Author: Rich Adams
I was riding a downhill a while ago and having a pretty good time with it, and realized that even though cycling is not how I got into athletics, it is definitely the most fun of the disciplines I enjoy. I mean…. you’re going really fast. What else is there? Of course, as I continued I began thinking about what fitness outlets I do and how they serve my well being. This being a rather long ride I came to some conclusions which I thought could be fun to share in this article. After all, the reason for this blog is to have a shared experience with other athletes, to remind them that they are almost never the only ones who think or feel what they think or feel, so I thought this would be a fun one to go through.
So, here is my personal breakdown: Running is my Therapy, Cycling is my Joy, Weight Training is my Ego, Yoga is my Need, and Swimming is something I have to do.
Now maybe you have one that fits into multiple categories, but most people have similar needs that fit into their psyche so some of these should feel familiar.
Running is my Therapy:
I have been running in an “organized” way since I was 13 years old, but I didn’t really understand it for a while. It wasn’t until I was a junior in high school at cross country practice after a (emotionally) difficult day that I realized what running was to me. I couldn’t tell you the details of what made it a bad day and I couldn’t tell you what that day specifically consisted of for CC practice. Looking back I can guess that I was a moody teenager who went for a run. What I remember as clearly as anything I have ever remembered in my life is the feeling I had as I approached my car (a super-sweet 1973 Ford Maverick) after that practice. It was an overwhelming sense of relief. Not the kind of relief of finishing up a long day, but the kind where a weight had been on you and was now gone. My bad mood and bad day had been erased. It was kind of like my eyes had been opened to exactly what running could do for a person. In that moment I realized that I loved to run. It wasn’t a sport I chose because I wasn’t coordinated enough to do a different sport, it was now a sport that I chose to do because I needed it… because the power it had to hit the reset button in a way nothing else ever had, it made me think clearly and it still does.
Cycling is my Joy:
So, I mentioned this above, but is there anything better for pure, unadulterated joy than cycling? Going really fast down a hill with the wind pouring over you, maybe a bit of determination pumping through your veins alongside all that blood and oxygen? Nope… no there isn’t. I was once on the north service road in Lake St. Louis and came to a long, steep downhill. I decided to gear as hard as I could into the hill and see just how fast I could go. Turns out that gravity has a thing or two going for it after all because when I looked at my watch post-ride I was pumped to see that for a brief moment I touched 40 mph. It’s the kind of childlike enthusiasm that can’t really be associated with many other sports. Of course there is an edge to that little adrenaline piece as well. It would be a very difficult task for me to be angry on a bike. If running calms my nerves, cycling ignites them in a positive way.
Weight Training is my Ego:
Look, the human psyche is a pretty complicated thing. While I can’t necessarily claim to know a lot about it, I can confidently say that we all have a little conceit in us. It’s not like humanity invented mirrors to look at someone else!! So, here’s the deal, don’t ignore that bit of conceit and don’t let it overtake you, but feed it appropriately! For some people it’s fast cars or fancy clothes, for me it is moving heavy stuff. It makes me feel good about me. If you lift with any regularity, you know how you look in the 10 minutes right after your lift, and it is, in a word, awesome. When I start to feel discouraged about my appearance (which happens to us all, I’d imagine) I like to go to the gym and lift, not because it releases tension, not because I get a child-like joy from it, but because when I look in the mirror after and all my muscles are engorged with oxygenated blood my mind tells me that I’m Arnold Freakin’ Schwarzenegger and that is excellent!! I often like to remind people that fitness is already sort of a narcissistic act, you do something solely for you, so you may as well embrace that aspect and use it!! After all, the gym is full of mirrors so you can look at yourself.
Yoga is my Need:
There are two kind of people in the world: those that are aware of and accept their weaknesses and those that aren’t/don’t. I like to think that I am the first of the two (and the weakness list is LOOOOOONG) and in fitness it is flexibility. *Sigh* Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to be more flexible, it is a matter of efficiency – and that feeds EVERYTHING else in my fitness regimen – but alas, the good Lord saw fit to keep this just out of my grasp. So when I’m hungry for a challenge, it’s yoga-o’clock. I am NOT good at it…. even a little… like, ever. It is a challenge I enjoy, though. I think it’s okay to suck at some things, and I suck at Yoga, because there is far more strength in humility than nearly anything else. This is just an opinion, but I think people should have a challenge in their life that they are aware of and invite. All too often we are given challenges that someone else provides for us (hello, workplace/school/kids/house), and that lends to stress (for which I go running) and being bummed out (for which I cycle) and disappointment (for which I lift). There is something special about having a task that you aren’t especially good at, though, and coming to the conclusion that even in the face that this may never change, you chase that goal anyways. I’m never going to learn every single language, but it could be fun to try!! Being given a challenge and choosing one for yourself are two items that, while similar in that they are challenges, are worlds apart in their execution.
Swimming is something I have to do:
I…… love…… triathlon. It is as much a part of my identity as anything. Swimming is a function of that sport and allows me to proclaim triathlon as something I love using the old cliché of “warts and all”. And really, the things we love in life nearly always have some warts. Recognizing that they exist, but not caring that they do, is one of the best parts of being human. Let me be clear, I’m not necessarily talking about love for a person (though the parallels are obvious) but more if you love your job – even though you have to file sometimes, or love your home – even though you have to change furnace filters. All the things or activities in life have aspects that we enjoy less, but their inclusion adds to the identity of the thing you love, and without them it’s not quite the same – turns out the warts have their own kind of beauty too.
So, that’s me in a nutshell – or at least the fitness part of me. Each thing that we do lends one more piece to the whole that makes each of us who we are. I don’t so much measure them by how good I am at them (I mean…. of COURSE I keep track of my numbers!!) but how well they fulfill their respective need. Don’t get me wrong, there’s overlap and the lines are not drawn in stone, this is more of a guideline than strict rules, but it’s a nice outline if you wanted to know yourself better. What things fulfills your needs? In the end I like what I do because it fills me out emotionally in a way I feel proud of (warts and all), and I hope you are as lucky as me and have things that do the same for you – whether they be exercise or anything else.