Work is stressful. I’m pretty sure that is a fact for most people no matter how rewarding the job. Stress is also relative, similar to pain threshold, everyone has their own tolerance. For a business owner/operator cash is the number one source of stress. When you have it- you worry about losing it. When you don’t have it you worry about getting it.
Stress will never go away- but I feel for the first time in my career- I’m on top of it. I’m winning the battle. And it’s because of one simple thing- fitness. I’ve been working out on and off for 4 years. And during those ‘on’ phases I worry less and simply feel better. And for me, it’s the process more than the results that I enjoy.
These are a few reasons I enjoy the process of fitness and don’t care too much about getting buff.
The only time I truly switch off
My gym has a lot of group training sessions. I’ve tried a few but I’ve come to realise I like being at the gym to be alone and switch off. With both hands gripping 20kg free-weights, your mind is focusing on just one thing- not dropping them on your face. You cannot check your phone or worry about what you have on that day.
The key to switching off at the gym is heavy weights or high intensity cardio. If you have time to browse your email at the gym- you are doing it wrong. Also, learning mind to muscle connection- further puts your mind in a meditative state.
Feel good chemicals
As you tear your muscles and put your body in self healing mode- your body releases a bunch of nice chemicals. Research has shown the endorphins that your body release provides a similar result to Morphine- without any of the side effects or addiction of course. I even enjoy the lactic acid that makes your muscles hurt the next day as a (non-scientific) sign I’m getting results. But it’s your brain that loves the reward chemicals- and you get all the good stuff when you exercise including dopamine. Add coffee before or after your work out- and you are feeling great.
Creates a routine.
I think the word routine can put some people off. It sounds boring- like you are killing your ability to be spontaneous. I don’t think there is any way to make a routine seem sexy but it is definitely required to be successful. Working out is a great way to start your day. It gives you a reason to wake up early and the time before and after is yours. By the time you get to work your mind is fully active and you have probably ticket a few things off your to-do list already. On mornings I don’t work out, I stay in bed until the last possible minute, rush to get to work and have my first coffee once I’m in the office. I’m not productive for another 45mins after that.
I’ve recently switched gyms to one closer to home on Coogee beach. On workout mornings I do my first coffee sitting on the beach. It’s a nice way to start the day. If you live in Sydney- take advantage of it.
Getting stronger feels good.
It takes months to get stronger and results are subtle. But after awhile you are lifting double what you started on and it feels good. It transfers into everyday life- anything requiring lifting is simply easier than it was before. For me that’s mostly just my luggage at the airport- but the amount I travel that’s actually useful!
Feeling stronger definitely takes less time than looking stronger. Bodybuilding to look good requires a lot of detail in your workout- and good genes. The muscle isolation exercises, crazy diets and extra hours at the gym is more than I can fit in before work. So you quickly realise you are not going to look like an action star- but your compound lifts will improve and you’ll feel good regardless. I also like Ricky Gervais take on working out every day- he does it so he can drink wine every night.
Your sense of achievement first thing in the morning sets you up to have a productive day.
But what about the results?
I’ve put on 15 KG in muscle since I started a few years ago but more importantly- I’m in control of my emotions. I snap at my partner less (she has noticed the difference too), my temper is in check and I can handle the stress at work. I think going to the gym is something I’ll continue to do for the rest of my life- as it pretty much makes me a better person.