On my way to the gym today (and for most of the day beforehand), I tried very hard to convince myself that I didn’t really need to go. Because of course, I can always go tomorrow. Because I have approximately 1 million items on my to-do list that are awaiting check marks. Because I’m a little tired. Because Tuesdays are always a long day. Because Oprah’s on. Because I’m hungry. I think you get the picture.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate exercising. I can’t say that it’s the highlight of my day, but nor do I avoid it like the plague. Once I’m there, I’m fine, and I kind of like it too. It’s more that I would rather be doing something else.

I eventually forced myself to go, telling myself I’d feel better if I went. While I was pedalling away on the elliptical, the wheels in my mind were spinning equally quickly. I started thinking about why it is that I can always come up with a million and one reasons for why I can put off my workouts. Why is it that they always feel so optional? As if I’ll only work out if the inspiration hits me, or I force myself, and the second something vaguely more interesting or important comes up, the workout is the first thing to get crossed off my list.

This got me thinking about what kinds of things in my life I consider optional, and which I don’t. Eating is not optional. Neither is going to the bathroom, showering, checking my email, and going to work. But most other things are optional, including watching Oprah. I soon realized that the common thread running through the “non-optional” activities in my life is that they are all necessary in some way or another for survival (except checking my email). If I don’t eat, I’ll die within a few days. I may not die if I don’t work, but if I can’t make ends meet, I won’t be able to buy the food that keeps me alive.

This made me realize that exercise is not really all that optional. The only difference between eating and exercising is that if I don’t exercise for a few days I won’t die. At least not right away. But if I never exercise, I will die a lot younger than if I do. I’m just making up numbers here, but what if working out 3 times a week added 10 healthy years to my life? Wouldn’t I be cursing myself at 60 or 70 when I’m decrepit beyond my years? Wouldn’t it be nice to live longer, and enjoy it too?

The next time I tell myself that I can skip my workout just this once, I’ll remind myself that I’m not really wasting time, I’m buying time. I don’t know if it’ll work, but it’s worth a shot.