I ran into my old pal Gym today. He was hanging out on the same old corner where he normally is. I haven’t gone down that block in a little while, so I hardly recognized him.
But there he was, big and inviting as ever. He welcomed me with open arms. And then he promptly beat my ass.
There is something invigorating and completely daunting about the first day back at the gym. Immediately as I positioned myself on the bench press I could feel the weeks of neglect — the chocolate, the fried everything, the “I don’t think it’s fruitcake but shit girl it’s got raisins, pineapples, and Jolly Ranchers in it so what the hell else am I going to call it?”s — weighing me down (pun intended). I attacked my warm up set. It attacked me back. I scrolled through to where I keep a record of my progress. How the hell did I ever lift that much? I feel like Samson a few weeks after he got a haircut; I’m not totally weak, but I ain’t takin’ out too many Philistines in my present condition.
There are people who love the gym. They live to be in there and feel perfectly at home. We all know them — the guys with 18 different triceps exercises, the gal in the Lulu Lemons who can’t quite seem to leave the crunch station, the creeper who seems to be listening to headphones and staring at someone’s butt sweat every time you turn around. I am not one of those people. My relationship with the gym has always been one of alternating periods of binge and neglect. I would go in and go hard. One time I even fell in love with my spin instructor, but that’s a story for a different time. After a few months of that I’d forget that I even had a membership and catch up on all the White Castle I’d been missing.
In an effort to be less of a yo-yo, I’ve adopted a fairly consistent routine of multiple short sessions a week. Here’s the kicker – they’re in the morning. I’ve started seeing hours of the morning I’d only heard rumor of, but my workouts are better and it’s easy to maintain once I’m in the habit of actually waking up.
And so there I was today, having run out of excuses, back at the place that I want to love. As I clanged and banged my way to mediocrity I realized exactly how much my time off had cost me. The evidence was on the machines in front of me. I’m not as strong today because I didn’t train to be strong yesterday.
There is a big difference between what I want and what I want right now. Too often I trade in my long term striving in deference to what might make me happy in the moment. Yes I want to sleep in, but I’d rather have a hot body so I’d better keep training. Yes I’d like to play Xbox all day, but I’d rather be booked 45 weeks a year so I’d better keep writing.
I don’t think success in life is about what you do one time or even over a short period of time. It’s about your habits, the kind of person who you can be counted on to be. And with that I’m ready to get reacquainted with my old pal Gym.