“Do I have to work out?”
I heard the voice over my earphones and looked up to see what was going on.
“I don’t want to do it anymore! I can’t,” the voice continued.
In the parking lot outside my gym, I saw a body collapsed on the pavement, holding a limp jump rope that contained more energy than the drained soul grasping it. Sweat–or was it tears–formed on the ground. A muscled trainer stood over the crumpled body and barked orders.
“Keep going. Keep going. You have to,” the voice scolded.
I removed my earphones and prepared to confront the drill sergeant.
As I moved towards the two I noticed that the exhausted body wasn’t a grown man or woman, but rather a young boy. Maybe no more than 10 or 12 years old. I stopped, briefly, before determining my next move.
“I hate this. I don’t want to do it anymore,” whimpered the young boy. This isn’t fun.”
“You know what is fun? Scoring touchdowns and making money,” the trainer replied. “But you won’t achieve that without hard work…I hated every minute of training. Every single minute. But that hate made me a champion.”
Just as I was about to stop the nonsense and knock some sense into the trainer, the young boy ran into the gym and disappeared into the locker room.
The scene was disturbing, upsetting, and unfortunately, all too typical. The fact that it was a child only made it worse. But the entire situation punctuated a deep psychological reality that underscores one of the biggest conundrums in fitness: Why so many people hate to exercise.
The scene also hinted at the real solution to that age-old question: What type of exercise is the “best?”
While it’s true that many factors play into our sedentary nature (laziness is a real problem), much of the disdain for physical activity–and diet–comes from negative experiences. Call them traumatic, or merely a symptom of aversive conditioning, but too many people in positions of power and influence have made exercise a burdensome experience. And no one wants to live with a burden.
I read an amazing article by Alwyn Cosgrove this weekend that hinted at what needs to be done to improve the general distaste towards exercise and make a difference in the lives of many people: We need better teachers. Or maybe more appropriately, the teachers in this world need to make better use of their power and influence.
In health and fitness, this means the trainers, nutritionists, physical therapists, and even physical education teachers in schools need to realize their impact and change lives through empowerment.
That’s why we’ve spent this month focusing on the heroes of health and fitness. You might not agree with all of their methods (many have different approaches), but these people understand the bigger picture.
You have to inspire belief and make the process enjoyable.
That’s because being healthy should be fun. There’s no way around it. Nothing feels better that being fit, or fueling your body with great foods or having energy and not battling stress. Notice, I didn’t say killing your body, being miserable, or removing all the foods you love. And yet, this is how most people view being healthy. Good health should not be seen restrictive, burdensome, and stress-inducing.
Don’t mistake fun for hard work. Being healthy takes dedicated effort, and in some cases, it might take being uncomfortable for a short period of time. Any time you try something new there’s going to be an adjustment period. Getting into the “best shape of your life” can be a grind. That doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable…
Good health is the gateway to opportunity
A healthy person can do more, live longer, enjoy more “sinful” splurges, hurt less, and generally feel better.
Do you need to workout to achieve all of these things? Yes, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. There’s too much research to show that exercise of any variety improves every aspect of your life–from your intelligence and memory, your virility, and your ability to ward off the dangerous diseases that threaten life.
But the process should be fun. Are certain types of workouts geared toward particular goals? Of course. But it’s hard to work your way to results if you’re miserable. That’s where the trainer went wrong in the parking lot. Promising touchdowns and money wasn’t going to help this young boy exercise. But encouraging him, empowering him, and making him smile while sweating would.
There’s nothing that says you have to train a child like an adult. But at the same time, there’s no reason adults can’t train like children.
You don’t need to be young to play games. Children smile more than grownups for a reason–they know how to have fun.
At the end of every workout, I always have a huge grin on my face. I found what works for me (weight training), and I implore and encourage you to do the same–regardless of whether those activities occur inside or out of a gym. That’s the real answer to the “best” type of exercise. It’s the one that you’ll consistently perform.
To find what works for you, surround yourself with people who will help you reach your goals. And in doing so, remember to add a little more fun to your life and your workouts. It might be the best thing you could ever do–and will forever change the way you approach your health.