This is part of an ongoing series on happiness. I’m going to continue sharing everyday moments, experiences, and activities where I feel most happy. Since I believe the pursuit of happiness is something that binds humanity, and since one of the major reasons to attain financial freedom in the first place is to improve one’s happiness, I find it important to share aspects of my life where I feel like the pursuit of happiness is most successful. I hope to show through these regular insights that not only does it not take much (or any) money to improve one’s happiness but also that financial freedom provides additional opportunities (via more time) to boost happiness.
Who really loves exercising?
It’s tough to really, truly admit that you love it. I mean, you can go to the gym regularly (or exercise outside) to soak up all of the great benefits (which I’ll go over), but doing it because you have to and doing it because you genuinely love it are very different concepts.
I fall somewhere in the middle there. I don’t love it, but I like it enough to say that I’ve been exercising regularly since I was 11 years old.
Of course, I started off not because I was thinking of my health (no 11-year-old kid is thinking about heart health) but rather to build my scrawny frame up to defend myself.
I was adopted at 11, removed from my mother in Detroit, and promptly installed in a small town a little west of Flint. I tend to adapt well, and I was overjoyed at no longer having to deal with the myriad of issues that were facing me in Detroit: lack of access to regular food, drugs and alcohol surrounding me, my mother disappearing for weeks at a time, my personal items being stolen, kids threatening to kill me at school because of the color of my skin. You know, the usual.
While my quality of life improved dramatically in this new town, I didn’t totally escape bullying. Although I wasn’t facing death threats, and there weren’t racial attacks, kids at this new school out in the middle of nowhere didn’t appreciate an outsider. I was coming into a school where everyone already knew each other, and my urban slang definitely caused me to stick out.
Determined to end this nonsense once and for all, I started working out so as to gain an edge.
What started off as a self-defense mechanism turned into a bit of a passion.
If it’s not obvious by now, I tend to take things seriously if I commit time to something. If I take on a hobby, I have a habit of trying to be the best. Partly my competitive nature, I just see no point in spending time doing something if you’re not going to do it well.
So I went from casual working out to competitive bodybuilding in my teens. I actually ended up winning the state championship at 14 years old – that led to an opportunity to compete at the national level, although I was turned off from the sport after realizing that I’d have to take drugs to really succeed. After growing up around drugs of all kinds and seeing what it did to people, I vowed to never take anything. To this day, I barely take ibuprofen.
Although I no longer feel the need to defend myself from peers, I do feel the need to defend myself from excess fat, higher chances of disease, depression, low energy levels, a shorter lifespan, and a general lower quality of life.
So I work out regularly. I tend to hit the gym three times per week, which just so happens to be within walking (running) distance to our apartment. And then I usually run on the weekends. All in all, I rack up approximately 10 miles of fast walking/running and 70 sets of various exercises in any given week.
This has the effect of substantially improving my quality of life and happiness.
Not only do I look and feel better but I also know that my organs and general health are improved. In addition, it’s highly likely that my lifespan will be lengthened. At the very least, I’m confident I’m not shortening it.
And if you’re financially free at a young age, don’t you want to live as long as possible to really maximize every possible minute of such an incredible lifestyle? Who wouldn’t want 50 or 60 years of utter freedom?
I’ll sometimes look over the top 10 causes of worldwide death, listed by the World Health Organization.
Disease – specifically heart disease – shows up numerous times, notably at slot #1. Stroke is in there, too. Guess what many of these causes have in common as a controllable risk factor? You guessed it: inactivity.
But what does all of this have to do with financial freedom?
Well, I have so much more time these days to be active.
Back when I was pulling between 50 and 60 hours per week at the car dealership, it wasn’t exactly easy to then come home, put on some gym shorts, and bust out 60-90 minutes at the gym. It became even more difficult when I put on my entrepreneur hat and built a second career in writing on top of everything else. While I did as much as I could, there’s no doubt I missed a number of workouts. And I often lacked the energy to really do as much as I knew I could/should have.
However, nowadays I look forward to working out like never before.
It’s an opportunity to get out of the house. I go to the gym and truly look forward to conquering that challenge. My body doesn’t feel all used up any more from conquering challenges at my old day job all day long. So instead of putting out fires like calling customers to tell them their cars aren’t fixed or dealing with technicians that are crying because the job they’re getting isn’t what they wanted, I now instead get to use all of that energy toward making my body – inside and out – harder, better, faster, stronger.
An employer doesn’t get the best of me – the best my mind and body has to offer at peak hours of the day – anymore. I instead get to channel the best of me into making me even better. The best of me gets reinvested back into the best of me. It isn’t just dividends that can be reinvested, folks.
And I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but I know that I’m in some of the best shape of my life right now – in terms of both aerobic and anaerobic capabilities.
This is all because I’m able to channel far more energy into exercise than before. You get out what you put in, in all aspects of life. I’m putting in more because I’m able to. And what’s coming out is making me better than ever. I’m actively creating a better version of me, which is what all of this is for.
Financial freedom is all about putting the future you in a better position. When I first started saving and investing, I envisioned the me of 10 or so years down the road enjoying all the freedom I was then working so hard to attain. I just knew I was going to get there. I could see it. But I’ll tell you, I sometimes wish I could travel back in time anyway to tell that younger me, “It’s all gonna work out, man! You’re doing it! You’re going to be in incredible shape.”
Well, the thesis behind exercising is much the same. It’s about putting the future you in a better position. In fact, I wouldn’t mind traveling back to the 11-year-old me to tell him, “It’s all gonna work out, man! You’re doing it! You’re going to be in incredible shape.”
How about you? Exercise regularly? Enjoy it? Why or why not?
Thanks for reading.