The Personalist Project

Like many a sedentary fifty-something grand multipara, when I decided to get in shape I made my motives clear. I wanted more stamina to serve my family. I wanted to gain strength and flexibility. I intended to be a better steward of the God-given gift of health. 

By which I meant: I sure hoped I'd lose a whole bunch of weight.

Three weeks into an entirely out-of-character and very strenuous early-morning workout routine, here are some things I've learned:

1. When you find something that works for you, you want to start spreading the word. You manage to work your workouts into conversations about totally unrelated subjects. You want everyone to understand that you've finally discovered something that makes a difference!--a real life-changer!--and you want them to discover it too. 
And then you realize: Hmm, I should probably feel that way about the really important stuff, like, say, the Gospel, and the salvation of everybody's immortal soul.

2. The anti-vicious circle: If I was going to get up that early, I was going to have to go to bed earlier. If I went to bed earlier, I'd be eating fewer midnight-snack Oreos. If I ate fewer Oreos, I'd see results sooner. If I saw results sooner, I'd gain momentum and be less likely to crash and burn. If I didn't crash and burn, maybe I really would stick with it and keep getting up that early...

So the single (admittedly horrifying) decision to get up at 4:45 and spend one hour of the 24 working out with a group of friends has had more far-reaching effects than I was expecting.

3. I'm worth it (?) Every advertiser on the planet knows the value of "You're worth it!" It's used to coax insecure people into buying things we don't need (or even want) because we imagine that those things can somehow add to our intrinsic value. Or it encourages people with an inflated self-image to inflate it even more. It's a message that makes for more trouble than happiness. On the other hand...

4. I've wasted many years unaccountably assuming that doing things the hard way is ipso facto more virtuous. Virtue requires effort, but not everything that requires effort is virtuous. What I've noticed since beginning WorkoutAgony® is that I'd been walking around in a fog but didn't realize it. I was expending the same amount of energy to lift my body off the couch as it now takes me to bike to the store or go on a short hike. This is no way to live, and I wasn't doing myself or my family any favors by prolonging it.

5. Speaking of "the wisdom to know the difference" between the things I can change and the things I cannot (as we were in last week's post), I surprised myself. I would have thought the inability to get up this early and do anything this strenuous was clearly among the things I could not change. But I was wrong. Put it down to grace, or put it down to vanity finally outstripping sloth, but I was very, very wrong.

6. As long as I'm not obnoxious about my "evangelizing," my perseverance in WorkoutAgony® might help other people, too. I aspire to be that lady about whom people say, "Wow, if SHE can do it, maybe I can, too."  I myself was inspired by the witness of sedentary friends and relatives (including my sister Simcha Fisher and her success with Couch to 5K). I was inspired, too, by the efforts of a guy in the class whom I mistakenly assumed was a fellow beginner because of his size. Then I found out his size was due to muscle, he'd been working out two hours a day, had already lost 50 pounds, and could easily leave me in the dust during a jog around the parking lot.

7. Finally, there's the "mindfulness" angle. Self-knowledge, however painful, is a good and necessary thing. Now that I note every bite in my food journal, I have a new and alarming awareness of how much mindless eating I'd been doing. Only when my phone's battery runs out do I realize how automatically I usually turn to it. Only when my credit card is maxed out do I notice how reflexively I try to solve problems by throwing money at them. This new experience is a good kind of mindfulness, because it's accompanied by supportive people and hopeful signs that the workouts are working. Self-knowledge without hope would be another story. 

So bere I am, heading into Week Four. Imagine, in just five short decades, I've managed to jettison the excuses that were holding me back. I bet you can, too!

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