For far too long, exercise for me has been about stress relief and prevention of disease. My why is no secret to long time readers of this blog – holding on to my memories going forward and never suffering from Alzheimers as my mom and grandmother have. I am on a mission to live a healthier lifestyle and my why gives me purpose and motivation to keep going, even when times have been very hard. Sadly, lately I’ve come to feel that my workouts and exercise were more of a job, something I had to get done and check off my daily list. I just wasn’t enjoying myself during the process anymore. Whenever I find myself in this kind of rut, I know it’s time to reassess, reevaluate and rethink my journey.
My why is not the issue, I still want to live a healthier lifestyle and avoid disease. That purpose doesn’t need to change, but I need to revise my thinking around the process. Working out shouldn’t be seen as an obligation I need to meet, it really should be seen as fuel for the energy and joy found in my daily life. Yes, I do need to schedule my workouts on my weekly calendar, but not because I have to “get it done”. Rather, it has to be scheduled because I would never want to “live without it”. This simple reframing of thought is a great example of the shifts I need to start making.
Recently, knowing I was in a rut, I decided to try something different; something way outside my comfort zone. I have long been self motivated to exercise and had downsized my gym memberships as they were stressing me out. Spending my morning rushing from yoga to gym to work was causing me to arrive at work stressed out before starting my day. I removed the stress and added more time to my life by working out at home and had no problem getting the workouts done. What I didn’t realize was that the isolation of working out alone would eventually take an emotional toll on me. By nature, I am a person who likes to be part of a group. I like to have a workout buddy and am very good at pushing that buddy to get their workouts in as I just don’t skip workouts.
As the running season started, it was great to be back with my Little Red Runners. This social connection has pushed me to reframe my thinking about my exercise routines. When I run with this group, the focus is more around the social aspect of it – making it more fun. We laugh and just enjoy the time together making the workout feel less burdensome. When I run alone, the focus is more about getting it done and surely I’m not laughing as I go. This realization led me to reevaluate my thoughts on working out in a gym setting. I knew though that just joining a gym wouldn’t solve this problem as I’d merely be working out alone in a gym, or taking a group class. I was looking for more than that really. I was looking for a social connection to push me further and rekindle my enjoyment of the process of working out.
I had invited a colleague from another school to join our Little Red Runners this year on some of our outings. Pat came to the races and talked a lot about her journey to become more fit and healthy. She talked about working out at a CrossFit gym and how she thought I should try it. Another Principal I know works out at that same gym and I mentioned it to him. He thought it was a great idea and even offered to walk in with me as I said I had serious FOWI (fear of walking in). With their encouragement, I finally did walk in and give it a try. I’ve spent the past month going to this gym and while it is HARD, it is fueling my need for social connection and has rekindled my motivation.
What makes this CrossFit gym so special is truly the social connection attached to a killer workout routine that pushes you further than you thought possible. You are working out in a group and focusing on the work you are doing, but others are doing the same thing and encouraging you along the way. You don’t feel like you are alone in a group of strangers. As you run past each other, there’s always a “great job Laura” headed your way, a high five or a “you’re doing great, keep going”. The coaches encourage you and check in on you and give feedback, which feels much more personal than a group exercise class where you just follow directions. Though I am not as capable yet as others in the class, I don’t feel badly about that. Rather, I feel motivated to keep pushing myself to improve. I leave these classes feeling spent, yet so uplifted about the work I was able to do.
Recently, I have realized that I don’t have to just get a workout in. I’ve really started to reevaluate my thinking and have been looking for more ways to lead an active life. Instead of focusing solely on the actual workout, I’ve been focusing on enjoying the process of working out. For example, I can ride my bicycle around my neighborhood and enjoy the beauty of my hometown. I don’t have to run with earbuds in, I can run without earbuds and let the beauty of my surroundings, or the company I am with fuel my run. This week on vacation, I didn’t even bring earbuds. I have walked and run the same routes I’ve run here for years and without music, I’ve noticed things I’ve not seen before. I don’t feel pressured to be outside every day at 5:00 AM working out. Instead I’ve sipped coffee and watched the sunrise, then gone out and got my workout in. When I went over to the park yesterday to do a CrossFit WOD, I noticed a group of women were getting ready to do the same thing. I asked them if I could join them because I knew there’d be more joy found working out in that group than alone.
Sometimes people are put in your life to help you, some are put in your life to teach you a lesson. I believe Pat was put on my path to remind me that there is joy to be found in exercise. I likely would never have taken the CrossFit plunge had I not discussed it with her during our runs. Her encouragement to try it pushed me to make that call and take that risk. That risk has led to a reframing of my journey and a rekindling of purpose. If you find yourself in a rut, think about where you are at. It may be time for a change and reframing of your journey. Drop me a line in the comments about your changes. I’d love to hear how you are finding the joy in your experiences.
If you’re local on Staten Island and want to check out a CrossFit workout, here is the link to the CrossFit I joined: CrossFit Fresh Kills
For other blogs I’ve written on this topic, visit: