How to Love and Still Hate the Gym

Why a Pro Athlete Can Help You Get Over Your Hatred for Working Out in Nine Minutes or Less

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“person climbing concrete stairs” by Clique Images on Unsplash

uck the gym, has been in my vocabulary too much lately.

But why?

It’s good for me.

It’s healthy for me.

It makes me feel better when I’m done.

My anxiety goes down.

My creativity goes up.

My productivity sky rockets.

So why say, “FUCK IT?” with such reckless abandon, Trevor?

Well, my pro basketball career ended a few years back (after 13 years of stellar point guard play *lol*) and I mean, what do I need to prove? What is the point of working out if I can’t win something?

What am I going to win, six pack of the year?

Go get a life, bro.

So yeah, it’s been a three year love/hate relationship with this fucking fitness thing and I finally feel like I’m rounding a corner with understanding why I need to move my body; why and how I’m starting to win the battle of wills inside my pea-sized brain.

And I’m swearing so much because this has been a real battle. There has been a lot of back and forth, a lot of conversations about why I “should” work out, or run, or do a triathlon and suffer for things I don’t even see.

Shit, I’m going to be honest, most people I know wouldn’t be able to do what I did coming up with sports. Basketball was the toughest, hardest journey of my life, both mentally and physically. The mental fuckery of getting cut. Losing. Winning. Playing on TV. Training. Carrying 45 pounds plates over my head up and down stadium stairs at 6:30a.m. Running 4:45 minute miles and then practicing for three hours.

It all felt sucky.

But was it?

If you asked me if I would do it all over again, I wouldn’t skip a beat. And that’s just it, I had motivation back then. I had something to identify with and become.

Now it is just good for me, and that’s okay. One of my favorite writers is Stephen Pressfield. This dude writes and I feel like he is sitting inside my brain on a seesaw. Here’s a quote of his I love:

Most of us have two lives: the life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

Resistance and mental toughness is the way.

The Obstacle is the way.

People are writing books about it, I mean, there must be some validity.

But hitting the gym, it isn’t even that big of deal. The average person doesn’t have to worry about their bodies like a pro or collegiate athlete and if they did, I would immediately ask them why they are trying so hard?

Relax, bro. Back and biceps day will come again.

I wouldn’t even listen to their answer, because I see hundreds of people working out, lifting, looking at themselves in the mirror, stuck in their own shitty world of shitty values like self-doubt and vanity and materialism. I would turn right the hell around and walk away because those fuckers have something wrong with them. Daddy issues. Self-esteem problems. Ego, self-respect, and self-loathing issues.

The stuff that motivates them, doesn’t motivate me, just like owning a Ferrari doesn’t motivate me.

Here is a question: why push yourself to the limit and not even get paid to do it?

Ironically, I can say without a doubt, without the gym, the weight room and the sweaty-run-shoot-lift-play-push-myself-till-I-puke workouts, I would have never made been successful in achieving my goals. I would have never reached my goals of getting a chance to play in the NBA or getting my jersey retired at Kent State.

But guess what, that “paid to play” shit is over.

Now I am retired from hoops, I’ve joined the rest of civilian life.

And like most people, I go through phases of working out and wanting to quit; of loving the feeling of accomplishment and then despising the feeling of going to the gym.

What motivates you to go workout?

Well, how about we start with health and appreciating our body and all it does for us. That’s a damn good reason and something that has taken me too long to understand.

Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work. — Steven Pressfield

And it’s not because I don’t care about being buff, or fit, or being good at sports. Yeah, all that stuff is fine. But that stuff is byproduct of motivation or will power, or mental toughness. I would love to be proud of the effort I’ve put into my health and I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t care about still being a good athlete, in fact, this is one of the reasons I’m starting to get back into fitness.

I miss feeling my body in athletic ways. The real challenge is I don’t always like to suffer to find my inner athlete.

To get body moving, to get benefits, to get healthy returns, you have to invest in yourself. You have to beat the Resistance. You have to plant the seeds and tend the garden and harvest your health one day at time.

An amateur will lose the battle, a pro will not.

Why do we, why does anyone for that matter, suffer for their health and well being?

What is the point of this gym piece?

If you hate the gym, but want better health like I do at times, we are left with very few options:

The problem for most people isn’t getting their bodies moving, it is getting their minds to move their bodies.

My mind stops me all the goddamn time from doing what I should, not my body.

Dude, just stop. Your legs hurt. You can swim at night. Get shots up tomorrow. Sweat later. Build a six pack tomorrow, bro.

As I approach the crescendo of my late thirties, I realize I have failed to consistently run, be fit, or do consistent (anything). Basically, I hate the anything, but does that mean I should stop doing what I resist even if I know it is good for me?

You may think, bro, you are a lazy person.

And you maybe you are right. I can act lazy. I think I’m lazy about trying to be fit because I don’t see any point in being the fittest person in the world. I can’t win anything for having awesome abs and a killer booty.

Yet, I know what consistent lifting, biking, swimming, rowing, running, and cardio do for you and what it does for your body, your brain, and your overall health.

Your mind.

Your anxiety goes down. Your depression diminishes. Your mental stability and health go up. Yet, I lost fitness completely in my first year back from Europe and all three of those things were completely rampant in my life — the anxiety, depression, and mental health swung around in my brain like wild monkeys.

And I couldn’t figure out why.

The other reason I hate the gym and working out is because my intrinsic motivation to look good isn’t strong enough.

Vanity may motivate a lot of people, but it doesn’t really motivate me to get off my ass and work out when I don’t feel like it.

If you have a strong “why,” you can do anything. All across America, moms wake up, do CrossFit, and work 14 hour days or dads train for an Ironman, go to work, and still cut their lawns.

I don’t know what their “WHY” is, but it doesn’t matter.

The only thing that matter is what your “WHY” is.

Or what my “WHY” is.

I am not someone that gets mundane satisfaction off counting my steps.

10,000, yeah!

No.

Doing something that feeds your soul with supercharged Care Bear juice, will give you real results.

Real fitness.

Real progress.

Weird paradoxes of my life: Like I said, I cannot be motivated by high levels of “individualistic vanity.” Yes, I like to be in shape, to fit into my clothes from a year ago, but if someone has bigger arms, or a better six pack, it doesn’t get me motivated to go workout. I do get motivated by people beating my ass at a new sport.

I respect competition and can still like the people I compete against, even if they are friends, or strangers with with shitty values. I believe competition should just produce a internal burn for you to improve, to get you off your ass, and move.

Being good at something shouldn’t make you cooler or better than anyone else.

Weird eating habits of my life: My body goes in phases of good eating, and then also, fried tater tots, a ton of bacon, and 17 IPAs for the weekend. I’ve had 5 surgeries, my ankles crack, my lower back hurts right now, and I still don’t like to try those snake oil salesmen chiropractors that promise an aligned back by adjusting something that has no real precision.

That said, I am motivated to eat better when I know there is an important competition coming up. Like when I played professionally, I would make smoothies, eat less, and cut weight until I was at my 184.4 pound playing weight exactly.

Psychological barriers of my fitness (still): I am not challenged by someone running faster or longer than me at something until I care to try and out run them or out last them. I don’t care if they beat me until I do care. The Catch-22 is actually caring.

How do we get you to care?

How do we get to caring?

How do I get to caring?

Well, I have a few pieces of advice.

Hey, you’ve read this far, my first piece of advice is to find a fitness or sport team to join.

Quit the stuff you hate and focus on what you need to reach new goals. If you like curling, do it. If you want to ride unicorns, do that. If you want to join a triathlon, find a group and do it. If you want to challenge your mind and body, go climb Mt. Everest.

Yes, I like to get my ass kicked at something new, and then really reflect on how good or how much time I can put into trying to be the best at it.

Seth Godin calls Resistance, The Dip. The Dip is when you want to get good at something and feel motivated to be good at something, but ultimately stop, is because of The Dip.

When I was in college, my Dip was my freshman year after we did conditioning on the track, we came back and lifted weights (power cleans, hang cleans, squats, bench press, and supersets until we all wanted to puke) and then after that, went to play five on five.

For weeks at a time, I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs. I wanted to quit. I sucked. I really, really sucked at basketball, at everything.

But I got through the Dip, and you are closer to getting through the Dip than you think.

If you do some type of fitness you don’t truly like at all (like running and dying in a triathlon like me), then do it with friends.

This will get you through the Dip. Like this damn Chicago Triathlon, I ran, I swam, and bike-suffered to health this month, all because I wanted to try and beat my friends, survive and finish faster than them (which I knew was a long shot).I do find competition now to be a a fun, lighthearted way to stay motivated and fit.

After the race, the losing causes me to reflect and think: do I want to lose to my friends again?

My third piece of gym workout advice is to do what you love and care about doing.

We all know we “should” work out, but it is so much easier to be motivated for something you love. If you already are curious about something like a sport, basketball, tennis, soccer, or badminton, then start training like an athlete for that sport.

That’s all you need to do — you’ll go the extra mile if you care about winning or having more success, or being proud of your times or performance.

Being proud first comes with daily effort.

So if you are curious about hiking or climbing, or biking, or running, or doing a triathlon, stop all the other bullshit, and do it already. It’s not always going to feel amazing. You always suffer a little in any fitness outlet, whether you realize it or not.

The gym and working out are two of my close friends, I know that know, even if I try to tell myself otherwise.

Read more about my dress-pant-loathing life here: Trevor Huffman.

PS:Thanks, Kris Gage for your inspiration on this one.

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“Do it or don’t do it.”

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