Scroll down into the bottomless pit of posts and status updates reflected beneath the glossy surface of your phone and you’re faced with the loud and ringing reminder: Don’t pause.
Curated Instagram grids highlight the bright smiles overcoming marathons, the toned physique, the glistening sweat that silhouettes a post-workout glow. It’s easy to resent a too-good-to-be-true lifestyle that’s slightly difficult to imagine beyond fiction, but the core of every active lifestyle is hidden beneath the obvious. The obvious perks are plenty, without a doubt, but the greater rewards are beyond plain sight. Underneath the layers of medals won, pounds lost, and admiration earned is a mountain of excuses conquered.
And though an invitingly provocative pursuit that embodies holistic growth and wellness, fitness is definitely way more than just being another new year’s resolution. The transformative outcome that precipitates from committing to such an endeavor is totally different from simply doing bursts of activity somewhere in between. Because no matter how trendy or gram-worthy it’s going to get, the road to fitness is a rugged ever winding path one should have the guts and willingness to take.
Small steps, bigger strides
Maybe it’s the overwhelming images of muscles and curves that scream at you when you pass by the magazine racks. Maybe it’s the number of times you stepped on that weighing scale, secretly wishing that the numbers would go a point lower just ‘cause you denied the urge for a greasy hotdog. Or maybe it’s time to actually step up your game and give in to that call for a lifestyle reboot. Yes you’ve got your trainers all ready and your mind set on hyperdrive. But then you think to yourself, how on earth do you begin?
“I admit during my first time in the gym I was really afraid and it was kinda tough since I didn’t know how to use the machines or know what they were for – I clearly had no clue about anything.” 21-year old college student Angelique states as she traces her very first baby steps into the world of fitness. Though already exposed to the milieu of an active lifestyle, she still recalls how scary her firsts were and how intimidating it appeared to be. Yet she knew her determination was stronger than her provoking fears. She eventually dove head first into the game and then started off from there.
“My first sport was running,” Angelique explains, though it wasn’t anything as serious as track and field. She points out how she simply just started running and how it actually became a huge factor in fueling that innate passion for fitness. “I eventually did gymnastics, crossfit, flag football, and even surfing.” She tells with a burning enthusiasm and even plans to join rugby soon. Choosing such a way of life can definitely be a challenging decision to come across with. But it indeed paves the way for things one couldn’t imagine one’s self actually capable of when it is openly considered. Fitness is definitely a tough ordeal and there are certain sacrifices to be made in order to tread through the battle being fought within.
Mark, a 30 year old coach in Anytime Fitness gym, has also had his fair share of battles to tackle at first. “Before I got into the gym, I had a frail physique and I was laughed at – even harshly judged,” The now vigorous coach looks back at his flimsy and weak sense of self. “But I didn’t let that stop me and now I’ve achieved results these people haven’t even tried achieving.” And now replete with more dynamism and vitality, coach Mark’s experience is living proof that the fear of beginning and people’s criticisms no matter how subversive shouldn’t weigh one down – not even one’s self.
Go big or go home
“Making fitness a lifestyle avoids the risk of falling back to old habits,” Kevin, a personal trainer, explains. Encompassing familiar quirks and idiosyncrasies–the occasional cheat day, all-nighters, and binge-eating–are guilty pleasures easy to recognize. And traps to fall back into. Using the analogy that committing to a lifestyle of fitness is no different from the commitment required by any relationship, he emphasizes that there is no room for poor excuses. “You always find ways to maintain the flow.”
Gray areas are difficult to navigate, most especially when we’re taught how to deal with extremes. But when it comes to pursuing fitness, neither too much nor too little will do. “Fitness should never be taken lightly, but my advice is not to take it too much either,” he continues, in reference to people with shaky foundations in motivation, and also those who push themselves too far. Kevin clarifies, “Being healthy isn’t about torturing yourself.”
He says this, recognizing that part and parcel of the reason why most people back away from fitness is because of how intimidating it looks from the outside. Saturated with images of self-deprivation and hardcore workouts that push physical limits, it’s a lifestyle that has become synonymous with “punishment” in the public’s imagination. But at its core, rid of the stereotypes surrounding it, targeting fitness ought to be anchored on satisfaction and enjoying the rewards of hard work, instead of its terrifying counterparts.
Angelique treats herself to a chocolate cake as a reward for meeting a goal, and perhaps, in this essence, is an example of celebrating personal victories that the lifestyle cultivates; not a self-critical monologue that reprimands bitterly until all excess pounds are shed. “After every workout, everything just feels so happy,” Angelique shares. But anyone coming from the point-of-view that fitness is an equivalent of punishment would find it hard to believe that it results to anything remotely associated with happiness. And maybe it is time to tear down the fortress of misguided guesses and lay it down for what it actually is: Looking after your body is as much as a form of discipline that speaks decibels about self-care.
In fitness and in health
Coach Mark discloses a fair warning, “Fitness isn’t just a short term undertaking.”
Though shortcuts are often tempting routes to traverse, taking the longer scenic route can pay the biggest dividends. It’s a fantasy to expect an overnight transformation sans the effort and sacrifice, but it’s also unfortunately, a myth where a lot of us subscribe to. It could be the expectation of having everything within the speed of a snap or the convenience we’re provided by today’s digital age, but it would seem that patience for results is a currency that we’re almost losing.
The concept is easy to grasp but the execution may be elusively mind-boggling. Nevertheless, that’s what makes such an endeavor so worthwhile. But fitness is not just all about the grueling training courses that may stress one out like crazy. There is actually more to look forward to as the going gets tougher and the plunge gets deeper. “Making fitness a lifestyle opens immediate access to more improved aspects in one’s health and wellness.” Coach Jelvys tells us so. He emphasizes the wonders it can do in areas like physical activity, disease prevention, longevity, functional, and athletic performance. And as the upright incentives being gained from pursuing a fit lifestyle takes its toll, more opportunities begin to stretch out making that bucket of sweat so worth breaking. Fitness suddenly blows its impact through the insurmountable possibilities of improvement. Entangled in the strings of the fitness world, coach Jelvys also clings to the many lessons it has left him with throughout the years. “It helped me gain broader knowledge and skills and even explained the relevance of science towards healthy living.” He hopes to pass on such great influence to others along the way.
Till health, we never part
When all is said and done, the greatest gain is never what you expect. The sacrifices are repaid, not arriving in the exact form you’ve imagined, but ten folds over, surpassing expectations.
There’s a kind of empowerment that stems from people believing you could accomplish the goals you’re aiming for, but it’s an entirely different conversation to believe your capacity to get it done yourself. Jelvys spotlights the importance of establishing a strong belief in your set goals—to be driven internally with a vision, even when all the odds are saying no.
But no matter how prestigious the victory of becoming an achiever appears, there are some voids that accomplishment cannot fill. The journey is rewarding and long, but it’s the companionship that make it worth the drive.
It’s a community of people celebrating one another’s success that becomes one of the reasons why pursuing fitness is fulfilling. “I get to meet friends. People aren’t just there to do their thing, they’re also willing to lend a hand.” Angelique shares.
For Kevin, it wasn’t solely about the more obvious gains. What he gets back from an investment of endurance and effort is a place in the company of people who have his back. “It was also [about] gaining friends–the ultimate motivation to get better everyday.”
We’re never in a shortage of a nudge everyday that when it comes to our bodies, more loss is better gain. But when we face the mirror alone, it’s not the public that stares at us squarely in the eye and has to answer the question: Do I like this person? And fitness, as it’s supposed to be, was never about conformity or fitting into a thin and attractive mold. Underneath the layers of everything that’s sculpted and toned, maybe we are simply bodies that desire for the reminder that less is not always more. Underneath the layers of everything discarded and worn, all of us are simply seeking happiness that remains amidst the greatest gains and terrible losses.