Thursday, February 18, 2016

Health and Fitness is Simple if...

Another clickbait title! Don't worry, it's not a list article.

For the past three weeks, I've been taking a free yoga class. Yoga is pretty low on my list of activities I would go out of my way to do. But if it's free and it's convenient, sign me up!

I didn't even think about it. I'm always looking for opportunities to improve my health and well-being. So when this class came up, I pounced on it like it was cheesecake.

You know who wasn't happy and excited? Almost everyone else. Apparently.

And this made absolutely no sense to me. In fact I've been downright disappointed just thinking about it. The class is free. And without revealing too many details, the time and location are very very convenient. And yet, out of the folks who signed up for it, only 2/3 showed up for the first two classes, and only 1/3 showed up for the third class. Soon it's going to be just me and the instructor (who's awesome).

The only thing I can think of is that health is not a priority for most other folks, even if they claim it is. And here's the theme for the post.

Health and fitness is simple if it's your life.

My life includes clean teeth. Brushing my teeth is simple. My life includes eating and living in a warm house. Going to work is simple. And my life includes being healthy and fit. So eating intelligently and exercising every day is simple.

Simple.... but boring.

Now I didn't say easy. I said simple. Exercise is hard. Getting up early in the morning is hard. But the choice to do so is simple. I don't have to think about it. It's automatic. Excuses never enter into the equation.

But if it's not a part of your life - if it's not a priority - then you have to think about it every time. You have to decide to do it. And then your brain barfs up a thousand excuses not to do it. Your brain is awesome at making excuses. And I get it. The mind is a big obstacle for most people. A big lazy obstinate obstacle.

I try not to be judgmental. But I totally am. And I get disappointed when I see the attendance in a free fitness class dwindle. It's one thing to get up at 6am to lift weights. Or to run 15 miles in the snow. You have to build up to that level of crazy. Because even my brain tends to say, "whoa there buddy, at least eat a banana before you do that." But when the entry level is so low.... It befuddles me.

For the folks for whom the yoga class was available, going to the class would've been really easy. But not going to the class was even easier. If you have no good reason or strong desire to do it, you're going to pick the easiest option. Without thinking about it. But thinking about it isn't the solution. The solution is that - without thinking - you pick the healthy/active option. That has to be your default.

Because for me, going to the class is easier than not going. Maybe not physically. But the stress and guilt and just general shittiness I would experience for flaking out on it is not worth it. I have vacation days and sicks days I can use if I don't feel like going to work. But I'd feel bad for flaking out on work, so I go to work. Most people do. Work is a priority for most folks. And you can "enjoy" the same benefits if you make exercise a priority. Those benefits being an intense self-loathing if you skip a workout.

"Hooray, I don't loath myself today!"

Of course, the rewards from work are obvious. You get money so you can buy ice cream, talking toasters, and food for your cat so she doesn't bite your eyeballs. The rewards from exercising aren't as immediate. They take a lot longer to achieve.

But when you were younger, you didn't give a shit about work. Your parents bought you Super Mario Brothers and lollipops. If someone said, "hey, go do some work", it would be as if they'd said, "go eat that dead squirrel in the road." It doesn't even make sense to you to do work for no reason. Some parents are tricky. They might say, "if you don't do some work, we won't give you ice cream after dinner." But then you eat dinner, and you cry, and they give you ice cream anyway. Who cares.

At some point, you had to decide that work was a priority. Sure, you see everyone else working, so it's probably important. But you see a lot of other people exercising. There's always some a$$hole running on the street in the snow after dark. You might even swerve to splash them with salt and sludge. One day you realized that getting a job was a matter of survival. Your brain sucks at everything, but one thing it's amazing at is surviving. All of its whiny excuses fly out the window. "I don't care how tired you are! We need to kill that rabbit now!"

"I'd like to kill a rabbit please."

You can't exercise just for the heck of it. It's not like blowing the dust of that Super Mario cartridge to relive your youth (and being disappointed). Exercise has to be at the top of your list, along with water, shelter and chocolate cake. The kind of trickery your parents used on you in your youth, you have to use on yourself. You have to trick your brain into believing that beating yourself up every day is somehow vital to staying alive.

Nobody else will do this for you. You're not a kid anymore. There's never going to be an easy and obvious way to get healthy and to get fit. A lot of people wait around for love, success, health, and happiness to drop into their laps. Because when they were young, those things did drop into their laps, in the form of macaroni and cheese and video games with plumber protagonists. And every new thing they're forced to do for themselves, they don't do it without kicking and screaming and whining the whole way. We hate having something and then having it taken away. And we all want all of the things. But don't want to do anything to get those things.

This guy doesn't even want to close his fuel cover.
"Let the world burn," he says. Probably.

We're assholes. But not on purpose. Again, blame our lousy brains. We evolved from monkeys who stole bananas and mates when the other monkeys looked away for a second. Thankfully, we do have the ability to step beyond our limitations. Over and over. It's hard at first. It's scary. But the more you do it, the more it becomes a part of your life.

Soon, limitations stop being limitations so much as "the next challenge."

They become opportunities to grow, to become stronger, to become amazing.

You begin to relish those limitations. Because when you pulverize your way through the next one, you'll feel that much more proud of yourself.

And you'll be eager for the next challenge.

For some people, that next hurdle is a 3 hour marathon, or a 500 pound deadlift. For some, it's working up the motivation to go to a free yoga class 50 feet away. But whatever it is, only you can make yourself do it. But it's oh so worth it. Your parents may have told you as much, and you didn't believe them. It's something you can discover only for yourself.

"I think I may have too many limitations..."

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