We have a creeping tendency to live within the prison of our “shoulds” and “oughts.” Disappointment in decisions we have made, or results left by the hand of fate–often shaded by our own misperceptions–can plague us and engender a vicious cycle of regret. Its tentacles feed into laziness fused with declining confidence, which forces us to tread water in the miserable tension of wanting and hoping but feeling that somehow we just can’t.
This incarceration infects each key area of our lives: relationships, vocation and health. The third component is particularly crucial, because it has a proportional and increasing impact on the first two.
“I should have eaten better when I was younger. I should have exercised more often.” How often have these laments cascaded off of your lips or those of another, with varying cadence and levels of emotion?
“I ought to eat better…I ought to work out more.” Is there anything more boring than such a litany, a monotony made even more maddening when we are its author?
For an alarmingly large chunk of our culture, exercise and nutrition exist in concert with drudgery and obligation rather than joy and journey. They become a nuisance, a necessary yet loveless add-on, a lingering after-thought, a broken New Year’s resolution.
This malady points to a larger picture of our culture’s tendency, a relatively recent phenomena in light of history, to compartmentalize the key aspects of our humanity. Fitness is just another component rather than a spoke projecting from the same hub as family, business, religion, hobbies, and so forth. It often fails to be integrated into a seamless life, a life brimming with quality and perseverance.
When fitness is relegated to its dusty corner, it fails to be heard when our life’s mission and game plan call to us across the day. As an afterthought, it will always stay on the back burner, will always be neglected, will only be considered at times of emergency. It will stay imprisoned in the “shoulds” and “oughts.”
The better alternative is to weave fitness into the game plan. To give it an equal footing among the spokes, even a starring role. To understand and accept how it is foundational for our energy, enthusiasm, appearance, self-esteem and place in community.
The first half of The Fit Life is embracing fitness as an outlook that ties together all we do. The second half is teaching and encouraging others.
Energy is as intangible as the economy in a free market society. Many factors adjust and massage its quality and quantity. On a personal level, it is directly correlated to the manner of nutrition we embrace. Junk begets junk. A balanced meal begets a balanced lifestyle, enabling energy to be available when we need it. Poorly thought-out eating habits naturally result in poor thinking across the board, because physiology and psychology cannot be separated like seeds from fruit.
Enthusiasm lives in natural symbiosis with energy. A person can only fake optimism for so many minutes. A house of cards can only withstand so much wind. Eventually, what is at the core of a matter is exposed. A physically unfit person is less and less a person of contagious enthusiasm. That body-mind connection asserts itself again.
Appearance lives in conjunction with physical health and fitness. There are few ways to rationalize away a flabby stomach or posterior. It’s not easily to cover up a tendency to quickly lose breath when ascending or descending a short flight of stairs. Skin glow can only be cosmetically altered to a certain limit. Health and lack thereof both radiate with equal passion, and the world–and the individual–takes note.
Self-esteem is more than mere appearance–but appearance must not be discounted. Feeling good about your body naturally segues to feeling good about your persona. Self-esteem impacts how we embrace and are in turn embraced by community, how deeply we move into relationships, how successful we are at leading, achieving and leaving a legacy.
Some health and fitness-related obstacles are beyond our control. Some are genetic, some are due to tragedy or past neglect of health. Not everyone has the same options, not everyone occupies the same rung on the fitness ladder.
Each of us though, has an inherent responsibility to work with what we have been given at each season of life. There is no excuse for wallowing in regret when options are available. There’s no pass for laziness when action is within the realm of choice.
Fitness is an outlook that ultimately shapes how we see ourselves and are seen by others. It is such an integral element of our quality of life, that to overlook it is to stumble blindly forward into mediocrity.
Once we have awakened to such an appreciation of fitness, we naturally are inclined to teach others. We model it through our natural interests, passions and personalities. We strive not to shove it down someone’s throat or foolishly convince someone against their will…but instead naturally allow it to be another way that we express care for others.
We make ourselves available to the person with the teachable spirit. We celebrate their small steps and encourage more. We allow our enthusiasm to become contagious. We educate as we ourselves learn.
And as our potential is realized through a fitness mindset, the “shoulds” and “oughts” fade into irrelevancy in the face of quality living. Regrets and laziness are replaced by making every moment count. Because for our minds and bodies to be fully fit in terms of the uniquely-tailored potential we each possess, every moment must count.