Slim Gym

protein

I lifted weights in high school, then took a hiatus for a few years. During this hiatus, my weight ballooned to 270+ pounds. In fact, on my 20th birthday I weighed 274 pounds. The next day I went on a diet, and over the next few months dropped 80 pounds. It was ridiculous! And somewhat addictive. Females seemed to appreciate this transformation as well! Who needs drugs when you can do this?

I would continue to work out, and run a few marathons over the next two decades.

For the most part my weight toggles in the 190s. There is no rhyme or reason. Sometimes food just seems to stick to me, while other months I cannot keep it on.

Going to the gym is innocent isn’t it? I mean, OBVIOUSLY I go for the positive benefits like health, wellness, flexibility, bone density and stress relief. Or is that the reason?

On average I would work out 5 days a week. A workout (including transportation to the gym, cardio, lifting, cool down, shower, fixing my protein shakes…) would last about 90 minutes. So, 5 x 90 minutes = 450 minutes = 8 hours 10 minutes. That is 8 hours 10 minutes per week dedicated to the gym

For ease of math, lets round it to an even 8 hours. 8 hours per week x 50 weeks (take a couple off for vacation) = 400 hours. 400 hours / 24 hours = 17 days! That means LITERALLY 17 days of my year was spent “working out”. One more time — SEVENTEEN DAAAAYS.

Let’s go a little further: 17 days x 20 years = 340 days. So basically one whole year of my existence has been spent working out. And for what?

I fully believe in the statement that you can tell what is most important to a person by their checkbook and calendar. Super Hero Russell and I were talking one time over lunch and I mentioned “What do you think when people say “I meant to call you” or “I want to meet for lunch sometime but I’m too busy”. His answer was pure gold. He said “People will always make time for what is important to them.” That was it, and he went back to his lunch. As usual he was right. People will always make time (and excuses) to do the activities that are most important to them.

I have felt for years that God was questioning my motives for going to the gym. There was this uncomfortable feeling that I was guilty of vanity. Come on, why does a grown adult need to work out for several hours a week? The normal excuses of stress, health, well-being just don’t hold up under interrogation.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is a level of dad/husband I want to become. The cards aren’t exactly stacked in my favor. But I have great role models (see the Four Horsemen post) and what I recognized out of these men was that not a one of them (and others I want to model) spend several hours a week – ultimately hundreds of hours per year – in a gym. They just don’t! These men are too busy making positive differences in the world. They are more focused on building relationships, and being great husbands, fathers and leaders. Their calendars and checkbooks will show you what is most important.

The excellent Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland puts it well: “Pleasure has replaced purpose, a flat stomach is preferred to character and meaning.”

So I quit going to the gym in June. Cold turkey quit and have never looked back. My so-called workout these days is getting up at 4:30am and walking around the neighborhood for 40 minutes. During this time I enjoy the fresh air, birds waking up, the chorus bull frogs and crickets, and alone time with God. I rarely work up a sweat.

There is no way I can become a 5-star husband/father when so much time is dedicated to the gym. I cannot. It becomes something else that is taking away my time, energy and focus from my wife and kids. My employer already does enough taking of my time, energy and focus.

No, I am not advocating people cannot have hobbies and “me time”. My first question is what is the motive behind whatever it is you are doing. I’m sorry but in a shallow, vain culture a lot of this working out frenzy is nothing more than folks wanting to look good in a selfie, or battle the inevitable – getting old. You’ve seen those “You gotta look at me in the gym” photos right? From 30+ year olds no less!

8 hours a week to something so shallow. That was my life for 20 years. Yet, had my kids said “Can I have 8 hours of uninterrupted time this week?” I would’ve probably pushed back. Yet this was EVERY week I was voluntarily donating 8 hours to the gym. For nothing more than shoulders, biceps and waistline.

I recall a conversation I was having with a bodybuilder in the gym. It was offseason, so he was free to eat whatever he wished. During the conversation he said his boy just had a birthday party the previous weekend. I asked if he ate some cake and ice cream (expecting the obvious “yes” answer). He looked at me and said “I can’t eat that stuff. I lift too hard.” I thought how shallow, and then I realized I had done the same nonsense plenty of times in my life. Skipping something offered because it my increase my sodium retention or make my pants a little tight for the rest of the day. Good grief.

Once we move into the world of marriage and kids it is good to reevaluate our hobbies. Are there better ways to relieve stress (which is funny because gym memberships, workout clothes and protein powder puts stress on your finances, while working out all the time puts stress on your schedule…..just saying). People found ways to stay healthy long before there were gyms on every street corner. We are still dying around 75-80. Things haven’t changed!

Gold’s Gym isn’t the fountain of youth. Neither are yoga pants, kale, egg whites, military presses, and stair climbers. And Gold’s isn’t going to make me a better husband or father. It may help me get more looks from passerby’s or take better pictures – but that’s about it

Hobbies of any kind need to be exactly that – a hobby. Something you get to when you can. They should never dominate your checkbook or schedule. As for me, I have another struggle I am dealing with, and that is football. I love football, but I have spent absolutely too much time in my life watching football, and allowing my emotions to get caught up in a game where no one: not the players, not the owners, not the refs – give a rip about me. So, my stress reliever is football, but it has been anything but that. Over the past few years I have been slowly weaning myself off the NFL. This year I have an additional step that should lead to even less football watching.

I selfishly hope God helps restore some of the days I have lost in my life either watching football or working out. More importantly I hope the time he restores to me are hours that make a difference in people’s lives.

Meanwhile, I look forward to letting people freely look at my calendar and checkbook during the second half of my life!

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