Why go to the gym? It’s a question that anyone who has taken on a fitness lifestyle has become familiar with. It’s the question I ask myself some days when the alarm rings too early (read: exactly when I set it for) and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than in bed. It’s in those times, however, that I remind myself of all the benefits I get from going to the gym.
I go to the gym because it instantly improves my day.
This is one of biggest reasons that I ever go to the gym. No matter what, a day where I went to the gym will be better than a day that I didn’t go. Even if the day is terrible, it will still be slightly better because I got my workout in. Studies have demonstrated that regular exercise improves sleep, increases interest in sex, relieves stress, improves mood, increases energy, and reduces fatigue. It also improves mental health.
I go to the gym because it gives me a framework to pursue personal development in.
I spend 35 hours a week in the office as compared to the 5-10 hours I spend in the gym during a given week, yet I find that where I do the most work on myself is in the gym. That space is an opportunity for me to look at myself in a controlled environment where I have the simplest task to perform. My only job when I go to the gym is to lift the weight that’s in front of me (or behind me, under me, over my head, whatever). When I watch myself in relation to this seemingly simple task, it tells me the larger story of my life. I see my weaknesses, my strengths, my tendencies, what I think my limits are, what happens when I push past them, and how I feel on the other end of any decision that I make. What happened on that day where I backed down from a weight I was pretty sure I could do but had never attempted before? How did it feel? What happened on the day where I went for it? Which would I like to feel more of in the future? The gym is a space for me to experiment with different life strategies.
I go to the gym because I feel most alive when I’m pushing myself to my limits.
I’m something of an adrenaline junkie. I speed when I drive. I ride rollercoasters in the front seat of the first car. I have a standing appointment to go skydiving this summer (just kidding, I do want one though). Like most people who don’t have a death wish, I don’t spend my free time performing death defying stunts to scratch that adrenaline itch and satisfy that desire to feel life in its most vivid and exciting format. What I can do is go to the gym and break a personal record… or three. There is nothing quite like a piece of tangible personal achievement to make you feel alive, like earning a doctorate or becoming the President. Except that instead of years of arduous and demanding mental work at an accredited or recognized institution, it happens in a month in a dark box made of concrete and fluorescent lights. Still, victory!
I go to the gym because it helps me schedule my days.
I’m a procrastinator. If I have a 100 page paper due in 6 months, and 5 months and 29 days from now, I”ll have 2 lines written: my name and the date. Last summer I discovered that, despite an hour commute and sometimes a very poor sleep schedule (thanks to all eight seasons of hit tv show Dexter on Netflix), if I woke up and went to the gym at 6 a.m., I would get to work early and I would feel energized for the entire day. This is a stark contrast to me showing up to work late three days in a row and spending the day on the verge of a narcoleptic episode at my desk. It also improved my sleep. For the first time in my life I went to sleep early, easily (without any of that staring at the ceiling business), and enjoyed full nights of uninterrupted, restful sleep.
These are just some of the things that I like to remind myself of when I’m in the clutches of the evil sheets-and-pillows-bedtime-snuggly monster. So, 20somes, why do you go to the gym?