Happiness Life Strategy: Learn from the gym

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Lesson 1: If you’re making a face, you’re probably working too hard.

Over many years of gymming I’ve seen dozens of get-fit new-year’s-resolutionists.

Some come in every day, work out like they’re training for Die Hard 5: Having a Heart Attack, and leave looking like Rocky 13 (do you really need a subtitle?). They’re usually gone by February. And who can blame them – it’s gotta be stressful to grimace and grunt so much that cro-magnons would titter.

Others find their own rhythm, increasing their effort over time but keeping it sane. They’re still there for the Christmas party.

Happiness strategy:
Don’t pull a life muscle in your ferocity to get the things you want. Just keep going for regular, manageable and challenging progress. But do keep going.

Lesson 2: Into every lift, a little sweat must fall

On the other hand, if you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and a mini-umbrella’d drink wouldn’t be out of place, then you might get an equivalent training benefit from a brisk walk to the sofa to watch Californication.

I see people at my gym who come year after year, never losing the weight or gaining the strength they joined for. Their approach is usually one of these:

  • They take a leisurely ride on the recumbent bike with the latest Ian McEwan novel. I half expect to see them take out a pipe, adjust their cravat and savor a sip of the 12-year-old single malt in the drink holder.
  • They stroll the treadmill while having long, convoluted conversations on their mobiles.
  • They lift teeny-tiny weights with their bellies hanging out and shoulders slumped, punctuated by long rest periods where they examine their biceps.

Happiness strategy:
If your efforts in life are 100% secretion-free, then you’re probably fooling yourself. You’re certainly not fooling anyone else, since most of us know what hard work looks like – there’s puffing, perspiring, and that tell-tale look of exertion. Check in with your own refection – you might need to work a little harder to get the good things you want.

Lesson 3: Know your yes-buts

There are countless superficially convincing, but actually utterly bogus, excuses for skipping your workout. With a little self-awareness and preparation you can short-circuit many of these and stop the excuses before they start

Yes-but it’s raining. Get waterproof runners and a hooded, waterproof jacket.

Yes-but I’ll go tomorrow instead. Have a set schedule of workout days and off days so you never need to have this conversation with yourself

Yes-but I don’t feel like it. You might not always feel like brushing your teeth, but you do it, don’t you. (Don’t you?) Some things are simply part of life. Exploring your feelings about them may poke your inner marshmallow, but it gets you nowhere.

Yes-but I look fat in this sweatband. I’m not gonna lie to you – workout wear is not always pretty. Sausage skins only suit chipolata and kaftans create a pedal hazard. Opt instead for comfortably-fitted tanks, tees, shorts and pants in dark colors.

Yes-but my iPod’s uncharged. What! Dude, NEVER have your iPod uncharged.

Happiness strategy:
You know your lame life excuses, so take pre-emptive action to remove their sting. If you’re ready for them, they won’t succeed in holding you back from a happier life.

Cyborg disclaimer

If you’re any kind of cyborg or bionic person then the preceding may not apply to you, and good luck to you, sir/madam. For the rest of us, persevering with anything – especially working out –  can get harder as boredom and decreasing marginal returns set in. Applying these lessons to your life might help you get past the sticking point and achieve your goals. Which is a good way to get a little happier.

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