Another Long-Winded Piece On How To Stop Doomscrolling And Get Motivated.
Flashback 2014: Fitness is awkward AF.
I really hoped I didn’t swallow a pillbug. Or a spider. Or any one of the many-legged tenants of our basement, scuttling across the carpet.
Triceps burning, I tried not to inhale too hard whenever my face hit the floor.
One more rep.
Seven mornings a week, I was down here fighting pillbugs and my own gross sweat to bang out pushups or wobble through home yoga. The alarm would go off at 4:43 AM — (I had an early train to catch) — and I’d throw on a pair of gym shorts and a sports bra, knowing that I had fifteen minutes to knock back a few BCAAs and a cup of instant coffee before getting into the full-body mobility warmup that started every routine.
This was not like the videos on Youtube. Those criminally sexy calisthenics blogs. Svelte men — and well-abdominaled women — who demonstrated only the most pristine side lunges and pistol squats without looking like a bear just out of hibernation.
I, on the other paw, had no mirror or light crew. I paused between off-balance movements to fix my form without a second pair of eyes, nudging errant hips into place, dripping sweat every other second — and tears every other second.
Why would anyone do this to themselves? I could imagine my friends asking. Or my coworkers. Or my parents, for nuts’ sake.
I wasn’t born with natural athletic ability. Until now, I had spent my life with the perpetual, comforting thought that I could always do a workout “later.” When I was ready for it, right? Just as soon as I was confident and ripe to train for… alright, maybe attracting the eye of a nice lady in addition to getting satisfyingly stronger.
But after twenty years of not being ready, and still no significant ladies in my view, that’s how I landed in the basement. Bodyweight exercises only.
They were never as pretty as the ones on YouTube, but once I started treating them as seriously as real, gym-worthy training… .
Flashforward 2020-2021: Fitness is still awkward AF. But it pays off.
A year ago, yanking nearly twice my bodyweight off the ground in a 225-pound deadlift.
Snapping boards to earn my black belt with a 360 spinning hook kick.
Nailing — to create the physics behind said hook kick — a 295-pound hip thrust.
Floating intermittently for friends while practicing elbow levers.
Challenging the question of, “Is it possible to lift myself at a different angle?” with side crow pushups.
It sounds like a low-key flex to write it out, an ill-contrived self-simp.
In the fallout of COVID, and a significant loss of powerlifting strength, I have to remind myself that these things could, and did happen. They weren’t a fluke, or a fairy tale I made up while the gyms were closed and I trudged up a different set of stairs in lumbering-bear splendor, holding my breath against the concrete dust to do pushups.
Goals and bodies change. Take this for granted — it’s part of the process. Let yourself be so very, very okay with vacillating from the humanly shallow “looking good in bed,” to just being able to get up off the ground after any fall — real or metaphorical.
If you got down here only because you scrolled to see what’s the secret master formula for being the fittest version of yourself, then here’s your cookie:
Start first. Ask questions later.
After you read this article, you might end up scrolling through a few more articles, just because you can, and just because the idea of following the advice here seems like a little much for your first act as the brand new, totally awesome person that I know you are.
I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to doomscroll endlessly past shiny faces telling you how to get fit, stay in shape, flatten that belly — only to realize how exhausting it is, feeling like you need to have all these prerequisites of how-tos to before it’s safe to drop a squat.
I’m writing this for anyone who’s trying to find the impetus to stop reading articles like mine and actually get on the floor and do something.
Now, if you stopped in the middle of that sentence, plopped yourself on the floor, and did something — rolled, stretched, bounced like a frog — then YES! My dearest, that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen.
It probably felt a little awkward. A lot awkward. Fifty shades of awk- and fifty more of -ward.
Waiting for “the opportune moment” is something that we’ve been conditioned to expect from life’s circumstances. And I don’t blame you — my generation of Millennials have been hearing it ever since an attractively-eyelinered Johnny Depp sashayed across the Carribean onto our screens. And in Hamilton, too: “Wait for it,” is a haunting refrain.
However, life doesn’t wait for anything.
If you struggled with motivation, and identify as being in a chronic state of “Wait for it,” then try applying “start first” to your next intention.
Here’s what will happen:
- You begin moving. (I’d suggest starting with an easy stretch like the Cat-Cow or something you feel comfortable doing without guidance.)
2. Your body responds. Or at the very least, it will have some opinion about it.
3. You stop moving to consider your body’s response.
Notice that I didn’t push you to keep moving through it. Why? Because —
ASK QUESTIONS LATER.
While you were moving, you probably noticed that not everything hurt.
Something may have even felt — dare we agree on it? — good.
Ask two questions, now:
- What felt good?
- What felt bad?
If you’re still struggling and new to sustained movement, then identifying those two things should frame your immediate actions.
- Do the thing that felt good again, and one more time, and maybe one more time after that — keep going until it doesn’t feel good.
- Stop when it feels bad.
If moving in general feels bad — and trust me, this is normal for most people — then give yourself the time to rest and reconsider as much as you need to. If you started with the stretch, as I suggested, then you might need some good, long moments in the different angles and positions of the stretch to let yourself ask those good-feeling-or-bad-feeling questions.
If it takes an hour, it takes an hour. If it takes five minutes, which is more likely, then it takes five minutes.
Just keep those questions in mind, because you’ll need them to remember what you did. Identifying the “good feeling” movements is how you build good memories of movement.
You may have a lifetime behind you of not-so-stellar movement memories. That’s okay. Really. We all do — just ask me about my first squat-thrusts. It’s going to take more than a few rolling-around sessions to outweigh unwanted baggage like discomfort, self-consciousness, and plain old — but still very human — laziness.
Come back to the beginning every time, if you need to. Just start first. And ask questions later.
Let yourself build nourishing, soul-fulfilling memories of the fitness experience. Keep affirming that you are — and I know you are — becoming a fit person, not just a person-who-does-fit-things-sometimes.
So while you’re waiting for that “opportune moment” to come around, try dropping a squat to warm up.
Thank you for reading! Feel free to follow me and Work Life Fitness on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. My first book, The Miracle on 98th Street, is up for grabs on Amazon and Goodreads. Peace!