Exercise: What are your reasons?

Sure, we’ve all heard the research that supports making exercise a regular part of your life. The health benefits of physical activity are too vast to count.  But what are the real motivators?  What gets you to the gym every day?  What keeps you lacing up your running shoes, day after day, year after year? Often, the real motivators for many of us go far beyond what the medical data tells us.

After three decades of group fitness, squash, running, bodybuilding and crossfit, here are my top reasons.  Maybe you can relate to some of them.

Reason 1: To Lose Weight

I started intentionally exercising at 18 years old.  By intentionally, I mean as a structured activity with purpose – and that purpose was to lose the 15 lbs I’d gained during my final year of high school. I didn’t feel comfortable, none of my clothes fit, and I wanted my teenage slim young body back again.  I did Charlene Prickett’s “It Figures” TV program every morning at 8:30, followed by Men of Steel, another 30-minute TV low- impact class (complete with circa 1980s leg warmers and thongs worn on the outside of your leggings)! It worked. I lost the 15 lsa, felt great, and continued with TV workout sessions for several years.

Reason 2:  For Health

A few years later, I was fully immersed in real life with a job, a spouse, and a child.  Things were great, but…I smoked. I’d tried several times to quit over the years, but always failed.  Finally, I decided to take up running.  I figured that running would hurt my lungs so much that smoking a cigarette afterward would be nearly impossible.  Turns out I was right.  From the day of my first 1 km slow-jog, I never took another drag, but I did continue for years running endless 10kms, several half marathons, and even 2 full marathons.

Reason 3:  For Sport

After I’d become quite fit, I had the confidence in my body to try new things. At about 30 years old, I started playing squash.  The intensity of the sport, the total physical and mental demand of the game thrilled me, and I discovered for the first time in my life that I am competitive!  Thus began my obsessive love of competitive sport.  The match, the score–and of course being on the winning side of that score–drove me to work harder and harder each year.

Reason 4:  To Calm my Mind

When I push my body, I mean really push my body, it’s so challenging that all my focus goes to the physical task at hand, thereby completely shutting down my mind.  It is only during complete physical exertion that my mind fully rests.  Exercise is my release, my stress management, my happy place. Mental rest is as important to health as physical rest.  And in our world of non-stop, overwhelming mental stimulation, we all need this.  

Reason 5:  For Social Enrichment

In our virtual world, joining up with your fellow competitors in your sport or with the regulars you’ve come to know in the gym brings a sense of belonging, and of support and encouragement among people who share common goals and interests.

Reason 6:  To Inspire Others

This one came later.  An unexpected, but wonderful, side benefit of taking care of yourself is being a role model to others.  When others see a “real person” with real responsibilities and stresses in life crush their fitness goals, it empowers them to strive for the same.  Knowing that you’ve helped other people create positive change in their lives is a huge reward.

Reason 7:  To Be a Superhero

I’ve realized that my body is capable of incredible things!  The more I ask of it, the more it gives back to me.  At any age, I can continue to progress and get stronger.  This gives me tremendous pride, confidence in my abilities–and, yes, sometimes I feel like a superhero!

I could probably go on and on with the reasons my fitness is a non-negotiable and necessary part of my life, but those are the main ones.  If you’re struggling to make fitness a regular part of your life, perhaps my words may help you to explore and find your reasons

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Tommy Europe