I sometimes wonder how many people are turned off by fitness because it’s a seemingly superficial pursuit. The benefits are well-known, but stereotypes endure. Fitness is the realm of meatheads, jocks and juicers. It’s ass-out squat videos and flat tummy tea posts in our IG feeds. Not exactly a thing of substance.
Although I know that this is not the entire truth, it sometimes leaves me at odds with myself. I’m a creative person who comes from an editorial background. Am I pigeonholing myself in a shallow niche by pursuing the fitness industry? There’s so much more to me!
And if I’m susceptible to this line of thinking, what about the others? Are there people who are not even giving fitness a chance because of a negative preconceived notion?
Fitness does not have to be superficial. There are the obvious health benefits, and then there’s the stuff that’s under the surface. Many of the habits that go into building a fitness routine can also translate to other parts of our lives. Just as our bodies get stronger and more flexible, so do our minds.
It may not seem obvious, but fitness is related to creativity–how much you write, paint, play an instrument. It is related to how well you do your job. It can even be related to how often you clean, if you want it to be.
How? Well, let’s start with…
To adopt a healthier lifestyle, we have to do specific things over and over again. Exercising regularly, eating more nutritious food, getting enough sleep and so on. It takes a certain level of discipline to build this consistency, and that tenacity can be used for other endeavors. Whether it’s working out, writing, cleaning, playing guitar, reading, etc, the path to solidifying a habit is the same across the board regardless of the action. If we can do one, we can do another. Personally, I like to apply this behavior to my writing so that I’m creating a daily practice, even if only for a few minutes. The process is the same–start small, a little bit a day, more days than not. I keep this in mind whenever I’m struggling to create. We do it long enough until it becomes second nature. Next thing you know, you’ve written a book! Or your house is sparkling! Well, maybe not, but you’ll be closer than you originally were.
If there’s anything that you’re super consistent with, you can break down the process and mindset you have around it and apply it to another habit you’d like to take on.
A Clearer Mind
You know what sucks? Going to work hungover. Aside from feeling terrible, the fog over our heads makes it harder to think and produce. Even if we haven’t been drinking, poor food choices and a sedentary lifestyle can have a similar effect on our brains. The solution to get that fresh morning brain? Regular exercise and a healthy diet. Obviously, starting the day with a clear mind has benefits across the board. For me, it’s much easier to create in that sort of mental space. It’s much easier to do anything–work, study, deal with people.
We often think of exercise in terms of what it can do for our bodies, but don’t underestimate the effect it has on our noggin. Overall cognitive function improves and stress levels go down. We work more thoroughly and efficiently. I know, that’s a duh statement at this point. But maybe you needed a reminder. Maybe you feel like crap today. Maybe you should at least go for that walk. Just sayin’…ain’t nothin’ wrong with getting hotter AND smarter.
Let’s be honest; we have a tendency to be Nancy NOWs. (I just made that up.) We want what we want when we want it. And the more hedonistic the want, the more likely we are to give into instant gratification (think sweets, alcohol, fatty foods). Yet if the want is something we have to wait or work for, we pout and then tuck it into the recesses of our mind.
Picking up an exercise habit can turn us from Nancy NOWs to Long-Term Lucys. (I apologize for how incredibly corny that is.) When we consistently workout for a long period of time we see the positive effect it has on our health and physiques. Thus, we know it’s worth the occasional sacrifice of dessert or a happy hour. We are introduced to the long game, where the benefits of sticking to something to achieve a greater goal trump caving in to instant gratification. We start to honor the potential of our future selves over the fleeting desires of the moment. That is how we become successful in any area of life, whether it’s business, school, career or relationships. Since the angle of this piece is creativity, let’s say you’re an aspiring novelist or artist. If you’ve developed the skill of striving for long-term goals, you’re much more likely to skip sleeping in or watching TV to write or paint instead.
The Feedback Loop
Whereas becoming a Long-Term Lucy is making choices with the bigger picture in mind, the feedback loop is an ongoing form of positive reinforcement based off of our progress. As we workout, seeing our gains is what keeps us on track and gives us confidence. Let’s say you’re a total beginner who has never worked out before, but commit to exercise. Over time you see how you get stronger and fitter, which makes you want to keep working out. Maybe you go from barely being able to run a mile to running a marathon. Now you know what you’re capable of. And as you succeed, you want to do more. So just as our fitness progress can inspire us to tackle feats of strength, it can also give us the confidence to take on other challenges in life. Using myself again as an example, every day that I create something makes it easier to do it again the next day. I get a high off it and want to continue the cycle. Same thing happens when I’m hitting PRs in the gym. Consistent action makes us feel good and perpetuates the habit.
So remember that exercise isn’t only about losing weight or looking good. It’s part of lifestyle that requires us to change our behaviors and thoughts. Once we become aware of the tools that this habit has given us, we can apply them laterally to take on just about any endeavor.