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I don’t work out because I want to look good

Blink Fitness, a chain of gyms in New York City and New Jersey, has announced that they are going to do something revolutionary for a gym — on Mondays, they will cover all the mirrors in the facility. The idea here is that we should be working out for our health more than for our looks. It might not seem revolutionary, but in our current culture, it is a big deal. With so many gyms using shame techniques, it’s awfully refreshing.

But I have never worked out to look good.

That’s not entirely true. I did come back into running (after running high school track) when I was about 24 in order to maintain the weight I’d lost for my wedding. It worked. My weight has remained roughly the same through the next 14 years (except for my three pregnancies) and that is great. But that is just a side effect of the main reason I exercise.

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Over the years both yoga and running have become daily events in my life. Both are vitally important to my mental health and stability and while both also keep my body on the trim side, that is about reason 44th on the list of why I am so dedicated to fitness.

When I roll out of bed each morning at 4:30 or 5 to make the first morning yoga class and get my 6 miler in, I do so because I want to get stronger. With yoga, especially, the only way to improve and grow in postures is to practice each and every day. Little by little the arm balances that once seemed so daunting become easier. I have made millimeters of progress in flexibility in strength by practicing each day and millimeters add up to inches (and miles) over time. It’s worth it.

But strength and flexibility are not the only reasons I work out every day. On days where I skip workouts I am irritable, angry, and snap at my children and husband over the smallest things. Forgot to do the dishes? On a day I ran? Whatever. On a day I skipped? You will feel my wrath. My husband now knows to ask me if I got my run in when I start screaming at him over small infractions. Running releases whatever tension I carry each day so that I am free enough to be happy. Do I need mirrors to make that happen? Hell no.

I sometimes say that running rescued me. And it’s no lie. When my mother died when I was 16, it was running that helped me face the grief. Within weeks of all three of my births, getting back to the gym was what pulled me up from the depths of the baby blues and helped me face motherhood head on.

More: 7 Yoga poses to avoid during your period

It seems odd to me that anyone would say (or think) that I work out for my physical appearance. How silly. So good on this gym for covering the mirrors, but anyone who works out with regularity knows getting our daily sweat on is about so much more than fitting into a bikini. Let’s not make a mockery of something that can change your life if you let it.

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