When people ask me how long I have been running, doing yoga, racing, or just generally into fitness, I don’t really know the answer. I’ve had so many stops and starts when it comes to exercising. It’s changed over the years and it’s difficult to really know when one phase ended and the other began. I guess I could say it all started when I was a sophomore in high school so that’s 23 years ago. That’s as long as I’ve known some of the important people in my life, so in a way you could say Fitness is a good friend of mine.
People say I’m very motivated. I’m not sure if I’m motivated or if I just have a healthy relationship with fitness. I think that has been the key. It has been a part of my life for so long because I treat it like any other important relationship I have in my life. And we all know relationships worth having take work but are worth it in the end. Like any healthy relationship, the one with fitness has to develop and grow over time.
Here are some things I think have helped me keep fitness a part of my life, in good times and bad:
1) Finding “The One”. First, you have to find the right type for you. Like any of us in a relationship, we know that can take time. You will have to date and try out various things. And everyone is different. Maybe everyone you know likes to run, but it has never worked for you. So you try Zumba, yoga or walking. When you do find “the one” activity, you will know. It’s the one that makes you feel good about yourself and excited before you get see it again. Not unlike our significant other, is it?
2) In good times and bad. Once you do find the one, accept that you will have good days and bad. More importantly, we can’t keep score. Keeping score doesn’t help in any good relationship. You might go through a rough patch with fitness with an injury or a long break after having a baby. Know that you and fitness will always accept each other regardless of what’s happened.
3) Be spontaneous and spice things up. I’ve heard this advice when it comes to marriage. It’s easy to fall into a certain routine and not fix something until it becomes a problem – and that’s often too late. To keep from getting bored, mix up your fitness routine once in a while. Take that random dance class. Run in a totally different area. Keep things exciting and you might find yourself falling in love with a different aspect of fitness.
4) Expect it will change and grow. As people we are always changing and growing – and so are our needs. Relationships are not stagnant and if they are, they don’t last. It’s important to realize that as you change, so will your fitness routine. Maybe you have outgrown the Body Pump class or your body just doesn’t like long distances anymore. Perhaps life’s circumstances don’t allow for those long training sessions anymore. Fine. It doesn’t mean you ditch your friend completely – you just have to adapt to new ages and stages.
5) Continue to get to know each other. There’s always something to learn about the important people in our lives if we take the time to learn. Always be a student at something in fitness. Learn a new move, read a book about the history of whatever activity you enjoy the most. It’s all about the continuation of discovery which in turn results in self exploration.
6) Be your honest self. This is vital in any healthy relationship, we have to be honest with ourselves and the other person. With regard to fitness, there was a time I wanted to qualify for Boston. As a runner, this seemed like the ultimate dream. But it was what I thought the dream “should” be, not what I wanted. I was killing myself to get faster and faster and wasn’t happy doing it. Once I was honest with myself I started running for pleasure again and it opened up new doors for me.
7) Expect nothing in return. This is the most recent lesson I’m learning with regard to my exercise routine. When someone is truly our friend, we do things for them without thinking what we get in return. This is counterintuitive with regard to fitness; we are in such a results driven society. Do I like to see myself get stronger or my muscles look toner? Of course I do. But I am learning to detach myself from the results. When we get too wrapped up in what we are getting back, that’s when frustration sets in. I have learned this through yoga. One of my favorite yogis is Kino MacGregor of Kino Yoga. She recently said to “put in the work without attachment to the results. Be humble enough to do the work.” I feel like this applies to all aspects of fitness as well as life’s important relationships.
My motivation over the years hasn’t always been sound. I of course have gone through phases of just wanting to be skinny, have flat abs, or a faster race time. Those kinds of goals were vain and may have worked in the beginning. But it’s not the kind of motivation that lasts, just like relationships made in vain don’t last. But if we make a commitment to staying active, just like we commit to other things we value, it will be easier to stay motivated. It’s important to look at fitness as a lifelong journey and a relationship that has to be cultivated and developed with variety, creativity, and forgiveness with ourselves.