Lessons Learned about Life from Working Out

Image. ©2015 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.
Image. ©2015 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.

Working out as part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been an integral part of who I am for quite a while. Whether I was doing aerobics in our tiny apartment with a VHS tape 19 years ago, or training for and running my first 5k three years ago, I’ve understood the importance of moving my body to stay in optimal shape. However, I had never really thought about how the way I work out could mean much more.

Until, I met Robert in 2007.

I had just joined a gym. I was looking to de-stress. He was looking for gym members to train. With much resistance, I agreed for Robert to be my trainer. Although he taught me a lot about where to position my feet when doing a proper squat or how to do a correct push-up, what I learned most from this trainer has remained with me well after I’ve finished my last rep.

Robert would consistently say that he could tell how someone lived his or her life based on how he or she worked out.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

He began to explain. “People who give up in the middle of their workouts are usually people who don’t finish other things in life. People who have gym memberships but never show up, usually don’t show up much in other ways in their own lives.”

Intrigued, I begged him to tell me more. Also, talking meant that he wasn’t counting out my reps.

You stop and do a little happy dance every time you finish a set,” he observed.

“Okay. I meant tell me more about what you see in other people, not me.” But as he continued, I realized he was right. I’m used to cheering myself on in life’s endeavors and finishing 20 assisted pull-ups with him was no different.

Here are three other observations that Robert made with my twist on how they relate to life:

“If you are texting, talking on the phone or reading, you are not fully engaged in the workout!” When I first began working out with Robert, I would prop my book up on the treadmill and proceed to walk, and there was no way you could tell me that I wasn’t “working out.” I was on the treadmill. Moving. Right? Wrong. Most workouts require undivided attention. If we are doing something else during this important time we’ve set aside, then we’re not giving it our full attention. Life also requires our full attention. If we’re not consciously participating in our own lives, giving ourselves 100%, then we may be going through the motions, passively existing. And who wants to just exist?

“Don’t wish it was easier. Wish you had the strength to get through it!” There were times when Robert would direct me to lift some unfathomable weight, and I would give him a defeatist look. But I had to learn to pull strength from inside of myself to lift some ridiculous poundage outside of myself. Just like our workouts, sometimes we wish life was easier so we could just do what we want or have what we want; however, reaching goals in the gym or in life just doesn’t work like that. Anything we desire requires work, and we are the only ones who will be able to dig deep to achieve whatever we set for ourselves.

Don’t worry about what the person next to you is doing! In the beginning, I would compare myself to the guy running 7.0 miles per hour for twenty minutes or the lady who could deadlift her own weight. I continued these comparisons until I learned that guy might be training for a 10k, or that lady is a professional bodybuilder. We often use similar and unfair comparisons in life. We look at people outside of our lives and wonder, “How did s/he get to that point?” “Why is it so easy for so and so to have fill-in-the-blank? The fact is we don’t know what that person’s journey or story is. We don’t know what he or she has had to endure or accomplish to do what you see now. We only see who that person is today.

These lessons have helped me beyond my training relationship with Robert. They’ve reminded me of a few ways that I can get through life. What would you add?