A colleague in the U.S. recently told us about a client. She had said that the hour she spent in the gym was the only thing she did for herself in the day. In fact, it was the first tangible thing she had done for herself; solely and singularly for herself, in many years. I think most of us can appreciate this. Careers and parenting, ‘adulting’ as my kids used to say when they were teenagers consumes us, our days, our evenings, even our sleep. In meeting the demands of a ‘successful’ life, many of us find that there’s precious little of anything left for us.
This prerogative of external demand pervades our goals and the rewards for achieving them. We work long hours at to impress our boss or to get more clients. Failure is not an option. The goal; increased income, the reward; a bigger house, a fancier car, a longer vacation, a better school for our kids, and the elusive, over the horizon, reward of retirement. Many people feel they’ve lost their sense of self on this treadmill of modern life, striving to achieve the goals set by others and earn a place on the sliding scale of rewards defined by society.
This anecdote from our American friend got me thinking about my own daily fitness time. Over the years, it had often felt like a chore, another task to be accomplished before I could put my head down again. For many years, at the height of my career, gym time meant waking up before 5am to be at the gym by 6. Afterwards, I went straight to the office before heading home to help kids with homework and bedtime, interrupted by the inevitable buzzing of my blackberry… sleep five hours, reset, repeat.
At some point though, I realized that hour I spent in the gym, with friends, sweating, laughing, and whining about the day ahead, or the day past, was the best part of my day. I got to hang out and play with friends. It was time, goals, reward, and often failure, solely and singularly defined by and for me. The rewards were internal; feeling more well, less stressed, the pride of accomplishment, or of challenge faced. Failure was a source of joy and laughter. It meant something attempted honestly, genuinely, admired, and a hearty laugh with friends. My hour of time for me redefined my lost sense of me. In many ways it saved my life. But that’s a subject for another blog.
Tim is a retired Army and Special Forces Lieutenant-Colonel, former Operations Director, and a coach at CrossFit Freesol in Newbury