“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions, your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”
— Mahatma Ghandi
I’m not saying there is just one thing to thank my parents for, but if I could pick one today, it would be the fact that they installed a sense of movement into my body. Years of insisting I do sports–from golf to tennis to bowling before finally settling on swimming–resulted in an biological need to exercise. If I don’t, by body gets less efficient and my mood gets wonky and my brain just doesn’t seem to want to do brain things as well as it normally does.
If you had asked me up until turning 20, I would never have told you that by 26 I would willfully workout twice a day. That I would get up before work to put in half an hour, and then give another forty-five before leaving the office. That I would consider it a part of my daily life, as pivotal to my physical health as my mental and spiritual health.
I learned at 22 that the gym could be a spiritual place. In the midst of my worst breakout (and that’s saying something, as I seem to be particularly proficient at spectacular breakups), I sought solace in the gym. I claimed it as my own, with a weight-lifting routine devised by my now-ex-boyfriend complimenting the full practice schedule of a collegiate swimmer. We had used to work out together, and I kept our old schedule, forcing him to change his to avoid me. I discovered that I was powerful, and channeling that power lead me to be able to eventually move on. Since then, I have always considered a weight room a pseudo-holy ground. Those willing to allow their souls to rejuvenate can experience the same increase in strength of willpower and fortitude as they do in muscular ability.
Now I use the gym as an excuse to keep everything in balance. Yes, I give over an hour of my life each day to the entirely unpleasant combination of running, circuits, exertion, sweating, and recovery. I find it to be the only time my over-active brain finds quiet. After all, it’s hard to think about the ramifications of an email I hope is perceived as friendly or the feeling of breath on the back of my neck that my job occasionally gives me when I’m just keeping count of steps and trying to keep my breath regular for the next seventeen seconds of the set.
Most of the time, my peers seem to find my commitment to working out unusual. Sometimes I do too. When I see others at the gym using the personal trainer, or friends quitting routines they have set, I find myself among a small and devoted group. It’s not that I like the unpleasantness of working out, it’s just that nothing else in my life is so completely and wholly dependent on me and my abilities.
It all comes back to habit though, as eleven years in a swimming pool can show. I was taught to associate working out with fitness of mind and body. I learned how to turn off thoughts and focus on the task at hand. I experienced as many emotions in the pool as out, and learned that winning, losing, succeeding, failing, and trying were a part of life as much as sport. I can only look back and thank those who forced me into the pool at 7:30am for a meet, who drove me to practice, who simply stood back and let my own motivation shine, and who later cheer me on with their man, I don’t know how you do it comments. Tomorrow morning when I’m laying in bed hating the concept of a treadmill, well, I’ll think of yo