Back in August, in the midst of a Facebook message conversation, a friend I have known since Kindergarten described her perception of my wife and me:
“I think of you both as health conscious people….but I can’t picture either of you working out in a gym. I picture you as people who hike on the weekends or bike to dinner.”
Little did she know that I was already mapping out this post, explaining why I passionately oppose going to the gym, yet passionately promote daily exercise in other ways. It’s true, the last time I went to a gym, they had just discovered the hatch on Lost.
My friend was right. I am a biker; mountain biker, that is. At all times, my bike is stored in my Honda Element with me. Every day during my lunch break, I bike to Starbucks to read a book, or to the bank to deposit some cash, or to Whole Foods to pick up some Christmas presents for people.
I pretend that I live in a Mediterranean village in the year 1533, where I would literally have to travel miles at a time in order to get everything done that day. If I want to read a chapter in the current book I’m reading, I have to earn it by biking a mile and a half to get to a place to read it.
If it rains or is too cold, I have a heavy raincoat and “outside workout” clothes to change into. Even when it snows, I’ll still at least walk a few miles outside.
The point is to find someway to get daily exercise (at least 25 minutes) without having to depend on paying someone to use their facility. It doesn’t have to include a mountain bike, but it’s a matter of finding a creative way to get out of the office; even it’s just walking with a friend during designated breaks during work.
I say fresh air (even when it’s cold and wet) is still better than stagnant air inside an office. So let me go ahead and get into it, here are 6 reasons I don’t go to the gym:
1. Joining a gym often promotes an “all or nothing” mentality in which one’s diet follows. ”I was just too stressed to go to the gym for the past two days” often means a backslide into fast food lunches and potato chips as snacks.
2. Gyms promote a perfectly sculpted body as the goal, instead of a realistic, healthy one. We’re not movie stars; we don’t need six pack abs. The focus should be on being healthy, not losing weight. Weight loss is a side effect of active habits, not a target itself.
3. Gyms cost money. I’m not going to pay for what I can get for free.
4. There is a pressure to commit to a gym. Remember that episode of Friends where Chandler tries to quit the gym, recruiting Ross to help him, but then Ross gets suckered in to joining the gym too?
5. Working out puts too much focus on calories. For me, it’s about the the right food choices to begin with. I bet my daily calorie intake is slightly high, because I eat plenty of whole fruits (which are already naturally loaded with sugar) as well as avocados, nuts, and whole milk (full of good fats), but I weigh 20-something pounds less now than I did in these featured pictures of me from 2008 on my honeymoon in New England, before I had made my lifestyle changes- like biking and cutting out processed foods.
6. People size you up at a gym. Plus, it’s easier to do the same to other people; focusing too much on bodybuilders who basically live there.
So I say, liberate yourself from the gym. Despite all the rage, you don’t have to be a rat in a cage.
For a nostalgic guy like me, it can be very difficult to “live in the moment.” And that’s not a good thing when it comes to being present in body, mind, and spirit as a husband and father. Not to mention, it’s sort of impossible for me to stop thinking about how I will provide for my wife and son.
In 1996, while most other 15 year-olds were listening to cool alternative grunge bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, and Stone Temple Pilots, I additionally had something they didn’t have: a cassette tape of the first album by The O.C. Supertones.
You’re probably familiar with hearing someone say “I grew up really Jewish… bar mitzvah, the whole deal….” Even if it was simply Seth Rogen on Conan who said it, you understand the concept of “growing up really Jewish.”
Well, I “grew up really Christian.” I learned to play the guitar in Junior High because I led the music for my church’s youth group on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Every summer I went on a mission trip to a different state or country, doing repairs on widow’s homes during the day, then participating in drama and singing performances at city parks in the afternoons. (Yes, I had a trendy W.W. J. D? bracelet.)
And while DC Talk was the coolest Christian rock band back in the those days, I also was a huge grassroots promoter of The O.C. Supertones- the main Gospel ska band of the ’90′s.
Last week as I felt like listening to nothing but all of their albums back-to-back, a line from their song “Unknown” stood out to me. I have been listening to that song for 15 years but it finally made sense to me at a time when I needed to hear it most:
“Killing ourselves faster than fast; living in the future, living in the past.” I haven’t been able to shake the thought of how constantly I do just that: I participate in the self-destructive behavior of either A) dwelling on how I should have/could have/would have done things differently in my past, if I was able or B) dwelling on how much better life will be a decade from now when my problems will hopefully have worked themselves out.
I realize that with all the positive vibes I constantly send out in my daily writings here on The Dadabase, I may sometimes make my version of being a dad and husband seem easier than it actually is. And perhaps it seems that Jack never causes any stress for my wife or I. But despite my optimism and quirkiness, my life is as normal as they come. I encounter the same basic stresses as all other dads and husbands.
Admittedly, I question some of my past decisions and actions. And I seriously wonder about my future; financially.
Since moving from our secure jobs in Nashville before Jack arrived, we now live on a much smaller single income, with a kid. Yeah, the thought of money stresses me out big time. Living here in Alabama now, I can’t provide for them the same way I used to. Money sure isn’t everything, but Nashville’s good economy definitely eased things in my mind.
As I am wired to do, I ultimately feel responsible for providing for my family. So I question the version of myself who a few years ago led me to make the decisions to get me here today. And I often fantasize about a future time when I won’t feel the stress that I am feeling now.
Of course, my making a habit of mentally time traveling is not a good thing. Because if I keep going back far enough, I may fantasize about a time when I had no real responsibilities and no family of my own. And it is nothing but counter-productive and selfish to subconsciously covet the 21 year old college version of myself who made money by selling egg rolls and Hot Pockets from the mini-fridge in my college dorm.
The weight of my responsibilities is constantly on my mind. Will I be able to care for my family? Am I good enough for them? Should I have gotten something other than an English degree a decade ago in college, so I could be assured I’d make enough money to be the breadwinner at age 30?
This is an honest, vulnerable look into a guy’s brain. I’m never unaware of my need to provide. Never.
Other men have greater or less financial concerns and decisions to make. But still, as men, we are perpetually terrified of the realistic demon who reminds us that nothing we can do is ever enough.
It’s a matter of reminding myself that that even the ravens, who don’t even sow or reap, who don’t have storerooms or barns, are still fed. And I am much more valuable than a bird.