Art Carey wrote a great piece in the Inquirer yesterday that underlines my entire personal theory about exercise: What you learn in the gym can be applied to every other area of your life. Carey’s piece highlights the story of LeRoy Hayes, a senior at Pumas of Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus in West Philadelphia. He’s six feet tall, 179 pounds, captain of his school’s cycling squad and regularly clocks 60 miles for afternoon practice. Three years ago, he was an obese, pre-diabetic 10th grader who could barely make it up a flight of stairs. Not the type of kid you’d expect to be recruited for the school’s new cycling team. But he stuck with it. Now, he’s not only healthier, but he’s also more confident and more determined. Two attributes that will benefit him for the rest of his life.
I, too, was a heavy kid, only I began my transformation in middle school. Going through the experience played a huge part in forming who I am today. Exercise teaches you so much: How to push through a tough, uncomfortable situation. That you can achieve anything you set your mind to. That hard work, once you get moving, actually feels good. To set goals and nail them. That with every challenge you meet head on, you build another notch of confidence. That you are in control of your mind and your body, and that positive thought is one of the most powerful tools we have.
When you find yourself putting exercise off, remember that it’s a tool for so much more than changing your reflection in the mirror. The gym—or the road or your basement or wherever you like to sweat—is a training ground for your character, too.