It’s the middle of the winter and you’ve decided to get out of bed, grab your water bottle, and head out into the frigid cold to scrape off your ice-encrusted car. You’ve had your morning coffee and maybe even a banana-topped bowl of fortifying muesli.
You’re motivated. Today’s the day: You’re bound and determined to hit the gym — the real, physical gym where good-looking staff smile while you swipe your membership card that allows you access to a world filled with a dizzying array of machines that gleam in the artificial light. This is in stark contrast to that demotivating metaphoric mental gym of labyrinthine nightmares where everyone is judgmental, and you have no idea how anything works or where the locker room is.
How is it possible to get to this point, though? So often in the past it’s been too easy to talk yourself out of going, psyching yourself out in favor of splendid, sedentary isolation and another episode of Below Deck Sailing or The Real Housewives of Orange County. Sometimes it’s just easier to procrastinate or agonize about what to wear and what footwear to put in your nifty gym bag instead of actually heading out the door. It doesn’t even have to be winter to allow oneself to be convinced that cuddling down in your comfy bed is a far better option than going out into the cruel world.
During a solo Ask Me Anything for Counter-Currents Radio, Greg Johnson was asked, “How do you morally strike a balance between work and play?” He responded:
Well, first of all, there are many people that I know who are very dutiful people. And they are idealistic, and they want to work all the time, especially if they can work all the time for the cause. And my answer to that is, well, that’s admirable, however, if you’re really serious about working for the cause then you do have to build in a little bit of downtime, a little bit of rest. If you want to live for the cause, well, you’ve got to eat, you’ve got to sleep, you’ve got to get some exercise, right?
Greg is quite right about this, of course. It really is impossible to work continuously on any project for long periods of time, even if it’s something you’re committed to and passionate about. So how do we go about exercising when we’re not sure where to start?
Do you have to get some exercise at a formal workout institution or a gymnasium where all the cross-fit athletes look like they’d be better off posing for physical culture calendars? You don’t have to. Do what makes you feel comfortable when you’re easing your way back after a hiatus of laziness, or just plain old anxiety.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of viewing the outside world — especially its human denizens — as inherently hostile and scrutinizing, but it’s not true. Most people are caught up in their own concerns, their own affairs, and their own hang-ups and tribulations. Try to view them as fellow travelers negotiating the vicissitudes of this crazy modern world of ours.
Don’t be too hard on yourself about the way you look and what other people think of you while you’re trudging on the treadmill or climbing a virtual simulacrum of Mount Kilimanjaro. Sometimes it’s best to listen to your friends who have a pragmatic approach about physical culture: It’s not about winning the world series of yoga poses, it’s about feeling less lazy. It’s not about breaking the powerlifting world record, it’s about feeling less fat. It’s about feeling good afterwards and maybe even rewarding yourself with a celebratory ice cream cone or coffee with cream.
If you’ve decided that a gym membership is the way to go, choose one that is in your price range and located conveniently enough to induce some proximity inertia. That’s a term that I just made up, but sometimes when your gym isn’t too far away, it tends to beckon to you like a Siren luring Odysseus. Most contemporary gyms will facilitate a guided tour for new members, and it’s always a good idea to get an idea of the club’s layout, atmosphere, and weight machines. The best establishments are those that make you feel welcome regardless of your fitness level. If a place gives you a bad vibe, try somewhere else; if one place gives you a warm, fuzzy, and welcoming feeling, you may have just found your forever gym.
Another thing to keep in mind is that being fit and feeling good about this mortal coil isn’t inexorably tied to paying money for a gym membership. That isn’t for everyone. Sometimes the best workouts can be had for free. Have you ever felt the miasmatic fog of writer’s block, or the stress of deadlines? I think we all have at one time or another. One of the best resets for the addled mind is a walk outside. You don’t need much: a pair of running or walking shoes and a bit of pent-up frustration. Sometimes it feels like the world is ending, and one of the best ways to alleviate that feeling is to leave your house for a stroll, a mosey, or a brisk walk. As the modern world has us continually plugged into devices and moving at a frenetic pace, it’s infinitely helpful to take a break, set electronic distractions aside, and commune with neighborhood dogs on a serene walking path.
There is a great benefit associated with having even a bare minimum of athletic equipment in your home. Free weights in the form of dumbbells are the perfect way to ventilate daily frustrations from the safety of your basement, garage, or living room. You may even live in a condominium or apartment complex that has its own workout facilities. The hilarious thing about these spaces is that oftentimes no one’s even using them. You may have the whole place to yourself from time to time.
So going forward, don’t be overly harsh or critical about your lack of physical activity. Let that go, put on some comfortable footwear (preferably of the running, walking, or cross-training variety), and do something you enjoy. You don’t have to win Mr. Olympia or Ms. Olympia on your first outing to the gym, the trail, the park, or the swimming pool. And don’t be afraid to ask someone how a machine works, where the water fountain is, or if it’s okay to pet their friendly dog.
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