Being a personal trainer in this community has been quite an experience. Over seven years I have been able to meet so many people and connect with the heart of the area. Fitness, when I began as a trainer, was more of a “make yourself look good” type of business. Ever-increasingly the importance of mental health is growing. Fitness is becoming a gateway now to “make yourself feel good.”
There are all sorts of research to back and validate why exercise plays a critical role, but that tends to get boring over time and we prefer shared experience. What exercise has been great for in my own life is the ability to connect with other people.
This can be done in all sorts of ways. You don’t specifically have to exercise to connect with other people, but it sure beats the heck out of binge eating and drinking alcohol. Which is fun in moderation yet dangerous in excess.
The core principle in fitness that a lot of us connect with is effort. So much pride and joy go into our effort. Not just in a workout, but also in our work and home lives. It’s the thing we get most protective and proud of. Working in the fitness realm I have seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst when it comes to effort.
Someone who is mentally exhausted and emotionally drained just won’t be able to give consistent effort over time. Somehow this seems to be the norm in our community. We’re overdriven by competing expectations. We sacrifice our own well-being for the sake of something else. Of course, it’s always a reasonable excuse. Kids need to be taken places. Parents need to put in the hours at work to make ends meet. Perfectly understandable, but too often we overextend ourselves.
What does this lead to? Poor effort. We go through the motions. Giving partial attention to our needs and relying heavily on distractions to escape from reality. What’s the result? We get old. Fast.
You say “But Trey, that’s just the way it is.” Although I have sat with people at their lowest. Who’s just about completely given up altogether. Who’s come to me as a last resort. I’ve been able to coach them beyond this. You’re not getting old, you’re aging, and that is a wonderful experience we can enjoy.
The first thing we sacrifice is rest. We often pride ourselves on how little sleep we got in contrast to the amount of work we’ve got to do. So then it becomes natural to keep on sacrificing. What’s next? Physical activity or movement altogether. That’s for when you’re young, right? Perhaps if you want to climb a mountain, but it doesn’t really take that much to feel good about yourself. It could just be a walk outdoors. A 20-minute bodyweight circuit. Working in the garden. Whatever!
It’s just our rigid expectations on how it should look that hold us back. We think there needs to be a specific regimen that will make it most effective. It should count, right? That helps, but what is most effective is just doing something, and doing it often enough to notice a contrast in how you feel. Clothes fitting better. Not getting winded going up steps. Being able to reach into the dryer without clutching your back. That’s some real progress.
So, I’m grateful to be in this community and serve in fitness. It’s given me insights and wisdom I never imagined having. I want to be able to share this with people so we can live and say it was worth doing over again.
Trey Tompkins is a local fitness expert who writes columns for the Record-Herald.