People tend to treat fitness like it’s a job.
They put on their gear, clock in, and grimly get their work done. Then they get back to things they actually enjoy—or to their actual work.
Some have bosses, called “trainers,” who tell them what to do and hold them accountable. But they pay for it rather than get paid.
Others become workout-aholics. They keep turning the treadmill up a notch, never feeling content with their current status.
And then there are the loafers. They periodically attempt to join the workout force but can’t seem to hold on to a fitness routine for longer than a month before quitting.
All-in-all, it’s no wonder so many people have an unhealthy relationship with fitness. But it doesn’t have to be. Working out and staying fit doesn’t have to feel like a job.
Explore what’s out there.
If fitness is like a job, you could say I’ve been an itinerant job-hopper. Name a way of working out, and I’ve put sweat equity into it:
- I’ve trained for endurance sports. But being a triathlete was too monotonous and time-consuming for my liking.
- I’ve pumped iron and pulled cables to get swole and strong. I enjoyed the testosterone of it all, but I plateaued and didn’t have the stomach for all the protein powders, pills, and programming.
- I’ve joined CrossFit cults. The community and friendly competition were fantastic, but I didn’t like being boxed in and told what to do.
- I’ve followed fitness fads like P90X. But just like the workouts themselves, they got tiring fast.
- I’ve done yoga, competitive sports, and boxercising, too.
While none of these fitness forays was a fit for me, they helped me figure out what I enjoyed and what I didn’t. They also earned me a broad foundation of skills and techniques. And they gave me the confidence to set out on my own.
Eventually, they’ve led me to become entrepreneurial in the way I work out.
Find a workout-life balancing goal.
These days, you could say I’m an exercise freelancer.
My clients? My current and future selves.
My deliverables? Maximizing their overall health and well-being.
Finding a balance between current and future self well-being is tricky:
- If your current self “enjoys the present” too much, you put your future self at risk of becoming miserably fat, sick, and lazy.
- But if you go too far the other way, your future self may regret sacrificing so much of life’s precious time and energy for a six-pack and wicked VO2 max.
To be the fittest 100-year-old possible.
Enjoy the fitness lifestyle.
By pursuing my goal of becoming an “Old-lympian,” fitness has ceased to feel like a job. It has blended into my lifestyle:
- Playing sports like beach volleyball and basketball and going hiking are my favorite pastimes.
- Walking and biking are my go-to forms of transport because they give me time to think, stretch my legs, and save me the cost and stress of cars.
- Sleeping well is a priority. And I sleep on the floor because I’ve found doing so best prepares my body and mind to seize the day.
- Eating a diet heavy in hearty salads and Kim’s home cooking makes me feel best. But so do wine, beer, and Dairy Queen Blizzards, which I also frequently indulge in.
- Fasting until the late afternoon most days, and sometimes doing multi-day fasts, seems to make my brain and body work better.
- Brushing my body every day, just like I brush my teeth, with a simple daily mobility routine.
- Shifting between different positions on chairs, stools, and the ground—or standing—when I’m working keeps both my body and mind from getting stiff and sore.
People see the results of this fitness lifestyle, my literal body of work:
…and they assume it must take tons of effort.
But it rarely ever feels like it.
Consider an exercise un-routine.
In addition to the fitness lifestyle components I listed above, I try to work out three or four times a week.
When living in Cape Town, I typically go to the outdoor “playground” at the Virgin Active gym. There, I invent workouts and exercises with the balls, sleds, bars, and whatever other toys are at my disposal.
I like this seasonality. It keeps my workouts feeling fresh.
Speaking of which, when we travel, I take advantage of the geography to concoct funky workouts. For example, on a family trip to Tofino last summer, I invented the GWAL (guy with a log). I ran to the end of the beach, found an awkwardly-shaped hunk of driftwood, and spent the next 45 minutes picking it up and throwing it back to my hotel.
GWAL is a typical example of how I make up every workout on the spot based on how my body feels, my mood, who I’m working out with, and what equipment’s available.
I love the freedom and flexibility of not having a routine. I enjoy stressing my creativity muscles to invent new workouts. And it reinforces my ability to not give a crap what other people think. I get a kick out of the side-eyes strangers give me as I climb, jump, and throw my body and other inanimate objects around barefooted and bare-chested.
Find your fitness fit.
Just as I wouldn’t recommend you follow my career path, I wouldn’t push my entrepreneurial, un-routine fitness lifestyle on anyone.
Especially not early in your fitness forays. It’s probably wise to learn the ropes and develop discipline with the guidance of experienced exercises in a structured environment.
And you may ultimately find you favor the fitness equivalent of a corporate or government job:
- Sticking to a steady routine
- Following a trainer’s orders
- Pursuing short-term fitness goals
- Working out in the climate-controlled confines of a gym.
If that’s sustainable for you, great.
The main lesson I hope you take away is this:
You don’t need a strict routine to be fit. And it doesn’t need to feel like a job. So experiment, explore, and play around until you find a fitness lifestyle that keeps you feeling and looking great for a long time.
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