I feel like fitness is something that a lot of people have a hard time building a relationship with. I could go on and on about why I think that is– elitism in the community, body image insecurities, pre-conceived notions about what a healthy body should look like or move like, unhealthy comparison to those around you, or just not knowing where to start. I get it. It’s overwhelming. I’ve heard it all from people around me. Things like, “I want to loose a little more weight before I start doing yoga at a studio.” or, “I bet you’re way better at this thing than I am.” or my personal (least) favorite, “I wish I had the body you did.”
I’ve also heard a lot of these similar things in my own head. I did track for three years in High School and played soccer for ten years before that. Every single season I would spend weeks commiserating over joining the team again because I was NEVER as good or as fast as everyone else on the team. I also have a love/hate relationship with running, which is important to recognize. I ended up falling in love with the track team because it taught me to measure myself against no one other than my last-meet-self. That was the most important takeaway for me.
Track is also where I was introduced to yoga for the first time. On recovery days we would pack into the stuffy wrestling room and sweat our way through a recovery vinyassa. That + a scream-till-your-legs-go-numb ice bath = pure euphoria. It was there that I learned to ENJOY sports and fitness rather than just pushing myself through something because I felt obligated, because my friends were doing it, because I had made some kind of blind commitment… eventually, I started wanting to run.
Since then, my fitness routine has been anything but easy OR routine. Until about the last year or so– and let me tell you… it has been a journey. I didn’t just flip a switch and find exactly what my body and mind needed. So what’s the key to finding that spot where you feel motivated, empowered, and uplifted by your relationship with fitness? If you know me, you probably know what’s coming here…
I say that a lot, but I never want to give the impression that it is an easy thing to know. It is ongoing. It is oftentimes the hardest piece of advice for me to remember, even though it is the cornerstone mantra of my life. It has taken the last year and then some to feel like I am in a good place with this.
If you hate running, don’t sign up for a 1/2 marathon. If you’re someone who needs external motivators, sign up for classes or get a friend to go with you. If you don’t like your gyms atmosphere, find one that works better for you. If you don’t like the gym at all, get outside!
It is so, so important to enjoy your fitness. If you don’t, it’s just a punishment. And fitness should never, ever, be a punishment. I’ll say it again for the people in back. Fitness should never, ever, be a punishment. You should work out because you love yourself, not because you hate yourself.
I feel like this is a super pervasive ideology in our culture; that working out is a chore or a punishment. I can’t remember the last time I went shopping anywhere that sells fitness clothing where I didn’t see a shirt with something along the lines of, “Will squat for donuts” or, “My brain says ‘gym’ but my heart says ‘tacos'” and it drives me freaking bonkers!! What I really see when I read messages like that is, “You need to work out to ‘earn’ high calorie foods.” and, “I don’t like going to the gym, but I do it so I can eat whatever I want.” (I’ve actually HEARD people say very similar things and it makes me want to drown myself in their skinny vanilla latte)
Again, if you don’t like going to the gym– don’t. There are so many other things you can do.
Punishing yourself isn’t healthy. Point blank. It doesn’t matter if your “punishment” is something you believe to be “good for you” like running or lifting weights. If your mindset is punishment, none of it will be good for you. Period.
I like going to the gym. I like picking up heavy things. I like having a gym where all the trainers are super involved. I like the sense of community there.
I also like being outside. Especially during the 10 days a year where Mid-Michigan gets sunshine. Over this past summer, I went on a major gym boycott because I could not bring myself to be inside lifting weights when it was so gorgeous outside. I fell so in love with things like hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming, and trail running, that I just couldn’t even think of being in a gym. So I didn’t. I spent more time at the lake. I traded barbell callouses for foot blisters and sunburns. I loved it. The Michigan summer is not one to take for granted. I traveled so much over the summer that I couldn’t find a proper “routine” and that was okay because routine isn’t the only thing that is healthy. Human connection, positive self-talk, a sense of adventure, and trying new things are also just as good for you as a kale juice and a 5k.
I recently quit my old gym because I realized that it wasn’t what I needed anymore. It was an important thing to recognize. I didn’t enjoy going to a place where CNN was always playing on the TV’s (or just the fact that there were TV’s at all), no one was engaged with one another, and some asshole was always hoarding the 25lb kettle bell (seriously, why is there only one?)
So I broke up with it.
I instead joined a place where the trainers know your name, your needs, and your goals. The workouts are always different, the atmosphere is always encouraging, and everyone knows everyone else. It was super uncomfortable. It wasn’t easy.
It’s worth noting that I am an introvert. When left to my own devices, I might not voluntarily interact with another human being for weeks at a time. This is also not healthy. So while I’m not always comfortable interacting with people when I’m at the gym, I do it anyway because being comfortable is not the point. Not under the barbell, and not in your daily life. I know that I will never get comfortable with something unless I keep doing it. The mindset and confidence I take away from it is more important than what my body looks like after X amount of squats.
If your workout feels like a punishment, I seriously encourage you to try something else. Zumba, yoga, karate, boxing, dance, running, weight training, cross fit…. whatever it is, enjoy yourself! Anything else is simply not worth it.