A very dear friend of mine, Patty Chang Anker, has been training to run a 5K. She’s been running 2-3 days a week for the last several months. She also happens to be a blogger and author who is keeping her readers posted on her training progress. Two weeks ago she described on Facebook that she had just finished a run and, for the very first time, she enjoyed her workout from beginning to end. I immediately responded with the following, “This post has brought tears to my eyes! As you know, fitness is so much more than an occupation for me – it is near & dear to my heart. I KNOW anyone can find those workouts that make them feel great but it takes persistence, perseverance, will, heart, determination and, often, a little luck to fight through all those hated workouts to finally get there. There is no magic formula & there is no shortcut. So many never reach that goal. Every time someone finally reaches that aha! fitness moment, it is a true triumph. Congratulations, my friend! Remember this feeling, crave it, cherish it so that you’ll want to achieve it again and again.” To which she responded, “You should blog about the a-ha fitness moment!”
She’s right. But, trying to describe it to someone who has never experienced it is kind of like trying to describe to someone what it’s like to fall in love to someone who has never been in love. Even more difficult is explaining what to do to get to that moment. This reminds me of when my oldest daughter was slow to make progress when first learning to read. I turned to a reading specialist friend for advice. I wondered if there were drills, games or tricks I could do with my daughter to speed the process. My friend explained that learning to read is like a light switch, there always is that moment when the switch gets tripped and the bulb goes on, but no one has discovered a way to force it to turn on. But, as we know, it does happen.
And it can and does happen with fitness too. The misconception is that it’s a matter of nature rather than nurture, that one is either born to love exercising or not. Yes, there are those kids that are always outside playing who go on to play sports throughout school and then to compete as marathoners and tri-athletes as adults. But, that doesn’t describe me, many of my fitness colleagues or my clients who enjoy exercise despite having little to no experience with it as children or young adults. Bloggers and columnists all over the web have shared personal stories of conversion from sedentary to fit. There are likely differences in skill level and ability between those who were active as children and those who became active later on in life. That’s what probably drives a natural athlete towards activity at a young age in the first place. But I will contend there is little difference in enjoyment level of exercise between the young athlete and the late-bloomer fitness enthusiast. The only difference is the age at which they had their a-ha fitness moment.
I seem to be in an analogy mood today, so I’ll stick with it. The sedentary and fit lifestyles are the opposite sides of a snow covered hill. We all begin as a small snowball at the top. The sedentary side is steep and relatively short, the fit side is long and gradual. Either way you go, momentum and the growing size of the snowball will lead you to the bottom of the hill at increasing speeds. The further you go down one side of the hill, the more work and time it takes to shift direction to make it back to the top before you can begin to go down the other side.
Most people who’ve never had the a-ha fitness moment can imagine the steep side of the sedentary hill but can’t imagine the fit side as being sloped downward at all. If one has dabbled in exercise, been off and on again, experienced nothing but a long slog through a workout and sore muscles afterward, how is fitness a downhill slope? Isn’t it a never-ending mountain to climb?
The answer is, if you’re still experiencing the long slog, you’re still pushing that huge snowball up the sedentary side of the hill. You’re still looking for the workouts that you enjoy, your body is still adapting to the work, you’re still trying to get into a groove. When you have that a-ha moment, then you know you’re at the top. This is the critical moment – this is when you have to decide which way you go. If you take too much time off from the workouts, you’ll head down that steep slope again. But, if you keep exercising, you’ll find yourself on that beautiful, sunny, snowy slope. You’ll experience more enjoyable workouts, become addicted to the post-workout high and, when you’re forced to take a few days off because sometimes life gets in the way, you will truly miss your workout. Yes, you will miss it.
I know what that side of the hill feels like and I want as many people to join me as possible. This is why I became a trainer and write this blog. This is why my friend’s Facebook post brought tears to my eyes. It is a powerful thing this a-ha fitness moment. It opens the door to a fit life and what a balanced and fulfilling life that is. Welcome to the beautiful side of the hill, Patty! We’re waiting for the rest of you to join us.
Post Script: Here is just one of the thousands of inspirational a-ha fitness moment stories out there. Find one that inspires you.