Cheating

This post will probably rub some people the wrong way, but I’ve got to be honest with you, when most people talk about cheating, I really have no idea what they are talking about. I don’t think I’m ignorant about it, I just don’t think we’re all talking about the same thing.

When I was in Navy Boot Camp, I had a Company Commander who was fairly sadistic when it came to PT. (Physical Training.) Some of my favorites were:

  • “Keep doing pushups until I break a sweat!”
  • “We’re going to be here until you boys raise the temperature of this room five degrees . . . What? We’re up four degrees already? Okay, jumping jacks, begin!
  • “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.”

And with that last one, my definition of cheating was forged. You do whatever it takes to complete your task and better yourself. If your whole strategy was based on cheating, you wouldn’t actually be making anything better, but sometimes cheating makes sense, and sometimes, again, I just don’t know what you’re talking about. Here are a couple of examples that confuse me:

  • Cheating” on your spouse– what part of extra-marital affair makes your life better? Which task are you trying to complete? This actually seems to lead to a very unhealthy lifestyle, so I’m not going to dwell on it, I just thought it deserved a mention.
  • Cheat” Meals– we all have some level of eating disorder, if you wax too analytical, (and I’m not on the path to Sainthood) but I really don’t get how cheat meals contribute to the overall package of health. Let’s say that you’re very well disciplined, and eat only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and wild caught meat 6 days a week, but can’t get through one more day without splurging on junk food, which is often written off as a cheat meal. The benefits of eating clean and exercising are rewards. Following my salivary whims into a downward spiral of pizza, soda, cheetos and honey buns isn’t making me the least bit better, and shouldn’t really be considered cheating in any meaningful way.

The notion of “Cheat Meals” struck me as especially absurd yesterday, Easter Sunday, when it seems perfectly acceptable to indulge in gluttonous affairs with a wide range of foods, all in the name of celebrating a holy day, sometimes written as holiday. It seems like every holiday is an excuse to indulge in secular, dietary sloth. I always feel worse about my mind, body, spirit connection following a day that is supposed to be set aside for spiritual celebration, and I think I’m finally sick of it.

Before anyone accuses me of straddling the moral high horse, let me assure you that I do not believe in morals, but I do believe in actions.

The actions I most believe in are the ones that help us towards our goals. And as my Company Commander so eloquently barked, sometimes these actions can be termed Cheating. As gruff as he was, Navy Boot Camp didn’t really meet my expectations of developing Physical Fitness. Not that I was great at it, but I craved more of it, and the best way to get more of it, at least until he outsmarted a few of us, was to purposely get ourselves in trouble. Failing a bunk or clothing inspection was a sure way to get “dropped,” Navy Boot Camp slang for “pushups.” Talking out of turn was a great way to get to run a few extra laps on the Grinder. (A 1/2 mile concrete square where some of us never got to spend enough time.) Soon enough, he caught onto our little games, and figured out that we were just being smartasses who wanted more PT. Once he figured this out, anytime my clothes weren’t ironed well enough, or my bunk wasn’t made correctly, I would have to stand at attention while everyone else got dropped, or got extra laps on the Grinder. My method quickly became counterproductive, and I had to find new ways to cheat.

There was something even more satisfying about getting yelled at for doing too many pushups, or continuing to run in place after our group runs, but I really couldn’t have gotten to that point without cheating, and having a definite definition of cheating was essential. Here are some examples of what I consider cheating:

  • Squeaking out my last few pushups when I’ve hit my threshold of how many I can do– they aren’t always pretty, and a Personal Trainer might tell me that I’m using bad form to get them, but a little knowledge of form, and what you can get away with without injuring yourself will help you up to the next level.
  • Having a spotter help you with your last few reps. Some people don’t consider this cheating, but it is, and it’s very effective. If you can’t lift the weight, and someone has to help you . . . What do you call it?
  • Supplements– they are so widespread that most people are reluctant to consider them cheating, but you’re adding something to your body through diet that you can’t easily get, so if cheating a little is necessary, go for it. Just don’t cheat yourself out of really understanding what it is you’re cheating with.
  • Medication– Okay, this may seem like a bit of a stretch (unless you’re a goon from the UCI) but certain types of prescribed medication are considered performance enhancing, which is another way to denote cheating. Again, from personal example, I have asthma and love to run, which can be very difficult when I want to run long distances, or lung-splitting sprints. My doctor prescribes to me what he calls a rescue inhaler, which, as the name implies, should be taken to quickly open my lungs at the onset of tightness or difficulty breathing. Well, always the cheater, I’ve figured out that I can take a puff before my run and not struggle with breathing at all during my run. I was torn about this when I first started, thinking that I wasn’t allowing my lungs to strengthen on their own, but what I’ve noticed is that as I pile on the miles and increase my speed, my lungs have been performing better, sometimes without the inhaler, especially on those shorter runs of just a few miles that used to end in heaves. Maybe the effects of the rescue inhaler are cumulative and I’m cheating myself in the long term by not taking the process even more slowly, and building up my lung capacity naturally, but I’m still an experiment in progress, and if I find something that works, I’m sticking to it until it doesn’t. My call.

So, this is my mini-thesis on cheating. What about you? How do you define cheating? Do you agree or disagree with anything here? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s keep the conversation going.

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