I’ve been stressed lately.

My life is, overall, in a very good place these days. But, I suppose like most people, it could be so much better. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the passage of time, my age (which is actually not that big of a number), how it relates to where I am in my life and – perhaps most of all – whether or not I’m making the absolute most of the opportunity I’ve been afforded in working for myself.

I compare myself to those that have done what I am trying to do and I wonder.
I compare myself to the freelancers in my social circle and I wonder.
I compare myself to the me that used to have to report to a desk every morning and I wonder.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in my own head. I don’t have co-workers that I can commiserate with around the proverbial water cooler. And, over time, things can get wrapped up way too tight.

And, this is when I go to the gym.

The problem is that right now this is one of the the only times I go to the gym. One of the biggest things on my mind right now, in terms of my own personal and professional development, is the prioritization of my own personal health and fitness.

I go to the gym when I feel like I have to for my own sanity and release; not out of any sort of routine or forced regularity. I go to the gym when I don’t have anything else to do. I go to the gym when my schedule allows for it rather than making it a part of my day-to-day schedule.

I go to the gym when it’s convenient.

If the schedule is packed and deadlines are looming, the gym (and thus my personal health and fitness) is the first sacrifice. If I’m tired, down, or just “not feeling it that day,” then an asteroid impact is a higher likelihood than me throwing on my shorts and t-shirt, grabbing a water bottle and my headphones, and walking down the street.

That’s the other thing – my gym is so incredibly convenient. It’s a five minute walk down a couple of blocks. My previous gym involved a 15’ish minute drive but that was just too much effort.

The one good thing about this “method” of fitness is that I absolutely kill myself when I do go. Given my history as a cyclist, the stationary bike is my torture implement of choice and I go at it with the intention of ensuring that gym staff has to do a maintenance run on it after I’ve finished.

I know the exact settings I need to get dialed in for my ride. I know the seat height and the number of notches to cinch down on the pedal straps. I select the ride setup, age, and weight inputs without even thinking about it.

And then comes the music. I don’t know how people listen to soft, non-impactful music when they work out. I’ve heard of people listening to pop, top 40, and even classical during a workout and hey, if that gets you where you need to be then more power to you. But that’s not me.

I listen to angry, angry music when I work out.

Hard, driving beats. Head-banging power chords. Vocalists who yell and say ‘fuck’ a lot or, on the flip side, tell me how much better their life is than mine and that I’m not working hard enough to get what I want. And then, as the sweat from my head fails to sufficiently regulate my body temperature; forcing my brain to tell my arms to start sweating, that’s when the house and techno hits. My RPM increases, trying to stay in sync with the BPM and the net effect is pain. Focus, pain, and sweet, sweet mental relief. The building could be burning down and I probably wouldn’t notice.

And then it’s all over. 45 minutes to an hour later and I’m cooling down and getting ready for the walk home on jellied legs. But I am a completely different person. Life, as a whole, seems far more manageable. The stresses of work are nothing that I can’t overcome. I walk away committed to doing anything and everything necessary to make myself and my business a complete success. Ideas surge through my head. I whip out my phone and frantically make notes, hoping that they’ll make sense a few days later when I go back to look at them.

Right now, having come back from one of these mind-clearing sessions earlier this afternoon, I’m contemplating regular “maintenance” workouts and reserving the balls-to-the-wall stuff for when I need it. I need a reset in my life right now and I think that paying much closer attention to my own health, fitness, and overall well-being is going to be instrumental in making that happen. At the same time, I don’t want to lose what I get out of pushing myself to my limits when the need arises.

I used to roll my eyes when people would preach about the benefits, both mental and physical, of a good exercise program and how having one was integral to your success. I remember thinking that it was great that these leaders had the time to go and work out but I was too busy trying to build a business and satisfy the needs of my clients.

But days like today make me wonder if the key to rebooting my business and taking it in new directions and new heights in 2016 lies not in my office in the second bedroom but in the gym up the street.

image credit: Crosa, via flickr.