It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of focusing on the the goals we didn’t achieve. We dream big, but sometimes the outcome doesn’t reflect our intended reality. Naturally, we beat ourselves up. We fail to look at the other side of the coin, our unseen accomplishments. A friend recently brought this thought to my attention. I started thinking about my biggest achievement in 2019 – I drastically improved my fitness. However, I didn’t realise it because it had become an intrinsic facet of my life. How did I create this healthy new habit?
The gym is a place of worship for many, an institution of absolute adornment. To say you don’t religiously visit the gym could constitute as blasphemy to its submissive disciples. It’s funny how we humans swap one virtue for another, all in the name of self righteousness. The gym never interested me – walking endlessly on a treadmill, suffocated by four blank walls and often the uncomfortably intense gaze of the male eye. My short walk to work and long days spent sitting at my desk sparked a sense of anxiety. I had to change. Around the corner there was a women’s only gym. I decided to try it out. I signed up and committed myself for one year.
My skin started acting up again, an issue that constantly meddled with my self confidence. Dutch women are absolutely naturally beautiful – long, luscious locks of thick hair, healthy glowing skin, slim bodies and an inspiring confidence I have never come across before. This time my mindset towards the gym changed. The obsessive sales pitch for protein shakes, overtly sexualised gym apparel, and cult-like approach to working out was eliminated. Health starts from within and in my eyes the commercial approach to fitness is the antithesis of health. Switching off your phone for one or two hours away from the incessant Instagram feed, listening to music and sweating felt very empowering. Slowly the engulfing sense of anxiety began to whittle away, along with the January influx of New Years members. Let’s be honest, we have all been there before – no judgement!
For the first time in my life I started lifting weights. I was part of the ignorant few who believed lifting weights automatically resulted in a bulky physique. I slowly slipped into a routine without even releasing it. The gym often replaced my morning necessity for a vital shot of caffeine. My P.E teacher in high school used to force us to run one mile during class. If we misbehaved, her punishment resulted in the dreaded ‘mile’. Fast forward 13 years later, I am now able to run at a solid pace for 20 minutes or longer. To many people this is a breeze. However, to me I felt immense pride that I pushed myself, not only physically, but mentally. My love of cycling as a means of transportation also naturally added to my increasing fitness levels.
This morning I woke up with crippling anxiety. My sleeping patterns have been extremely mixed up with my changing circumstances, living situation, the full moon etc., Winter in The Netherlands is harsh – cold, wet and grey. The temptation to stay in my cosy bed with a coffee and a book is always at the forefront of my mind. But life continues regardless of the weather. With immense reluctance, I peeled myself out of the bed. I finally understand ‘runners high’, the euphoric feeling as a result of physical exercise. After a two-hour session, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. My skin is the clearest it has been in a VERY long time. I attribute this glow to the gym, along with some other intriguing aspects that I will discuss in a future post.
An old friend of mine struggled all year with the gym. She dragged herself there to undertake an hour of paid torture with her personal trainer. It’s really bizarre how we humans continue to pay another to torture us without reaping any benefits. I kept noticing her focus to see physical changes. The lack of physical changes created increasing mental resentment towards everything. Then it clicked with me. I understood the reason behind my newly formed habit and why it stuck – I stopped focusing on the desire for physical change because my need for mental change outweighed anything else.
My dad has this saying that drives me crazy, “you need to make it your friend, Holly.” I hate it because the reality is that sometimes friends let you down. We sometimes let ourselves down too. But, only we can learn from that overwhelming self inflicted treachery. At some point we do, things just click. January is full of hope and potential, but the right mindset can keep you focused for the remaining eleven months and beyond. The seeds of potential you plant during these harsh winter months will reap the benefits when the Springtime blossom wakes up after the long hibernation.
Remember – everything is mental, not physical.