Slave To The Gym
My name is Rod, and I’m a workout addict.
I first experimented at age 14. A friend gave me a book about Arnold Schwarzenegger. I read it cover to cover, bought an old York Barbell set, and started lifting weights in my basement.
I was a fat kid when I started, but within a year I had completely transformed into a lean, muscular teenager. My self confidence soared, and as a result my entire life was transformed. I got a wonderful girlfriend, signed up for team sports, and gained the respect of the popular athletic kids at high school. I was hooked, and it wasn’t long before lifting weights became the crack cocaine of my teenage life.
During University and into my twenties, I spent a minimum of an hour a day in the gym, six days a week. Over the period of a decade, I developed a striking physique. I also experienced a number of nasty injuries, some of which affected my performance for years. I’ve watched friends turn to steroids and surgery as their addiction overcame them. One of my workout partners nearly died after suffering severe cramping brought on by diuretics on the day of his competition.
Over the years I’ve worked hard to developed some objectivity about my addiction.
As a result, I no longer work out to look great – I work out to live great.
- Functional, practical strength has become paramount. I want to be able to climb a ladder, shovel my driveway, chase my dog down the beach, or chop up a tree easily and without pain the next day.
- My workouts have to be time efficient to fit into a busy work and family schedule. I can’t spend two hours a day at the gym like I did in University.
- I hate getting up early to work out. It just has never clicked for me. I have a much better workout later in the day.
- I don’t want to spend $40 a month paying for a gym membership. Over the years I’ve had numerous gyms go under, leaving me without a place to work out. There’s gas to drive there and back, and the costuming requirements that go along with exercising in a public place. Most gyms won’t let you work out barefoot!
- It took me 20 years to admit I really don’t enjoy waiting for equipment, listening to annoying music and idle chit-chat (or tangling in my own earbud wires), wiping other people’s perspiration off of vinyl furniture, or dodging phlegm in bathroom sinks.
There’s a sad trend towards mindless, so-called ‘workouts’ where people drug themselves with physical busyness without thought, rhyme, or reason. I’ve seen so many obviously out of shape individuals frequent the gym regularly for years, spending extended periods of time thumping away on a treadmill while watching TV with absolutely no noticeably positive results. So they try something new… and there’s always something new for sale. Aerobics, nautilus, balancing on balls, elliptical training, spinning, ‘core’ training, hot yoga. But fads fade as soon as people discover they need new motivation to get into shape.
The number one source of physical fitness information is muscle porn – the rags sold at newstands targeting young men and women. These magazines exist for only one purpose – as advertising vehicles for supplements, pills and DVD’s. As a result, gyms are full of men trapped into continual loops of bench pressing and curls, and women seeking iPod fueled nirvana on the treadmill to nowhere.
How does anyone achieve any clarity, freedom and objectivity about fitness in such a media-fueled, gadget-populated, image-driven environment?
It starts with simple self awareness, and asking yourself a few pointed questions.
- Is my current fitness regiment keeping me pain free? When was the last time I suffered an injury while doing something ‘for exercise’?
- Am I regularly skipping exercise because I can’t fit a workout into my busy day?
- Am I becoming physically and mentally more resilient as a result of my workouts, or am I purely working out for image reasons?
- Am I able to do basic physical motions that might be required of me in an emergency situation without injuring myself? Can I pull myself up and over an 8 foot barrier? Can I do a chinup? Can I run flat out for 200 yards without stopping? Can I climb a hanging rope? Lift my own bodyweight off the ground?
- Can I workout anywhere, or do I require certain equipment or a particular environment?
- Does my workout have staying power? Can I still be challenged and excited by this particular form of exercise even after months or years of practicing it?
- How much does my fitness regiment really cost me financially in fees, dues, equipment, clothing, and transportation?
- Does what I do for exercise create a body/mind/spirit connection? Are my workouts an escape from life, or do they ground me in the present?
- Do my workouts help me build mental and spiritual resilience? Do I feel closer to God (to the best of my understanding) as a result of this particular physical activity, farther away, or nothing at all?
These questions will help you to objectively analyze your chosen form of exercise, illuminate any unhelpful levels of obsession or addiction, and help you to break out of unproductive assumptions and patterns of behavior.
Physical fitness can be designed intentionally to help bring clarity, focus and freedom to your life!
Ya got me interested – tell me more! (coming soon)