One thing I quickly learned in grad school, was that I needed to keep active. I’m not athletic. I didn’t grow up on sports teams. I tried out various sports, but I was the person on the team so afraid of failing that they pretty much never tried. And therefore usually spent most of the game sitting on the bench.
I am/was a bookworm. I read and read and read. I still love to read, although I find it harder to find the time to sit with a book that I enjoy versus reading textbooks and papers. I use to be able to read an entire book in a single sitting.
However, throughout my undergrad, I started becoming more and more active. I started rollerblading almost daily with a friend and took up climbing. And I realized that for me to enjoy a sport it needed to be individual and not team. Something that you could do with others, but that you were only judged yourself. I could go climbing with friends, but I wasn’t left behind if I couldn’t climb the same routes as others – I could proceed at my own rate.
The summer before joining grad school, I took up running. I love the idea of being a runner, and started to go out on my own. However, grad school started, course deadlines, meetings, and getting together with others started to pile up. I was eating out more than I ever had in my entire life. I was feeling overwhelmed between attending classes, meetings, learning how to TA, homework, etc. And the first thing I stopped doing, was running. Or any form of exercise for that matter.
By the time January rolled around, I knew I needed to change. I needed to be active for a few reasons.
1) I always feel better if I’m active. 2) I feel less stressed after running a few kilometers, or climbing, or doing anything active. 3) It can help counteract all of the eating out.
So, I joined a gym. Yes, I technically already belonged to one. The campus gym. The “meat market.” But for me, I didn’t feel comfortable there. And I knew, that if I wasn’t comfortable, I wasn’t going to go. And there was no point in belonging to a gym that I didn’t go to. So, I looked around, and ended up joining a gym with my sister. It was easy to get to from both campus or my apartment. It had a pool, a track, lots of machines, was recently renovated, and all classes were included in the membership.
My second semester in grad school proceeded with a lot more comfort. I started feeling more relaxed. I started realizing that I was generally in a better mood. Sure, there were days and/or weeks where I didn’t end up going. But, when I did, I noticed an improvement. And when I didn’t, I’d miss it.
Since that initial investment, in joining the gym, I’ve started climbing again. One summer I trained for a half marathon. Another summer I bought a bike and started exploring the city path system with other friends. One of the biggest things that all of this taught me, was that you don’t need to be an athlete or athletic, to get out there and get moving. With all I do now, I sometimes wonder if I can call myself athletic. And I waver on it. Sure, I do more than lots of people, but I’m not naturally good at any of it. So, to me, I’ll never be athletic. But I’ll be a regular person who likes trying new sports, even if I suck.
I saw a quote a few years ago, that I’ve been keeping around as a motivator. When I’m not sure if I should go, I look to this quote and then head out the door. “I always regret not going to the gym, but I never regret going.“