The Willingness to do The Work
In fitness circles I hear people say that you gets results when you have the willingness to do the work.
(By this they mean the work to perfect your diet and exercise, I believe.)
This never really resonated for me.
Because for me, exercising was easy. I could bike commute. I could go to the gym for 1,2,3 hours a day. I could show up an hour early to my favorite spin class to make damn sure I got a spot. I could wake up at five AM to exercise if I had anything else keeping me from working out at my normal time. I could lift weights, I could do 90 minutes of sweaty yoga on my “rest days”. I could cancel plans or skip classes to work out if need be. I could find secret ways to exercise at work.
I could restrict my food. I could avoid processed bullshit no problem, shake my head when chips, cookies, crackers, and candies were offered. I could steer clear of grains. I could avoid fat at all costs, I could live a life without carbohydrate-rich tropical fruits. I could avoid smoothies because they packed “too much energy” into one small package. I could count calories, weigh myself, avoid socializing over food. I could measure everything that went in my mouth.
I could lose weight.
For me, these things were never the work.
The WORK, the real HARD WORK that leveled me, that I fought for, was to put the mental calculator away. The weighing and measuring of my body, the weighing and measuring of my food.
The work came with an injury that forced me out of running for a damn long time. It came when I panicked, when I cried, when I pounded my fists into my pillows and then had to figure out what my hobbies were aside from exercise.
Damn if that wasn’t some of the hardest work I’ve ever done.
The work was the day I decided that if my friends needed me, I would skip a workout. It was the days when I could let myself stay in bed with my lover instead of sprinting out the door as soon as I woke up, even though it made me anxious.
The work came when I decided intimacy was more important than my waistline.
My tremendous profound work came with traveling to places I did not know, with no idea about how to get green smoothies and huge protein rich salads all the time while I was wherever I was going. It came with camping, sleeping poorly in the dessert between incredible rock formations and under huge blankets of bright stars. It came during these times, with no super fresh vegetables for a few days and deciding it was worth it.
The work came when I had to find something besides my body to be the barometer of my worth. It meant that I didn’t have the safety net of perfectionism, that I sometimes just had to do my best with my food, instead of restricting my experiences to those that would keep my intake exactly how I would like it.
Doing this work meant I couldn’t flake on my life to control my body anymore.
The payoff of the work is getting to feel small under vast skies, infinite and tiny in an unimaginably huge universe. The payoff of the work is the feeling of power from choosing to run as opposed to feeling like I have to do it with some end goal in mind. It is yoga modifications to get a more gentle stretch as opposed to muscling myself into the hardest posture.
The payoff of my work is the connection to my breath, my peers, my body, and my power. It hasn’t been quantifiable with a pants size, my measurements, or even an amount of weight that I can lift.
I now get to go slow, to count the things I am grateful for, as opposed to my calories. I still choose to eat healthfully and to exercise daily, but the difference is that now it doesn’t control me.
The work has helped me to feel good instead of bad.
Here are some pictures from my camping trip at Joshua Tree National Park this last weekend. Hopefully you will use them as inspiration to do your own version of this kind of work. It’s very fulfilling.