Why bother with this whole “exercise” thing anyways? I mean Jesus it's hard work. It's time-consuming. Your body hurts. It isn’t exactly an easy road.
There are many reasons (good reasons it seems) why people go the gym, love the gym, obsess about the gym. They literally train their asses off—whether that’s in the gym or outside. It seems as though they couldn’t imagine their life without exercise. What motivates them to work so damn hard? Why do they suffer through injuries, through misery, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad for their relationship with sweat?
We’re going to bypass the reason “looking better”. That’s just a bit too obvious. Looking better is a perfectly fine reason to workout and is, without question, a strong motivator. But I want to get at some more powerful reasons. Motivations that are less about the exterior and more about life itself.
1. You should work out because it makes you happy. I don't mean this in an hippy way full of butterflies and rainbows. I mean it very literally. You’ll feel amazing after you exercise. Immediately. Study after study confirms the direct relationship between exercise and increased feel-good hormones, including a study that suggests high-intensity exercise modulates the brain in a very similar way to cocaine use. (That’s gotta feel good.) Another recent study confirmed that serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels were significantly increased by exercise, suggesting physical activity can help manage depression.
2. You should work out to make your life easier. Being stronger, leaner, happier, and more capable can make for a more manageable life:
Your boss needs you to get that box? Yes ma’am, you can get that box.
Your neighbor needs you to rearrange his furniture? Damn right you’ll move that couch.
Your buddy needs you to carry him home from the bar? Saddle up, cowboy.
Training increases your capabilities. That’s the law of progressive overload—lift something a little bit heavier each day, get a little bit stronger. Run a little faster each day, get a little bit faster. A body that is increasingly capable makes for a life that is increasingly manageable. Plus if you ever get mugged chances are you can catch them and kick their butts.
3. You should work out because it helps you win at life. Setting and achieving goals inside the weight room helps you set and achieve goals outside the weight room. The goal-setting/goal-accomplishing cycle is a learned habit. Archbishop Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens said it well, “Happy are those who dream dreams and pay the price to make those dreams come true.”
Initially, these victories are small. But eventually, the accomplishment of our goals comes to define our life. This same cycle repeats itself on a daily basis with our exercise.
4. You should work out for your family and friends. I don't want to get too sappy (it’ll ruin my tough girl image) but the people closest to you rely on your love, energy, and strength. Abusing your body is a disservice to them. This holds true for young mothers, aging grandparents, or loving husbands. Taking care of your relationship with yourself is the first step towards taking care of your relationship with others. Making time for exercise is absolutely, positively, in NO WAY an act of selfishness. Quite the opposite: It’s an act of generosity. The people around you deserve your best. The best version of you is a version that is constantly challenged and improved with a kick-ass exercise routine.
5. You should work out because you can. Initially, it’s easy to view exercise as a chore. Consider this instead: Exercise is a blessing. Not only do you have the knowledge and the means to exercise, but you’ve been given a body that is strong as a friggin’ tank, fast as a cheetah, and more agile than a jackrabbit. OK, perhaps that is slightly overstated, but a healthy body is truly a work of art.
Take inventory. If you are fortunate enough, you have…
Two strong legs that can carry you anywhere you damn well please.
Two strong arms that can lift lots of really heavy stuff.
A strong core and a strong heart and strong hands.
It all works. Every day. It works really well. In fact, if you stop and think about it, it’s baffling just how impressively well it works.
6. OK, you can work out to be sexy too. ‘Cause the ladies like a guy with a little sweat on his brow and rough hands. And the guys like a woman that can squat more than him. (they do right?) These are only a few of the many good reasons to hit the gym. Simply put, exercise makes for a more awesome life. Do me a favor and send this to someone who doesn’t workout. They’ll thank you later.