My best friend calls me the other day with a lose-lose question:
“I need you to settle a debate. She says working out is not a hobby, and I say it is.” I fumble around for a diplomatic answer while weighing the non-options. Throw my buddy under the bus? That’s what I usually do, but I feel like I should stick with my boy. But I definitely don’t think it’s a hobby. So what is it really? A way of life? A chore?
“The dictionary is perfectly clear,” he tells me. “Something you like to do in your spare time.”
I stuttered and danced around for awhile before hanging up. This post is my attempt to organize my own thoughts. Is working out a hobby, or something more?
Working Out, According to:
Can it be a hobby? Sure. There are plenty of people who go the gym, flex in the mirror, snap a biceps selfie, walk around for a bit, shoot the breeze, flex a few more times, check the abs, flirt with the girl at the front desk, then head home.
I asked Allison: “Heck no it’s not a hobby. It’s more like a commitment to your health. Commitments are something you stick with even when you don’t want to at times.”
I spoke to my friend for round two to see if his opinion had evolved:
“It’s definitely not a hobby for me. It’s something I do to take care of myself. Maybe it’s vanity, but I do it so I can look a certain way.”
“Sort of like tanning, or getting a haircut?”
Training vs. Working Out
I like the word “training” as opposed to the phrase “working out.” Training is a discipline. It’s something you do because it’s good for your body and mind. You carve time out of your day to train, because it’s important. You stick with it even when you don’t feel like it.
Some call it a way of life, or even and “identity.” I guess I don’t have a problem with that definition, but it lacks the “on purpose” factor. “Way of life” or “identity” is who you are and the path you follow, but I think discipline requires a more conscious sense of “purpose.” Eating healthy foods may not be your “identity,” but we should do it anyway. I need to pray and read my Bible regularly because it is essential to my spiritual health. I need to discipline myself to do it. I discipline myself to improve as a worker, a father, a student. Whether or not I “identify” as any of these things does not change the fact that I must discipline myself to do them.
What happens if I have an identity crisis? What If I change my identity? I still have an obligation to perform the duties of husband, father, worker, etc., and my “identity” or “way of life” doesn’t change the fact that I need to do what I’m supposed to do.
I like to train. If I have free time, I’ll figure out some wacky feat of fitness to work on. But most of time, training is a chore. I don’t enjoy waking up at 4:45 in the morning, jumping on my bike, riding to the gym, then training for a rushed hour before jumping back on my bike and beelining to the bus stop. Half the time the bike rack is full, so I have to ride six miles to work, already exhausted from a brutal workout, and then deal with a bunch of middle school behavior problems and some angry parents for the rest of the day. Is my 6 mile bike ride home “a hobby?” Far from it.
But I’m a better person for it. I’m healthy, I rarely get sick, and my wife never needs to worry if I can carry her out of the rubble of a collapsed building. Yes, sometimes I daydream I’m like the Aztec guy in the painting, carrying her from the ruins of a crumbling building while tears of joy and love run rivulets down her dusty cheeks.
Writing can be a pain in the neck, but sometimes it leads to some magical moments. I started this post as a means to help me think through my opinion on “working out.” Then I come up with this gem about carrying Allison out of the rubble like the dude in the Aztec painting hanging up in every authentic Mexican restaurant? Golden.
Rivulets of joy. That’s why I workout.