O Me of Little Faith

Yesterday I was reading comments to my resolutions post and looking over the resolutions themselves, and was kinda surprised (which is weird, me being the author and everything) how many of them were fitness-related. I’ve always been pretty active, but I guess I’ve gotten on a bit of a fitness kick over the last 3 or 4 years. It’s probably some combination of entering my 30s a few years back, seeing my naturally fast metabolism begin to slow down, and observing three years ago that I had become softer and doughier than I used to be. (I’ve always been skinny, the result of good genes and small bones. But I noticed there was more flesh wrapped around those small bones than before.)

So I started swimming regularly, because I enjoyed it and it provided a decent full-body workout and because it was sorta fun. I started seeing some results in the way of body transformation — I got a little leaner, observed the beginnings of some muscle definition (muscles? I have muscles?!?), and noticed a difference in the way I felt. There’s nothing like visible results to keep you motivated, and before long the swimming-for-health turned to swimming-for-distance and then to strength training and then to triathlon training. So here I am.

Being an introverted writer-type, I’m the kind of person who’s prone to a lot of self-reflection. Which means I often end up asking myself why I’ve fallen into and maintained this semi-obsession with being in shape. I came up with three reasons:

1) I’m a vain knucklehead. I’ve noticed that I look better than I used to. My wife tells me I look better, too. I won’t pretend this isn’t a factor. (This would be a good point to link back to this sad, dorky post involving my hair.)

2) Family. I want to be an active, energetic, jumping-on-the-trampoline kind of dad to my kids. Can’t do that if the trampoline makes me all wheezy and exhausted. Also: I want to be around a long, long time for them, too. Living a healthy life now is like an investment in my long-term future.

3) Because I can. I’m going to expand this reason below, because I think it’s the kind of thing we can apply to lots of areas of life — not just fitness.

One of the reasons I live a very active lifestyle is simply because I am able to do it. I have been blessed with working arms and legs and a decent cardiovascular system. My good health is a gift — a blessing — and what’s the most grateful and polite thing to do with a gift? The answer is pretty simple: Use it.

The guy who started one of the triathlons I competed in last year (Tri to Make a Differencethe fish/vomit one at Lake Tanglewood near Amarillo, Texas) got into triathlons because his son was born with a rare neurological disorder. They soon discovered that he would never be able to walk, ride a bike, care for himself or communicate much. One of the reasons the dad then began running, biking, and swimming was because he could — and because his son would never be able to. Simple? Yes, but really inspiring to me. It’s a way to celebrate your blessings. It’s a way to embrace life and be grateful for what you have. Something as common as the ability to move around is a gift…only you don’t realize how much until the movement stops.

That’s inspiring to me. It’s become a good explanation for why I do stuff. Why do I run? Because I can. Why do I swim? Because I can. I jump on the trampoline and make art and play drums and write books and wrestle with my kids because I can. Not everyone is able do those things, and for me to sit on my natural abilities and never use them is to be ungracious, lazy, selfish, and flat-out ungrateful. To ignore those things so I can spend more time on Facebook or watching TV or otherwise goofing off is to leave a particular gift unwrapped and forgotten in the closet. It’s an insult to the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

Rest, of course, is good. Always good. But so is activity.

Which is why I do a lot of stuff. I live a busy (but very satisfying) life. Why do I do it? Because I can.

I dare not waste a blessing.

Which leads to this question: Are there any gifts in your life that are gathering dust in a closet?

If so, maybe it’s time to dust them off.

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