Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lesson From the Gym: Habits Can Be Good or Bad

No really, that's me now - only without a tan.

I have a confession; I'm developing an addiction. No joke. It’s costing me $100 per month. That might not sound like much but to me it’s huge. Not so much the dollar amount though; it’s more the toll it’s taking on my body.
               This growing habit is also taking up time from other stuff; cutting into important activities. At least it feels that way. So it can be a problem sometimes. Especially since there are only so many hours in a day.
               But I'm not complaining. Instead I'm celebrating. See, the habit I'm developing is going to the gym. Though I’m still a ways from defining myself as a gym rat, I am starting to feel the fitness bug. That’s a good thing; a healthy thing. I've been in and out of this habit, working out, for most of my adult life. FYI, in my youth it was called ‘playing.’
               Problem is, the older I get, the fewer chances I seem to have for this wellness pass time. Yet I know being in this particular habit is probably the best thing in the world for me. Not only does it help me physically, it also affects me mentally. Emotionally too.
I'm in this photo somewhere, I swear.
               Being in shape tends to bring out my best side. I’ve got more energy and a better attitude. But it’s hard. The getting in shape part, that is. That's because when I'm out of shape I excel at concocting a thousand other reasons (i.e., excuses) why I should be doing something, anything other than pumping iron in the gym or running outside until I'm so nauseous I feel like I’m going to be sick.
               When I'm not in shape, just thinking about going to the gym or doing anything strenuous is depressing. I think about all the hard work it takes: the sweating, the soreness, the time away from other stuff, any stuff I would prefer to do instead, like reorganize my sock drawer or watch paint dry. Or ordering a double Whopper, heavy ketchup, no onions, cut in half.

That's my leg, right there - see? 5th bike back.
But it’s no plea that I’m copping. Instead it’s funny; my mind always knows how good my body will feel when I finally get into shape. Yet it’s the ‘getting there’ that is a problem. Seems my priority for achieving proper physical conditioning for some reason tends to be a low priority. That is, until I reach that special threshold. I’m talking about the point at which working out starts to feel more important than anything else. That’s what’s starting to happen with me now.
               Currently, I’m closing in on that psychological frame of mind where I can't not go to the gym, take a run or go mountain biking. It's as if my DNA is being somehow altered. It feels as much a mental thing as it does a physical one. Life activities and responsibilities magically re-prioritize in my mind, with being fit and eating right bubbling to the top of my daily list of things to do.
               Habits are a funny thing; they can help or do harm. For instance, when it comes to be being a better person in other ways, like respecting those different from me, habits can be especially helpful. Trouble is, there are also bad habits. They creep in when I least expect it. Frequently, I don’t even notice them – no matter how well intended I believe myself to be. Bad habits like making assumptions and depending on stereotypes.
               It takes dedication to make and break habits. It also takes practice. However, I find the more I work at it, the easier it becomes.

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