It sucks to realize how far you’ve fallen.
When your priorities change, so too does your day-to-day schedule. If your job is farther, you must by necessity wake up earlier. It takes you longer to get home. You are more tired than you used to be, and you start wondering whether you really have the 30 minutes you claimed were all you needed in a day.
Lying is easiest when the target is willing to believe. And when you’re lying to yourself – the one person whose weaknesses you know better than anyone else – it’s easy to craft the lie so well that it seems an obvious truth.
I can tell myself quite convincingly that I have no time to work out any more, let alone to the level I was managing last year (about 8-10 hours a week). If I take the train, I feel too annoyed by the press of people. If I drive, I’m drained by the effort of navigating this city’s awful traffic and worse drivers. Even if I make it home before 1800 – which is still plenty early – it’s very easy for me to simply decide that the workout isn’t that important.
Lately, though, I’ve found myself bemoaning the losses I’ve felt since I stopped being serious about my fitness. My arms aren’t as jacked in photographs, my clothes are looser around the chest, I can’t hit more than 40 push-ups, and my 5-minute plank is little more than a memory. I assert that I feel bad about these things, but for some reason I cannot force myself to reclaim them.
It’s a familiar problem, one I heard fairly often when I was working as a trainer part-time through college. Then my answer was, “If it’s important enough, you’ll find a way. You’ll make time.” Has that changed? Do I no longer believe that my physical ability means so much that I cannot dedicate part of my day to rebuilding what I was?
It would be all too easy to say, “No, this will not stand” and fail anyway. I live alone in a condominium in a busy area – no one comes by to check on whether I work out or not. The loss of accountability from leaving my job at the gym has hit me far harder than I thought it would, and suddenly I understand the frustrations of all those guys who, had they not managed to hit the weights in the morning, wouldn’t have bothered to squeeze in a good workout.
I suddenly feel a little guilty about having chewed them out, however gently I tried to do it. At the same time, I remember that they could do it, even if they had to show up at our sessions to make it happen. The money they handed us became the driving force behind their attendance and subsequent improvements: they couldn’t miss a session, or that was hard-earned money down the drain.
To whom am I accountable? Am I willing to be accountable to myself? Would I be able to force myself back on track, knowing full well that no one would ever know if I lost the ability to do explosive pull-ups?
Our time is finite. Time in general, perhaps not, but ours has a very clear limit. There’s only so much available to us, and only so much we can do with it. If we spend 8 hours working and 2 hours commuting, we have 14 hours left, from which we subtract another 6 or so to sleep and maybe 2 to eat. That leaves you 6 hours of relative freedom. Is it truly so difficult to find 30 minutes in there for yourself?
By what criteria do we decide on our actions for the day? Even now I cannot say that I know full well what motivates me. I know my work schedule, and I know the connected actions. What takes precedence in the void? It’s a challenge of having to be self-motivated, finding time. It’s something everyone does on their own, but with less external pressure – and I can’t tell if that’s a good thing.
I can’t say what my answer is to the question of “Can I find time?”. Not yet. I’ve been averaging a hundred push-ups a day in the last week, but it’s still not enough for me to say, “Yes, I found the time.” There’s reprioritization to be done, and a lot of rethinking my daily game plan. That there may be more change in the near future doesn’t help things.
Still, I take some solace in knowing I haven’t fallen that far. A set of 10 pull-ups is still quite doable, even if I can’t follow it up with a descending ladder any more. Rebuilding is slow and sometimes frustrating, but there are lights along the way.
3 total ladders
1-5 Divebomber Push-up
1-5 Jump Squat
10 sets / 60s rest (although I got lazy near the end and dropped it to 10 counts)
10x Pike Push-up
10x Short Bridge
Plank to failure (my time: 2:38. Sucks.)
I used to run a lot.
Well, not a lot. I hated distances over 8km, and I almost never pushed myself to run for anything close to an hour. Still, I laced up my Mizunos and hit the pavement (sometimes dirt) three to four times a week. It got to where a 26-minute 5km effort was little more than recovery. It was a habit.
It wasn’t fun.
I pounded away at my running because I was surrounded by endurance athletes: marathoners (ultra and regular), triathletes, and swimmers. It wasn’t hard for a strength-oriented person to feel left out. I put in the time and effort to do something I had been convinced was worthwhile, even though I never really liked it very much. The community’s enthusiasm was encouraging, and the gear fit. I was willing to work at it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should have been doing something else.
I haven’t gone on a run in months now.
My current job feels like that. It isn’t a shitty job by any means – in fact, I have a commission of several thousand dollars in the pipeline – but it just doesn’t fit. The enthusiasm is there, and there’s certainly a lot of money to be made, but I don’t see myself staying for more than a couple of years even if I succeed spectacularly – which I doubt is going to happen. Heck, I’m already looking for other opportunities.
It’s easy to get excited about things. You get drawn into the hype – even for simple reasons – and you find yourself almost willing to drown in it. Once the high fades, though – and once the darker parts start entering the picture, you become far less willing to put up with it. It’s something I’ve experienced more than once, but this is one of the biggest cases so far in that it’s more than a few months wasted time on the line. There’s the salary, the potential earning, the connections – just a lot of stuff that needs to be considered.
I’m willing to stick it out, at least for a little while longer. I ran for months before deciding it wasn’t worth the effort, especially once rowing and cycling entered the picture. I might also find myself having a little fun while it lasts.