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Gym Is Not Life

November 20, 2017
AUTHOR: Emilie
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I recently shared with an acquaintance that I was a feeling a little bit demotivated at the gym. I haven’t really gotten settled into a gym routine since getting home (actually, I haven’t really gotten settled into any routine since getting home, but a discussion for another time). I was sharing with this woman that I didn’t know why I was feeling so demotivated lately, and that while I was definitely feeling guilty about it, I was not feeling so guilty that I was planning on changing anything.

She came back with this snooty response about how she makes the most of every opportunity she has in the gym and holier than thou blah blah bullshit. Her answer pissed me off.

Here’s the thing: I have other things going on. I am not exclusively about going to the gym. Right now, I’m building technical skills and a business. I’m planning a wedding and constantly working on my relationship. I’ve got goals I’m trying to hit and not all of them are helped by me being in the gym. In fact, every minute that I spend in the gym is a minute that I’m not spending working on my other goals- like those that require me to be seated at a computer.

Going to the gym is something I do when it can help me work towards my goals. I really wanted to do 24 pull-ups on my 24th birthday. I had something I was working towards so being in the gym plenty was important to me because I didn’t want to risk my birthday passing and me not hitting that goal.

Yes, I have gym goals. I’d like to hit a 300 lb deadlift in the next year and get double unders, but they’re mostly just the general direction that I’m heading towards. I’m not working at them that aggressively because other things are more important. Other things are my priority.

Photo by David Whittaker from Pexels

“The” Thing vs “A” Thing

For some people, going to the gym is the thing that they do all day. Some work at the gym, some just go. This is not a judgment on their lifestyle; it’s just an observation. For some people, the gym is a key priority in their day.

I am not one of those people. The gym is a thing that I do during the day. It is much more like brushing my teeth than it is like crossing off a big accomplishment.

When I first started going to this gym, Crossfit Raeford, where I’ve been a regular attendee since August 2016, here was the time commitment involved:

  • 6 minutes to get to the gym (I was almost always just on-time or late)
  • 1 hour class
  • 10 minutes of mingling
  • 6 minutes home

Since we moved in March, my gym commitment looks like this:

  • 20 minutes to get to the gym
  • 1 hour class
  • 20 minutes to get home

Doing just the bare minimum at the gym now takes 20 minutes more than it used to when I was very, very committed.


While I felt guilty prior to having this realization, I no longer do because my lack of affinity for being crazy committed to the gym is just a reflection of the fact that the gym is not my priority right now and that is 100% okay!

But Emilie, you’re getting married, shouldn’t you care?

I don’t have the energy, will, or interest in the emotional labor of dealing with this statement which I’ve only heard 29873 times as I tried to work through these feelings out loud with others.

I don’t go to the gym because of some arbitrary visual standard. I’m fit enough now where if I just go three days per week and eat the way I do, I’ll be fine. I’ve been a cookie cutter size 4 for the last three years and I’m 💯 with that. It would take a LOT of work for me to drop a size and I don’t want to put in that much work.

Stage of Life

Right now.

I don’t want to put in that much work right now.

This might not always be true, though. It’s true right now because my focus is on other things and other aspects of my life.

When I first started at my gym, though, I was very into it and it was the most important thing at that moment.

Being the fittest or most active version of yourself is a deeply personal decision that only you can make because no one knows your stage of life or life priorities better.

This idea isn’t unique. I’m not the first person to have it. It’s probably not even the first time I’ve said or written this.

I noticed the people attending the 530 AM class are not consumed by CrossFit. Instead, they are using CrossFit to become a more effective person in other aspects of life.

But here’s why this unbalanced life is ok: these are simply seasons of our life. They come and they go, they ebb and flow, and they are ever changing and always evolving. So when there was a moment recently when I looked in the mirror and stood in shock for a minute and came to terms with the fact that I didn’t recognize the body in the reflection, within seconds, I shrugged and reminded myself that this is temporary. This is simply the season I am in, and the price of pouring 100% into something that isn’t the gym means my body’s gotten a little softer.

Self Examination

While this piece is in part a rebuttal the pedantic comment of my contact’s clearly narrow-minded mindset, it’s also in part an examination and evaluation of myself. In thinking through where am I right now on my fitness journey, where my physical goals fall into my priorities, and the other aspects of my life, I am forced to answer these questions in a direct way.

If you’re trying to evaluate your relationship with your fitness routine, here are a series of questions that I would suggest:

  • Is my fitness routine working for me?
  • How does it fit into my day?
  • How do I feel going to the gym?
  • How do I feel after the gym?
  • What am I working towards right now?
  • How important is that goal to me?
  • How does my fitness goal compare to some other goals I’m working on right now?
  • How much time am I committing to my fitness?
  • How do I feel about that amount of time? Would I like to commit more or less?

It’s okay if “Gym is Life”; it’s also okay if it’s not. Here’s the key takeaway: if it’s not, don’t feel guilty about it. If the gym or your fitness routine is not the top priority in your life, that’s not a problem, as long as that is a decision made with intentionality to support the other priorities in your life.

Where does the gym fall on your list of priorities?

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