Many people assume that because I’m a fitness professional, I love to exercise. They are wrong. A nice bike ride or run along the river in the summertime can be invigorating. A sporting game of racquetball is fun. The rest of it – the other twenty-odd days a month for me – are a chore. But it’s a chore I do, nearly every single day, because I have internalized some key motivators. One of those motivators is beer.
I don’t mind a nice glass of wine or the very occasional cocktail, but my adult beverage of choice is craft beer. (This is no secret to those who know me.) About twelve years ago, I started making my own beer in small batches at home. Some years later, I got a part-time job at a homebrew supply shop – just for the discount on supplies. In the four years that I worked there, my brewing expertise grew immensely, as did my appreciation for all beer styles. I have rarely met a beer I didn’t like, or at least appreciate. This is unfortunate, however, because a pint of beer has roughly double the calories of a clean cocktail or a glass of wine.
Enter marathon running.
I wouldn’t say that I started running marathons because of beer, but it sure was a great side benefit. After I finished my first marathon, I took a year off from running, and I was astonished at how drastically I had to adjust my calorie (read: beer) consumption downward. Two marathons and a handful of shorter races later, I realized that forty-something isn’t the ideal age to take up distance running, so I’ve adjusted my workout routine to be kinder to my body. The results have been favorable for me.
I certainly know that I exercise more frequently and with greater intensity than I would if I were one of those people who ate only whole foods and drank nothing but sparkling water all the time. As a result, I think my overall fitness level is actually a bit higher thanks to my love of small-batch ales and lagers. That’s the story I’m sticking with, anyway.
Of course, beer is not the only reason I exercise. Truthfully, it’s not even in the top three, but it is a very immediate, tangible, reward-based motivator that adds that extra bit of incentive I need to get out the door sometimes. It is also useful as an instructional tool in both calorie valuation and impulse control: One pint of beer equals forty minutes of fairly hard exercise for me. I rarely have two.
I should mention here that the food-or-beverage-for-exercise system is an awful one if you’re trying to lose weight. For those who are only trying to maintain weight, though, it can work, as long as you’re honest about the calories and prone to moderation.
Maybe your thing isn’t beer. If you’re lucky, it isn’t anything loaded with empty calories. But there’s got to be something – some real, tangible, every-day thing you can point to and say, “That’s why I’m doing this today.” If you can keep that thing in mind, pretty soon people will be asking you, “How do you stay so fit?”