People who aren’t into fitness tend look at people who are and say “well it’s easy for them, they enjoy it”. And that is, to a very small extent, justified. There are people out there that love doing exercise. In a way they’re predisposed to being fitter and healthier, after all, they want to go out there and be active.
Most people would probably class me as a fairly active bloke. I go to the gym every day, I run races at weekends, I even try to stick to a diet, although that’s largely where my good intentions often fall down. The point is, people would probably assume that I’m one of those people who enjoy it due to the fact I spend most of my free time doing it. The reality is however, that I’m not.
If you were to ask any of my close friends, or indeed my parents, they’d probably tell you that I’ve always been an inherently lazy man when it comes to physical exercise. Given the choice I’d much rather be laying in bed watching old 80s films on a Sunday morning instead of getting up early to go a run a half marathon. So why do I bother? Surely I’d be much happier just doing what I want to.
Well, up until a few years ago I was indeed mainly spending my Sundays laying in bed, and yes, I was enjoying it. I could stay up late, eat what I liked, play old computer. It was great. The problem was that I was putting on a bit of weight.
I decided to take up running to try and lose it. I started out preparing for a 5k work had signed me up for. I used to get home in the evenings and do a little route around the park. I absolutely hated it every time, but the more I did it, the more I got used to it being part of my routine. Once it’s embedded in your life as a normal thing it becomes easier. Sure, I’d sit on the sofa wearing my running kit deliberating if I could be bothered more often than not, but every time I won through it only made it easier to do the next time. And whenever I came back home after a run I felt a sense of pride. I felt like I’d overcome something. The more you feel that pride, the easier it becomes to win the argument.
After a few months I ran further and took part in a couple more races. If the pride I felt taking myself out for a run was good, the feeling after getting up on a Sunday and running a 10k race was amazing.
I’m not a morning person – at least I wasn’t for years – so setting my alarm for 7am on a weekend was always a major struggle. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed confused as to why I was doing it, confused why I’d put myself through something that went against every part of my being.
I’d pull on a jumper and make my way across London to some race I’d paid £15 to take part in, dreading every moment of it.
And barely ever during a race do I enjoy it. Yeah there are times where I’m doing really well, when I know I’m going to get a PB, but even them I’m not enjoying it. I’m in pain. My legs are hurting, my lungs hurt, I’ve got blisters. It’s really not fun.
But as soon as I cross the finish line it all changes. I’ve gained so much that it all becomes worthwhile. I’ve argued against myself and won. I’m defying my own desires to do something I really don’t want to do. It’s pretty damn empowering knowing that you can make yourself do something it doesn’t want to do. It basically means you can do anything. At least that’s what it feels like.
And even now, when I’m getting up at 7am to do a race, I still hate it. I always hate it. I’d always much rather be asleep after a night at the pub. I’d always much rather nip to the shop to buy a Twix and watch Seinfeld. And yeah, sometimes I do, sometimes I decide I can’t be bothered. But I know if I want to I can make myself get up.
Being “active” doesn’t mean you have to like doing it. It doesn’t even mean you have to be good at it. It just means you do it. And being able to make yourself do it is by far the hardest part. You never know, you may actually find you like being active, and then it all becomes pretty easy.