With exercise under attack by our president, I've felt the need to discuss why I think exercise is an important teacher. NO EXERCISE DOESN'T USE UP ALL YOUR ENERGY!!! But I'm not here to discuss science with you, I'll leave that to the millions of articles and research hours spent explaining it's benefits. I'm going to talk about a few of the things outside of health that exercise has taught me and can teach you.
Exercise isn't just my profession and drug of choice, it's legitimately saved my life. The lessons I have learned from working out as an athlete have given me great tools to succeed in life. In fact without those tools, I might not be here today. Although modern medicine and scientific data is amazing, there is no gadget that can explain a feeling. No Garmin watch or FitBit activity tracker can tell you what you are feeling inside your body. While they are both incredibly useful tools, they are just data. Wellness and feeling are intangibles (or haven't yet been quantified). And that's where the key lies. Most people start exercising because they know it's good for them, they need to lose some weight, want to live healthier, look better, etc... but almost all of these points come back to feeling. Weight lose is a number that can be measured, cholesterol is a number that can be measured, but feeling better, feeling more confident in your body, and understanding what your body is capable of, cannot be measured. This is one of the reasons I advocate for exercise among Vasculitis or sick patients. Learning how your body is supposed to feel and react can be a huge help for information gathering for your doctor.
With that intense understanding of what your body can accomplish also comes the understanding of what feeling off or bad is like. As often as I have pushed through the pain in training, there has been times in my life that understanding what my body is supposed to feel like has possibly saved my life. Twice I was able to catch relapses with my Vasculitis very early on and possibly avoided some of the physical suffering by catching the relapse before I was scheduled for routine blood work. The difference might have been small and unnoticed in an inactive person, but to someone who trains everyday, I understood how my body was supposed to feel and knew something was amiss. My story isn't the only story of people catching things, a man in NYC recently realized he was having a heart attack before it came on because he could feel something was off while he was out running. So exercise can literally save your life! But once again I'm bias.
One often overlooked aspect of all fitness training, regardless of discipline, is learning the skill of pushing yourself. Doing difficult things teaches you valuable life lessons and skills. We spend so much of our life avoiding difficult or painful things. Exercise and training are a direct contrast to that. To get better and see results, you have to push your comfort level. Learning to be uncomfortable is a learned skill. During times of inactivity and breaks in training, I have even forgotten how much running can hurt. We can't make it through life without making tough decisions or challenging ourselves. Exercise can be an effective tool for teaching the skill. If I hadn't had running and exercise to teach me over the last 20 years, I don't know that I would have been as effective at making life decisions, dealing with my Vasculitis, or growing as a person. As we learn new things and our views are challenged, it takes understanding and discomfort to change your habits or views. Having failed and been forced to learn from those mistakes on the track and in the gym, I've learned to accept that failure and challenge are necessary for growth. I truly believe this may be the most valuable skill that exercise can teach a person in life.
If you have never felt what your body is capable of doing, then it's hard to truly understand what feeling good is all about. That may sound a bit silly, but when you exercise your body gets stronger (contrary to what our President said about it using up all your energy). Even now, there are days where I feel like absolute shit, and I have to force myself to get out and move, but getting out and pushing myself always makes me feel better. One of the reasons that I am so addicted to racing and training at a high level, and yes it's an addiction, is because of the shear power you feel in your body when it is in peak physical condition. I wish that everyone could experience the bliss that comes through something like crushing a grueling session on the track or running the perfect race. I know there are tons of avenues to experience the "zone," but my favorite is by far the track. I really can't put into words the feeling of your foot hitting the ground and recoiling off the track as you summon the power to complete the intense demands of training and racing. Just because you may not be capable or even want to run, there are equivalents for each and every person out there and I challenge you to find yours!
PS - if you are interested in starting an exercise program, getting advice, or help setting a pr in your next race, visit https://www.brandonhudgins.com/hudginstraining/ to become a #HudginsTrained athlete today!