I don’t want to.

I knew it would happen. In fact, I kind of looked forward to it. I thought: When I leave training, I won’t have to worry about my workouts anymore. I wouldn’t have to stress about if I got enough cardio in, if I strength trained enough. If my workouts were the right kind: timing and sets and reps perfectly orchestrated. This was my job. I had to walk the walk.

But now, a new panic has set in.  It’s so easy to just not do anything, to continue to sit on my couch reading or clean the kitchen instead of go for a run or– ugh– go to the gym. The thought of getting on a treadmill makes my soul shrivel. I can make myself do a couple sets of squats or pushups, and my brain goes, “Okay. That’s enough. No more.”

Guys, I used to love working out.

I try to soothe myself. Something similar happened when I finished grad school: I didn’t read for three or four months after graduating– and I honestly don’t remember how long I went without writing. After reading a thousand-plus pages each week, spending hours upon hours in front of the computer screen, neither sounded appealing.  What did sound appealing?  Working out. I lifted five days a week, ran thirty miles, swam two or three hours. Moving my body let my mind rest.

But I don’t feel as though my body is in need of physical rest, per se.  Mostly, I just don’t want to have to care anymore. I want to spend a day on the couch without the voice in the back of my head nagging me for being so lazy, reminding me how my inactivity will surely snowball. It tells me how I’ll no longer fit into any of my clothes, how I’ll lose my ability to run a mile, how I’ll no longer be the person who can carry the heavy boxes during moves.

Logically, I know this period is not forever. I’ll figure out what I like to do, get in a rhythm of it.

For as long as I can remember, though, I have thought about exercise in terms of what should be done: 150 minutes per week of moderately intense cardiovascular exercise per week (or three days of 20 minutes of vigorous exercise), strength training two or more days per week, 10,000 steps per day. The more science (or pseudo-science) taught us about how to quantify health, the more I’ve tried to at least be mindful of those numbers.  And why not? It’s a simple yes/no question: did I or did I not achieve the goal? If not, what do I need to change?

Yet, I wonder, if we spend too much time quantifying fitness, as though if we hit all the right numbers, we will become entirely free of risk.  Can we live long, healthy lives, circumventing cancer, accidents, sadness? Of course not. At some point, there are diminishing returns on all the analysis.

And, besides that, how many goals can a person actually set for themselves, feasibly? Even if you have infinite time, how much willpower is there? One question I’ve asked myself recently is if I should have flipped my priorities these past few years, carving away time in my schedule for writing as much as I did for exercise, where would I be? Note that I don’t mean a better or worse place, but perhaps fitness did cause me to lose sight of writing, to deprioritize it.

As a trainer, you say, “Exercise will give you energy for your other endeavors!” Which is true, yes. But some endeavors do become all-encompassing– you have a conference or a book proposal due or it’s tech week for your play. There’s a beauty to that level of commitment– it’s that hard work that pays off. And on the one hand, I like that idea, of having something new and different take my focus, but, at the same time, I’m afraid of letting go of this commitment to exercise I’ve had for so long.

Is it either/or? Or is there some sort of compromise?

2 thoughts on “I don’t want to.

  1. “One question I’ve asked myself recently is if I should have flipped my priorities these past few years, carving away time in my schedule for writing as much as I did for exercise, where would I be? ” This sounds familiar. My entire adult life, I’ve spent more time on fitness and clean eating (shopping and cooking) than almost anyone I knew at any given time. Now that I’m 53, I have a few things to say about this choice. First, the most obvious: I’m really healthy. Nobody can tell I’m 53, including anyone checking my blood pressure, A1C, cholesterol, etc. Second: No matter what kind of work I’ve been doing, being physically active (whether at a gym or otherwise) has enabled me to do my work better. Sure, taking the time has meant sometimes that I haven’t appeared as productive as colleagues who didn’t mind sitting down all day, but being unable to sit long enough to do certain jobs also taught me that those jobs weren’t for me. Third: I find it helpful to think of my life as a patchwork quilt rather than anything linear. I’ve held a lot of jobs and failed at at least one career and I never expected to raise kids, which I’m now doing. Rather than criticizing my own progress in any given career, I’ve started evaluating my progress as a human being. This doesn’t mean I don’t feel disappointed sometimes for what I haven’t accomplished. But I’m starting to think that, as long as I make my choices with integrity, I am finding the right balance for any particular time. So–I say go with what feels right, but choose wisely. You will find the compromise that works. And then you will find it again. And again.
    By the way, I’m writing this at a treadmill desk. 🙂 I also did about an hour of timed-circuit weight training this morning at the gym, where I spoke with three women in their 70’s whom I thought were my age. It’s good for us! Don’t stop!

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    • These are all really good points– I particularly like the point about life being like a patchwork quilt, rather than linear. (And about looking at success as a human, rather than just at career choices). I can definitely say I’m happy with my life as it is. It’s good to have that reminder that working towards balance pays off in the long run. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

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