6 Reminders To Take With You To The Gym

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I have a lot of opinions when it comes to fitness, and looking through my archives, it seems like they tend to pop up around this time of year. Not sure why. Maybe it's the transition into a colder season. I start getting the urge to burrow inside instead of going to the gym so I end up giving myself a lot of pep talks.

I wasn't sure how to structure this post other than it being a general collection of thoughts about fitness. So that's exactly what it is. Not advice, just thoughts. Things I've learned, things I'm still learning, things I want to discuss with other people. Gentle reminders for all of us about what's truly important when it comes to working out.

Approach it from a place of love.

One very important thing I've learned about exercise is that we have to approach it from a place of love. If our motivation stems from hate that we have for ourselves, for our bodies, it's not going to work.

While I've had a gym membership since 2011, I haven't truly enjoyed working out for all of those years. Sometimes going to the gym felt more like a punishment, something I had to do because I went out that weekend or because I had plans to go out later in the week.

We can't approach it from that mindset. It's not good. You can go to the gym six days a week but if you're doing it with a mindset that you have to because you ate a cheeseburger for dinner last night, you're not healthy. The reasoning behind the exercise is just as important as the exercise itself.

Instead, let's work out and eat better because we love ourselves. Because we want what's best for our bodies. Because we want to feel good (not just look good) physically.

Think about what you are willing and unwilling to do.

I learned this from "Unfu*k Yourself," a book I read back in July.  The best way to set goals isn't to think about what you want or don't want, it's to determine what you are willing and unwilling to do. Determining what effort you're willing to put in to something helps you set goals that are actually realistic. And hey, being unwilling to do something isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Every so often I get discouraged about my fitness because I feel like I look the same as I always have. I'm not one of those people you'd look at and automatically know that they work out. It'd be great if that was the case. It'd be great if my shoulders were more defined and I had strong, visible abs. But! Am I willing to go to the gym every single day? Hold myself to a strict diet? Avoid snacks? Not go out to eat? Sorry but no. I don't want to be that tough on myself. Turns out I don't actually want those things, I just like the idea of them.

So when it comes to setting fitness goals, keep them realistic and doable. Set goals that you are willing to put the work in for and that you'll enjoy striving toward.

There's no finish line.

One thing I have to periodically remind myself of is that fitness is an ongoing journey. If I have a busy week and don't work out as much as I'd hoped, I'm not falling behind or delaying the finish line of Officially Being Fit, because there isn't one. It's all continuous. You can go to the gym and take days off and still be healthy.

You can strive to maintain.

Working out doesn't always have to be about losing weight or changing how you look. If you're happy where you are, work to maintain that. Your goal can be to stay strong, stay healthy, to keep your body moving. That takes work too.

You need to fail in order to make progress.

I put up a post about this general idea in July. It's OK to fail. You need to! If you aren't failing, then what you're doing isn't challenging you.

I remember going to one of my fitness classes on a day before a holiday weekend so the place was pretty empty. The class usually has about 15 of us. This time, it was only me and one other guy. Since the instructor was able to focus on us more, the first thing she had us do was get a heavier weight. I thought there was no way I'd be able to work with that one. I'd already picked my heavy weight and now I was getting one that was 5-7 pounds more.

I used the heavier weight as much as I could but there were times where I had to switch it for the lighter one. My instructor noticed and told me, "That's good. Use the heavy weight until you're maxed out, then scale down. Now you know you can lift that much."

I wasn't failing when I had to stop lifting. I was finding my new limit, establishing my new goal. Instead of staying with the same weights every week, I discovered that I could work with an even heavier one. Failing means you're pushing yourself, which is how you make progress.

There's more to you than the physical stuff.

Despite everything, despite the five reminders I've already listed, the most important thing to remember is that we are more than our appearance. There is more to us than our diet or muscle mass or dress size. There are more important things to care about than whether we have a six-pack.

Is being "thin" the best trait we can have? Better than being healthy? Strong? Better than being loyal or generous? Is stressing ourselves out to get to the gym more important than having peace of mind? I'm all for setting fitness goals (obviously) but don't forget about all of the other great parts of you too.

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