I found the following post sitting in my saved drafts. I had written it well over a year ago, but for some reason never posted it. I want to share it today, though, because I feel it serves as a nice reminder.
Yesterday, I went to the track to get in a workout – third one of the week, first in quite awhile. As I was going around the track in my walk/run routine, I began to think about why I do this whole ‘working out’ thing anyway. Because let’s not start by sugar-coating it – it’s never been a truly consistent part of my life.
I’ve always had an on-again, off-again relationship with exercise. It’s not for lack of enjoyment – I really do enjoy it, once I actually get moving, for all the discomfort it might bestow sometimes. The domino affect usually starts with missing a few days or starting to talk myself out of workouts because this event was going on or work was just too draining or I have to get other things accomplished today. Then once again, I have fallen out of the good pattern I was building, and find myself starting all over again months later.
But why do I keep coming back to it? For all the trouble I’ve given the effort, why haven’t I just walked away from it completely? Called it a lost cause, never to return? Maybe it’s because I’ve never been truly doing it for the right reasons. As I’m afraid it is for so many, it seems ultimately my end game has always been to perfect my body image – to have those toned arms or those rock hard abs, so that I might walk around confidently in a sundress or a swimsuit. Unintentionally or not, my purpose was to feed into my vanity.
So yesterday as I was going around, I decided it was time create a new list of reasons why I was doing this. Why to keep coming back.
1) The biggest reason I was here today was actually because of my bow. A few weeks ago, I was target practicing with my bow. Now, because I love it so much, I tend to push past the weakness until my shots just become rediculously inaccurate. But I found that my muscles were getting tired after only a few rounds of shooting. And this was not okay. The same thing happened while target practicing with the rifle last weekend.
We are hopefully going to give the Lake Superior Hiking Trail another go next year. I don’t want the fact that I’m out of shape to prevent me from enjoying the experience.
I don’t want a lack of physical fitness to ever be what’s holding me back when doing activities I enjoy most.
2) Physical activity clears out the mental pipes. It refocuses pent up energy/anxiety somewhere else. It brushes off those endorphins. I find myself approaching things more calmly and more focused after a workout.
My sanity appreciates it.
3) Setting physical fitness goals might be one of the best ways to re-teach yourself how to take on and overcome challenges through perseverance and hard work. The society we are emersed in is so focused on the instant – instant results, instant gratification. If we can’t immediately get what we want, we flit on to the next, maintain the attention span of a fruit fly. Setting fitness goals defies that, because there is no way to the top other than good old hard work and doing the time.
I’m always in need of a lesson in patience and perseverance.
At the time I had written that, I was struggling with exercise. I think everyone who makes a decision to get into a fitness routine goes through it. Often multiple times. But I reflect on this today and see where I have come since then. I am nine months strong into this exercise commitment. In my past habits, I would make it a few months at best, before talking myself out of it. This isn’t to say I don’t have my moments of struggle, moments where the couch is just too comfortable, the chip bag too full, or I’m just too spent after a long day at work. So what changed? How have I not let these things beat me like they have so many times before?
As I am starting to appreciate in all areas of life, everything comes down to how you chose to direct your way of thinking. I found that once I shifted my focus from the sole purpose of trying to achieve the “perfect body” to becoming more strong, more energetic, more active, more healthy, I suddenly saw my potential much more clearly. Automatically these goals were more attainable than the ever-receding horizon that was the “perfect body”. I think this focus shift also puts you back in control of your own confidence, instead of leaving it in the hands of strangers who may or may not be acting your judge. This is huge.
“We get so worried about being pretty. Let’s be pretty kind. Pretty funny. Pretty smart. Pretty strong.”
Another thing I’ve learned to do is to let myself off the hook. Something that has helped me stay the path is to designate my workout days and rest days ahead of time, as well as what sort of workout I will be focusing on a given day. But life does happen. Some weeks don’t go exactly as planned. Sometimes I miss a workout. Sometimes I miss a stretch of workouts. There was one week recently where I was in such a workout funk that I had forced myself to just stop and take the rest of the week off. I needed a minute to regroup myself and get my goals back in sight. And then I began again Monday morning. And it worked. Unlike before, I try not to sit and beat myself up for time lost or less than stellar workouts. I’ve learned to focus on giving my all when at all possible, but to understand the reality that bad days are going to come around. Simply see them for what they are, but then don’t forget to move on. Don’t give up.
I want to share this all with you not in any way to toot my own horn, but in hopes that it serves as just a bit of inspiration or motivation in whatever area of your life you may be struggling in (not just fitness related). Hopefully it’s a small way to pay-it-forward from others who have served as the same motivation for me.
In closing, I just want to touch on that whole idea of perfection. I recently finished the book, The Magnolia Story, by Joanna and Chip Gaines (of one of my favorite shows, Fixer Upper). I really look up to these two, in how they keep their marriage and how they lead their lives. This passage from the book where Joanna talks about letting go of the image of perfect really struck a chord with me:
“I could go in there and yell, ruining there little moment and then spend another hour of my life trying to clean up the mess they’d made. Or I could choose to let it go. I could go play with my kids and maybe get a chance to share in that laughter right along with them… I realized that my determination to make things perfect meant I was chasing an empty obsession all day long. Nothing was ever going to be perfect the way I envisioned it in the past. Did I want to keep spending my energy on that effort, or did I want to step out of that obsession and to enjoy my kids, maybe allowing myself to get messy right along with them in the process?
Joanna Gaines, The Magnolia Story
I need this reminder more than anyone, but in this life we’re living, don’t forget to live. It’s okay to want to make your surroundings beautiful or to make delicious food or to have a strong body or whatever makes you happy. But don’t let it consume you to the point that it’s at the expense of losing precious quality time with your family and friends. Take time every now and then to reevaluate your priorities and re-balance your life. In the book, Joanna talks about how she had to learn not to just to create beautiful homes, but how to, at the same time, create usable and enriching environments for those living in them as well. Strive to create both beauty and purpose in whatever you are trying to achieve. I believe in that lies more wholesome satisfaction than any attempt at insta-perfection every will.