Here is a true story ripped directly from the pages of real life: at the gym, on a crowded week night, there was some dude, just as proud as he could be, doing yoga in front of the weight rack. The weight rack that I needed to use. Stone-cold down on one knee, neck twisted, hand aloft, in the "Can You Believe I'm Actually Doing This Right Here" pose. Can you believe this dude? You know?

And yet. When he was done with his ostentatious pose in front of the mirror that he was making sure that everyone could see, he stood up and went to the rack and power cleaned more than I can. What kind of fuckery is this?

I mean, sure, he was bigger than me, and I'm recovering from an injury at the moment* (*Fitness Excuses: have them), but it's hardly a slam dunk crush-your-fucking-face slamdown comment to (in my imagination) tap the dude on the shoulder and say, "I could totally lift more than you on a relative pound-for-pound bodyweight basis assuming I were in perfect health, which I'm not. Pussy."

No, it won't work. It would only work if the dude was doing all his yoga poses, and whatever, with his iPhone strapped onto his arm in "workout style," that's right, he also had that, of course (I'm not even going to get into that. Number one, do you need to take a lot of calls while you're doing power cleans? Number two, oh, you want to listen to music, have you ever heard of maybe something a little smaller than a whole freaking iPhone impeding your whole arm you lunatic??? Why not just strap a boombox on your arm while you're at it??? Number three you don't need that. I'm not even going to get into it), and then he gets up to do the power clean and he's power cleaning, like, a twig with a sprig of mint on each end instead of a weight plate, and then he fails at that, and right then I just stride over like, "Hey buddy, maybe do a little less ostentatious yoga posing and a little more iron pumping around here, eh?" And then we both chuckle because I've really opened his eyes to some useful new things.

But what really happened, in this atrocious real life example of injustice, was this dude just totally committed an outrage against hardcore decency—and I'm not talking about doing yoga per se, yoga psychos, I'm talking about doing showoff yoga poses in the middle of the weightlifting area of a crowded gym in the place where I want to be, specifically—and then also turned out to be more hardcore than me, ruining the quiet monologue of superiority that usually runs through my head to drown out all the god damn techno music that plays at my gym endlessly, in just another of the many trials and tribulations through which we all must walk on the rocky path to hardcore destiny. The sort of unsettling experience which can shake one to one's very core, as you can no doubt imagine. When faced with such humbling blows to our very worldview—societal collapses, deaths of close mentors, dudes doing bullshit yoga poses immediately followed by heavy power clean sets—we must turn the shock and pain, yogajudolike, into a reminder to strengthen ourselves. Spiritually that is! (Not physically.) (Although we won't neglect that either.)

Fitness is not just about turning people into monomaniacal assholes who you don't want to be stuck alone with at parties lest they start talking about their "popular internet fitness column"—it's also about making us humble. To truly excel, one must do the same thing that my cursory understanding of Buddhism leads me to believe those great philosophers of yore (the past) would have us do: erase our egos. For only by erasing our egos and learning to keep our thoughts within our selves, rather than on the asshole next to us doing some crazy yoga poses like a lunatic peacock, may we advance past the stage of competition into the stage of self-realization.

Sound like some crazy new-age mumbo-jumbo? Well, what the hell do you know? Nobody even likes you. This is the truth: the road to hardcoreness does not pass through anyone but yourself. You cannot compare yourself to the big roid guy over there. You cannot compare yourself to the skinny model on the elliptical over there. You cannot compare yourself to the psycho ultramarathoner, or the professional MMA fighter, or to your twin brother who was always just a tiny bit stronger than you and has always lorded that over you. Fuck you, Brad. No! This is the road of spiritual destruction. It leads only to envy, resentment, despair, and probable lower back injury. You must. Stop. Comparing yourself. To everyone. In the stupid gym. And elsewhere.

For many of us this is the most difficult task of all. More difficult, even, than the final week of Super Squats. We use our ego for motivation; we use our various little superiorities to drive us forward; without that ego propeller, we feel adrift, unmotivated, and unrewarded. Yet we must learn to swallow that ego, like a Clif Bar. To slowly allow it to dissolve, like a scoop of NO-Xplode. And to forsake it forever, like the Smith machine. For all of us will, sooner or later, meet our match. But that is not a sign for us to give up. It is a sign for us to recognize that we are only responsible for ourselves, and that we are not diminished by saluting the accomplishments of another. Even if he is doing yoga poses by the weight rack.

His outfit was dorky too, which does not matter.

[Photo: Getty]