I bumped into a friend of mine at the gym the other day and he asked about my ‘secret’. Devoid of ego, I’ve been asked everything from “what hormones are you taking” or “You must have a strict diet and good genes” to “Your weight training form needs work” or “That leg exercise is bad for your knees”.
The secret of feeling good, looking good and better health is a mental exercise. Just getting to the gym is the most popular, effective step, towards getting in shape. But working with and around others can be challenging. Working out at home or traveling have their problems as well like equipment limitations and designated areas with enough room.
Exercise is about as primitive and unconscious as survival and sex. One would think it is as automatic as it is inherent, but without the drive to hunt for food, what other reason do we have to work out?
The key is to find your connection with it – one that produces some type of an exertion euphoria, stress relief, daily achievement or simple joy. Then connect it with family and friends. I was fortunate to have a father who believed in getting up at dawn on the weekends and working in the yard until dinner time. Early in childhood, the activity provides a feeling of inclusion, fun, and accomplishment. Even during the rebellious teen age years, the initial complaining would fade and end up with the same family connection and feeling of accomplishment after a job well done.
The connection with friends with the same mind set came naturally with sports. Activity was as much as a lifestyle as it was an identity in high school. The best surprise was the ease and ‘fun’ felt at practice in comparison to those who whined before and during practice, then morned with thoughts about the next day’s work out. Who knew that simply repeating the hard work and stamina I learned at home on the field would produce the same recognition and feeling of accomplishment.
But something about the exertion, sweating, burning muscles stuck with me and became something I actually looked forward to feeling. They became more of a familiar sensation that dampens the usual negative response with the knowledge of positive outcomes that were on their way…. Now in my mid fifties, the joy has taken over since being able to work out becomes a blessing as well as a way to control health and longevity.
In my book, I tried to emphasize the importance of eating habits and the fact that it produces the best weight management outcomes. Weight training and aerobic exercise is the yin to the eating yang, but without the machine in which we exist and use to get from point A to B, eating takes a seat way at the back of the bus.
So I ask you. How do you find pure joy in your work outs? Walking with your grandchildren and doing a few curls with soup cans to firm up your arms? Power yoga with your wife, and a good protein meal after? Yard work with the kids, then taking them to roller skate? Or hitting the gym for a little alone time with a great 80s mix like yours truly…
Early man had to hunt and gather, but joy was probably not his/her main focus. Survival and seeing their family nourished was, but maybe that is also connecting with physical activity and a joyful outcome.
I tell our 12 year old before I run at the park, “I”m going out for the family kill. What do you want me to bring home?” This last christmas season, she told me to bring home a ‘snow pig’. She likes bacon for breakfast. I laughed before and during my run.
Find your joy.