Pain hurts. Struggle can be agonizing. Completing a project that is mentally or physically challenging can feel tedious and uncomfortable.
So, we avoid. We put things off. Procrastinate. Hire the hard work out to someone better suited than us. We stuff down our pain instead of opting for healing because it feels easier.
And even though we feel weak, ashamed, and like a complete fraud when we quit or avoid hard things, we keep trudging down the same path.
Some of us spend our whole lives avoiding struggle. We parent our children from the sole motivation of keeping them from heartbreak and pain. And we live our lives from the same goal.
And then we wish. We wish we had done the thing we always said we’d do. We wish we knew how to build this or play that. We wish we were more successful, healthier, stronger, better at relationships. We wish.
All the influential and inspiring people in the world tell us the same thing. Embrace fear. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. The clichés ring in our ears like church bells at noon, but we know we’ll dismiss them as soon as we encounter a difficult situation. They’re right, we’re sure. But comfort is addicting.
What we don’t know, is that running toward pain and struggle and fear and discomfort isn’t just for accomplishing BIG dreams and finally checking that incredible thing off our bucket list. Nope. It’s necessary just to become better people than we are today. Right now.
To move forward at all, we have encounter at least some discomfort. It’s essential. We are either facing something hard head on, or we are stagnant in our character. It’s how life works. We are overcomers or we are succumbers.
It’s so daunting though, right? Facing the hurt and adversity in our path in order to become ourself. The real, whole, self we always wanted to be.
What if there was a practicing ground for doing hard things? A less daunting place for risking a little embarrassment in order to become more complete, more generous, more loving, and more alive versions of ourselves?
Fitness is that place for me. I get to choose everyday between comfort and struggle. Excuses and integrity. Shame and courage. Jealousy and generosity. Succumbing and overcoming.
Does that sound a little off-base? A little too small and easy? Well, hear me out.
I am an introvert to the core. I like to be home with coffee and quiet, and most days when I drop my kids off at school, I think to myself that the easy, comfortable thing to do would be to go home and drink my coffee in peace, read a book, or stroll around Target alone.
But, I have a choice to make. This is my prime time to take care of my body. I know if I don’t do it then, I will struggle to find time to do it later. So, I am cultivating a practice of embracing something that feels a little like a struggle some days to do the better thing. The thing that will bring me more benefit.
See, I know I am a better mother and wife and person when I take time to exercise my body AND I always feel really good when I finish my workout, physically and mentally. Of course, I take time to rest and read and enjoy quiet time regularly, but that is not a healthy habit for me to embrace every morning at the sacrifice of moving my body, so I have to risk discomfort to build my character and my health.
Now that I have been committed to this practice for a while, I have found it easier to do the other things that I used to put off and make healthy choices in other areas of my life. I will have the hard conversation with a loved one now because I know it leads to a better relationship. I know a messy house causes me stress, so now I fold the laundry instead of watching television. I call on a friend when I’m struggling emotionally instead of isolating, even though going inward feels more comfortable to me.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Using fitness as a training ground for life may sound silly and inconsequential, but it has made a real impact in my life. I know what it says about my character when I plan to do 5 sets of squats, but quit after 4 because I’m tired or it sounds too hard today. And I am taking that lesson into the rest of my life. I will play with my kids for 20 minutes instead of 5 because I know what that means to them and says about me.
When I feel jealous of another woman at the gym because she is leaner or stronger than me, I can choose to go home and pick her apart in my head or to my husband OR I can choose to notice my jealousy, go to her, and give her a compliment.
So, I aim for the latter. I am an introvert who approaches strangers in the gym to give
compliments. Regularly. Because I would rather be an encouraging woman than a jealous one. And, you know what? I will probably never see that person again. It’s an easy way to practice. Way less threatening than approaching a colleague or school mom, but it’s a good lead-up for encouraging those women too.
Maybe even this feels overwhelming. So just start with one thing. Wipe down your yoga mat, or gym equipment when you’re done with it because you are not a lazy or entitled person. Be the person you want to be for just one hour at the gym. And then, watch how your life changes outside of it.
Fitness can be just about your body if you want, but there is so much more that you can gain. What if you tried embracing all of it to welcome more wholeness, strength, and joy into your life?