“Yesterday, I walked into my gym with a game plan — a long, hard full-body workout that would leave me in a puddle of sweat. I got six minutes into the workout and my body and mind were fried. I left the gym feeling like a failure.”

This is likely something even the fittest person among us has experienced. We go to the gym with “good” intentions. We vow to push harder, lift heavier, and run longer. Then, we realize that our physical selves (or our mental selves) have other plans. This realization is generally followed by a wave of guilt, confusion, and anger. 

We see #fitspo posts all of the time on social media telling us that while we’re “quitting” someone else is pushing through; someone else is mentally stronger than we are. “No pain, no gain” is a phrase often used. 

We read articles on the “secret” to fat loss; the “secret” to physical perfection; the “secret” to having it all. We are told that climbing the ladder to six-pack abs is about motivation, dedication, and good, old-fashioned sacrifice. Blood, sweat, and tears will help you reach your goals. According to old fitness lore, leaving the gym after six minutes, however, will not. 

The Importance of Grace

Somewhere along the way, the fitness industry forgot that life happens. Injuries happen. Illness happens. Work, family, and weather happen. Grit is only one small piece of the overall fitness puzzle; persistence is only a mere factor. Where we are hard on our bodies, we must also be gracious. We must listen to our bodies and understand the difference between not wanting to exercise and needing to not exercise. 

Practicing grace is not weak. It is not a failure to persevere. It is the sign of a true athlete. Listening to your body and practicing grace does not make you less worthy. It does not mean that you are delaying the achievement of your goals. It means that you understand the finite nature of your energy levels. It means that you accept that sometimes work and family come before the gym. It means that, sometimes, caring for your mental health comes before caring for your physical health. It means that you are, as the cool kids say, “woke.” 

The ‘Grace’ Test

There is no black-and-white test for determining whether or not your body (or your mind) needs a breather from the gym. 

If you find yourself in a situation similar to the one in italics above, stop what you’re doing and look inward — is your body fried because it needs a day of rest or do you just need to cut yourself some slack? Sometimes, pushing through a “funk” is best because you know that you have it in you to do so. Other times, however, you simply need to leave the gym and return the following day feeling refreshed. Finally, there are days where all you need to do is toss your programming to the wind and do something active and enjoyable. If you’d rather go on a bike ride, do that. If you’d rather lift instead of engage in HIIT, do it. No programming, no pressure. Practice grace and allow yourself to feel no guilt whatsoever from straying from your programming.  

One day does not revert the progress you’ve made. It may just be the very thing that you need to restore motivation and push past a plateau.

Grace: a Universal Application

Fitness changes lives. We at The Jungle Gym wholeheartedly believe that. It doesn’t just change you physically, it changes you mentally as well. Lessons learned in the gym can be easily applied to any facet of your life. However, sometimes we get caught up in the aesthetic aspect of it all that we forget that engaging in physical fitness is, first and foremost, supposed to help us live healthier, longer, and happier lives. 

Be graceful in every single thing that you do, in and out of the gym. Learn to treat yourself and your body with grace and patience. If a joint is nagging you, listen to what it’s saying. If a muscle is pleading with you to stop, respect its wishes. If you aren’t feeling your typical workout but feel the need to move regardless, go P L A Y and give your body the grace and respect that it deserves.

Grace – “The experience of awe, gratitude, and unconditional love when you are in harmony with yourself and with others.”