Why do you exercise? Why do you run when it isn’t fun? Why do you lift weights when it isn’t easy?

If you are a competing athlete, those are easy questions. You want to get better. You want to win. That’s why you train when it’s hard. That’s why you push through the pain.

One of my best biking buddies is easily one of the strongest riders around here. When he started riding with us, he weighed 260 and his first climb up a hill was agony. In the years since that, his work ethic is legendary and his body has been transformed.

Don’t get me wrong, he has a huge amount of talent and a big engine but he’s not the same person. I asked him what drove him. He answered “It’s all I know. I was never the best but I could always work harder.” He is still working hard to be better than the next rider. His state championships in biking are no surprise.

I don’t always get his mindset. We will be riding along, enjoying a gorgeous day with great friends when he might break off and go climb a too steep hill or something, all in the name of training for the next race. That just isn’t me. I won’t leave a good group ride for anything.

But it’s what drives him. And it has driven him to an incredible level of fitness, miles away from that flabby self when he first started. That makes it totally OK with me. That is his Why.

The guy that runs our gym put the photos of two of his CrossFit folks on Twitter last week. He was congratulating them for personal records in the deadlift. That’s not me. That’s not how I roll. I have no interest in PRs.

I don’t have any desire to see how much I can lift in any lift. I want to do multiple repetitions, working on technique and overall fitness. Seeking PRs and how much I can do in a “single rep max” is not found in my psyche. But that just might be what drives some people. Those folks may work harder, more faithfully, more diligently if they are motivated by a PR. That makes it OK. That is their Why.

I’ve got another friend that played baseball for a lot of years. He used to tell me that when he came up to bat, his greatest fear was striking out. That fear drove him to work harder — drove him to spend hours and hours in the batting cage. Fear of failure. That was his Why.

My brain doesn’t work that way. I used to play a lot of basketball. I never met a shot I didn’t like. And when the game was on the line, I wanted the ball in my hands. I didn’t fear failure as much as I anticipated success. Success because I had taken that shot a million times. Success because I never took a shot that wasn’t going in (obviously that wasn’t reality).

What I’ve learned from many, many years of dealing with sports, athletes, and physical performance is that there are lots of Whys. There are lots of reason for training, exercising, and pushing yourself physically. You have to find what works for you.

Sometimes it is peer pressure. Sometimes it is being part of a team. Whatever the reason, you have to own it. It matters not what you do for exercise, but that you do exercise. It matters not what motivates you to work harder, but that you do. So, what is your Why?

Email Joe Black at joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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