In high school, I ran track. Not well, but I did it. I think that was the most exercise I had in 23 or so years. I’m just not a sports person. I never really cared about football or soccer or baseball. I liked plays, books, comics, video games, musicals, photography, and writing. None of these hobbies encourage you to actually put your body to the test. So, I never did.
I worked my way through college in a supermarket deli, which meant constant, consistent movement. I used to pull 12 hour days for the extra hours. My 28 year-old self doesn’t believe that is possible anymore, but I did it. And I think the movement was my exercise. Not healthy exercise, mind you. I used to chain smoke cigarettes on my lunch break just to survive my shifts.
Side note: Everyone should work in a customer service industry for at least 2 years of their life. Some countries have mandatory military service. We need mandatory customer service. I’ve never been treated worse in my life and now I am constantly overly-polite and thankful to cashiers, waitstaff, etc.
Anyway, I was pretty skinny (maybe not healthy) throughout my life. And then I got a desk job. My metabolism slowed to a snail’s crawl and I started to round out fast. I’ve always had a pretty shaky degree of confidence in myself. Seeing love-handles at 24 pretty much destroyed whatever bravado remained.
Now, I’m not here to fat-shame or shame at all. I am here to say that I have serious body issues and we all probably have some form of body issues because the culture we live in consistently tells us that we are not good enough and subliminally compares us to celebrities and models who spend their entire lives cultivating their outward appearance. End. Rant.
But it wasn’t just the appearance. I had trouble walking up hills. Stairs hurt. That’s not normal for someone who is young and in relatively good health. It was here that, for the first time in my life, I decided to commit myself to something that was uncomfortable, inconvenient, frightening, and embarrassing. Bet you guessed it. Fitness.
In my need for some form of truly meaningful change, I spoke to my dad. Now, my dad is a former marathon-runner who idolized Frank Zane when he was growing up. He once had an entire weight-room set up in our attic and would spend, at least, an hour up there a day. He is also one of the most active people I know. His hobbies include carpentry, model-building, concrete and landscape work, and automotive repair. He doesn’t sit still and when something needs to get done it gets done. In all honesty, he’s my hero.
My dad tells me that monetary commitment is the first step. If you pay for a gym, you’re more likely to show up. Then he tells me that he’ll go with me and help me get an understanding of the weight-lifting basics. The accountability of this venture is now monetary and emotional (not wanting to let down my dad). So, I did it.
And I’m still doing it.
At 28 years old I am in the best shape of my life. I exercise four or five times per week and living in Boston without a car means I’ve added walking to my daily commute. My partner laughs at me (with some justification), because I totally buy-in to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s philosophy on life and work. My interpretation of the Great One’s teachings is: when you can find discipline, care, and commitment in your physical body, you can easily find it elsewhere. I think that’s true.
After I started working out, I took the biggest risks of my life. I left my job for graduate school, started writing stories after years of no productivity, made a concerted effort to try to have my writing published, and I moved to Boston to start a new phase of my life.
I’m not saying that fitness has been the impetus for the last four years and the changes I’ve made to myself. I’m saying that taking a step out of my comfort-zone and committing to a frightening evolution teaches you a lot about yourself. Weight-training is nothing more than active meditation. You put earbuds in and you test your body for a few hours. At some point, you start to learn something about who you are below the faces that you put on to make it through the day.
I learned that I was never going to confine myself to laziness. And I damn sure wasn’t going to give up on the things that I cared about because they were hard or intimidating.
Interestingly enough, I’ve had multiple people ask me to show them the ropes in the gym. I still keep in touch with some of them to check in and make sure they continue their journey. We all want to move forward, I guess. It’s just a matter of being brave enough to actually do it.