Call me crazy, but my workouts are some of the best times of my week. I didn’t feel that way on day one, it’s true. But as soon as I started seeing progress, the gym became my home away from home. Here’s why:

It gives me a time and place to focus on improving how I move. It’s like a laboratory where you gain insight into your strengths and weaknesses and figure out what your body needs in order to be more balanced and functional.  (Ideally, you do this with the help of a skilled trainer who brings expert knowledge and an objective eye to the effort.) That work continues outside the gym. As you improve your patterns of movement in your workouts, you can apply that learning to all your other activities. Over time, those new and better ways of moving become embedded in your muscle memory.

It offers many ways to be challenged. The gym is a chance to show myself what I can do.  It also lets me gauge my progress in a variety of ways. How good is my movement form? How close am I to the full range of motion for a given movement? Can I do more repetitions, or throw in some harder variations? When I’m able to do a demanding exercise after working on it for a while, it gives me a real sense of accomplishment. It also makes me feel I can do whatever I set my mind to.

It’s always an energy boost. For one thing, it’s energizing to be around other people who are actively working to become more fit. Talk to gym regulars about what keeps them coming back, and they’ll often say, “Because it makes me feel so good.” As scientists now know, when your heart is pumping, your blood is moving, and your muscles are working, it benefits your body on a cellular level. It also improves brain function and stimulates the release of endorphins, your body’s natural “feel-good” chemical.   There’s simply nothing like the glow you feel after a good workout!

Image: Bryan Black Photography