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5 Things Fitness Taught Me

by Casey Douglas

Graphic by Stephen Vocaturo

1. You do not owe the world an explanation.

I can’t reiterate this enough: you do NOT owe the world an explanation, apology, or grandiose reason for your beliefs, actions, or choices. Do not apologize for a haggard, tired workout. Do not apologize for picking the post workout meal of french fries over the salad. Do not apologize for your flexing picture, your proud PR post, or your corny victory dance. You, by being a living, breathing, feeling person, have earned the right to do as you wish and to feel as you feel.

2. Your attitude determines your outcome.

You’ve heard it before and you’ll be hearing it again: success is found in the strength, resilience and commitment of one’s mental game. Whether it’s that awful leg workout, 6 a.m. training, or a hill sprinting session on your birthday (thank you, Beantown Bootcamp) the way you approach adversity will determine your overall success in overcoming it. Do you think Rich Froening, CrossFit God extraordinaire, went into the CrossFit games focusing on all his personal weaknesses and the toughness of the challenges ahead of him? Absolutely not. To enter into a situation with a negative mindset is to accept a premature defeat. On the opposite side, to face an obstacle with a positive, confident and upbeat attitude will yield far richer results. You will reach that new deadlift personal record. You will give a spectacular presentation. You will ace your exam. Whatever it is, be it fitness or not, you will make it through and you will accomplish far more than you’ve ever dreamed of if you simply keep your eyes looking forward and your mind unperturbed by doubt.

3. Judgment is never just.

I want you to think of all the times you’ve been out on a Sunday drive and saw a lone jogger gutting along on the side of the road. Now, it is so easy to mindlessly think something along the lines of, “They should go faster. They are out of shape.” However, you know nothing about their journey. You are unaware of how many miles deep into this run they are. Is today a recovery day? Is this the resting portion of an interval? Needless to say, their past, present, and future goals are unbeknownst to you. So before you judge that jogger’s grueling pace, that constantly flustered neighbor of yours, or the man experiencing homelessness you walk past on your way to work—stop. Think. Take a step back. You have no right to judge their circumstance, a story you know nothing about. Learn it.

4. Loving yourself can change your life.

When I entered my freshman year of college, I was, to say the least, unhappy and unhealthy—mind, body, soul. I existed in a constant and painful state of bitterness, jealousy and resentment. That being said, I no longer identify with the person I was as I entered Boston University and I owe all my thanks to fitness. The day I started to pick up heavy weights and run with the entirety of my heart was the day I began to fall in love with myself and with what my body could do: climb and jump and sprint and fall and get right back up again. It was strong. It is strong. And once I embraced that and developed a sense of, (dare I say), pride, for who I was and what I could do, my world opened up in a way that I could simply not have imagined as I became open and accepting to people of all forms, personalities, talents and strengths. For the first time in my life, I could truly be happy for the success of others while also recognizing my own personal strengths. I’ve found that, in order to truly embrace life, with all of its ups, downs and diverse people, I first had to learn to love myself, and only then would I began to love my place in the world.

5. The world is full of remarkable people.

Whether it’s your workout buddy, your teammates, your favorite trainer, or your hilarious/wonderful/crazy fitness family, they are your people. You’ve sweat together and laughed together and consumed vast amounts of food together. They’ve been by your side through not only your highs, but also your lows. It’s a special kind of love and friendship that’s found in the post goal bear hugs, the words of encouragement during a rough workout, the surprise Quest Bars after a long week, and the over-the-top celebrations when they, rather than you, PR. Fitness has provided me with some of the most kind, caring and wonderful people I’ve ever encountered, individuals that make me smile even on the toughest days. I don’t believe I’m alone in saying that the actions of my fitness family and the relationships I’ve developed with them show me, everyday, that the world is full of inherently good people. These people are remarkable, and they demonstrate that, even on the darkest of days, someone out there has your back, no matter what.

So thank you, fitness. You have truly taught me some of the greatest and most important lessons I could ever hope to learn.

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