I was in college yesterday and picked up a leaflet that was advertising a gym. I couldn’t help but wonder as I tore it to tiny pieces, what happened to us? When we are young, exercise is hanging off monkey bars and running around bare footed on tree bark. It’s playing forty forty and pushing roundabouts so fast you feel your mother’s apple tart coming back up.
At what age does exercise start becoming about appearance? When did we stop loving exercise and start making it a chore? Swing sets turn to kettle bells, monkey bars turn to pull up bars and the laughter, creativity and butterflies flutter away.
The gym becomes our playground, but instead of giddiness and giggles, we experience pain and punishment. We push ourselves and devour phrases like “no pain no gain”. We run on the mantra that if it’s not physically hurting us, it’s not worth anything. I’m tired of this. I’m sick of seeing people torture themselves. I was there. I lifted the heaviest I could, I ran the fastest my legs could carry me and I did the planking, the spinning classes, the squats, the burpees and the push ups. It was never enough and I never enjoyed it. I woke up daily in pain to force myself to do it all over again.
I stopped playing badminton and walking because it wasn’t “enough.” Now I play badminton and I laugh, meet new people and travel with it. I walk my dog and I get to breathe in fresh air, pick snowdrops and listen to the blackbirds singing to each other. I do yoga and I chill out upside down, appreciating my body for what it can do, not what it looks like or how much pain I can endure. Life is so short. Free time is minimal.
I’m not slamming exercise. Movement is brilliant! It boosts endorphins, helps you sleep better and keeps everything functioning. But don’t do it to punish or alter yourself. Changing yourself on the outside is nothing if you can’t change your attitude on the inside. Getting a flatter tummy or bigger biceps does not make you love yourself. So choose something you enjoy. Dance, yoga, football or basketball, whatever you love. Something that brings you back to that childhood place. You don’t have to pay three hundred euro for a twelve month subscription for something you dread.
If you love the gym and you get excited to go than that is great. But be honest with yourself. If it doesn’t bring you joy, it doesn’t belong in your life.
Read more about SpunOut’s Have Fun Get Fit campaign that features fun, exciting ways to stay fit.