Right now I have a wonderful room with a view. Seated on a smooth leather couch with deep, soft cushions, I can see calm blue water through the picture window in front of me. If I get hungry or thirsty, I can stroll over to the deli counter and order myself something nourishing. This would be great if I were actually on vacation. Unfortunately, I’m not on vacation. The calm blue water isn’t a tropical lagoon. It’s a lap pool. I’m at the gym my son and I belong to. He’s working out. I’m just working.
Sitting in the lobby with a computer on my lap isn’t quite what I had in mind when I said I wanted to go to the gym. I joined for physical health, mental health, family bonding, and connection with others. I enjoy increasing both heart rate and endorphins. Exercise enhances wellbeing and improves lives. Does it count when I go to the gym but sit on a couch rather than on exercise equipment?
Yes, it does count. Sitting on the couch at an athletic club does count as going to the gym. Here’s why (and I’m truly not just trying to justify or rationalize my sitting on a cushy couch while my son sweats).
Why Being at the Gym Counts Even When You’re Not Exercising
- I’m actually at the gym. My existence here is real and valid and not dependent on what I am or am not doing.
Take-away advice: drop the “shoulds.” Thinking that you “should” be doing x, y, or z simply because you are in a certain place is faulty reasoning that contributes to stress and anxiety.
- I’m honoring what I need to be doing in this moment. Right now, working on specific tasks is going to make me feel better mentally and physically—much more so than hopping onto an elliptical machine.
Take-away advice: Know yourself and honor what you need in each moment. Take life a moment at a time. Working in the gym’s lobby is better for me right now than working out on the machines. Tomorrow, I’ll hop back on the equipment.
- I’m living my values. One of the reasons I joined this gym was to bond with my son and support him in his life goals. I drove him here today (at 15, he doesn’t yet drive alone) and am staying here as long as he wants to be here. Usually, I work out too. Today, though, I chose the couch. I’m still upholding what I value.
Take-away advice: Know what you value, and make your decisions accordingly. Knowing that you can be flexible in your actions but still honor what’s important to you helps enhance your wellbeing and sense of peace with who you are, where you are, and what you are doing.
- I’m taking action. My actions right now might not quite match the intentions of an athletic club, but that doesn’t diminish their importance. As long as our actions aren’t done to intentionally harm ourselves or others, there is no black-and-white, right-or-wrong way to act. I’m doing what I need to do right now, in this moment, to feel mentally healthy.
Take-away advice: For mental health and wellbeing, the important things are to know your values and to take actions, small steps every day, to achieve them. In any given moment, choose to act in a way that moves you forward, and do it. It counts for a lot.
- The couches are here for a reason. If people weren’t meant to sit here while they were at the gym, the couches wouldn’t be here. They have a purpose. People have a purpose. By sitting here and working, I’m fulfilling purposes.
Take-away advice: Know your sense of purpose, recognize that others (even couches) have a purpose, and act in ways that fulfill the purpose.
So, yes, sitting on the couch at an athletic club counts as going to the gym. It counts because we exist and we count. When we acknowledge that there is no right way to be, no “shoulds,” what we do counts. When we know our values, our purpose, and choose actions intentionally, what we do counts.
Boldly and intentionally do what you need to do in each moment, wherever you are and however you are, and know that you and your actions count.