4 Life Lessons From My Death In The Gym

My wife complains of my boney knees and fatless elbows that jab her like she’s a lab rat. With such affirmations as my confidence (note the sarcasm), I sauntered into the gym like Goofy with arms and legs longer and more out of control than a Wacky Waving Tube Man at the Chevrolet dealership.

When I bumbled to the desk and asked for a membership, I felt like a kid buying a King Size Snickers on his first solo trip to the 7 Eleven. Kinda proud but mostly scared.

To say I was adequately prepared to start a regular workout would make Pinnochio’s nose look like the Washington Monument. Still, determined to sweat out my anxiety and discover the benefits of physical health, I bought the membership anyway, pushed past the nest of one-eyed snakes in the locker room, and climbed on a new invention called a treadmill.

I might as well have been on a NASA space shuttle. With the judging eyes of watching brutes on the new guy, I beep-booped on the motherboard as the floor beneath my freshly white sneakers jerked my legs into action. And there I went–off on a new adventure (on which my legs turned to Jell-O within minutes and I lost my breath quicker than a fish out of water).

After about a month of membership, I am in (a little bit) better shape and I’ve had the time to reflect on a few valuable insights. So, here are four life lessons I learned from death in the gym.

1. You’re Going To Look Stupid

You’re going to look stupid. It’s a fact, especially if you’ve never been in a gym before. Push through the awkward stage, and you’ll soon realize that most everybody kind of acts like they’re clientele at a Thai brothel. Not only is there little eye contact and even less conversation, but other people are so focused on their own aspirations (and insecurities) that they don’t take the time to notice you, fumbling on a machine.

2. Do What You Want But Just Keep Moving

Who the brute cares what you do? I walk briskly for five minutes, go hard for five minutes, jog leisurely for five minutes, and then cool down. And that’s on a good day. A lot of days, I’m in and out in twenty minutes.
It’s easy to be concerned with what others think and there will always be the inherent pressure to amp up your workout, but none of that really matters. If you feel like running a marathon or lifting support beams, have at it. But if it’s the Monday after a free wine tasting, feel free to go easy in the gym and go easy on yourself. Remember the goal is to keep moving. However you do it, doesn’t matter.

3. It’s Good To Push Yourself

I was recently in a group setting in which we broke the ice using the question: What was your worst injury?
Uh, I didn’t really have an answer. A sprained ankle and a chipped knee cap couldn’t compare to a lost finger and a floppy forearm. I realized at that moment I’m not much of a risk-taker or self-pusher. I tend to play it safe in life and camp out in my comfort zone, but working out at the gym is the perfect time to challenge that need for comfort by pushing myself in new and different ways. It’s good to not put too much pressure on yourself, but always embrace the opportunity to challenge your stubbornness. 

4. It Really Does Curb Anxiety

To be honest, I don’t feel like doing my research in order to prove scientifically that working out curbs your anxiety. I can say, from personal experience, that it does. Whether it’s because I’m forced out of stagnant monotony or because it is a healthy distraction from the irrational worries of life, I don’t know. But, when I step on that treadmill and later feel the sweat on my back cling to my Tshirt and my wiry legs tire in the rhythm of exercise, my mind becomes clear enough to reflect on this truth: you shouldn’t run from anxiety or straight into it but, make anxiety your running buddy. When you run with your anxieties, just like any other running buddy, they tend to shut up, and that’s pretty nice.

So, don’t let insecurities, anxieties, or meaningless concerns get in your way of pursuing physical health. One step at a time will get you to where you want to be.


Photo by Kristian Egelund on Unsplash

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