Leading an intentional life is a lot like hard work
It’s 8 pm on Monday night, its cold outside and I’m staring at the packed sports bag on my bed. If I leave now, in 20 minutes I’ll be sliding reluctantly into a slightly chilly swimming pool to start my Monday night swim workout. There’s just one problem. I really, really don’t want to. Despite this, I grab my bag and head out the door.
Fast forward and it’s Tuesday evening. I’ve just finished putting my four and a half year old to bed and I close the door of her room quietly and turn around to see my ageing Corgi-Jack Russell cross staring at me in a way that says ‘”come on Mum, its my turn now, let’s go.” Outside, the wind is howling up from the south. My dog is not fazed by this. She herds me energetically towards my shoes. Even though she’s getting on in years she has more enthusiasm for our imminent walk than I do.
Forty minutes later and we’re back in one piece despite the gale. My personal trainer husband is working out on the spin bike in our lounge as I lethargically set up the free weights for my upper body home workout. He’s already clocked up 10 kilometres and is still looking pretty fresh. I face the set of weights on the floor and again think about how much I don’t want to do what I am about to do. But I do it anyway.
In early September 2017, I started working hard on intentionally living a healthier, more pain free life by being fitter and stronger. I wanted to do at least some exercise every day, get stronger and lose some weight to address some issues with back pain and sciatica.
In general, its gone really well. Some of the milestones I’ve achieved over that time have been really encouraging. I can now swim a kilometre in the pool, lift heavier weights than when I started, have lost some weight and in general have less pain and sleep better than I did before I started.
Unfortunately, over my last few workouts I’ve been having the repeated and nagging thought that this intentional living thing often feels a lot like doing chores. When the time comes around to get ready to start, I find my mind thinking up all kinds of various reasons why I can’t possibly work out tonight. I very rarely look forwards to the exercise routine of the day, and at times am almost depressed by the drudgery to come.
What I do look forward to is those few minutes after a workout is finished. That is the time when I consciously know that at least for some part of today I lived my life how I intended to live it.
I also look forward to the times during my walk or swim when my mind is clear and I can reflect on the freedom that comes from acting on your values and beliefs. I can acknowledge that I am here, in this moment, because I choose to be, because I choose to live a healthier, more pain free life.
My challenge now is to harness those thoughts and feelings and bring them to the front of my mind when I am tired from the day, when all I want to do is sit down for the rest of the evening with a movie and a bag of salt & vinegar chips.
Living intentionally can be really hard. In the back of my mind, I probably still don’t see myself carrying on this fitness routine long term, which is why it feels like a chore instead of just ‘the way I live my life.” In some ways, it would actually be more beneficial to think of my exercise routine as chores. For example, I don’t like changing the sheets on the bunk beds either but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing that anytime soon.
Like many people, I thought that just making the decision to live more intentionally with less would instantly make my life better and easier. Better? Definitely. Easier? Sometimes.
Worth it? Every heel dragging minute of it.
Maybe you could find something you do enjoy to replace the workout routine that feels like a punishment? When I lived in a small town I used to bike 100 miles a week and I looked forward to it, loved it, every mile.
Now I live in the city where its pretty much a death wish to ride a bicycle. So I gained a lot of weight, and then I had a baby, and headed into my 40’s and things started to hurt. So about a year and half ago I started making working out a priority. I lost 17 lbs initially. I really really hate cardio so my routine navigated itself to just weights, lifting heavy. It was becoming stressful for me to fit it in on top of my full time job and all my daughters therapy and homeschooling. Then I became unmotivated. I mean completely unmotivated. I’ve been off the wagon for three, maybe four months now. I plan on re-evaluating my exercise routine so I can create something simple, motivating and enjoyable.
That being said, your question on whether or not its worth it? Well, the end result was worth it for me as long as I could make it a priority. The only way I can make things a priority is if they don’t cause more misery. If they cause more misery then I’m just exchanging one misery for another. So do I want to feel miserable from exercising, or miserable from not exercising?
Life is very very short. For me living intentionally, is about quality of life, being happy, and lowering my stress level.
Thanks for your thoughts Katherine. Mostly once I get started I really enjoy my workout routine. It’s just the getting started that drives me nuts. Good luck with re-evaluating your own journey.
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