The Last Three Reps

Anyone who has worked out knows the dilemma of the last few reps. On a set of 25 push-ups it’s those last three that you just don’t want to do. Maybe it’s the last 2 reps on your final set of bench press for the day. Perhaps it’s the last 400 feet at track and field practice where you could sprint but you would rather just run because you’re tried. Maybe more informed people will tell you that those last reps are where you really tear your muscles, allowing them to grow back stronger. But I would venture that if the last three reps are 5% of the total workout, the 95% that precedes them are more important to muscle growth.

My thought is that it’s not about your muscles. Or even about the workout. It’s about life. How often do we give up right before the finish line: We switch jobs right before the promotion was coming. We give up on an old friendship in the 12th inning because we don’t feel like putting in the extra bit of effort to save it. We end a relationship when the honeymoon phase ends, because suddenly what seemed easy seems hard.

Character, when you break it down, is a series of small, consistent decisions that define who we are. The decision to put family first. The decision, like my sister Tara has made, to call each member of her immediate family once a week on a specific day. The decision to always act with integrity. The decision to be present in your interactions. Each character trait is ultimately revealed through a series of everyday actions that start with a choice.

The gym/field/court provide us with an opportunity to prove to ourselves that we are capable of consistency, and commitment to the charted course in the face of life’s hardships. Leaving the gym each time with a sense of accomplishment, and the self-confidence that comes from completing what you set out to do, sets the tone for the rest of your day, and in the long run moves you towards being someone who consistently goes the extra mile in all areas of life. In essence, those last three reps may not change the way you look, but consistently doing them just might change your outlook.

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