on succeeding and faltering

I was about to write a post about how I got the hang of going to the gym when things seemed to unravel.

It’s been a tough week. I can’t say exactly why — I can’t pinpoint any one reason. It’s the weight of a dozen little things slowing me down. That makes it hard to shake it off, because I have to tackle them one at a time with little progress in between. It feels silly, for example, to have your evening completely ruined by a mistake in your commute that cost you half an hour — but that’s where I was at last night. I haven’t gone to the gym since Sunday, and now I have to go four straight days if I want to keep my average this week.

Since the new year, I’ve been going to the gym (or heavily exercising, like the week I went skiing) four times a week. Twelve weeks straight. It’s the most reliable I’ve been my entire life, and it’s a major accomplishment for someone who unironically bragged about being sedentary as a teen. And so I was going to write a post about how I succeeded, except right now I’m not as sure as I was about my ability to keep it up.

So I’m going to write about how I succeeded in the hopes of reminding myself that I can keep it up.

#1: I kept it simple

I created a routine in three parts: stretching, running, and weightlifting. I hate stretching and running, which is why I start off with it — to get it over with quickly. I stretch for five minutes and I’m done. With running, I started off at 10 minutes and worked my way up to 16. My weightlifting routine is always four exercises long, in sets of 2x12 or 3x6. I never increase the number, only the weights. This is infinitely easier to memorize and stick to — I can make a beeline from one machine to the next. I feel more confident knowing exactly what I’m doing and what’s coming next.

#2 I kept it fun

My dad kept telling me I should do more cardio like he does. He suggested at least 20min nonstop. I told him no thanks, I would never work out if I tried doing that. I hate cardio, and forcing myself to do more of what I hate is only going to give me an excuse to avoid the gym like the plague. It’s better that I run little, but often, than to set out an annoying goal and only will myself to complete it once in a blue moon. 

#3 I didn’t consider it

This one’s harder to force because it’s just a mental switch — and it’s the one I’m struggling to maintain. At some point in the second or third week, I just stopped thinking about going to the gym as something to decide. It became a fact of life. I don’t have to consider going into work five days a week, or brushing my teeth every day. I shouldn’t have to do the same with this.

#4 I got gud

I have biceps and the shadow of a six-pack for the first time in my life. When I went skiing last month, I was never out of breath or too tired to keep going. I can run faster to catch the bus, and I can carry heavier groceries. It is awesome. Feeling results is incredibly motivating — so is seeing them. I got nicer athletic wear, and it feels good to look good in it. It’s a powerful feedback loop.

I’m wearing my sneakers and have every intention of going to the gym after work today. I hope I can go the three days after that, and another 156 times by the end of the year like I planned. I know I can do it — let’s just see if I will.