_This week features a guest post by one of my oldest friends. Noah Soltau is a PhD. candidate in Applied Linguistics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I fenced with him as a teenager at The Baylor School and we have stayed in touch based on a mutual interest in physical fitness, bacon, and beautiful implements of unspeakable violence. I’ve been on an athletic team, or participating in organized sport, for the last 17 years of my life. That is and should be meaningless to you. I have a brown belt in jujitsu. That is and should be meaningless to you. I ran a half marathon on my own imitative and I own and regularly use one single, solitary, 35 lb. kettle bell.

It’s that last bit that’s important. And this is why: you probably don’t know me. In fact, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that only Coach Stevo knows me. That is also irrelevant. What is relevant is that the things of which I am most proud, I did on my own.

I was at the dojo last night, and it was brutal. I had been sick for two weeks straight, and had been either out of town or otherwise engaged (birthday celebration) for the greater part of October. I had not been working out, and I did not feel like a brown belt. My quads burned, my knees hurt, and I was seeing spots. And do you know why? Because I let myself down. Because I didn’t keep up with my training. Now, “I” appears seven times in the preceding paragraph, because that is who is responsible for my fitness or lack thereof. Jillian cannot give you a six-pack. Watching Pay-per-View MMA fights does not make you a fighter, with the attendant musculature. You are responsible for your own body. Not me, not Coach Stevo, and not some airbrushed hipster on a DVD.

Last week Coach Stevo posted, “exercise is like buying a camera. Time-consuming, needlessly complex, and fraught with people on the internet who think they know better than you.”

I’d like to amend that: Like photography, exercise is best done by yourself, filled with trial and error, and without the help of hipster gurus. Do your push-ups, like they should be done. Do your squats, all of them. Form is more important than reps or the weight attached to them. And only you know if you’re keeping faith with that. You will fall off the wagon, and you will be responsible for that. It is also your responsibility to get back on, and get better. It’s your body. Be true to it.