07/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Balancing Fitness with "Inner Strength"

If you didn't know already, I've embarked upon a personal health odyssey (misadventure?) as prescribed in a book my friend recommended. It started with a two-week detox. Then I ate bread that tasted better than anything ever. Now we're working out for real. Like at a gym.

My abs are sore, I've spent 90 minutes (and counting) in a gym membership office this week and at least one co-worker probably thinks I'm a jerk for working out today instead of hitting the office bowling night. Look: I love bowling. And I'm totally competitive.

Nobody'll believe me tomorrow, but I would've housed those guys if I showed up, so it's probably for the best I couldn't make it. I've even got a trick shot -- I've nailed a strike three or four times in my life in an exotic and dangerous-looking behind-the-back, between-the-legs maneuver that I invented.

I even thought I might make it. I raced home on the trusty-ish F train to hit the gym with my partners in this health ordeal -- roommate Ballard and his girlfriend, Kelsey -- but they were trapped having a nice time on the Staten Island Ferry, which I had once recommended to them as the cheapest bar in New York. Which it isn't. But it's gotta be the cheapest floating bar in New York.

We started hitting the gym on Monday, and had no shortage of problems getting our membership, despite having all the necessary paperwork, including little slips from the Coop that score us a discount. There was some foul-up with Ballard's previous account, and since I was signing up with him on a Two-Adult-Family account, we were both hung up. We got in somehow that night and worked mostly upper-body push muscles and the biceps, which I hadn't used in a non-sandwich context since playing roller hockey in high school, around the turn of the century.

In any case, it meant waiting around and reflecting, which it turns out is a part of this whole thing.

The program isn't meant just to gain muscle or lose weight or any of that. Sure, it's a major component -- the major component. The book we're reading, though, Strength For Life, also makes mention of maybe cheesily-named "inner strength" goals. Those are the focus for me, and they're kind of why not going bowling became an actual conflict in my head.

We're meant to pick two strength goals -- lift x amount of weight by the end of 12 weeks, or lose a pant size or something like that. Honestly, on those, I'm lost. I don't have any strength training experience, so I don't even know what a realistic goal is. I'll have to judge it based on the first week's work, but for now I have written in "lift mid-size automobile overhead twice" for one of them and the second one I have written in Portuguese because I don't know Portuguese so it could really be anything for all I know, and that leaves me a lot of wiggle room on the second goal, in case lifting an automobile is difficult.

Those inner strength goals, though, I knew before we'd even read the book. And I've got three of them.

1) Discipline. To successfully execute the program. I've never been a real by-the-book person. I don't like following rules or filling quotas or anything, but it's certainly a useful skill to have, so I really want to nail this one -- I want to practice the discipline of it, because it really helps to clear the mind. It's similar to another, substantially nerdier life-altering training book I've read, called Getting Things Done. So, uh: No bowling when it would bump a workout. Sorry, team.

2) Organization. That leads sort of nicely into the next goal, which is to be more organized mentally. That's a big goal. I'm a little spacey, which I think contributes to creativity, but I also drove my car into the side of a bus once and more frequently than is called for end up on a train going the wrong way, so I figure there's room for healthy improvement.

3) Finance. On a much more material level, I've got a savings goal. I have my magic number and I need to save that much money by the end of the 12 weeks. It's small enough that it's mathematically possible, but high enough that I might just have to sell a thing or two between here and there to make it. I am currently planning to sell my roommate if necessary. He is useful and talented and very helpful in the motivation for this whole thing, so if I can unload him, I can get a couple of dollars and finally relax a minute. The bidding starts at whatever.

So that's where we are: sore abs, full schedule, high hopes. Halfway through Week One.