I exercise a lot. I train a lot. For a long time it was an escape. I wrote as much several times. It was an escape from loneliness, anger at myself, and other generally unhappy thoughts. But I've got a pretty good grasp now on the things that were effecting me negatively and I'm choosing not to let those things drag me down any more.
Even though I'm feeling much happier and healthier in body and spirit, I'm still training a lot. It's not just routine, which I've also written a lot about. I'll actually look to squeeze in extra workouts if I have the time and opportunity. And it's not about extra energy. I'm still tired and sore quite often. It's something else.
So what is it? What keeps me going?
|Seriously? What is it?|
Photo Cr. Steven Gallow Photography
I love to feel strong. Maybe sometimes I didn't realize that. But it's been the common factor throughout my life. It's the reason I started training karate as a teen. It's the reason I started lifting in college. It's the reason I started running, and later got into triathlons. It's the reasons I sign up for ever more challenging races and events. It's probably even the reason I like tabletop roleplaying games; I can act out individuals who are talented in ways I could never be.
Exercise is empowering. For a lot of people though, it's not. For them, it's a chore. You should go to work, you should eat healthy, you should exercise. For those folks, exercise is an unpleasant thing, like taking the car to the mechanic or doing the taxes. It's not empowering, it's just exhausting.
And I get it. They have a comfortable life. Introducing a big change that's painful and exhausting like exercise is hard. It doesn't feel empowering. It just feels like voluntary work. It's one of those things you can't experience until you've actually done it for a while. It takes time to see results. Time during which they think it's not really worth it. Many quit before they get those results, that euphoric feeling of power and success. It only reinforces that feeling that working out is a chore.
I'm pretty blessed that I stuck with it long enough to experience that sense of strength and self-pride. I lost it for many years. I struggled, as many do. I got sidetracked by frivolous pursuits and lied to myself that life was just about "having fun". That meant drinking, and partying, and making shallow connections with many different people. I forgot that it wasn't enough to just be entertained. I need to love who I am.
I included eating healthy as another thing that's often a chore. But as with exercise, I don't see it that way either. It's not enough for me to feel strong. I want to look strong. It's my identity, and I want it to be apparent to someone who meets me. I've often called it vanity in a self-deprecating way. Maybe it is somewhat. But I want my loved ones to feel safe when I'm around. I want people to perceive me as someone who works hard and appreciates life.
Sometimes folks might look at me and say, "I could never be like that." I can appear larger than life. I seem to run a race every other weekend. On Saturday I ran a total of 16 miles with some really amazing people. There were hills and trails and enlightening conversations and beautiful panoramic views of valleys nestled between orange/yellow/green hills. And of course my social media is filled with a slideshow of these never-ending adventures.
|A thousand feet of climbing is worth an epic view!|
That's a choice though. I know, not everyone has the same opportunities I do. Not everyone has as much time. But a lot of the awesome folks I train with are full-time parents. They work full time. And they still look for the opportunities to explore the world where there's no cell service. It's harder but it's not impossible. And these busy people are some of the most amazing I've met. They seem to have a strength and energy that even if I don't feel I could reach! And truly, they're the ones who inspire me the most.
Meghan and Geoffrey are both full-time single parents with full-time jobs. The three of us did an Ironman together. They trained even more than I did! Early mornings, late nights, exhausting weekends... whatever it took. But when they accomplish their goals, they gleam with joy and a sense of owning themselves and owning their lives. That's what it is. People often feel powerless these days. The world is becoming an increasingly scary place. And training allows you to own something, to have something that is wholly yours. A definition of yourself that's beyond the definition that society would slap on you.
I can be surrounded by a hurricane of fear and confusion. But I'm in the center of that, grounded by my sense of self and my own strength. That is a feeling I wouldn't give up for anything.