Why I Work Out

“I hate working out.”

That was what I would’ve said a year ago whenever people invited me to go to the gym (or to do any other physical activity). I’ve never really been an incredibly athletic person. As a kid, I would usually be one of the slowest runners in a race. I’d run out of breath easily and even pass out occasionally. I dreaded any form of physical activity. Surely, it would just be another exhibit of my failures as a physically inept person.

These days you can see me at the gym a majority of the week. So, what changed?

Photo by Trust Katsande ​

Several months ago, I had an appointment with my psychiatrist to get medication for my mental health issues. He told me to do three things: take the medication, talk to a counselor, and exercise. The first two instructions I understood immediately but the third was definitely unexpected. The doctor told me that it was the “active” part of my medication. Scientifically, exercising produces endorphins and enkephalins in your body: hormones that make you feel good (Psychology Today). Regular exercise generally improves your mood and health over time.

So, even though I didn’t like it, I tried. The first few weeks were definitely challenging. Making the effort to go to the gym was as much of a struggle as working out was. There were a lot of time adjustments and muscle soreness to work through in the beginning. I’d often end up frustrated at myself or discouraged for not being able to do more physically. However, I kept trying and trying until it became something I enjoyed doing on most days.

 

Photo by Bruce Mars

Working out has taught me a lot of things, such as discipline and perseverance. In a way, it has also empowered me and has made me look at myself differently. Every time I would achieve a little goal I had set up, I felt better about myself. I felt more capable of doing things and better prepared to face the day. Although it’s a great bonus, the physical benefits of working out were never really my motivation. I’m still not the most fit person you’ll meet. Even though I could focus on the failure of barely lasting five minutes on the treadmill, I’m celebrating my own victory through small steps of self-care.