This is the first article that I have put out here, the first of many, I hope. I’m not seeking thousands of readers or followers, though I do hope those who chose to read what I post can receive some encouragement, direction, or even just relate to it somehow. This is just an unloading of thoughts and an offering of insights that I’ve managed to glean from a variety of sources and experiences in recent years, especially concerning fitness and overall health.
For this first expose of my point of view, I want to talk about why we should even bother to work on our personal fitness. I mean, it is important, right? Is it worth it? Denying yourself foods that you enjoy, when life is so short as it is? The extra drain on your time and energy, and the hassle of going to the gym several times a week, just to push through workouts that you seldom “feel” like doing? Ok, obviously, I do think it’s worth it. I’m a personal trainer, what kind of PT would I be if I didn’t tell people that it’s all worth it? Probably one with no clients, to begin with. But again, why? Why is it worth it to you? Clearly, there are many common reasons, reasons that I’ve heard from people sitting across from me in a fitness consultation over and over again. There are the people that want to improve their fitness level because they NEED to improve their health. This group has been told by their doctor that they need to lower their blood pressure, or they are recovering from surgery. Maybe they are finding their way back to a new normal after a stroke, or some other traumatic medical event. Many chronic conditions can be fought by improving one’s physical fitness. It’s pretty obvious why fitness is important if you find yourself in one of these groups, though that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to stay motivated every day. If you’ve been told that your health is less than ideal, if you’ve suffered an injury and are faced with fighting your way back to where you once were, or if that injury or chronic condition is forcing you to realize that you may never be able to “go back” to the way things used to be; you know how discouraging that is. It’s fantastically easier to accept the new normal, rather than “start over”. Motivation is super hard to find when you get hit with such a setback, especially when they just keep coming. Sometimes I think people give up out of spite. Hear me out, maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe when this happens, we are trying to give the big ‘I’ll show you’ to God or the Universe, whomever or whatever seems to have it out for us. Or maybe it’s aimed at our family, friends, co-workers, and loose acquaintances that have an opinion about what we could or should be doing to improve our situation. It’s amazing how many health experts you find out you know when you experience a health crisis, or even when you just fall off the fitness wagon for a while. Oh boy, I seem to have left behind my main point. Why? Like I said, if you have a medical reason for needing to improve your fitness level, the ‘why’ is pretty obvious. Though, honestly, is anyone still unaware that a healthy diet and exercise could potentially add years to your life? If a few hours in the gym, and a few more in the kitchen every week, could mean a few more years with family and loved ones? I’ll take that trade.
For some of us, there can be some strong emotions attached to this question of ‘why’. Actually, I’d say that a tragically large majority of people are trying to get fitter because there is something or things that they don’t like about themselves. What’s sad, is that most of this unhappiness that people feel about their bodies comes from comparing themselves to celebrities, influencers, and fitness professionals that lie to them. Never mind that much of what you see is the result of photoshop or surgery, it’s the lies being passed around the fitness industry that most disturb me. If a PT is claiming to have the revolutionary new formula for success, with their own secret ingredients of course, STAY CLEAR! There is no magic formula! These are the people that will try to sell you on an easy-to-follow program that promises to change your life in a few months and get you looking like them. But they won’t tell you about all the grueling hours they’ve put in at the gym, the insanely restrictive diets they follow, or whether they are doing it naturally. This is a subject I want to talk a lot more about, but it will need to wait for another time. Suffice to say, comparing yourself to other people is not healthy or beneficial. Maybe you’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship. That doesn’t necessarily have to mean a romantic relationship. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who tear others down and make them feel stupid, unattractive or inadequate in some way. It’s a sad fact that it is human nature to try and knock people down in order to make ourselves feel better. What a destructive way to deal with our insecurities! Some people do this more habitually than others, I’m sure we all know someone like that.
The point I’m driving at is this: If the reason for improving your fitness is rooted in anyone else’s opinion, expectations, or standards, it’s unhealthy. It’s not a good ‘Why’. If you’re thinking: Ahhh, well that was anti-climactic. He’s just saying the obvious, that I should only do it for myself. I’ll say: Yep, your absolutely right. And I’m saying it because it’s a very under-rated and little contemplated truth. No matter how common or obvious it also is. But I do think there are a few layers to this. Even on this high road of self-love and self-motivation, not all ‘Whys’ are the same. We’ve covered reasons such as living longer, being healthier, and moving easier. I’m also assuming that you are not completely unfamiliar with the idea that exercise can aid in the fight against depression. Hard as it is to get that ball rolling, it can have a huge impact. Though, I’m not claiming exercise is a cure for depression, I do believe it is one tool that shouldn’t be ignored. Then, there is an idea that I have personally seen the truth of, I have felt it, and I live by it. A body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion stays in motion. This is very true in the physical sense. When we humans stop moving for a significant amount of time, our health starts to decay pretty quickly. If, for some reason, we are restricted to absolute bed rest, changes come on quick. We soon start losing muscle mass, strength and endurance. Circulation is affected, blood pressure can spike, and bones will even weaken over time. These things happen to us to some degree when we move less too, not just during complete bed rest. Injuries do not improve without movement, physicians have learned, the sooner the better. And, I have no doubt in my mind, if you want to still be moving freely later in life, you should be actively moving now. That being said, this principle of movement is true in a less tangible way as well. What goals do you have? Whether they are fitness, career or life goals, is even getting started daunting? Do you often procrastinate projects, from the mundane task to the radical ways that you want to reshape yourself and your life? I’ll ask this question, but I know how it feels, so I already know the answer. Is it because that first step is truly that hard to take? It is. And sometimes the next few are too. It is incredibly hard to take those life-altering first steps, even when you have already worked it all out in your mind and you know that it’s exactly what you want to do. Sometimes it’s just as hard to get yourself up off the couch to do something productive. Because a body at rest stays at rest. So, once you are moving, it gets easier to move. And as true as this is for your body and exercise, it is equally as true in every other aspect of your life. You want to feel less tired and more motivated? Your sick of feeling down and in a rut; you want to feel more alive and excited about life again? Become the kind of person that moves. Become the person that learns, grows, and does things worthwhile for themselves and others. Pick a goal to strive for, any goal, for the sake of having a goal; then achieve it. Then find another goal, and achieve that. Get the ball rolling. Find a passion, an interest, or a person to push or pull you along. Without initially forcing the movement, you will not move. That’s how it works in physics and human nature. This doesn’t make you week willed! Those who seem to have it together, those strong-willed people, they are really just people who have momentum. Maybe physical fitness is your end goal right now. Awesome! Go for it! Maybe it isn’t that tangible or physical, but you know you need a change, you’re not satisfied, you’re not happy or you’re not going anywhere. Well, as the body follows the head…I think your emotions, spirit, will, and motivation follow the body. Get the body moving, achieve some physical goals, and I think you will be amazed at the momentum you can gain in the other areas of your life! This is my ‘why’. Why I got into fitness in the first place and made it a lifestyle. If you are not seeing any better ‘why’ than the numbers you are pushing or the lbs that you are losing, there will come a day when you stop. You’ll be tired and stressed and you’ll not see the point. You’ll miss a week, then another, your goals will get further away, it will all seem so much harder than it’s worth. But it’s not just your 1 rep max, your mile time, or the clothes that you want to fit into that’s at stake… it’s your momentum. You need this momentum to counter aging, fight past an injury, to put in the work for a healthy relationship, find success, to get through the bad days. Don’t stop, keep moving.