Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Never Miss a Workout

I did not want to get up this morning at 5:15. I was exhausted. I hadn't slept enough. I ran 11 miles yesterday and my body still hurt. It was still pitch black out. It was cold, and my bed was so very warm. Most people would stay in bed for one of those reasons.

I sat up and turned the light on and turned off my alarm. I never hit snooze. Then my cat, seeing that I was awake, started going crazy. I got up, fed her, and brushed my teeth. After that I didn't go back to bed. This all happened pretty slowly, as my body really didn't want to move. But by 5:30am I was downstairs with my coffee and started lifting.

I wasn't motivated. Motivation has nothing to do with it. My motivation is a big zero right now. But this was the 16th day of my deadlift challenge. I didn't have a choice. I had to lift. At no point is exercise something I "want" to do. It's something I have to do. Because if it's not, I will fail. Period.

It's tempting to stay in bed. Missing "just one day" won't kill me. Or I could do my workout "later". In fact, my lifts took longer than I thought this morning, so I wasn't able to go swimming afterward. But I went swimming at lunch time. Staying in bed after you wake up though has no value. You don't get any more meaningful rest.

It's just comfortable.

Fitness isn't about comfort. It's the opposite. Exercise pushes you far outside of your comfort zone. It causes you pain and fatigue, so that your body heals stronger. It makes your mind stronger too, as you become better capable of handling hardship. But every time you cave in and skip a workout, you go backwards in your progress. You teach your brain that it's ok to give up. And your brain definitely loves laziness.

"Ugh, these stupid abs better be worth it."

The only way to stick to a workout plan is with a routine. Make a plan and DO it. You can't wait until you want to work out, because you never will. Oh occasionally you'll feel energetic or inspired and will go on a hike, but that's rare and undependable. Anything you want to succeed at requires a daily ritual of hard work. And this isn't just for exercise; it applies to everything.

A lot of this is about attitude. Many folks - without being too rude I think I can say most folks - have trouble sticking with a workout or diet plan. Deep down they know that they don't really need to exercise. That sleeping in, eating junk food, and being fat and jolly are totally OK. Nothing "bad" will happen to them, at least not right away. And when it does... That's what they have overpriced health insurance for!

I know, because I was the same way. I would eat, drink booze, party, and have a grand old time. I'd exercise once or twice a week, but always with a feeling like, "well, it doesn't really matter." I'd stay out too late and get trashed, or eat a whole container of potato chips in a sitting because it made me feel good. I convinced myself that the best you could hope for out of life was to feel good as much as possible.

I was wrong.

What she says.

Today, I feel proud. Genuinely proud. Even though I'm my own harshest critic, I can still point at some of the things I've done and say, "ya know what, me? That was kind of awesome." Or, "that was brutally hard, and I did it anyway." I feel powerful. Because I've learned that challenges are not insurmountable, and that I can achieve pretty much whatever I want if I work hard enough.

I also have love. I've learned how critical this is to a happy and healthy life. When I was younger, I had plenty of friends. But most of them liked me because I fed them booze and made things exciting for an evening. The friends I have now respect me. They appreciate the pain and suffering I've gone through, and they can entirely sympathize with it. We share the kind of deep connection that fellow warriors do after surviving a battle together.

We inspire one another. My friends and fellow exercise nuts blow me away with their accomplishments. Often times, seeing one of them post something amazing online is what gets me out the door. I don't want to let them down! And in return I inspire others to work harder as well. And in this way we all bring one another up.

Friends make everything awesome!
Photo Cr. MarathonFoto; courtesy of Meghan

Exercise is usually a solitary activity though. And if you're only just starting, it takes a while to build up that sense of community. There's other things to keep yourself on track though.

Think of the things you do that help you unwind and bring you joy: Relaxing, reading, eating a delicious dinner (or ice cream!), watching Netflix. Now turn those things into rewards. You don't get to do those things until after you've worked out. Period. If you don't run, you don't eat. If you don't bike, you don't get to watch TV. If you don't swim, you don't get to lie down and relax.

A lot of the times I exercise is exactly because I'm hungry. Or I'm tired. I know - KNOW - that I'm not "allowed" to eat or relax until I've done my workout. So the faster I get myself up and moving, the faster I get to the reward.

And if I don't exercise, I feel guilty. Actually, at this point I feel guilty for even thinking about not exercising. A lot of people probably suffer this as well. But here's the difference. They decide to skip the spin class, or crossfit, or their run, or the gym, or whatever. They relax and feel, "man, I needed to rest." But then later, the guilt creeps in.

Even during the winter I won't let myself slack off.

I don't wait until later. I feel guilty immediately. And I hate feeling guilty. It sucks big time. So I get up and I go do the thing I don't feel like doing. And then not only do I not feel guilty anymore, I feel good. It may sound weird, but what I'm saying is don't delay the negative emotions. Use them to drive you to work, and then turn them into positive emotions as a result.

For me, it's not enough to just have a daily plan. I like to challenge myself. I've currently completed 16 days of my 80 day deadlift challenge. Last year I did an 80 day deadlift challenge as well. I challenge myself by registering for races that force me to keep training. I've signed up for my first Ironman. It's still still 10 months out, but that actually feels like very little time to get my swimming and biking to the level they need to be at! I made sure to go swimming today because even missing one session would feel like a big setback.

"Must. Hold. 345. Pounds. For. Photo."

Ignore pain. Ignore exhaustion. They'll always be there, and they don't matter. Find your inspiration. Fill your life with people who support you and raise you up. Challenge yourself regularly. Measure your successes, feel proud of yourself, and then pushes yourself to even greater ones. Try new things; don't stagnate. Crosstrain, sign up for new and different challenges, do something your friends are doing.

Claim the identity you wish to have. You don't want to be successful. You ARE successful. You don't want to get into shape. You are already an athlete! You don't wish to be a better person. You are already amazing!! And successful athletic and amazing people work hard every day. And that's who you are.

Claim it.

"Claim it.... or I'll eat your face."

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