It’s taken me the better part of the school year, but I have finally started making a habit of going to the gym right after I drop off my kids for school in the morning. Apart from the health benefits I get from working out each day, I have discovered three external sources of joy from this new routine, too.
Man’s Best Friend
Instead of heading home after I drop off my kids in the morning, there is a new route I take to get to the gym. My detour down a certain side street has brought a smile to my face each morning. Ambling down the sidewalk of this post-WWII neighborhood lined with small, square, cookie-cutter houses is a tall, slightly stooped, white-haired gentleman around age 70. His companion: a hoary-faced golden retriever who faithfully keeps pace with him.
There is something so endearing about this elderly duo. Most older folks I know have small dogs who are easy to manage. In contrast, a large golden retriever seems like the quintessential family dog, so there is something extra remarkable about the friendship these two share. They obviously care for one another and are growing old together. I love seeing them each day.
The other day at the gym, I was walking on the treadmill. (Yes, walking. I have been known to break into a short jog from time to time, but I’m content to walk briskly and leave the intense workouts to the other, highly motivated gym members.) Adjacent to me, a middle-aged man alternated between walking and running, sweat dripping down his face. I had my earbuds in and was minding my own business, as all good gym members do, but I couldn’t help but notice after a few minutes what this man was watching on the screen in front of him: “Curious George”!
At first I thought, oh, there must be something wrong with the TV, or maybe he is listening to something else on his earbuds and isn’t paying attention. However, a sidelong glance informed me that he was intently watching this children’s program. His face reflected delight and wonder at the show’s hero as George got into one scrape after another. He showed no sense of shame or embarrassment; he was perfectly content to publicly view “Curious George” on PBS, rather than watch ESPN or the local news. His unabashed enjoyment of this children’s program made me smile and wonder, when was the last time I indulged my inner child?
My third gym-going joy comes from a couple who regularly attends at the same time I do. They are around 60 years old, I would guess. I met the husband a year ago. He was new to the gym and worked with a trainer. I was impressed by his commitment to fitness and we chatted briefly about his journey and goals.
Months later, he showed up with his wife, who entered on a scooter. She usually just sat by while husband worked out or sometimes rode the stationary bike. She didn’t seem to mind being there, but she also didn’t seem too interested in participating.
Fast forward to the past couple of months since I have returned to the gym. These two are fantastic. Although she is still early in her fitness journey—while her husband has become a working-out machine—they train together each week. She actively pursues physical fitness through cardio and strength exercises. Her husband is kind and patient, and she is quietly determined. They inspire me by their relationship and desire to age healthfully. It has been a delight to see the transformation in both of their lives.
Progress Not Perfection
As for me, I just plod along, praising myself simply for showing up consistently, which has always been my greatest weakness in working out. I don’t expect too much of myself yet, except to show up each weekday morning and put in at least 20 minutes of moderate activity.
This past week, though, I started incorporating a little bit of strength training, and I’ve been doing a some intervals on the treadmill. However, I’ve also been eating like a horse, so I’m not exactly seeing results, but I do feel better throughout the day from that burst of energy in the morning.
A great app to help provide some external accountability (“like a trainer in your ears”) is Aaptiv. They have a wide variety of workout programs and trainers to help you achieve your goals (and it’s all done through audio, so you can just follow along by listening through your earbuds). It is because of Aaptiv that I started breaking into a jog on the treadmill. You can try them out free for 30 days when you visit their website.
What is something that you have been doing to create joy or momentum in your day? What has been a source of external joy for you?