Prior to my first time working out I was 16 years old, 155 lbs, 6’1, with minimal muscle content. At the time my reasons for starting were mostly because I wanted to improve my physical appearance. All of my friends were athletes, and I dreamt of looking something like Brad Pitt in the movie Fight Club.
I am now almost 27 and since first starting I have only taken breaks from working out for 1-3 weeks a year. My reasons are now different as to why I continue to do it, but I am glad that once upon a time my main motivation was because I wanted to look like a shirtless movie star. I have included a narrative to my first workout to what my mindset about exercise is today.
I still remember my first workout in a gym. I was sixteen years old and my best friend convinced me to join him for his workout. It was a rather terrifying and embarrassing experience. My friend was on the football team and had been weight training for the previous year and a half (we were sophomores in high school). Needless to say, his strength and technique were much more impressive than mine, and I followed him around the gym like a weak lost puppy. I struggled to bench press 75 lbs eight times (the bar with 15 lbs per side), my arms wobbled with every lift I did, and I could barely turn the steering wheel when I drove myself home. The experience was far from enjoyable, and I had a better understanding as to why most people give up on their fitness based New Year’s resolutions.
But there was a magical feel to the gym. Just from looking around you could tell that the people in there were a little bit different from the people who didn’t spend any time exercising. Some were fat, some were fit, some were somewhere in between. But they were all there, which was an act of will. A conscious decision. Right away it was pretty obvious that in order to look like the 1999 Brad Pitt I was going to need to develop a powerful will.
Eleven years later I still have the willpower, but I no longer care whether or not I look like Tyler Durden. Over the years it has become just as much as a spiritual thing as it is a physical one. The definition of physical itself has shifted as well. It isn’t so much about the physical appearance, it is about the physical capability. The most appropriate description I can think of would be functional fitness. It is about having the strength to do the things that the human body has evolved to do. I can sprint, pull and push my body weight, lift objects of various weights, whenever and wherever I need to. You don’t feel alive by sitting in an office chair for eight hours a day. You feel alive by moving. A regular dose of feeling alive is vital to the mental and physical well-being of everyone. I won’t get into too much detail, but if you want more depth I mentioned exercise in another one of my answer’s on Quora.
The point I want to make is that whatever your reasons are initially, if you don’t give up and quit, over time there is a good chance that your reasons for continuing will change and perhaps contain more depth. Maybe today you say that you want to lose weight. Five years into it you might tell people you do it because it makes you a better person. Because it is a great way to live in the moment. Because you want to be able to play every chance you get.