Is Exercise a Punishment?

This summer I went on a date with a very normal San Francisco guy. He worked in tech and really was hoping to make the leap to his own start-up — so yes, he really was that typical of SF. As we talked he bottom-lined me and asked: “So, tell me, could you actually date someone that doesn’t workout?”. I truthfully answered that I don’t need a partner to be as enthusiastic as I am about kettlebells and perfect squat form. If anything, it’s nice to have someone at home that wants to talk about something other than workouts since it’s pretty much what I think about 40+ hours a week. And I’ve dated men that were competitive with me when it came to fitness knowledge and application – to say that was frustrating would be a vast understatement.

 

The tech guy went on to tell me that he had a personal trainer a few years back and was in the best shape of his life due to the grueling workouts he went through. But he was no longer interested in working out, pretty much ever again. Not sure if he was joking or simply trying to get a rise out of me and always willing to give someone a chance, we texted throughout the following week to set up another date. At one point he sent me a message complaining about walking up Potrero Hill to his apartment at the top. I tried to make a joke to really suss out how serious he was about this and to nudge him with the idea that going uphill is something I enjoy a lot. But his heels were dug in: this was something he clearly felt was worthy of a complaint. At this point, I was certain that we wouldn’t be a good match.  To have the health and ability to be able to do this sort of thing is a true gift that not everyone has.

view potrero hill

Because to me, exercise is actually self-care. Movement is something we need to do to take care of our bodies to live healthfully and happy for the entirety of our lives. It is a gift we are endowed with to do things like hike up Potrero Hill or Macchu Pichu, but, it is also something akin to brushing our teeth, flossing, doing our laundry, going to the doctor for regular check-ups and so on and so forth. That is to say, it’s necessary, not optional. As with any commitment, sometimes we may enjoy it, sometimes we may not. But it is never something that should be a punishment. And if you don’t enjoy the way you are exercising, change it. If your needs change due to illness, injury or disability – change it, don’t give up, just know that sometimes in life you will have to adjust the way you workout. Women have babies, people get hurt, we get older. It happens and we simply need to adapt.

 

Because our bodies were meant to do more than sit in front of computer screens and sit in cars. The next time you are tempted to skip a workout for something that is negotiable – ask yourself, would you skip brushing your teeth to save time? Would you let the dishes pile up until you had none left before you did them? The answer is probably no. So why do we give ourselves permission to skip exercise? Let’s re-think how we think about our workouts. They are not a punishment. They are a necessary self-care item on our daily to-do list.

 

And as someone that is spending a lot more time these days flossing, the difference between that and working out is vast: working out is actually something that can be fun. So, you might as well find a workout that you enjoy the hell out of.

And as for dating? While I still feel confident that I don’t need a fellow fitness-crazed person like myself, I did realize that I need someone that doesn’t think of movement as punishment. Because, frankly, walking up a hill in one of the most beautiful cities in the US is not something I am willing to look at as a punishment, ever.

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