At least four days a week most weeks I commit to an early morning exercise routine. It consists of 15 minutes of stretching, 15 minutes of weights, and 15 minutes of cardio. On the other days I at least make sure I do some stretches in an attempt to alleviate back problems, and most of the time that happens. At my last physical, my doctor said I am the poster child for trying to take care of myself. I’m proud of that. Of course it doesn’t mean something won’t happen to me tomorrow. I get it. I’m not naïve, nor too full of myself. Taking care of myself is important, but not because I want to live forever. Actually, I’m not afraid of dying. It’s like the old country and western song, and I’m paraphrasing: I’m not afraid of dying because I know I’m going to heaven, I just don’t want it to be today.
There are a lot of things I still want to do with my life. I’m not ready to quit yet. I think it’s good to continue to have dreams, set goals, and plan for the future no matter your age. I think I’m a little different, however, than a lot of people. I’m not interested in travelling, in sitting on the beach, in eating at a new restaurant every week, or attending all the new movies, concerts, or theater openings. I’m more into spending time with family, enjoying watching the sun come up in the mornings, and finding ways to help. It doesn’t mean I’m better or worse than anyone else, just maybe different that a lot of people at this point in my life. But to do my best I need to be physically and mentally capable.
This isn’t about me patting myself on the back. I falter at what I try more than most people. Sometimes it’s a struggle at 5:00 a.m. to make myself get started. It’s not because I don’t like to sweat or because my muscles hurt or because my heart pounds harder and faster than normal. And it’s not because 5:00 a.m. is too early, even though it may sound that way to some of you. It’s because sometimes I’m just lazy. It’s that some mornings I’m just not ready to get started. I want to be comfortable. You know that uncomfortable feeling you sometimes get when you have to do something you don’t want to do, but know it’s important? So to prevent the uncomfortable feeling, we just skip the activity? We decide we’re just going to take the easy way out. I get that way some mornings. But then I remember my purpose for doing it. I remember my goals.
So sometimes I get up and get going, but I do it with an attitude of “OK, let’s hurry up and get this over with.” That kind of attitude doesn’t work over the long term, because if my heart isn’t in it (no pun intended) and I don’t want to be there, I’m not going to get the most out of my time spent and I’m not going to stay consistent with my routine. Doing things for the right reasons is important. So I find ways to enjoy the process. Maybe it’s counting the number of reps when lifting weights, or maybe it’s challenging myself to go faster on the stationary bike, or maybe it’s holding the plank a little longer today that yesterday, or maybe it’s listening to my favorite oldies songs and just thinking about things. It may not exactly be having fun, but it can be producing a level of satisfaction that makes me feel good about myself.
I think we often misunderstand the difference between having fun and being satisfied. Everything does not have to be fun to be enjoyable. We sometimes mistakenly thing everything we do in schools to teach kids has to be fun and games. Kids need to learn there is satisfaction in doing something well. In work, I’ve heard it said that it is the responsibility of the boss to make the job fun for employees. Sometimes it’s enough just to feel the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment for a job well done.
The point is, my goal is to get into better shape and to enjoy the rewards that it produces, but it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the process too, even if it might not be considered fun. So often, the only thing we pay attention to are the results and we skip the enjoyment found in the “time spent.” Exercise can clear your head and offer a time to think. It can make you feel like your accomplishing something. It can be satisfying even if you don’t think it is fun.
We go through life working toward the next goal and miss out on the enjoyment and the satisfaction we can feel in getting there. Life’s not just about the outcomes. Our enjoyment does not have to only come from the final product. So what if my muscles don’t get as big as I want them to be, or I can’t get rid of all of the aches and pains in my joints, or I’m not able to run that marathon I might like to run….just kidding….I can find ways to enjoy what I’m doing. And maybe that relates to other parts of our lives as well.