I’ve been a personal trainer for nearly two decades, and serviced thousands of client sessions. People exercise for countless worthy reasons. To lose weight, lower blood pressure, gain strength, rehab an injury, train for a sport, look better in their clothes, increase their energy, lower their stress level…you get the idea.
As I’ve worked with clients in gyms and home workout rooms, I’ve had the privilege of training men & women I call “lifers”. These are the rare kinds of people who have learned to prioritize exercise in such a way that they never quit. Every minute of their schedules are packed full. They have no more hours in a day than anyone else on the planet, and they have more responsibilities than most. Yes, they may have an illness or injury that sets them back, or a family emergency which prevents them from sticking to their normal routine, but in spite of any obstacle, they continue to stay active. Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. These people astound me, and they provoke me to action. In watching and talking with them, I’ve learned they all have a big reason to work out. And whatever that reason may be, it is of such importance and purpose to them that it keeps them on track even on the days when they don’t feel like exercising.
Short term goals are magnificent. And quite necessary. But when they’re met (or NOT met), we tend to fall off the workout wagon. In order to stick with this thing we call exercise for the long-term, we must have a “WHY I’m exercising” that’s bigger than our “why I shouldn’t exercise”.
I challenge you to begin thinking about your “WHY”. And if you’d like a bit of fuel for your thoughts, here’s mine.
Our parents gave my siblings and me the delightful and rare opportunity of growing up on a little farm in East Texas. We were unusually active. We played and formed dams in the creek, built forts from scrap lumber, climbed trees and played kickball. We went horseback riding and walked, rode our bikes and raced down the long, 1/2 mile lane to our mailbox and back everyday. But there was one activity in particular that stands out in my mind, and has been a life-long inspiration of mine.
That strong recollection is of a man we called Grandpa Thomas. He was the ninety year old great grandfather of the neighbor kids who lived across the pasture, and he came from his home in Chicago to visit them every year.
I was accustomed to seeing people who were advanced in their years using canes, in wheelchairs, and even bedridden. Many of them were being cared for by family, or they were in nursing homes as their health had deteriorated to the point that their children & grandchildren could no longer care for them.
But 90 year old Grandpa Thomas shattered my definition of an “old man”.
He could do flips on a trampoline. He could speak several languages. (I still have the paper on which he wrote my name in Mandarin.) He went swimming and loved to dive off the HIGH dive. And when this remarkable, spunky man came to visit his great-grandchildren, he took them – and all of us neighbor kids – on long, exhausting hikes through the woods and outdoors. In fact, he would wear US out and he still had plenty of energy.
What a shocking contrast: Grandpa Thomas vs. the average person who was advanced in years. As a girl, I aspired to be like him when I was a great-grandmother some day, and be the one who was taking care of their great-grandchildren, instead of the other way around.
Deep inside of me there was (and remains) a God-given desire to serve others. And I believe a part of being equipped to help others is to be physically ready for whatever opportunities present themselves. If I am called to a remote part of the world, I want to be able to say “yes” and go, with no worry of not being fit enough for the task. Should a day come where caring for someone in need requires hard physical labor, I want to be strong enough to be able to do it. If danger presents itself and I need to run, I want to be able to run! Or if there is a rescue mission or emergency situation at hand, I want to be a person that is able to jump right in and help.
This is a real and broken world, and I know that circumstances and health problems arise which can prevent the ability to stay active and mobile. There are things that happen which are out of our control. And should a day like that come to my life, I will ask God for the strength of character to handle it beautifully and gracefully in a way that brings glory to Him.
In the meantime, my health and strength is a direct reflection of the choices I make. At times I have short-term fitness goals that are fun and rewarding to reach. But my long term goal is what fuels my passion for staying in shape. For me, exercise is about something greater than myself. And that is the reason I keep going.
I hope you’re able to find a “WHY” that’s large and beautiful enough to keep you going, even on the days you’d rather not move. Whether it’s helping your family build good habits, keeping your body healthy and strong in order to prevent disease, or to be like Grandpa Thomas someday, I know that when you discover that big reason, it will help you to have the courage and discipline to do what’s necessary to reach your goal.
Healthy blessings to you,
~ Justina Dee