The Gym is My Toothbrush

Apr 14, 2015 by

          On November 17, 2012, when I started going to the gym, I wanted to make working out a habit as engrained in me as healthy eating. At the time, I had been eating healthily for two and a half years (next month will mark five years), and my personal health rules had become so normal to me that they weren’t even rules anymore. My hands reached for fruits and vegetables over chips and dip without thought. Healthy eating had become automatic. I wanted working out to feel just as intrinsic. A girl I once worked with had compared the importance of her morning workouts to brushing her teeth: unquestionably necessary to go about her day. I wanted the gym to become toothbrush-level important to me.

          To maintain my sanity along the way, I’ve had to make adjustments to how I approach gym-going. For example, the gym is only my toothbrush during the week. When I first started, I went everyday. That lasted just a few months. As my workouts got longer and more involved, I had to give myself the weekends off – you know, to not hate my life. Over time, I’ve also had to adjust my workouts themselves. I have a tendency to add on to workouts without subtracting, as opposed to swapping old exercises for new ones. Thus, I occasionally reach points where the gym feels like my prison, and the equipment like my chains.

          “You work out so much, I’d say you like it,” a friend of mine observed last month.

          I laughed. The timing was just too ironic. I was at the peak of an I-hate-the-gym rut.

          The gym and I have a special relationship. I primarily derive enjoyment from the after-feeling, the I-just-kicked-ass pride. Whether or not I like the gym in the moment, however, depends on various factors, such as my mood, how much sleep I’m running on, and when I last had sex. (Morning-after-sex workouts are the best! Not that I’ve had a post-sex workout since – ha, nice try.) It further depends on my current friend status with the gym: Are we getting along or are my workouts so time-consuming that I’m dreading Monday morning from Friday?

          I most recently reached one of my the-gym-is-dreadful phases earlier this year; but every time I realize I’m gym-dying, it takes me a while to resuscitate myself. Before addressing the problem, I first have to conquer the guilt that comes from even considering reducing my time at the gym.

          By March, change was unavoidable. Between the gym and the studio, I was struggling to stay awake during the days. The amount of time I was spending at the gym was impractical given my other priorities (like consciousness), and I knew it would be even less manageable once I started working. Tuesdays and Thursdays were cardio-only days, so they were easy: 30 minutes on the elliptical and I was out. But Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays made me want to cry (and I did at least once). They were cardio and strength-training days that somehow went from an hour and a half while at my last job to two and a half hours while unemployed – hence the prison analogy.

          To save myself, I recalled something the owner of my pole studio said to me during a stretch class at the end of February. I had just returned from my weekend in Mexico, so my body was running on overdrive to get back into the rhythm after a few days at the beach. Needless to say, I was making my-hip-flexors-are-even-tighter-than-usual faces as I tried to splay my legs across the studio floor.

          “Weren’t you just in stretch last night?” the studio owner asked.

          “Yeah,” I said before holding my breath as I tried to spread my legs further apart. “And I just came from the gym,” I explained as I exhaled in struggle, deciding my legs were best positioned where they already were.

          “Be nice to your body,” she smiled. “Always be nice to your body.”

          That, I decided, would be my way out of guilt. Less than two weeks later, the week before I began work, I adjusted my gym routine. It was a simple fix. I transferred some of my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday exercises to Tuesday and Thursday, evening out my time at the gym across all five weekdays to an hour and a half, while also maintaining the frequency of almost all exercises I was doing before. The gym and I have been back on good terms since, and thankfully so. It’s my toothbrush.

Happiness Tip: Be nice to your body.

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