This is What it's All About


We stopped the car on a deserted patch of scrubby grassland. The dirt track that we'd been driving on was narrow and bumpy and it felt like we were a million miles away from anyone else. I think this was the most quiet place I've ever been.

There was no ambient noise. No traffic or the faint hum of an aircraft high above. Just the odd cricket and bird, and a faint gasp of breeze. And the sun shining down. It was beautiful.

"This is what it's all about," I thought.

We were having an adventure, and in this short pause, I had a moment of realization about my fitness - why it's important and what it really provides for me. 

This all dawned on me during an open-air pee-break on the drive from the Grand Canyon to Havasu Falls in northern Arizona. We'd been struggling along a very rocky, bumpy "road" (one area we went through is apparently nicknamed "broken axle") which we later found out was only meant for high clearance 4x4s. Needless to say, our rental car - a Hyunda Sonata - had a tough time. If you've ever tried off-roading in a small, fuel efficient Korean car, you'll know what I mean.  Let's just say I was seriously regretting not opting for the full-coverage, zero-deductible rental car insurance this time around.... 

It survived: our car after getting back on a paved road. You can't imagine how relieved and happy we were.

It survived: our car after getting back on a paved road. You can't imagine how relieved and happy we were.

You see, my girl friend and I recently got back from a trip to Arizona, which mainly involved awesome hiking adventures - and obvs a couple visits to In'n'Out Burger. 

We didn't have much of a plan when we got there, but ended up hiking around Sedona, saw the awe inspiring Grand Canyon, drove across remote Indian Reservation land for miles without seeing any signs of human life, and trekked into a long, winding canyon to swim at Havasu Falls and camp under the stars (which are incredibly vibrant in rural Arizona).

There's something about hiking that's good for the soul. You're not thinking about anything except the moment you're in - the excitement of seeing something for the first time, the smells and sounds you experience, where you're going to place your foot do you don't slip and fall off a cliff, etc. You can slow down, get far away from anything that's stressing you out, and just walk, think and live.

I think that's what "zen" is supposed to be.

Then there's also the fulfillment of having accomplished something you set out to - getting to the summit or reaching the magnificent falls at the end of a hike - and feeling a little physically exhausted but mentally satisfied. This holds true even if after you've had a moment of wondering why you (or any sane person) would voluntarily walk through a a dessert with the blast-furnace-sun beating down on you all day for no real reason; where all you can think about is how much further until you're finished; and when you'll be able to eat again because those 2 apples you brought are long gone. At the end, it's totally worth it. 

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For a lot of people like me, fitness is the thing that provides the possibility of having these awesome experiences. I used to train to compete in weightlifting, so my time in the gym had a very definitive purpose. If my snatch and clean and jerk increased, I was improving. For years I was driven to pursue that goal. But now, like most people (I think), I just train to feel great and be able to do cool stuff (like this trip) on a whim. 

My fitness routine helps me do this in two big ways, and if you do it right, so will yours. 

First, if I wasn't fit, we wouldn't have been able to do that trip, handle all the hiking, enjoy all fun I had, or experience what we did. 

It felt good to power through our hikes - even when carrying a big-ass pack with all of our sleeping gear, water and food all day long - and know I'd still be able to walk properly the next day.

Without enough fitness (whatever that means for you), how can you truly enjoy all the things this earth has to offer on your own terms? 

Without fitness, you'll never be able to hike down here and know how amazing it feels to dip your tired body into this rejuvenating water.

Without fitness, you'll never be able to hike down here and know how amazing it feels to dip your tired body into this rejuvenating water.

Second, when done right, fitness training offers a small (but meaningful) dose of the same feelings of excitement, accomplishment, and "being fully in the moment" that you get when hiking. I can't tell you how gratifying it felt to take my shoes off and dip them into the cool water at Havasu falls after hiking all day to get there - how alive I felt. I was splashing around in that water like a little kid until the sun went down. And, on top of it all, I got to share that with my girl friend, which made it even better.

But we can get the same feeling from sweating and breathing hard and pushing through a tough workout in the gym. It injects a challenge and some fun to every day of your life, even if you have to schedule it in between work, family, and all your other day-to-day commitments. It also lets you get out of your head and exist totally in the moment for a while. And, if you're lucky enough to be surrounded with some like minded people, you'll get to share the experience with them and generate a camaraderie and mutual-respect based on it. 

If your fitness program fulfills these things, you're in great shape. Keep doing what you're doing!

If your program doesn't leave your prepared to do the things you love, if it doesn't make you feel alive, if it doesn't make you happy and connect you with a feeling of excitement, think about changing it up.

If you need help moving in a better direction and want to consult with a coach who gets it, drop me a line

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Personal PostsPeter Roberts