I cannot call someone “hard working” knowing only that they read and write. Even if “all night long” is added, I cannot say it - not until I know the focus of all this energy. You don’t call someone hard working who stays up all night long with their girlfriend. No more do I. If the goal is glory I call them ambitious; if it is money, I call them avaricious. If, however, their efforts aim at improving the mind, then - and only then - do I call them hard working. Never praise or blame people on common grounds; look to their judgements exclusively. Because that is the determining factor, which makes everyone’s actions either good or bad. (Epictetus, Discourses, Book IV, 41)Never mind other people, I can’t even judge myself. I don’t know whether I work hard, in the right way, exercising good judgement, or not. That applies to everything not just this fitness jag I write about here - but it certainly applies to fitness. It is not something you can do outside the normal rules of living. You have to think about it in exactly the same way.
The danger with any training regime is that it becomes just that: a routine. You develop habits and go through the motions and then the benefit diminishes. A classic example would be going for runs of about the same distance at about the same pace, all the time; or going to the gym and using the same equipment without any progression or intensity. I am as prone to that error as anybody and so have to consciously remind myself what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and what I hope to achieve. To get benefit you have to concentrate.
With my weight sessions I have an overall aim of trying to increase the strength of shoulders and arms, and increase my core stability. In other words develop the muscles that hold everything in place when you run. Today was 30 minutes, hard enough to make my T-shirt damp, and my muscles feel a bit achey. I hope that is good enough but I would still not claim to have worked hard. If truth be known I did it all more with a sense of duty than a feeling of zest so it is hard to judge whether the session was worth anything at all.
P.S. Away from the scope of this blog, the quote is useful whenever I hear someone justifying huge city salaries and bonuses on the grounds that the people deserve so much because they work hard. Normally I would just get annoyed and splutter but now I can say: “No not hard working you are avaricious. Judgement is the only thing that makes actions good or bad!”