I don’t go to the gym very often; I prefer to exercise outdoors, on the trails or the roads. But my hamstring and my back have been feeling banged up since the New Jersey Half, and the pain got bad enough today that I thought I should just delay my training for a week in favor of some more low impact activity.
So I drove to my local YMCA, and after hitting the elliptical for 50 minutes, I made my way toward the exit. My strategy during cross training is “distract yourself from how bad it sucks to be on an elliptical by working as hard as you can for as long as you can”, so my legs were pretty heavy, and I was looking down, taking the stairs one at a time. I was moving so carefully I almost ran into a staff member who was making his way up as I made my way down.
“Hey,” he said, “you did a good job today!”
I was taken aback, and pleased. I smiled and thanked him. I left in a great mood, and that mood carried over into the entire rest of my day. His comment has stayed with me for hours, and it’s taken me until now to figure out why.
Most workouts aren’t easy. Everyone who exercises knows that. It takes a lot of mental willpower to get yourself out the door, to slog through a run or a circuit or a class when you’re tired or bored or just plain unmotivated. Despite how it may appear on Instagram, it’s really, really difficult to maintain a consistent workout schedule, particularly if you also have a job, a social life, a family, or all three. It’s a thousand times easier to sit on the couch after work and binge watch Breaking Bad while shoveling pasta in your face than it is to hit the gym. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying or trying to sell you something.
Despite knowing all this, however, it is extremely rare that I actually congratulate myself after completing a workout, especially on the days that are “just” an easy run or “just” a cross training session. I might occasionally post a picture when I’ve gotten in a particularly difficult track session or text my boyfriend if I negative split a hard training run, but I’m not very likely to brag about getting in the 5 mile recovery runs, or the 50 minute elliptical sessions. In fact, I’m more likely to drive home thinking about how I need to prep dinner and take a shower and do some work than I am to take a second to feel proud of myself.
And I think that’s why that comment stayed with me all day today. Why I’m still thinking about it, 10 hours later. Because you know what? It felt really nice to be recognized for getting the work in. It might have been “just” a cross training session today, but his recognition of my hard work made me stop, consider, and recognize it myself. In that moment, I was proud of myself for showing up and toughing it out when it would’ve been easier to take a nap or watch TV.
And maybe that’s something we can all learn from. Maybe instead of hating yourself for missing yesterday’s workout, you can be proud that you killed today’s. Maybe instead of leaving the gym thinking about the next 3 things you need to cross off your list, you can take a moment to think about how you killed that workout because you’re a BOSS. Maybe instead of telling someone you “just” did an easy run today, you can tell them how proud you are that you did the work even when it was hard, and you didn’t want to.
Maybe before you mentally move on, you can even tell yourself that you did a good job today.