I grew up playing soccer, played on a sports team every season in high school and joined a club field hockey team in college. Athleticism has never been an issue for me... until these last few years, when I realized I used to get all of my exercise through playing organized sports. Because of this, I've admittedly been struggling with finding a workout routine that works for me.
On a recent run -- my first in what has probably been months -- I was finding it very hard to push through even the first mile. I realized very suddenly that I need to recommit to working out, no matter how difficult it feels. As I was thinking this, the next song came on my iTunes, Adele's "Someone Like You," pausing my inner monologue and instantly reminding me of the heartache in my chest. I was quickly overwhelmed with clarity and comfort of how parallel my physical exercising struggles are with the emotional ones I'm currently facing in my personal life.
I got out of a four-year relationship six months ago and was flung back into the modern dating world with only the startling realization that everything was drastically different from how one dates and meets potential suitors in college.
Both discovering dating again and experimenting with the gym and new workouts have a learning curve that requires trial and error. Here are nine ways they are extremely similar:
1. It's really hard to start over.
After enough time passes between workouts, you're back at square one, having to rebuild the stamina, muscle and endurance you've lost. I've spent more days than I'd like to admit going into the office with a gym bag, dreading going to the gym all day, all the while knowing how out of shape I am, deciding I'll go the next day and then finally dragging myself to change and go. (Beyoncé helps with the last part of the process).
I've experienced this same inner monologue before first dates (and you can bet that Beyoncé helps put me in the mood here, too). After my breakup, it's been difficult to put myself back out there again. When time is needed to heal the pain, it's natural that the more time passes, the more difficult it is to allow someone else in, in any capacity.
2. When you do try again after a long time away, you have no idea what to do or where to start.
I went to my first Zumba class recently, and I harshly (and very un-gracefully) realized that I missed the memo to learn, memorize and perfect every dance number in the class. Besides proving myself a disgrace to the tune of Shakira and Kat de Luna, I've also awkwardly waited by a machine at the gym, pretending to stretch, so someone could use it and inadvertently teach me how it works (and what it works out).
Similarly, dating apps became all the rage while I was in a committed relationship. I've had to have friends sit down with me and explain how certain apps/websites work (wait, you don't mean grouper like the fish?) and whether certain platforms would be right for me. This usually leads to the overwhelming realization that these apps connect me to meet total strangers... very unlike college dating at a small school, where someone I know will always know the someone I might be interested in, and thus could warn me away if they needed to.
3. You have to be truthful about what you want and need and go after it.
I'm not looking to get a six pack or run a triathlon; I want to build a little arm muscle, get back to a faster mile time over a long distance and find fun ways to keep my heart rate up. Knowing what my goals are makes it less intimidating when I go to the gym. And by being truthful about what I want and what I can handle right now, I'm less inclined to compare myself to other people.
The same goes for relationships. I miss being in a relationship for so many reasons, but now that I'm still working on extracting my identity from the deepest and longest relationship I've been in, I know that what I need is time focusing on myself and exposure to different types of people. Knowing this makes it easier for me to trust that I'll fall in love again someday when I'm ready and willing.
4. Once you get in a routine, it's important not to get complacent.
In workouts, challenge yourself and stay attentive. If you aren't breaking a sweat or "feeling the burn," so to speak, then you aren't really exercising your body. Maybe you need to have different days where you focus on different parts of your body or mix things up (more on that in my next point), or maybe you've upgraded from the cycle one or beginner's yoga class to the next level.
Similarly, in relationships, "too comfortable" can kill the romance. It's important to maintain the element of surprise, change things up, date your partner and find small ways to relay the love every day.
5. Mix it up; each experience serves its own purpose.
It didn't work out with your first boyfriend for a reason. Though it may have been immature and all-consuming (like my first relationship), it may have taught you about the depths of love and what you may need in relationships. Similarly, that guy you went on a date with last week may not be your soul mate, but at the very least, you are able to find certainty on what kinds of traits that he had that you do/don't want. Also, I've realized that by going on first dates, I'm able to reflect on what traits the other person has and how that may affect the version of myself that I present on my date and why.
You can learn a lot about who you are and what moves you from the process of dating. For me, this has ranged from taking no bullsh*t and standing up for myself to learning how to gently reject or be rejected by another person. As someone who gives so much of myself to other people, no matter how recently I met them, this has been an extraordinary experience. And eventually, I'll be ready for commitment again and will meet someone who complements the evolved version of me.
In the same capacity, different workouts, varying in time, strength and the discipline required, all serve different purposes and have different advantages. I sometimes (very rarely) do yoga, and I gain this energy where I surrender to the moment and allow myself to be mentally and emotionally at peace. (Well, after writing that, I am aware I should go more often.) In contrast, I use the machines at the gym to tone certain muscles, and I run/bike ride to work on stamina and endurance.
I have realized that by mixing it up, I'm able to meet different people, learn more about myself, experiment with different workouts and exercise different parts of my body.
6. You have to know when to push through and when to stop.
When it gets slightly difficult will you just quit?
Pain is real. Sometimes it's temporary and good to push through it; after all, no pain, no gain, right? But there's a difference between pushing yourself to finish that set or mile and forcing yourself to finish when your body is unable to handle it. It's important to listen to your body and know its limits, otherwise injury is a very real possibility.
This same kind of intuition can be translated in relationships. It shouldn't be excruciatingly hard, but it does take an active commitment every day to be a part of the relationship, better yourself and to be actively involved with your partner. It's important to listen to your heart and gut and know when the bumps or fights are worth working through and when you're just hurting yourself (and maybe your partner). That's when it's time to put your ego and fears aside and walk away.
7. Have other things going on to help you be your best self, and have the freedom to grow.
As mentioned previously, balance is necessary. Whether that's taking a break from working out or having other relationships to tend to, it's important to have other stuff going on and not make exercising or one person your whole life. It's good to be selective when finally landing on a workout regimen or long-term partner. In both cases, you want something/someone stable, pushes you to be better, and gives you the room to grow on your own -- whether that's varying the workout, or having constant communication with your partner of your needs and desires as they evolve.
8. Working out and meeting people organically is the most fun.
One of the most daunting things about working out for me has been the burden I feel to actually do it. So I've found that doing fun activities -- like indoor rock climbing, swimming in the indoor pool or hiking in the summertime -- is a good way to do something enjoyable and get my workout in at the same time.
The same goes with dating. Having to take the time and spend energy talking to people online is exhausting and incredible disappointing. So I've focused on myself and friendships, and I've discovered that it's even more interesting and fun to meet people organically -- through mutual friends, pursuing personal interests or just by being out and about in the city. (I can't wait until I meet someone in a bookstore; that is my dream meet-cute).
And sometimes both worlds collide perfectly. A fun workout activity can be a fun date -- like exploring New York City on a Citi bike, and pursuing a personal interest like flying trapeze can lead to meeting new people.
9. No matter what happens, you're always glad you tried.
Whether it's an awful date or a long-term relationship that ended; a not-so-satisfying group fitness class or a really bad running time, at least you went are more equipped for your next experience.
In both cases, the pain and disappointment can be transformed into something positive. There are always lessons learned and personal growth to be had from these experiences.