It's been a while since I've written anything non-comic related, so thought it'd be nice to wax poetic on one of my other favorite hobbies; physical fitness. If you follow me on Twitter (you lovely, lovely few) you've likely seen me champion/lament my gym going habits to an exhausting degree. It's an odd pastime really, moving shit around in repetitious fashion in the hopes that some parts of you get bigger and others smaller, but it's one that's constantly talked about, particularly right after New Years. What follows is my story, how I made fitness a part of my daily routine and my reasons for doing so. This won't be a shop talk article (I'll leave that to the pros) but rather what I hope is a relatable story that will inspire or at the very least entertain. Read on!
You glance at yourself in the mirror before bed. You're not in bad shape but you're not exactly Channing Tatum and fuck that guy for having abs especially cuz he got to play Duke in G.I. Joe and that's stupid cuz if I was ripped I could totally kick his ass and then The Rock would be my best friend and not his so I'm starting in the gym fucking TOMORROW and holy shit that's the alarm and it's 6am and holy FUCK it's cold and the sun isn't even up and why was I doing this today I have plenty of time so eff this and I totally promise I'm going to start TOMORROW! Sound familiar?
Everyone wants that ideal body, the kind you see in magazines and on television and in those secret folders on your computer that you hide from your mom. The problem is, that ideal body seems virtually impossible to achieve, a fabled “if only” that never manifests. Sure, there are people out there whose genetic gifts allow them to mature into statuesque physiques with little to no effort (aka, assholes), but for the average person physical perfection seems forever out of reach.
I wasn't conscious of my own body until junior high school, that awkward time where every decision you make can (seemingly) make or break your entire existence. Growing up I had been somewhat of an athlete, participating in organized sports and the like, but as I reached adolescence my peers started growing and I just kinda stopped. The even playing field I was used to suddenly got a lot less so, and as such I became increasingly aware of how I stacked up to the other guys in my class. Childhood insecurity is a powerful thing, and eventually I just accepted that, physically, I was inferior to my more athletic counterparts.
As I continued to mature I was never overly heavy or overly skinny, an average build for an average boy. I attempted to combat that in high school, signing up for a fitness class during our zero hour, but I was never too into it, the pain of working out not worth the minimal results I saw. This half-hearted foray into fitness continued into college, as it usually took the prodding of another to get me into the gym, and even then rarely on a consistent basis. Every day I promised myself that tomorrow would be different, and every day I made the same excuses, gave myself the same free pass, content with being a passably fit twenty-something male. I ate what I wanted, drank when I shouldn't, confident that my passable metabolism would keep me at my perfectly average size.
And then, something changed. It wasn't overtly physical; on the outside, I was still that moderately healthy looking, physically ordinary guy I had always been. The change first became noticeable one summer in California. I was in town visiting my sister, five years my junior, and she had generously secured tickets to the popular amusement park Knot's Berry Farm. I had never been, and was excited at the prospect of spending the day riding roller coasters and other such stomach turners. We hit the park fast, riding ride after ride, coaster after coaster, a prime example of youthful exuberance. And then, something happened. I crashed, hard. We had only been at the park a few hours and suddenly I felt like I had been running for days.
My sister, all spunk and pep and Energizer Bunny, wanted to press on, not wanting to waste what little time we had together, but I couldn't do it. I was tired, in a way I'd never quite experienced before. My sister was kind enough to ease the pace, bless her rapid fire heart, but she was also concerned. She asked me, her voice serious and direct; “Is this what happens when you get older?” I was twenty two.
Fast forward a few years to my last year in college. I had a long time girlfriend, a nice house we were renting together, and a full-on Noah's ark of pets. One summer day we decided to take the dogs for a walk, determined to enjoy the pleasant Boise weather. We made it to the end of the street when we realized we'd left the dog's poop bags, and not wanting to be discourteous to fellow park goers I volunteered to run back and get them. I jogged the length of the street back to our front door and was astonished at just how winded that small run left me. On the outside I appeared the epitome of good health, yet that quick jaunt revealed quite a different story. Something was wrong, but I was too stubborn to see it.
Finally, graduation came. I left Idaho after a messy split with the gf, returning to my California roots in the hopes of a fresh start. The drive down was one filled with deep contemplation; I realized I didn't want to just live the same life in a different spot, I wanted a better one. I settled in, eventually moving in with my aunt and uncle in Santa Clarita, taking odd jobs in the hopes they'd turn into a full time position. In between, I made a commitment to bettering myself, determined not to fall prey to the same excuses that felled me time and time again.
It started small; a fitness book here, a weight set there. I became more conscious of just what I was eating, and how I felt afterwards. My cousins, star athletes both, convinced me to try my hand at running, and soon I joined them in their nightly excursions (albeit at a much slower pace). Slowly but surely, a pattern developed. What once was viewed as a hassle, a chore, a goddamn waste of time, suddenly became a challenge, a mission, a drive. The person in the mirror was no longer important; I felt better, and therefore became better, more confident and assured in what I could accomplish with a little willpower. It wasn't about how much I could lift or how fast I could run, though those milestones certainly felt empowering. It was about not being tired anymore, about not disappointing my sister or more importantly, myself.
Jump forward to now. I'm twenty seven, and I feel great. I have energy, drive, and confidence, with a constant hunger to be even better. I work out 3-5 days a week to varying intensity, focus on my nutrition best I can, and generally remain pretty active. Do I have it all figured out? Of course not. I'm constantly researching new workouts, new recipes, new ways of approaching things. I eat shit food when I feel like it, skip a workout if I'm not in the mood. I'm not ruled by my lifestyle, but it is a lifestyle. I work out because I want to, not because I feel I need to. So often people look for motivation from external sources, that magic push that sets them on their desired path. In my experience there's no motivator like oneself, as ultimately the only person who truly benefits from any change is the person making it.
And that's really it. Fitness and health doesn't have to be about vanity. Going to the gym doesn't have to make you a meathead. Ignore the person in the mirror and focus on the person you feel inside; only then can you truly commit to making a change. I won't lie and tell you that it's easy. Like any commitment it's filled with its ups and downs, good days and bad days, and there will be moments where it all seems fruitless. Push on. Persevere. Don't give in to excuses or what-ifs. Commit to being the best person you can be and the rest will come. Every change worth making starts somewhere, so why not now? If every day is tomorrow, you'll never find today.
Again, this is my story, my road, my choices. But if you relate to any of this, if this strikes a single chord within you, what's holding you back? You control only one thing in this world, and that's you. Make it happen. You won't regret it.