Why I Started Working Out

As the category might suggest, I did start working out. I eventually found reason to overlook what concerns I had and have since been actively trying to improve my fitness.

I don’t think there was an exact moment when I decided I wanted to get fit. I know it wasn’t until the later half of senior year of high school that I really got going, but I had planned to exercise and work out before then. What gave me the push to finally overcome my apprehension over working out though was a feeling of helplessness. I’ve come to realize that one of the few joys I get out of life is being able to help others, and that was true even back then.

I remember always feeling so useless when it came to anything physical. Teachers always asked for help to move desks or carry boxes and while several students ran up to help out, I always just slumped down into my chair because I knew I wouldn’t have the strength to do anything. Every now and then statements like, “I need a couple of strong guys to help me with something” would come up and again I would just sit back. I’ll admit sometimes it just felt embarrassing, being so weak. You can probably imagine just how much fun I had during my P.E. class. But that didn’t really matter to me. As someone who was always weaker than his sister, who was only a year older, I stopped caring about those kinds of things a long time ago. What really killed me was just not being able to help.

So that’s what I used to drive and motivate me. If my reasoning for not wanting to get stronger were wheel locks then my desire to help was my fuel.

I was on and off for a while, but I can now proudly say that I’ve been consistently exercising for three years straight. I’m not exactly the poster child for fitness, but I feel like I’ve come a long way from before I started working out. And boy was it a rough journey.

What I’m really proud of though is the fact that I only started working out when I decided that the reason would be to help others. It wasn’t out of frustration, so that I would no longer have to bite my tongue. I can’t even count the number of times I would have taken a swing at someone growing up if I knew it would actually hurt them. It wasn’t because of ego, so that I was more able to fit in or to look good. And it definitely wasn’t because I was told to, despite many years of my parents and even extended family’s nagging – who all did so mainly because they wanted me to look better. I made sure I had full control of my temper and then held out until I had something of actual meaning and value to work for.

So that’s why I wanted to write this before documenting my fitness progress from here on out; I don’t want to lose sight of why I started working out. My exercising should simply be about fitness; a healthier life so that I can live long, and strong, so that I can continue to serve.

Why I Refused to Work Out

Since one of the activities I wanted to document with this journal was my fitness I’m going to first write about why I originally didn’t want to work out and why I finally started.

Fitness was something I didn’t really care about until my senior year in high school. One of my main excuses for resisting working out until then was my short temper. I grew up with a very short fuse and I was always wary of being set off. While I was calm my moral compass was operational, but once I was set off there was no telling what I would do. My fits of rage could mean anything from verbal lashings to those around me to physical thrashings to my surrounding. So to help minimize damage, I controlled what I could do; I made sure I was weak so that I couldn’t actually hurt anyone or anything.

This worked fairly well for me. As someone who was much more interested in computers than sports, and someone who apparently had great metabolism, it wasn’t that hard for me to remain scrawny. And because of my stature and lack of strength, I always felt weak. This forced me to learn to bite my tongue and to walk away from fights simply because I never felt like I could win, no matter who the challenger. Since I decreased the blast radius I was able to worry less about fixing the destruction I caused every time I was set off which allowed me to focus more on lowering the frequency of the explosions. It was such a breakthrough for me. I was always so frightened of the monster that I was becoming with each outburst; I just didn’t want it to continue. The decision to stay small, scrawny and weak was my way of outmaneuvering the monster and taking back some control of my life.

So that became my excuse for many years, even after I got to a point where I couldn’t even remember my last outburst. I lived a comfortable life and contrary to how others interpreted my physical appearance, I felt just fine. I just owed so much to that one decision I made that since I didn’t notice any major health problems, there was just no reason for me to change. So I didn’t, at least not until a more significant reason came along.

Change Your Perspective: Appearances

Yesterday I stumbled upon a music video that reminded me of something I’ve always been rather annoyed about; how people choose to perceive others, and themselves, based on physical appearances.

I guess most of my disdain for this came from personal experiences growing up. I’ll save the details for another post, but suffice to say I was not, and still am not, an attractive person. It never got to the point where someone outright said, in a serious tone, “you’re ugly” to me or anything like that, but there were always not-so-subtle concerns expressed by my family members about my physical appearance. Most of the time the concerns were expressed in the context of health, so again, not as bad, but other times it was pure judgement.

It was just frustrating more than anything. As if struggling to figure out the kind of person you wanted to be wasn’t hard enough, society decided to pile on all it’s superficial baggage, imposing it’s ideals and punishing those who didn’t fit those ideals. The punishments as kids could be something like name-calling or bullying while as adults they could mean losing a chance to get to know someone or losing a potential job opportunity. It’s interesting looking back though because in the midst of all that judgement I received as a kid I gained understanding of a concept I was trying to grasp within Buddhism.

Learning about Buddhism I recall various lessons on looking past the material world and seeing beyond what our physical eyes capture. I remember always being baffled by the idea, “these teachings are talking about something that supposedly could only be experienced or understood upon attaining Buddhahood, how could you possibly trust it” were more or less my thoughts. After some time though I noticed something strange about how I perceived others. As corny as it might sound, the only way I can describe it is to say that I was starting to see others’ souls instead of their physical body. Stupid, right? But this is honestly the best way I know how to describe it in the written language. Imagine it: look at someone and instead of seeing distinct physical features – such as their eyes (single/double lid, chinky, big, colored, bags, cat), hair (long, short, bangs, no bangs, colored, flat, frizzy), ears (big, unnoticeable), brows (thick, thin, uni), head shape (round, small, big), complexion (like a baby’s bottom, wrinkly, acne, photoshopped), etc. – instead of all of that, you see their characteristics or traits; quiet, outgoing, insecure, arrogant, lazy, genuine. I feel like this is a much better way to perceive others. From a logical standpoint, at the very least its a more productive perception. We all understand as we get older that we cherish deep relationships and value an individual’s personality more than how they look, but yet we still continue to not only judge others, and ourselves, based on physical appearance, but also base our lives around achieving a particular look. I have no right to tell you what is or is not the correct way to view the world, but at the very least, with this change in perspective, you’d be consistent.

I feel like the majority of us naturally develop this kind of perception, more or less, as we grow older, but I see no reason to wait for time when you can consciously change how you view others now. No guide or walkthrough, just go out and try it. Make a conscious effort to look past a person’s physical appearance. Think about all the people who you might already be subconsciously doing that with. I know for me, when I still generally payed great attention to physical features, I overlooked them when it came to close friends. No judgments, no thoughts, I just saw them as the amazing individuals who I was fortunate enough to call my friends. That was where I started, I thought about how I was able to see past the appearance of my close friends and sought to apply that same perspective to everyone I met. It eventually stuck.

Don’t get me wrong, none of the indirect lessons that were ingrained in me disappeared. When I meet a person today I can spot most of what many would consider to be physical imperfections, it’s not something that I can just un-see or knowledge that I can erase; that mindset is unfortunately still in me. What has changed is the lens I choose to look through and the lens that I choose to act upon. I’ve stopped listening to the judgmental voice in my head and often times, I can’t even hear it. Maybe one day it will die completely.

Honestly, I don’t know what I want to say with all of this. I just know that it’s troubling when I have to explain to others why physical appearances shouldn’t matter and that they don’t need to put all their energy into changing how they look. I’m not delusional, I know that in today’s society how you look can sometimes be the only key to certain doors for you. Really think about it though, are those the doors you want to walk through?

 

This isn’t any where near what I wanted my first public post to be about, but at least it got me motivated enough to finally start. Hopefully, more to come. It’s just really hard to decide to make something open for all of the world to see.

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