Some time last year, I decided this was it: I wanted to get in shape and finally decided to sign up for a gym membership. It’s not like I haven’t worked out before. I have, both home workouts and jogging outside, but most of the time, the enthusiasm gets curbed and I fall out of the habit. This time around, I wanted it to be different, and for a good while it was. With everything happening this spring, however, I fell out of the habit again, and this week I decided it was time to revisit my reasons for keeping up a workout routine: I needed to get back into the habit.
To be honest, my previous jogging adventures probably fell short because Chris and I was running partners and each time we did a lap, I was gasping and catching my breath while he hardly batted an eye-lash. Quite frankly, it got old pretty fast. Here was he, an ex-smoker with a decade more years on his back, finding the jogging such a breeze, while I was struggling to catch my breath and nearly fainting at the end of a jog. The frustration was real. You could say I could’ve just started jogging by myself, and yes, I could have. But I didn’t. The company was probably the only thing that made me do it in the first place.
But, yes, last year, I finally decided that a gym membership was a good deal. I mostly signed up because a friend of mine kept asking me to join. And so, by joining the gym I’d be pledging to get in shape while also being able to spend more time with one of my dear friends. Win-win, if you ask me!
I did good for almost an entire year. I had long-term goals for wanting to keep working out, and so the routine of working out each Tuesday and Thursday I adapted with relative ease. The personal trainer sessions I signed up for also helped with this, and I kept pushing on, week after week. Even when the will to exercise faltered (because let’s be honest: it’s bound to happen), my motivations for staying fit drove me forward. But, then, like for most of us earthlings, March 2020 hit with a BOOM! and every routine we’d ever build for ourselves started crumbling.
Of course, this was such a collective crisis, that while it was a mind-blowing and totally unexpected and anxious time, the collectiveness of it all kinda made me feel some sort of unison and community. We were, after all, in it together, every last one of us all across the globe. And for me, like for many others, keeping good habits going, like working out and eating healthy, became a primary focus. An anchor point of sorts. And so, online training became a new ritual that I adapted and it worked pretty well.
Well, until it didn’t.
I’m not sure what’s the turning point, but looking back at the last couple of months, working out has been finding itself on the bottom of my list of priorities.
Of course, when the reality was that the online training was much harder to keep up with in terms of accountability in comparison to showing up at the gym, the fact that all of the gyms were closed due to COVID-19 made the getting-back-into-routine business more difficult.
Come June 18th, however, my gym finally opened. I was there the following day. And that was it. The rest of that week and the week that followed, I did not set foot inside the gym, and I kept wondering why. My mantra before lockdown was that working out was not an option, but an obligation. It wasn’t something I should do or should have done; working out was something I was doing and kept doing. And now it wasn’t.
Like most stuff in my life, I came to the conclusion again that the reason I wasn’t working out was quite simply because I wasn’t. Like any habit, skill or activity we want to be a part of our routine, we have to actively pursuit it and keep doing it. It’s like that saying on writing and writer’s block I read when I was struggling with my thesis: “There is no such thing as writer’s block; the reason you’re not writing is because you’re not writing.”
The reason I wasn’t working out or going to the gym was because I wasn’t. You find time for what you prioritize, and for some reason I had stopped prioritizing my workouts. This got me thinking about working out in general: if I wasn’t working out now, why was I working out before? This forced me to revisit the reasons why I had began working out in the first place, and I found these five reasons:
1. Keeping healthy into old age
The primary motivation for my gym membership was my desire to stay healthy into old age. I’m only 33 now, but I figure that if I want my body to be inhabitable by the time I am 80, I have to lay the ground work now. The reason this idea even came onto my radar was because of a decline in my mother’s health a year prior. I saw what it’s like to have a body not functioning properly and how one is reliant on outside help and the healthcare system.
Even if none of us can predict the future, I am at least in a position where I can treat myself and my body with the utmost care and give us a fighting chance to stay healthy and fit as we come of age. And because this is such a long term goal and motivation, continuing my exercise routine was the only option. Not showing up for my workout sessions would not let me fulfill this goal.
2. Being healthy and strong now
I’ve come to a place in my life where I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of wanting to be a so and so person, but letting my actions (or rather lack of such) prevent me from being that person. That’s why I started this blog, that’s why I picked up the guitar, and that’s why I signed up for the gym.
I picture myself as a strong, active person and if I refrain from working out, I’m not really living up to this idea I have of myself, am I? I also wanted to be healthy and strong now, to have body that works at its best and keeps improving, a body that feels good to live in, and so working out was one way to achieve this goal.
3. Practicing my grit
Let’s be honest: any habit you wish to adopt takes a whole bunch of commitment and dedication. Keeping up with my workout routine week after week is thus one of the ways I am able to discipline myself and show up. Even on days when I really want to do anything but working out, to still carry on as planned let’s me practice my grit, my staying power. Which mentally feels really good, and leads me to my next reason for working out:
4. Tending to my mental health
Keeping up with my workout routine and practicing my grit, gives a huge feeling of accomplishment. It makes me feel disciplined and strong willed, and provides a focal point in my everyday life. Thus, it’s no question that this does something for my mental health. At the same time, working out proves scientifically to prevent depression, and as such, my workout routine is far and away a means to keep not only my physical health but my mental health in check.
I know that if I get myself to the gym on days where I feel bad, the sheer knowledge that I was able to still show up at the gym pushes a better mental state forward. At least I’m able to show for myself that I’m not a total failure, right?
5. Self care and me-time
While I initially signed up at the gym to spend time with a friend of mine, I’ve come to realize how my workout routine is an essential part of my self care regiment as well as providing me with much needed time by myself. When I hit the gym, I have time for myself to focus on my own health and my own well-being. It gives me space to breathe, to collect my own thoughts and to just be by myself.
I am an introvert, and even if I am a social introvert that rather spend my time at home with Chris than by myself, working out has made me understand how important it is to block out time to be alone. For someone who used to spend much time alone growing up, spending more time by myself during such instances as working out has allowed me to be more in tune with the person I was before and the person I still am. It has given me space for mindfulness and contemplation that I wouldn’t have had without it.
With these five reasons to work out fresh in my mind again, going back to the gym seems not only an option but obligatory. Especially the first one, keeping healthy and strong into old age, is such a long-term goal that to fulfill this one, I have to keep showing up. I know that between me and my friends, my motivations
To get back into the routine, next week I’ve given myself a little challenge: to hit the gym each morning for five days straight. Hopefully, this will put me back on track and at the same time set my workdays of to a good, disciplined start. I look forward to it.
How about you? What’s your reasons for working out? And if you’re not working out yet, did any of the reasons above motivate you to consider the second half of 2020 the time to start? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!