Sure, we’ve all heard the countless research that supports making exercise a regular part of your life. The health benefits to physical activity are too vast to count. But what are the real motivators? What gets you to the gym everyday? What keeps you lacing up your running shoes, day after day, year after year? Often, the real motivators for many of us go far beyond what the medical data tells us.
After 3 decades of group fitness, squash, running, bodybuilding and crossfit, here are my top reasons. Maybe you can relate to some of them.
My Reason #1: To Lose Weight
I started intentionally exercising at 18 years old. By intentionally, I mean as a structured activity with purpose – and that purpose was to lose the 15 lbs I’d gained during my final year of high school. I didn’t feel comfortable, none of my clothes fit, and I wanted my teenage slim young body back again. I did Charlene Pricket’s “It Figures” tv program every morning at 8:30am, followed by Men of Steel, another half hour tv low impact class (circa 1980’s leg warmers and thongs worn on the outside of your leggings)! It worked. I lost the 15lb, felt great, and continued with tv workout sessions for several years.
My Reason #2: For Health
A few years later, I was fully emerged in real-life with a job, a spouse, and a child. Things were great, but… (insert shocked chin-drop) I smoked. It was pretty typical for when and where I grew up, but I knew even then that it was dreadfully harmful to my health. I’d tried several times to quit over the years, but always failed. Finally I decided to take up running. I figured that running would hurt my lungs so much that smoking a cigarette afterward would be near impossible. Turns out I was right. From the day of my first barely-1km-slow-jog, I never took another drag of a cigarette, but I did continue for years running endless 10kms, several half marathons, and even 2 full marathons.
My Reason #3: For Sport
After I’d become quite fit, I had the confidence in my body to try new things. I’d never been involved in organized sports as a child, likely due to too little opportunity and too much insecurity. At about 30 years old, I had the opportunity to begin playing squash. The intensity of the sport; the total physical and mental demand of the game thrilled me, and I discovered for the first time in my life that I am competitive! That began my obsessive love of competitive sport. Having that end goal – the match, the score, and of course being on the winning side of that score, was what drove me to work harder and harder each year. I also fell in love with the social aspect of sport. The comradery and support network that develops amongst competitors in sport feeds the social and emotional soul as well.
My Reason #4: To Calm my Mind
When I push my body, I mean really push my body hard, it’s so challenging that all my focus goes to the physical task at hand, thereby completely shutting down my mind. It is only during complete physical exertion that the mind fully rests.
Mental rest is as important to health as is physical rest. And in our world of non-stop overwhelming mental stimulation, we all need this. Exercise is my release, my stress management, my happy place.
My Reason #5: For Social Enrichment
I mentioned this one earlier. In our modern world of everything virtual, joining up with your fellow competitors in your sport or with the regulars you’ve come to know in the gym brings a sense of belonging, and of support and encouragement among people who share common goals and interests.
My Reason #6: To Inspire Others
This one came later. An unexpected, but wonderful side benefit of taking care of yourself is being a role model to others. When others see a “real person” with real responsibilities and stresses in life crush their fitness goals, it empowers them to strive for the same. Knowing that you’ve helped other people create positive change in their lives is a huge reward.
My Reason #7: To Be a Superhero
I’ve realized that my body is capable of incredible things! The more I ask of it, the more it gives back to me. At any age, I can continue to progress and get stronger. This gives me tremendous pride, confidence in my abilities, and yes sometimes I feel like a super hero!
I could probably go on and on with the reasons my fitness is a non-negotiable and necessary part of my life, but those are the main ones. If you’re struggling to make fitness a regular part of your life, perhaps you need to explore and find your reasons.