Thursday, December 14, 2017

Crunch: Journey before Destination

I read Oathbringer last week, the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives.  Though a best-selling author in his own right, Sanderson is most famous for finishing Robert Jordan’s magnum opus The Wheel of Time.  But where Wheel of Time is concerned mostly with destiny and the cyclical nature of historical events,Stormlight Archives anchors itself in individual growth.  To this end, its heroes, the so-called Knights Radiant, have a saying by which they summon their godlike magical powers:
“Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination.”
Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson.
Every time I read this, I am reminded of the sport of triathlon.
Spoiler alert: EVERYONE wants to be a triathlete.
Of all the things that I do or have done, when folks find out that I am a triathlete, it is invariably the one thing that they want to talk about the most.  It frustrates me at times, especially since I am no longer competing in an organized way, and this in turn frustrates some of the people who know me.  That’s especially true for those who know that I’m still training, if not always with the same intensity that I once had.  But what can you do?
Not as much as I once did.
Folks think of triathlon as an accomplishment.  They want to “do triathlon,” get the t-shirt, and be done with it.  Like ticking an item off a list.  And it drives them crazy that I’m not out there getting more t-shirts—or race medals or what-have-you.  But fitness itself is not a thing to be accomplished.  You don’t cross the finish line, and it’s over.  You never sort of “get there”.  In truth, there’s no there to get to.  There’s no actual place.  Instead, fitness—diet, exercise, healthy living, finding emotional and spiritual balance—all of this is really a way of life.  It’s all connected; it exists as a single thing.
I tell people, “Triathlon is a journey, not a destination.”
This is true of every sport.
I bring it up because people will tell you that they want to be fit, but just as many will say, “I hate going to the gym”.  They can bear it in a New Year’s Resolution kind of way, like, “I’m gonna lose twenty pounds this year (and then go back to my old lifestyle),” but really, they just want to be finished with it.  They want to “get there”.  To reach the destination of having lost twenty pounds without ever having embraced the journey that takes them to their goal.
It *is* possible to set a goal, train for that goal, get the t-shirt, and head back to the couch.  What’s impossible is changing your life without changing your lifestyle.
To put that another way, the right exercise is the one that keeps you happy and motivated.  It’s the one that you can embrace as a journey because the journey itself is fulfilling for its own sake.  Triathlon was right for me because it provided a different challenge every day.  I needed that after the enforced daily grind of collegiate competitive swimming.  But I let myself stop when the journey itself started to feel like a path I’d trod once too many times, and I found a new journey in weight-lifting and bi-weekly running that’s let me feel like I could move forward again.  This despite the fact that I will never be as good on the road or in the weight-room as I am in the pool.
That’s okay.  I don’t need more race ribbons.
Crunch offers a lot of classes, an enormous variety of strength and endurance training methodologies, and personal trainers with a huge variety of styles.    What’s not important is how good you are at something or how near or far away you are to your specific goals.  Rather, find something that you enjoy doing and do it because you enjoy it.  In the long run, this will pay physical dividends; that’s true.  But even before that, you’ll be happy doing what you like to do.  That’s what keeps you coming back for more.

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