I was cold, and I didn’t want to do it.
It was a winter night, and the water pipes were not as well insulated as they would be in the summer. The air was cold and biting, and I cowered in the shower like a toddler, telling myself it was okay and I didn’t have to do it.
But I did anyway.
I flipped the shower knob to cold, sending near-freezing water through the showerhead and onto my body.
Once I finished my two minute cold shower, completing my daily cold exposure (the benefits of which you can read about here), I felt incredibly relaxed, accomplished, and happy. I committed to daily cold exposure in April after learning about the immune system boosting properties it can produce. If I had gone easy on myself, I wouldn’t have reaped the emotional and physical benefits of this important part of my health and fitness routine. Furthermore, I would not have fulfilled the commitment I had made to myself.
It is often the case that when someone sets out to accomplish a fitness goal (or any other goal for that matter), one’s own lack of discipline and personal responsibility causes them to fall short, the classic example being the failure of many to stick to their New Year’s resolution to get in shape. In my opinion, the only person or thing to blame in this situation is oneself, rather than external circumstances.
Everyone deals with situations that may hamper their motivation, whether it be a problem as banal as being “new to the whole fitness thing,” something as common as having difficulty fitting workouts into your busy schedule, or something extreme as having to rework your routine amid a pandemic. What you do with the reality you are faced with is what matters the most.
Each and every one of us has the ability to make valid excuses as to why we should skip today’s workout or only go halfway. But what will benefit you the most in the long run is pushing yourself past your boundaries, be them physical or mental.
Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone doesn’t just improve your physical abilities, but enhances your emotional wellbeing and competence in everyday life. Committing to and engaging in a fitness routine can serve as a microcosm of the archetypal “slaying of the dragon.” You will eventually have to slay some sort of metaphorical dragon in real life. Challenging yourself through exercise or any other fitness-based endeavor essentially functions as a metaphor for the challenges you will face in life, revealing your capacity for interacting with said challenges. Exercising your mind and body allows you to practice slaying your dragon in a safe way. Much like renowned yoga instructor Bryan Kest teaches, pushing yourself in a controlled environment will benefit you most not when you can finally fit into a smaller size of jeans, but when you must push yourself and remain composed after getting your heart broken, losing your job, or experiencing the anxiety that comes with a pandemic.
Responsibility, in addition to commitment and integrity, are tested in moments like the one I was in when I had to decide whether or not to forego something I promised myself I would do. If I can’t fulfill the promises I make to myself, how can anyone else trust me to keep promises? Ensuring you stick to your routine when working toward goals and ensuring you keep your promises to yourself will make you a more competent individual in other facets of life.
This is not to say that there aren’t times when you shouldn’t go easy on yourself when exercising or engaging in activities like cold therapy. Certainly being injured or ill warrants backing off a bit, as too much of anything can ultimately prove detrimental. Other situations outside of your control can also take precedence over a workout at times. But these situations are rarer than you may think. That’s where personal responsibility comes in: you must be responsible enough to know your limits, to know when to push past them, and to know when to hold back. Practicing these skills through your fitness routine is the best way to ensure you strengthen these skills when they matter most.
There exist a variety of methods to ensure you do not stop halfway when it is not necessary–set a reminder on your phone, build up to bigger and bigger challenges, write it into your schedule, reward yourself once you’ve completed your assignment. Whatever it is that you must do to stay on track, just do it (there’s a reason why this is Nike’s slogan!). I promise, it will benefit your life tremendously.