This is Your Reward

It’s five in the morning and your alarm is going off. It might as well be a bucket of cold water for the shock it gave you. You’re tired, you want to go back to sleep. Who would know if you did, who would care? No one would, but you would know. So you roll over and turn the alarm off. You climb out of bed, stiff, eyes barely opening, muscles protesting and stumble down the hall to the bathroom. You manage to splash some water on your face and scarf down a piece of toast before trudging out the door like a zombie.


It’s still dark out and you look up at the quiet houses and apartments going by filled with sleeping peaceful people still lost in their dreams. Again your bed calls your name but you ignore it. There is something you have to do and you’re determined to get it done. You arrive at the gym, but there are few people there at this hour and you have the place mostly to yourself. At five am there are two types of people at the gym; the crazy brave, and the crazy stupid. You decide to save that debate for later as to which one you are and climb onto an empty treadmill.


The belt begins to move and your legs protest, angry at being asked to function at this time of day. They still remember the last workout and have yet to forgive you for it, but you ignore their whining and push them on. As your muscles loosen you increase the speed and slowly but surely your heart begins to pound in time to the music in your ear. You go faster transitioning from a walk to a jog than a run. Your feet slap the belt with the familiar sound of rubber on rubber.


Your lungs are burning, your face is sweating, and your legs cry out for mercy but you keep going. You focus on your breathing, and the music, anything to distract you from the pain and that voice urging you to stop. The minutes roll by with the miles and you keep going. Soon thoughts fill your head. Tonight’s grocery list organizes itself in your mind, than your work day. You think about that movie last night or the last thing you said to your friend. You imagine how you’ll look in those new clothes. Your mind wanders all over the place as your legs pound away one foot in front of the other.


I often think about the future when I workout. I see myself in new places doing interesting things. I imagine the new life I’m building and how much I will enjoy it. Now and then I contemplate giving up. My legs are tired my lungs are on fire my heart feels like it will explode but I don’t stop and neither do you, we keep going. We keep moving and finally when the miles have built into a pile behind us we slow, and our run turns back to a jog and then a walk.


Our muscles tighten and our feet feel light and for a moment we wonder if we will be able to walk, but we can. We stumble home and into the shower; letting the warm water wash away the sweat and pain. We stand there empty and exhausted thinking only of how good the water feels at that moment. In that moment our troubles are gone, the world is at peace and in our exhaustion we feel that we can do anything. This is our reward, our reason why. This is the point to the early mornings and painful runs, the sweat, the work. This is why.


Nothing in life is free. For every reward there is a price and for those willing to pay; there is no limit to what you can do.

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