11 Life Lessons from Exercise
This hub was written on September 4th, 2014.
I had been falling into old habits lately (specifically: eating my emotions, eating whatever I want, slacking on the exercise, and gaining back weight I've worked hard to lose) and I've been having to re-channel my efforts into getting back on track. It takes so much more work to get back on track than to stay on track.
Today at the gym I did intervals on the treadmill and while I was doing one of my walking periods an older man walked by and stopped in front of my treadmill and said "wherever you went, you went there fast!" He said this with an impressed expression on his face. This made me laugh and I thanked him. That was encouraging and a nice compliment and then I realized, I have come a long way.
Even though I had fallen into old habits these past few weeks, I was doing my part to get back on track. Although I was struggling in my intervals and have not been doing as well as I have reached in the past and am not yet doing as well as I could be, I was doing well enough for a complete stranger to stop and comment, but it was not just the act of stopping to comment but also the meaning of the comment itself.
“Wherever you went, you went there fast!”
The first half of his comment reflects that he as an observer saw that while I was physically running intensely on treadmill, I was mentally intensely present somewhere else.
But where do I go when I run?
I’m the zone. I go where I see no one and where I do not care who sees me. I go where I do not care what I look like, what I run like, what expressions I make, or how much sweat is falling off my face. I go where no one can touch me. Where I am invincible, unbreakable, unstoppable, free, and fierce. I go where I make my body work harder than it wants to and harder than I ever thought it could. I go where my mind and will power are the bosses, and where my body rises to the challenge. I go to a place of near collapse and then meet triumph.
And according to the observer today, I can get there fast.
The fact that I can get there at all is an achievement in itself.
My journey to my best self and to exercise was a long one and is a journey that is not yet over, and one that in all frankness, will never be over. One should always be working to be a better person and we should always be working towards being the best versions of ourselves. But bringing this back to today, I wanted to reflect on some lessons/rules for myself that I think could be of use to someone working to be a better person and to someone who is working towards becoming their best (mental, physical, spiritual) self.
1. It is ok to get off track so long as you work to get back on track.
Falling into old habits is easier than sticking to new ones, no matter how long you have been keeping to the new habits. Recognize this and know that each day is a chance to start new, and there is no time like the present to get on track.
2. Learn to forgive yourself and learn from your mistakes.
There will be times when you make mistakes. Maybe you eat your emotions or eat whatever you want. Maybe you slack on the exercise or have started to let yourself go. We are humans. Mistakes and mess-ups are inevitable. However, it is important to both learn from your mistakes and to learn how to forgive yourself. These two have to go together in order for you to go forward in life and to make changes accordingly.
3. Work on being your best self and do it for yourself.
This is super important. Do not make changes to yourself for others. You can and should do it for yourself. While it is nice to get positive feedback from time to time, it is not something you can count on or expect. Combined with the fact that those who notice the changes you make to yourself will come and go, and it can be positive and/or negative.
4. Do your best...whatever that is.
Today I was struggling through the intervals on the treadmill and I did better than days where I struggle more but not as good as days where I can do my maximum. That was today’s best.
"Always do your best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret."
-Miguel Ángel Ruiz
5. Some progress is better than no progress but do not stay at some progress.
Eating one container of ice cream is better than eating two. Eating half a container of ice cream is better than eating one container of ice cream. Eating a fourth of a container of ice cream is better than eating a half. Not having any ice cream is probably best.
Some progress is better than no progress, but always work for progress beyond that.
6. Find your zone and go there often.
Getting into “the zone” is probably one of the coolest, heightened, intense, and driven experiences you can have. It is great for when you get into the zone but it is also great to transfer that experience and drive into other areas of your life.
Find it. Do it. Go there.
7. Never give up on yourself.
Never, never, never.
8. Reflect and take note of things that inspire you and make you think.
Exhibit A: this article.
9. Reflect on the journey.
One of the beautiful (and at times frustrating and disillusioning) things about this life and of our human selves is that it is a JOURNEY and not a destination. The fact that we can look back and see how far we have come and that we can look forward and see how much we have before us, is an amazing thing.
This mantra is key:
“I am better than I was.
I’ll be better than I am.”
10. Be proud of your achievements, even if you are not yet where you want and/or need to be.
We often think that we cannot be proud, content, or happy with ourselves until we reach some future arbitrary goal. We can only be happy once we lose 61 pounds but not when we have only lost 5. We can only be happy once we make it in our dream career but not when we are working towards it.
The reality of it is, is that the smaller milestones are just important as the bigger ones and without the smaller milestones there would not be the bigger milestones. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the construction is just as important as the city itself.
11. Practice All-Around Gratitude
Practice gratitude for the world around you but also practice gratitude for your mental, physical, and spiritual self.
Did you rock it on the treadmill? Tell your body, mind, and spirit thank you. Did you only have one cookie when you wanted ten? Thank your strength of mind, will power, and self-control. Did you keep going when you wanted to give up? Thank yourself.