How to Actually Enjoy Fitness

How to Actually Enjoy Fitness – Off The Mat

I was sitting at the pool today talking about fitness goals with a very close friend of mine. Let me give you a little back story so you can get a clear picture.

We met in Austin about 4 years ago as fellow Midwestern lacrosse players. We are similar in many ways. We’re both entrepreneurs. We enjoy discussing philosophy. We prefer highly uncomfortable, challenging situations to relaxed ones. But we also differ in many ways. He’s a numbers guy – driven by analytics, specifics, and clear goals. I tend to think of things more abstractly. I don’t always have a specific, measurable goal in mind, but I have a good idea about the general direction I’m heading in.

Back to the pool.

We started talking about his wife’s dedication to dance. While we were watching football games ( this is the first Saturday I’ve spent an afternoon absentmindedly watching sports in god knows how long), she was attending an all-day dance practice. For her, this was normal. She has a career and a full-time job, but she still manages to squeeze in enough hours of dance per week that it could be considered a part-time job. She enjoys her career, but she could live without it. On the other hand, she could not live without dance. Her passion is obvious, but my friend, the analytics expert, was puzzled – how she could work so hard for something without a clear goal in mind?

As a fellow athlete, I sympathize with him. Our goal as lacrosse players is to work together as a team to defeat our opponents. The goals are clear and simple: win enough games to make it to the playoffs, from there to win the District Championship, and then move on to the National Championships. (There’s a lot more that goes into building a successful team, but we won’t elaborate on that here – it will suffice to say that creating a successful team requires more than “beating the other team”.)

So what’s going on here? How can somebody have so much passion for a particular activity, but no specific goals for it? In an attempt to empathize with her position, I responded by trying to explain my personal approach to fitness.

“Well, I love working out,” I said, “And I have a lot of passion for it, but I don’t have a particular goal in mind at the moment aside from getting better and continuing to push myself” If I had gone on, I would have further explained that:

I just do the best that I can in every workout, and focus on minute details of every movement in order to challenge myself as much as possible, to continually push myself to the limit, and maximize my potential. I do the same basic exercises over and over again, trying to do just a little bit better than I did before.

When I wrote my Personal Mission Statement a few weeks ago, I tried to uncover the real reason I was so passionate about fitness. It wasn’t for vanity (though there’s no denying that vanity started it). It also wasn’t the ability to do a handstand, or any other particular move, for that matter. I dug as deep as I could, and the reason I scribbled down was, “TO BE A BEAST.” At the time, I couldn’t really make sense of that. To be a beast? What does that even mean?

The similarities between the response of my friend’s wife [the dancer] and my own didn’t make sense at the time of the conversation. (To be honest, they didn’t even make sense until I wrote all of this out!) But now I have an explanation; a painfully obvious realization that’s been staring at me in the face ever since I wrote my Personal Mission Statement a few weeks ago, though I couldn’t articulate it then, either.

The reason why I (or anyone) can have a passion for fitness (or anything) and not have specific goals is because fitness ITSELF (or the activity itself) IS the goal.

Fitness started as an interest. I was intrigued at the ability to be faster or stronger than other people. I wanted to build muscle so I looked better and felt more confident. (I had always been smaller as a kid, and that drove me to work harder than others.) I wanted to improve my performance so I could feel powerful and skilled on the lacrosse field. And even though those goals are still part of what drives me, now there’s a stronger force at work; a self-propelling force that’s more powerful than ego, sex, or being better than the other guy.

The intrinsic enjoyment of exercise itself is the goal. The feeling I get when I work out (FLOW, if you’re familiar with the concept), when my physical capabilities are challenged, when I can FEEL the burning sensation in my muscles (the immediate feedback that tells me I’m DOING something hard), and the realization that I’ve gotten just a little bit better – even if it took months or years to do so.

There are secondary benefits, too. The knowledge that I’m doing something good for myself, the musculature I’m developing, and the increases in performance as a result of the workout are all great, but if I didn’t enjoy the act of working out itself, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. I wouldn’t be writing this email. I wouldn’t be sharing my passion with you. And that’s what I’m here for. Come to think of it, that’s probably what you’re here for, too.

Yes, I’m providing workouts. I’m creating workout programs with specific goals, writing ebooks (and maybe even a book *wink wink*), filming videos, and writing up blogs, but that’s just the content. Those are the LOGICAL reasons why you’re reading this email right now, but they’re SECONDARY reasons. The REAL reason is probably deeper than that, and it’s the same reason why anyone has a favorite musical artist, an unwavering commitment to a particular brand, or even an adult beverage of choice.

Here’s what I think: I think the real reason you may be here is because I’ve displayed enough passion for yoga that you might just want to do it yourself; that the energy, work, and the life force (let’s call it what it is) I’ve poured into this endeavor might just be something you want to be a part of.

So let me ask you – does what I do with Man Flow Yoga make you interested in doing more yoga? Does it motivate you to roll out your mat and get to work? Do you want to experience the same benefits that I have?

Maybe I’m wrong. I’m not narcissistic to the point that I believe everyone who’s liked the MFY Facebook page really cares about what I have to say, and I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with this message.

But maybe, just maybe, you’re nodding your head right now in silent agreement, and focusing a little harder on the words on your screen.

I hope that reading these emails, watching my videos, or reading my blog gives you a logical reason to do yoga. But I hope most of all that I’m conveying my passion for yoga to you in a way that inspires you to actually get on a mat, to take a few minutes and do something that might seem hard, and to follow a yoga program for an extended period of time. The quality of my life has improved drastically because I made yoga a significant part of my fitness routine, and I want you to be able to experience the same benefits that I have.

I watch people all around me who are unhappy with their bodies (physically, aesthetically, or otherwise), and I wish that instead of a business card or a web address I could give them a magical pill that gives them the motivation and the knowledge to take better care of themselves – but that’s not possible. What I CAN do it provide you with the right tools, the resources, and the inspiration to help you develop an interest in yoga. From there, it’s up to you to continue to fuel that interest into a habit, a passion, and eventually into something you can’t imagine living without.

Are you up for the challenge?
Click below to check out the different programs I offer.

Man Flow Yoga Programs

Now it’s time for the flavors of the week. Here’s what’s going on in my world.

Fitness focus: Yoga
Go figure. This week I’ve been focusing on improving my yoga practice. I’m doing basic postures – no handstands, crow pose, or crazy pretzel twists – but I’m pushing myself deeper, holding the postures longer, and trying to improve every aspect of each pose. The result is soreness that feels like I was weight lifting the day before; the satisfying feeling of, “YES! I really pushed myself yesterday!”

Music I’m listening to: Marshmello – Silence ft. Khalid (Codeko Remix)
Had a conversation with my friend about how EDM seems to be going downhill. Good songs pump you up to the point you feel you can do anything, and bad ones sound like a 16-year old messing around with a laptop. This one sounds better.

Product I’m enjoying: The MarcPro
Recover more quickly and get stronger while sitting on your couch. Need I say more? Use code “mfy” for a nice chunk of savings if you’re interested.

Book I’m reading: Stealing Fire
Just started this book, but it seems to be very related to the concept of flow I hinted at in the email above. So far, I’m intrigued about the possibility of hooking myself up to a machine that monitors my brain waves, so I can hack meditation and learn exactly what I should be doing. Interested to see what else is possible according to this book. Writing style is all over the place, but I’m adjusting.

Personal Struggle: Solo activities for fun.
I like reading, but I consider that self-education, not fun. I enjoy fitness, but there’s only so much of it I can do in one day – I get tired, you know. I don’t want to waste my time watching TV, since there is rarely personal growth involved and it’s not doing anything to help anyone. Hiking is my go-to activity, but that isn’t always possible. Hm. Back to the drawing board.

If you liked this email and want to read more like it, click the button below to sign up for my Off the Mat with Dean newsletter.

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It’s a chance for you to see me putting into action the practices and habits that I’m asking you to do for yourself, to show you that what I’m talking about in my emails, blogs, and on social media is exactly the same stuff that I’m doing on a daily basis in my own life.

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