Working out is… working?

About a month and a half ago, I made a commitment to start going to the gym. Because I wasn’t working full-time during this period, I had the time and resources to invest in making my workouts count. For 6-or-so weeks, I went to the gym 4-5 times per week.

Every time I had tried this prior, I would fail in my fourth week. However, this time around, I saw the dangers coming, and I buckled down. I also had the luxury of not having to work every day, so, I established a routine. Each morning, I’d get up early, eat a quick breakfast – mostly Cheerios -and rest up for 30 mins. Then I’d go to the gym for a 1.5-2 hour workout. I’d come  back, drink a protein shake, and eat a healthy lunch that I often cooked myself.

Sometimes I’d slip up and order takeout. Some days, I’d go out with friends and eat food I knew was undoing my progress. I allowed myself 1-2 break days between heavy workouts. But, all-in-all, I never took more than 2 days off. Every day, I was at the gym, working and getting stronger.

Six weeks later, I had lost about 10 pounds, and I felt great. I could move. I started noticing results. Eating crappy, fat-and-sugar-laden food started becoming both psychologically and physically taxing on my body. And I was building momentum. I knew my body was thankful for what I was doing. Going to the gym every morning was still hard – I had only been going about 5 weeks, after all – but it was consistently rewarding. Working out wasn’t fun. It was work. And work was paying off.

Last week, I started a full time job, my girlfriend was in town, and then I visited my college for a concert. As a result, I took 6 (!) days off from the gym.  I hadn’t done that  in six weeks. In addition, my new job feeds us lunch every day and the office is stocked with snacks.  So, I slipped.

And you know, not going to the gym was easy. I felt guilty, sure, but it also felt amazing to instantly regress into my old self. With no gym and lots of crappy food , I instantly regained about 2-3 pounds, and I noticed it very quickly in the mirror.

I’ve been spending long hours at work, but yesterday – on my third day in -through sheer willpower, I forced myself back in the gym. I had to go after work, so I had to bring my gym clothes with me and change out of my work clothes. I was full of the greasy lunch I had, not my regular workout breakfast.  I was tired after a long day of staring at the computer.

When I got there, the gym was pretty busy – normally, when I’d work out in the morning, the gym would be nearly empty. I had to work in with other people, and swap my regular exercises, and wait for machines. It sucked, and the little voice in my head kept telling me this was the worst and that I need to quit. Still, I got through the workout. It wasn’t my best, I didn’t leave it all out there, but it a was respectable effort. I went home wondering how often I could bear with it. I went home at nearly 10PM, exhausted, uncomfortable, and with bleak expectations. I didn’t think I’d be able to keep it up.

Getting up today was not easy, especially on 6 hours of sleep, but once I did get up, something amazing happened. I felt better. I didn’t ask to feel better. Yesterday, I was a little proud of making it to the gym, but was mostly focused on not being able to sustain it in the future. Today, however I really felt the effects of my workout. I feel stronger. I feel more confident. I feel like my body is grateful for helping it flush out the crap I’ve been feeding it. Today, I feel really proud of myself for having the perseverance to come back and work out.

I’m teetering on the precipice, and my fate hangs in the air. My birthday is in less than two weeks, and six weeks ago, I resoled to end the year in the best shape of my life. To be fair, I’ve been in pretty bad shape, mostly, so this isn’t a very hard goal. But, at any rate, I was well on my way to accomplishing this until I started my job. And now, it’s do or die. It’s very possible that I’ll end up quitting like I always do, and re-reading this post with a sad smile as a fat sloth down the road. But that’s not my intention. I didn’t feel good working hard at the gym yesterday, but I feel great today. I want to keep feeling like this. I want to stay true to my mission. It may be the most uncomfortable thing in the world, but I’m coming back to the gym tonight.

You are in a fight against an opponent you can’t see, but oh, you can feel him on your heels, can’t you? Feel him breathing down your neck. You know who that is? That’s you. Your fears, doubts, and insecurities lined up like a firing squad ready to shoot you out of the sky.