It used to be a chore.
Photo by Simon Alexander on Unsplash
September 2016. 1:13 pm.
“Congratulations Auriane! You are now a member.”
This is the gym confirmation email. It had been months since I had moved my body, and I missed it. I was also in the midst of a relationship with someone whose eating disorders and body dysmorphia were starting to creep up on me.
So we made a commitment. We joined the gym together. Because we wanted to lose fat. Because we wanted to be more fit. Because we wanted to like what we saw in the mirror more.
We were motivated. Until it became a chore.
Four and a half years later, I want, need my daily workout. You would have told me that back then, I would have laughed in your face. But it’s true. And it’s all due to a simple mindset shift. Which is as follows.
Losing weight should not be a goal in itself
12% of all new gym memberships occur in January. You know, after the festive orgies. That’s a statistic from IHRSA. CouponCabin discovered that 80% of gym members who join in January drop out within 5 months. IHRSA also discovered that the goal of as many as 90% of members is to lose belly fat.
The bottom line? You and I joined the gym because we wanted to inhabit a slimmer, more toned body.
As the statistics show, very few of us stick with it. Why? Because fitness is a difficult goal to achieve. Humans are accustomed to a rather quick reward system. We want something. We find out what we have to do to achieve it. We start doing it. We continue only if we see results. End of story.
But fitness doesn’t work that way. Results take a while to appear. And at the same time, it requires a strong dose of motivation and commitment. Waking up earlier to put on your workout clothes is hard. Finding the energy to go to the gym after a day of work is hard.
It would all be a lot easier if every time we left the locker room we could see results. But that’s not how it works. Getting into shape is a long process.
Whether your thing is going to the gym, running, lifting weights at home, or whatever, it’s very likely that you’ll give up before you get results. And that’s okay.
It’s just that losing weight isn’t a rewarding enough reason to stick with it. Discouragement will come at some point. And you can only overcome it if you change your mindset. That’s what happened to me.
2019 was the year of change
I was in the middle of a difficult relationship. I could feel all the weight on my mind. I was overwhelmed by balancing my demanding school work with my even more demanding freelance work. I felt trapped in my tiny apartment in Paris while enduring the terrible November weather. Add to that the fact that I was feeling increasingly lethargic. A real couch potato. Me, the person who had been exercising at least twice a week since I was a kid.
At some point, it became too much. I wanted to get back in shape. But I was very, very skeptical about my ability to stick with it. How many times had I tried before?
I boiled the question in my mind for a little while. And then I decided to change my strategy. Maybe I hadn’t found the way to exercise that worked for me. Maybe I was setting my goal too high. I listed my criteria: I wanted to be able to work out for free, from home, on my own, and I needed something to tell me what to do, so I downloaded an app.
I decided to exercise on my mat, in the small space between my window and my bed, three times a week for 15 minutes. Easy. You can’t really miss this goal.
That’s when the magic started to happen.
Every time I reached that little goal, I felt good. I had made it. But the size of that goal wasn’t the main reason I stuck with it. What made it work was that I was no longer exercising to lose weight or get more fit. I was working out because I felt my spirit and inner balance needed it.
After a workout, no matter how short, I could feel the difference in my mind. I could feel how it lifted the weight off my forehead. I felt lighter, happier, more energetic, and joyful. The music I listened to as I moved also helped.
Exercise didn’t become my diet companion but my good mood’s best friend.
I didn’t care if I looked more toned. Because I could feel my body working. I could feel my physical shell improving from the inside out. I could feel the sore muscles the next day. And right after the session, I could feel how my body had cleared out the negative energy to make room for positive energy.
As the weeks went on, I was surprised to find out that I looked forward to my workouts and enjoyed them.
I could feel the difference while walking down the street, climbing stairs, carrying heavy shopping bags.
What made me want to work out was all the benefits I could feel, in my mind and body. Not what I saw. And that’s what made the difference.
“In two weeks, you’ll feel it. In four weeks, you’ll see it. In eight weeks, you’ll hear it.” — Anonymous
The bottom line
A year and a half later, seldom are the days when I don’t move. On these days, I can feel my body getting restless. Over time, that 3 times a week habit has turned into a more frequent rhythm, until it has become a daily habit.
Even when I started my journey as a digital nomad 3 months ago, I found ways to move. I walked a lot or found ways to lift weights with water bottles. Recently, I’ve gotten into the habit of going swimming or running on the beach every morning before breakfast and work, and it’s had some serious positive consequences for both my well-being and my silhouette, even though the latter was, again, not the goal.
The truth is, I miss it when I don’t move enough. I feel restless. I feel like I’m too much in my head and not enough in my body. I feel out of balance.
It’s been a long road, and I never thought I would ever see exercise as anything but a chore. Sometimes I don’t feel like going for a run out of laziness, but I imagine how good I’ll feel afterward, and that’s what keeps me going. Not the prospect of having better-looking abs or legs.
Weight loss or physical appearance is just a byproduct. If that’s your main goal, chances are slim that it will work. However, if you focus on the mental and physical well-being that you get from moving, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when you start to look forward to your daily workout.
And the results will follow.