So Much Of Life Isn't In Our Control: Why Staying In Shape Is Important

As my 20s pass me by faster than I’d like, I’m always looking for effective ways to stay healthy and fit. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t get easier with age. In high school, I was constantly training for whatever sport was in season and maintaining that fitness in the offseason.

If I didn’t, I wouldn’t play. I wanted to play, so this necessity of training became routine — a lifestyle, really — and began to come naturally. Strength training, resistance training, aerobic and cardio training — I did all of it.

High School Training

I took comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone in my training. My teammates were in the trenches with me, working their asses off to achieve the same goal as I was. We wanted to perform at the highest individual level to ultimately have success as a team. Each player internalized a sense of accountability and a natural desire to challenge oneself and other players alike.

That’s what I miss the most about the concept of training – the end game. I miss the camaraderie I had with my teammates and the rewards that came as a result of the hard work.

College Training

As high school sports passed, most of us realized we weren’t going to be competing athletically at the next level. Even if we played organized sports in college, we understood that we probably wouldn’t be moving on to play professionally. It’s tough to admit this, so naturally there is an odd transition period. We still maintained the baseline athleticism and skills that we worked all those years to develop, as well as our passion to utilize them. Only now, we had a different platform and different reasons to do so.

Many of the aforementioned feelings and desires were satisfied playing intramural sports. We all wanted to compete for that coveted t-shirt, and enjoyed the camaraderie and competition along the way. Perhaps our motivation for training and staying in shape was to increases our chances with significant others. Or, maybe we were just determined to prove that we wouldn’t gain the freshmen 15. Regardless, we all had enough incentive in those years to work out and stay in shape (at least to some capacity).

Side note: if you are someone that didn’t grow up participating in athletics, training, or daily exercise in general, but decided to pick it up recently (for any number of your own reasons) the below applies to you as well.

Life Training

Training, working out, exercise — whatever you want to call it, is harder to do now. It just is. There aren’t quite the same motivations from which to pull. The fact that there is no longer a win/loss column, no more titles and seemingly, no tangible reward, makes it more difficult to instill fitness into our daily routines. Also, we certainly don’t have the same amount of free time. Many of us work fulltime jobs and have other priorities and responsibilities in our lives.

The gym routine can get monotonous.You feel like you can only “switch it up” so many times to challenge yourself and work different muscles before you end up circling back. The thing is, most of the time, you really are working by yourself. It’s tough enough to set aside daily exercise time without relying on others to join you — motivation is lost and laziness sets in. All of that being said, it is absolutely possible to maintain your health and fitness. No excuses.

There are both short and long-term benefits of adopting a healthy diet and exercise regularly. The challenge is to find satisfaction and enjoyment in the activity to make up for the lack of the emotional connection that used to exist. So, how do you find that motivation, meaning, and fulfillment?

There are countless avenues of health, fitness and overall wellness practices that we can’t be afraid to explore. After they were suggested to me, I gave spinning and yoga a try. Game changer.

I met a group of riders in a cycling class, strapped on specialized biking shoes and entered the room. It immediately felt different. It felt like I was putting on cleats again and stepping onto the field with my team. We locked into the bike pedals – this was serious. The instructor was up on stage, blasting the music and flashing lights.

The ride was a 45-minute combination of sprints, hills and various choreographed movements to the rhythm of the beat. Everyone was riding together to the beat of great music. The team camaraderie that I’d been craving was present, which allowed for a truly rewarding feeling.

Also, I’ve been practicing yoga for about six months and my only regret is that I didn’t try it sooner. The physical benefits include the opening up and lengthening of muscles, stability, coordination, balance and most importantly, breathing correctly.

These physical benefits were a bonus to the training I was hoping to achieve for my mind. I’m a classic over thinker and often struggle to appreciate the present moment — I’m just wired for anxiety and stress. Yoga hasn’t been a miracle cure for me, but it has certainly helped. It’s a strange combination of challenge and comfort and I’ve gotten much better at connecting the mind with the body to accomplish mindfulness. Many people feel a spiritual connection with yoga and gain a peace of mind and a sense of clarity. Too corny? Well, don’t knock it till you try it.

Again, there are countless avenues to pursue in fitness training. I haven’t personally tried Crossfit, and I know it’s taken a lot of heat, but I’d never discredit it. If a group of Crossfit trainees can get together and accomplish that feeling of camaraderie and fulfillment in the practice, then who am I to judge? Whether it’s through one of the aforementioned workouts, or something else, the goal is to simply feel better, to attain self-fulfillment and happiness in a better lifestyle.

Friends have asked me why and how I’m able to keep up with fitness training and a healthy diet. I tell them it’s easy — it’s one thing over which I have true control in my life.

There’s just too much in life over which we actually don’t have control (the economy, certain illnesses, how other people think and act, and the weather). We can control what we put into our bodies and how to take care of ourselves. Take group classes and have specialized workouts that cater to you and mix them in with your normal routines. Get in the trenches with your teammates again and have some fun doing it – you’ll start winning life.

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