The title says it all: the people in the gym are not selfish. We are goal-oriented, determined, challenge-seeking individuals. (And some of us might be adrenaline junkies because sprints rock).
I did not always work out 6 days a week. As a matter of fact, I used to not work out at all. Little did I know, I needed the gym much more than it needed me.
Whenever I read fitness blogs, I often see bloggers talking about how they were active or athletic in their youth and how that transitioned into their interest in the fitness arena.
That is not my story. Growing up, I hated physical activity—especially running. I went to insane lengths to avoid gym class and organized sports. I danced throughout my childhood, but my lack of cross-training or rather participating in any other physical activity hindered my performance. Dancing is a lot like sprinting in that you have to exert a solid burst of energy over a short period of time. Without exercising, I barely had the aerobic capacity to perform leaps and jumps without feeling out of breath. In high school, I was on the track team for two years, quitting after flipping over a hurdle and spraining my ankle. That was probably the only time I had a legitimate reason to avoid gym class.
For the rest of high school, I continued to loathe working out. I could not stand sweating and did not want to get my hair messed up. Every time I had to do some sort of fitness assessment, I complained, said I was weak, and laughed about it.
For a long time, I did not realize that I was laughing about myself. And negatively at that. I acted like having no upper body strength was a chronic condition. I thought that being fast was based strictly on genetics, so there was no hope for me.
In college, I started to go to the gym little by little. For a year, I only went twice a week, focusing on cardio. I then added in a third day, two more days to reach 5 days, and now I work out 6 days a week. It’s no longer a schedule to me—it’s a way of life.
And while yes, when I’m at the gym I am working on myself, it is not a selfish act. Going to the gym has given me confidence. I now run faster than I ever believe I could even though I’m no longer a teenager. And I’m working on my pushups. I have learned that with hard work, patience, and a solid strategy, I can do anything.
The combination of improving my mental and physical strength simultaneously is empowering. When I’m faced with adversity, I look at my wall of medals and reflect on what I’ve accomplished in the past, confident that I can make a difference in the future. After all, how can I best serve others and make meaningful contributions without striving to become my best self?
Going to the gym has also given me hope. In life, I’m often evaluated on metrics and assessments created by and for someone else. These metrics have often been used to box me out of opportunities and achievements that I deserved. If the only goals I ever set out to achieve were reliant upon these measures, I would undoubtedly perceive myself as less successful. The ability to set my own goals allows me to take ownership of my future. Maybe it all starts on the treadmill or on the mat, but I take those lessons from there and apply them to my life.
Going to the gym has taught me that I will sometimes encounter failure on the way to success, and that that is ok. Every experience is a learning opportunity. Wins cannot exist without losses.
So the next time you see a runner setting out alone on an early morning or discussing their race challenges with the utmost seriousness, take a moment to listen. Physical activity is much more than the movement itself. It is the language we use to communicate with our minds.