Why bother with this whole “exercise” trend? I mean, hell. It's hard work. It's time-consuming. Your body aches. Your butt smells like goat cheese. (Anyone? No? Only me?) It ain't exactly a pony ride.
And yet there are reasons (good reasons it seems) why people go the gym, love the gym, can't seem to operate without their gym time. They literarily train their cabooses off—whether that's in the gym, on the pavement, or on the mats, fields, and courts. It seems as though they couldn't imagine life without exercise.
What have they discovered?
What motivates them to work so damn hard?
Why do they suffer through injuries, through misery, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad for their matrimony with sweat?
And... What can their commitment to exercise teach a non-gym goer?
Now, I'm going to go ahead and set “looking better” aside. It's no wonder that some 103 percent of gym-goers exercise to look better. And for the record, I'm not mad at that. Looking better is a perfectly fine reason to workout and is, without question, a strong motivator. But I want to get at some more powerful convictions. Motivations that are less about exterior influence and more about what's deep down at the heart chakra of what it means to be human.
But where was I? Oh, that's right:
The Top 6 Reasons You Should Start Working Your Ass Off in the Gym
(Compliments of Those Who Do):
1. You should work out because it makes you happy.
I don't mean this in an esoteric way. I mean it very literally. You'll feel awesome after you exercise. Immediately. Intensely. Unequivocally. Study after study confirms the direct relationship between exercise and increased feel-good hormones, including a study that suggests high-intensity exercise modulates the brain in a very similar way to cocaine use Daily treadmill exercise attenuates cocaine cue-induced reinstatement and cocaine induced locomotor response but increases cocaine-primed reinstatement. Thanos PK, Stamos J, Robison LS, et al. Laboratory of Neuroimaging, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIH, Bethesda, MD; Behavioral Neuropharmacology and Neuroimaging Lab, Medical Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY; Dept. of Psychology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY. Behavioural Brain Research, 2013 Feb 15;239:8-14.. (That's gotta feel good.) Another recent study confirmed that serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the hippocampus were significantly increased by exercise, suggesting physical activity can help manage depression Exercise intervention may prevent depression. He SB, Tang WG, Tang WJ, et al. Department of Neurology, Zhoushan Hospital, Zhoushan, China. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 2012 Jul;33(7):525-30..
Even in the 1800s Henry David Thoreau knew what was up. “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day,” he said.
Both science and great American poets seem to agree: We simply cannot be our happiest without exercise.
2. You should work out to make your life easier.
Being stronger, leaner, happier, and more capable can make for a more manageable life:
Your boss needs you to get that box? Yes ma'am, you can get that box. Your neighbor needs you to rearrange his furniture? Damn right buddy, you'll move that couch. Your homeboy needs you to carry him home from the bar? Saddle up, cowboy.
Training increases your capabilities. That's the law of progressive overload—lift something a lil bit heavier each day, get a lil bit stronger. Run a lil faster each day, get a lil bit, um, faster. A body that is increasingly capable makes for a life that is increasingly manageable (read: awesome).
3. You should work out because it helps you win at life.
Setting and achieving goals inside the weight room helps you set and achieve goals outside the weight room. The goal-setting/goal-accomplishing cycle is a learned trait. From a very early age, winners start to reinforce this idea that if they set their mind to something and tirelessly work towards its accomplishment, the outcome will be positive.Archbishop Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens said it well, “Happy are those who dream dreams and pay the price to make those dreams come true.”
Initially, these victories are small. But eventually, the accomplishment (or foundering) of our goals comes to define our life. This same cycle repeats itself on a daily basis with our exercise. For example, if you'd like to be able to be able to do a pull-up you might:
Do seated rows.
Do inverted rows.
Do lat-pull downs.
Do assisted pull-ups.
DO A PULL-UP.
The more you reinforce hard work with a positive outcome, the more you think of yourself as a winner. If we get good at winning at exercise, we can be good at winning at anything.
4. You should work out for your family and friends.
I don't want to get too sappy (it'll ruin my street cred) but the people closest to you rely on your love, energy, and compassion. Mismanaging your body is a disservice to them.
This holds true for young mothers, aging grandparents, or loving husbands. Taking care of your relationship with self is the first step towards taking care of your relationship with others. Making time for exercise is absolutely, positively, in NO WAY an act of selfishness. Quite the opposite: It's an act of generosity. The people around you deserve your best. The best version of you is a version that is constantly challenged and improved with a kick-ass exercise routine.
5. You should work out because you can.
Initially, it's easy to view exercise as a chore. Consider this instead: Exercise is a blessing. Not only do you have the knowledge and the means to exercise (how fortunate), but you've been given a body that is strong as a friggin' tank, fast a cheetah, and more agile than a jackrabbit. OK, perhaps that is slightly overstated, but a healthy body is truly a work of art.
Take inventory. If you are fortunate enough, you have…
- Two strong legs that can carry you anywhere you damn well please.
- Two strong arms that can lift lots of really heavy stuff.
- A strong core and a strong heart and strong hands.
- It all works. Every day. It works really well. In fact, if you stop and think about it, it's baffling just how impressively well it works.
- Your workout is a celebration of that.
6. OK, you can work out to be sexy, too.
‘Cause the ladies like a guy with a little sweat on his brow. And the broski's like a babski with a little chalk on her hands.
These are only a few of the millions of good reasons to hit the gym. Simply put, exercise makes for a more awesome life. Do me a favor and send this to someone who doesn't workout. They'll thank you later.
I'm curious to hear why you workout. If we get 25 comments on this bad boy, I'll share my love note to exercise. “Dear Exercise, I don't want to sound creepy, but sometimes I sit at home and study you. All alone… at my desk…I read about you and think…”
This guest post was written by Rob Sulaver, Chief Executive Fitness Ninja of Bandana Training. The opinions expressed herein are his and his alone. To learn more about Rob, follow him on Facebook and Twitter, or at his website bandanatraining.com.