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They were an offensive juggernaut…truly a force to be reckoned with. Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen had career years and came to be known as the “MV3”. If “MV4” had a more harmonic ring to it, Reggie Sanders and his 22 jacks might have been included as well.

It was a team that popped off for 214 long balls (a slugging 2011 team hit only 162), and four of the rotation’s starters had at least 15 wins. Jason Isringhausen (47 saves) proved to be a filthier backend stopper than Erik Everhard.

Yes, the 2004 Saint Louis Cardinals were legit. And they were poised to bring Saint Louis a 10th World Series crown after a lengthy layover that had spanned over two decades.
 
For reasons I don’t understand – insecurities of my own, I suppose – I have always enjoyed dramatic challenges of self-improvement. That fall, as the Cardinals rolled towards 105 wins, I decided that as a karmic offering to the baseball gods I would refrain from alcoholic beverages for the entire duration of the postseason.

This lasted about an inning and a third, as I happened to hustle some tickets down by the ballpark and proceeded to indulge heavily as the Cards bludgeoned the Dodgers in Game 1 of the postseason.

This apparently displeased the baseball gods and, after an epic NLCS against Houston, they collapsed against the Red Sox, gifting an anticlimactic Fall Classic to Boston in embarrassing fashion, 4-0.

They were too damn good to deserve such a fate. I blamed myself.

In 2005, I attempted abstinence for the month of January and succeeded, but sports deities are not easily impressed. The Astros beat the Cards in that year’s NLCS to advance to the World Series, getting swept by yet another Sox squad rabid for a title. 

That’s when I knew I had to go all in in 2006. Drinking wasn’t necessarily a problem for me as much as it had become a costly, less-than-healthy habit. I was a beer-guzzling pool shooter trying to balance parenthood with the recreational activities available to a guy in his early-to-mid twenties, and one with an ever-increasing desire to be healthy and fit.

It was the habits. I felt in me the need to create better ones.

I succeeded this time and the Cardinals won their 10th World Series. The baseball gods were pleased. When it was all said and done, I didn’t drink a drop for nearly 4 ½ years.

I’m obviously being facetious about my role in baseball history, but, again, for reasons I don’t understand, this particular lifestyle change resulted in the enhancement of my quality of life. Not to mention the quality of my workouts, friendships, relationships and parental aptitude.

My diet also improved. As it turned out, my affinity for a chicken ring meal with cheese on the side of the fries plus two jalapeño cheeseburgers had more to do with being drunk than it did the quality of White Castle food.

Who knew?

My experiment isn’t for everyone, but there is a reason gyms make fat stacks in January and February (even more over the remaining months as they continue debiting the accounts of members who vanish back into lethargy by March). The New Year is a great time to identify a personal flaw and to conquer it.

The real beauty in doing so has more to do with exercising your will than it does anything else. Defeat one bad beast of a habit and suddenly you know can do so.

Wrap your brain around that for a moment…the thought of being able to make a personal change for the better whenever you want simply because you want to. 

Sadly, many never learn to do this and potentially life-changing resolutions remain like apparitions...daunting, overwhelming and earmarked for failure. You start believing you are incapable of the changes you want to make. The whole process becomes ”unrealistic” and your practice of excuse-making gets stronger instead. Before you know it, you give up on personal growth as a whole without fully considering the consequences.

And then you suffer those consequences with regret.

Fuck that. 

This year I’m tackling a number of things. Some I’m just trying to fine tune – cutting out the Black & Mild cigars and energy drinks for good…stepping up my cardio routine a bit – but the watershed event is going to be the subtraction of fast food as option.

That’s right. Zero fast food for 2012. No tacos dipped in creamy buttermilk ranch sauce. No golden fries dipped into tiny, serene ponds of processed cheese food.

My mouth waters even as I write this column.

But I will not falter because I have learned that my will is my own. And I learned this through a single, once seemingly impossible exercise of it.

Take it for what it's worth.  

--

J. Adams is a writer and certified personal trainer. Follow him on Twitter @Intangiball or send your questions, comments or smartass retorts to him via email at justin@intangiball.com  

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Chris Reed
# Chris Reed
Monday, January 09, 2012 5:56 PM
Me lady turned me on to a smartphone app that helps me track my nutritional intake and balance it with my exercise output without having to put pen to paper every couple hours of the day (because with me, that shit would never happen). It's been a real eye-opener, and motivated me to make some changes. Now I'm not going to blow smoke up your ass and say I don't still drink beer or eat food I should be staying away from. But I'm much more conscious of what I'm shoveling into my pie hole now, especially the amounts. And I think ahead when ordering out, too...that taco salad I want to have for lunch may be one of my favorite foods ever, but maybe I'll scale it back so later on I don't notice I'm already way over my calorie goal for the day and have to eat only celery for dinner.
J. Adams
# J. Adams
Monday, January 09, 2012 9:14 PM
Ha Yeah, man..it's all about balance. Which I for one tend to suck at. If I don't occasionally rock the boat, violently shake up my routines and create some new habits from time to time, I tend to develop poor habits. Because, let's face it, most of the stuff that is awesome poses serious health risks.

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