Call off the drudgery of exercise: It doesn’t have to be so ‘formal’.

When I was in my early teens, I still remember being confronted by one of my peers about my recent performance in the concert band.  We weren’t friends per se.  There was no bad blood; we were simply members of two completely opposite social groups within the school: I was a little awkward, hung out with the goth kids, played music all the time, and avoided all forms of athleticism or Ralph Lauren polos.  Meanwhile, he was very athletic, invited to every party/social gathering, dated every girl you might find as a stand-in for the IT girl in some 90s/early 2000s rom-com, and could regularly draw a laugh from students and teachers alike.  

His comment to me was, no doubt, well-intentioned.  To this day, we are more than cordial.  I’ve come to love his presence and generally jovial nature.  However, the comment at the time poked at the unfortunate wound I constantly hid from my weight.  

“James, man, you killed it at the band concert.  If you could just lose some weight, you’d have it all…”.

Thus began the long descent southward for my self-esteem.  

That’s a lie for dramatic effect.  My self-esteem had been pretty God-awful long before that moment.  

To be fair to Mark (just mentioning you because I love you, Mark) and me, my slightly overweight frame was not the result of not trying to remedy it.  There were a lot of factors involved: 

  1. Group exercise/sports were not for me.  They still aren’t.  I’m way more social than I’ve ever been previously, but I am a classic introvert at heart.
  2. I had absolutely no idea what to do.  I hated running in gym class, and I’m genetically built like a horse, so while I was able to boast some solid numbers on the leg press, I always had the lowest push-up numbers, pull-up numbers, and bench press numbers…it was depressing.  

In my world, those were the options.  So, I just stuck to riding my bike to see my friends and accepting that athleticism was simply outside of my incredibly small toolkit of things that make me useful as a human.

That being said, if I were to travel back in time and tell my pubescent self what I’m into now, I’d swear I was bs-ing him:

  1. I’m in love with bodybuilding.  I follow the sport and use every bit of information I can find to better my own practice.
  2. I love gymnastics, and although I’m still nervous about being upside down, I steal as many of their practices as possible for better mobility, strength, and flexibility.
  3. I love martial arts.  I always took Karate as a kid, but I was nowhere near as dedicated as I am today.
  4. I still hate running…so I don’t do it.  I still get plenty of cardio via many very unconventional means.

So what changed?  What changed is what I’m hoping will change in the reader: the idea that you’re limited.  What changed is what I’m eluding to in the aforementioned factoid number four.

What changed is I started to focus on what I DO like.  Here’s a best-kept secret that you rarely hear outside of small bodybuilding circles: the best diet/workout plan/etc. is the one you’ll adhere to, but I’m going to attempt to stretch this understanding even further.  

The best “everything” for you is what you’ll adhere to.  Period.  

You must experiment.  You must become a student of the “game.”  You must open your mind completely.  You…must become a kid again.  Before your teens, when everything made you want to cringe to death.  You must become a child again.  

Let’s face it: we live in an information onslaught.  It is both beautiful and mortifying.  Everyone is trying to sell you on some trend or piece of equipment.  That’s not a bad thing…for them.  It might be a bad thing for you.  This may be why you may count yourself amongst the 80% of new gym members around New Year’s Day who cancel their memberships in 5 months: You’re lying to yourself and trying to muscle through it.  

I’m calling on you to be engaged with your body, your mind, and what makes you tick.  This advice becomes extremely detailed and multi-faceted when you let it be.  

Let’s take some examples: 

  1. You jump on the treadmill.  You need to walk for 5 minutes and run for 10 minutes because someone somewhere said so.  Should you jump into it and start pushing yourself to the point of fatigue?  In my opinion? Absolutely not.  Why? Because most humans don’t do what they hate on a regular basis, and we’re trying to build a lifestyle.  Why would you start with a first impression based on extreme disdain?  There’s no way you’re going to keep doing that for long.  Ease your way into higher levels of fitness.  Let it become a habit. Let it become enjoyable.  Keep the barrier to entry low.  Before you know it, a day outside of the gym will feel like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  
  2. You won’t find the popular forms of exercise fun.  Don’t do them.  Your tastes can always change, but if you hate it now, you’ll want to track it down and kill it with fire if you force yourself to do an hour of it.  Take a look at children.  You ever notice that they’ll start running for absolutely no reason?  If anything, it’s hard to get them to just walk like the rest of us normies.  They didn’t need a prompt to move more.  They made something up in their heads and went for it.  Remember the 4th factoid up above?  This is where it comes deeply into play.  Heavy emphasis on “play.”  I chase and wrestle my dog.  I run up the stairs of my apartment building (sorry, Mom).  I shadowbox (poorly) while watching UFC.  I skip in my backyard.  I throw on music and dance for the entire album.  

Who’s selling you that workout program? No one?  Figures.  It’s not a program.  It’s’ who I am.  You have things like this in your life as well.  Things that would get you to move without prompt or expensive equipment or a perfect program.  You could get up from the couch and jog in place sporadically.  It’s an option that bypasses the noise of the latest gadget.

Take it from me, an unathletic confused teen at heart: Be yourself, and you’ll actually accomplish something.   Stop doing things that suck because some male model told you to.  


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