on a snowy Monday.

Night Sight – Google Pixel 3a

February 11, 2020: 12,000 lbs. 8,000 -> treadmill -> 4,000.

February 12, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 9,000 -> treadmill -> 6,000.

February 13, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 9,000 -> treadmill -> 6,000. Slightly increased weights on some of the exercises.

February 14, 2020: 12,000 lbs. 7,500 -> treadmill -> 4,500.

February 18, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 10,000 -> treadmill -> 5,000.

February 19, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 10,000 -> treadmill -> 5,000.

February 20, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 9,000 -> treadmill -> 6,000.

February 21, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 10,000 -> treadmill -> 5,000.

February 24, 2020: 12,000 lbs. 9,000 -> treadmill -> 3,000.

February 26, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 10,000 -> treadmill -> 5,000.

February 27, 2020: 10,000 lbs. 10,000 -> treadmill.

February 28, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 11,000 -> treadmill -> 4,000. Looking back on February, only 2 of the 16 visits I made to the gym during the month stopped at 10,000 lbs. I am pleased at how quickly my mindset has changed from “work my way up to 10,000 lbs a visit and we’ll see how it feels,” to “at least 10,000 lbs a visit.” Hell, there were even a couple of days this month I was going to call in sick that I wound up toughing it out just because I didn’t want to miss a trip to the gym.

February 2020 Total – 233,000

March 9: 2020: 15,000 lbs. After a 9 day break to recuperate from a cold, the gym is once again my friend.

March 10, 2020: 15,000 lbs. 10,000 -> treadmill -> 5,000.

March 2020 Total – 30,000

March 11, 2020: 0 lbs. Order face masks. Shelter in place, buy groceries from Target via drive up and Whole Foods via Prime Now. Pray for toilet paper.

May 20, 2020: 0 lbs. Face masks ordered in March finally arrive.

May 26, 2020: 0 lbs. Begin sewing “Black Lives Matter” patches on my face masks. Start making in-person trips to the grocery store in the early AM hours.

May 28, 2020: 0 lbs. Successfully sew 1 “Black Lives Matter” patch onto a face mask. Find a friend with a sewing machine.

June 1, 2020: 0 lbs. Receive email informing me that my gym will permanently close.

June 2, 2020: 0 lbs. Discover that Olive Garden has a really good deal for drive up.

June 30, 2020: 0 lbs. Gain 10 lbs.

July 8, 2020: 0 lbs. Go into the yard to pull weeds. Miss a step and take a bounce in the driveway. Break my hip. Spend 4 weeks recovering.

August 8, 2020: 0 lbs. Lose 10 lbs.

August 20, 2020: 0 lbs. Come back to this post to update everything that’s happened since the last gym visit on March 10, 2020. Realize that I will probably never set foot in a gym again. The theory seemed solid. But now there needs to be a new plan.

COVID-19 Total – 0

Running total:

Total Number of Weight Sessions in 2020Total Pounds of Weight Moved in 2020
37 in-gym days
1 home-gym days
32 no-weight days