To be perfectly transparent, I'm guilty of it myself with certain things in my life. I know when you come here every week and you read my column, and think "I should really do this," that you probably won't.
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I've heard many times "I love your column, I read it every week. I don't do what it says, but I read it ...", and I would usually just laugh and keep it moving. But the reality of not doing it personally hit home recently. If you only read one of my columns this year, please take this one to heart.
Growing up, my older cousin, Carlton Gaines, was a major influence on me. I looked up to him like a big brother, more than a cousin. He was a tremendous athlete, and excelled in track and field, and especially football, which landed him a scholarship to James Madison University.
He was heavily involved in high school clubs and student government, and was very social, making friends wherever he went. His room was decorated with various medals and trophies that he'd won, and I remember always wanting trophies because he had trophies. As I began to compete in activities from drum corps, wrestling and bodybuilding, the first person I wanted to brag to about my achievements was guess who? I always called Carlton first. I wanted him to see that I was a winner just like him.
When I began my fitness career as an adult, I remember he came to me one day and said that he wanted to get into better shape, as he had fallen out of condition because of the usual reasons why men typically do: work and family, and civic duties. I was excited. The student got to become the teacher.
I got him a three-week pass to the club I was working at, and I designed a program for him to follow three days a week, a good start. He came to the gym once after I saw him that first time.
For the next several years I teasingly reminded him pretty frequently that he "punked out" on me, and he was now my Jedi Padawan (he was a big "Star Wars" fan). I pointed to the paunch he had developed as a result of not exercising, and kept threatening to revoke his letterman's jacket if he didn't get back to the gym soon. It was always friendly teasing, but I really wanted him to get back on track, maybe we could train together and hang out like we used to. "One of these days" was usually his response.
It wasn't to be.
A few years ago, Carlton suffered a devastating heart attack that left him hospitalized, severely weakened for an extended period of time. I was shocked to hear that this man who had always been such a strong person in my life was left in this condition.
When he finally began to regain his strength, and went back to work, I called him. I asked him if he was ready to start taking care of himself, and prevent as best he could another event like this from happening again. He told me "one of these days."
As time went by, he started working for a major food service group, and was doing well as was the norm for him because he was a very focused, hard-working person. He got busier and busier, and when that happens to many people, priorities beginning to shift toward doing more and less on taking care of self.
It all came to a head about two weeks ago when Carlton had a massive heart attack while eating dinner. This time it claimed his brilliant life. It took my cousin, my brother, my friend and mentor. He was 46. I love him and I'll always miss him.
It's time to get serious about your health. It's time to stop saying "I'll do it when I have time" and make time.
Losing someone is never easy. Get up earlier, throw your TV out of the window, say no to things that don't really matter. Take care of you — today. Don't fall into the trap of tomorrow.
Take control of your time, your physical condition and your life. People love you and want you to be around for a long time. I need you around to keep reading my columns and help me keep my job.
In 2013, commit to making this the year you do whatever you have to get your life in order beginning with your health. Eat the right food, train hard and get good quality sleep.
Chad Smith is a Hagerstown personal trainer and co-owner of Home Team Fitness LLC. Go to www.hometeamfitness.net for more information.