Why Do You Do Fitness?

by Steve Troutman on March 29, 2016

Why do you do fitness?

My guess is it has a lot to do with cultural pressure to look a certain way. I always wonder if people would be pursuing better fitness and a better physique if our cultural idea of beauty and attractiveness was 50 lbs heavier than it is right now.

Really think about that for a moment. Would you be as intent on pursuing better fitness or a better physique if our cultural norms were different? I think this question – and more importantly your answer – helps differentiate those who are doing this for themselves versus those who are doing this because “they should.”

Here’s a fact that many people seem surprised by when I share it.

If I could maintain how I feel, perform, and look right now without exercise… I likely would never go to the gym. I don’t do this because I enjoy torturing myself under heavy loads. Rather I look at my fitness as a skill that has tons of utility for enhancing other things that I care about very much.

Put differently, my fitness serves the purpose of maximizing my values. I’m a better father, husband, outdoor adventurer, coach, and person because I consistently show up to the gym and bust my ass. While I don’t necessarily love grinding it out under a heavy barbell on a given day, I most definitely love how I feel afterwords. More importantly I love what all of the reps have meant to the greater concept of who I am and pretty much everything I care about.

I’ve done it enough times now that, when I stop doing it for more than a week, I feel bad. The deleterious effects (physical and mental) that accompany a stoppage of training become more and more evident the longer and more consistently I train.

No matter how much choice I give some clients – no matter how much I scale the target behavior to meet them where they are – they still flounder. They struggle to stay committed to the process. It seems that they like the concept of being fit more so than they do the actual day to day grind of it all.

I think a big part of this is that they lack perspective. They haven’t connected enough dots. On most days, when viewed in isolation, fitness looks more painful than it does pleasurable from my perspective. But my default mental frame for fitness is to view it through a wider angle lens. I’m seeing it as one small piece to a much larger puzzle. The image of this puzzle is the version of myself that I like the best. And if I were to remove the piece that represents fitness… the image appears incomplete.

What role does fitness play in your life?

Family, coaching, learning, outdoor adventure, autonomy, purpose, and the concept of a life well lived. These are the cornerstones of my value system – all parts to my puzzle. And if I were to strip my fitness from my life, it would detract from a vast majority of these values.

I believe that if we aren’t striving to improve ourselves within the context of our value systems, things fall apart emotionally and mentally. We lose that sense of being alive.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of people who do fitness out of sheer joy for the act itself. But these folks tend to be the exception to the norm. Most “everyday people” don’t have the intense intrinsic motivation to do it for the sake of doing it.

While we are a culture that is very centered on fitness and physique, I argue that focusing solely on the pursuit of fitness without practicing perspective of how it fits into your larger picture is a surefire way to lose purpose. A lack of purpose leads to a lack of staying power. Before long you will encounter some ripple in life that easily pulls you away from the pursuit because your Why hasn’t been honed enough in your mind.

Here’s your opportunity to, at a minimum, start thinking about all of your puzzle pieces. How do you feel about spending a few minutes each day pondering where fitness fits into your life for the next 14 days? Oftentimes simply showing up to a journal on a regular basis with the intent of answering a question or two provides massive returns on the investments of time. It has the power to pull your mind away from the automaticity that’s the basis for your current “normal.”

Journaling is a very personal thing, but if you’re looking for a specific question to focus on for the next couple of weeks…

“What matters the most to me in life and how does fitness serve these things?”

If you’re struggling with this, you’re welcomed to join us at the BI Change Community where we can discuss this in more detail.

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