No one should enjoy long-distance endurance sports. Your body emits odors not dreamt of in recent human imagination. Your feet and toenails begin to shriek and wilt under the repetitive pounding against the Earth. You hit mile 7 and realize that there are, in fact, no more bathrooms within running distance. Your breathing becomes a sickly monotonous rasp that could be placed somewhere between an asthmatic lawnmower and a Dementor from Azkaban. You realize your sweat-wicking, military-tested, well-reviewed pair of underwear has seams everywhere it shouldn't.
But you can't stop. You hit mile 8 and realize that 8 miles feels better than 7. Then you start seeing the 13.1 stickers on cars around you as you commute to work/class/your niece's ballet pageant, and you begin to formulate training plans and diet regimens and start googling whether or not "Whole Foods" is really a healthy grocery store or just a Kroger-owned hoax like Fresh Market. What started as a failed attempt to skirt the lines of un-fat has unraveled into this primal wanderlust for foot-powered mobility.
But maybe that's just me.For me, every goal boils down to a simple distinction: that of happiness versus fulfillment. Happiness is easy to enumerate on some level. Utilitarians quantify happiness as the maximum amount of pleasure and the absence of pain. Others have come along and redefined happiness as preferences filled, or as "humanity" respected.
The only problem is that happiness, devoid of substance, does not leave you fulfilled. The human body could be strapped to a table and pumped with opiates and maximum "happiness" could be achieved, but the experience would amount to nothing. A new car means more to the person who worked at the grocery around the corner for seven years to afford it than the one whose parents give it to them. A counterfeit diploma means far less at the end of the day than one that took four (or more) years to achieve.This distinction is why I have found emotional profundity in the human body and exercising it. You cannot cheat the human body. It is a system of systems, a webwork compounded by fail-safes and tension sensors to a baffling degree. Our brain is so complicated it cannot understand itself. Because of its many complications, getting results from your body is fulfillment incarnate. There is no such thing as an easy way. You will not "shed pounds in days" (water weight aside). It takes burning 2,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. Lifting more weight than your muscles can handle at the moment is literally impossible. Bettering yourself physically takes work – deliberate, drawn-out, sweaty work.
But that's what makes it so fantastic. You can't "iffy" your way into health. No, eating one unhealthy food does not make you unhealthy, but on the flipside, eating one salad doesn't make you a healthy person either. You get what you make of yourself.This idea of fulfillment need not apply simply to athletics; simply make the decision to do something with your life. Live deliberately. Want to enjoy the media? Don't flip on reruns of a "reality" show you don't care about. Be invested. Read an interesting article about a topic you enjoy rather than skimming a bullet-pointed list of gifs. Recently, I started reading books again. I hadn't voluntarily read a book since high school. Rediscovering the greatness of books has made me realize that finishing a book is like crossing a finish line.
Try to be the best at something, and then try to be the best at something else. It doesn't matter what you want to be. Be something, and be it hard.
Andrew Fleming is a junior in neuroscience. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.