Have I got a treat for you? You bet your not-too-revealing running shorts I do! The following is A Runner’s Delight’s very first guest-blog post!
Angie just wrapped up living in Australia and is currently traveling around Europe before heading back to California. She maintains her own travel blog and dream blog, Euro Angie and California Dreaming, and considers herself the antithesis of a delighted runner. In this post, she writes about her motivation for working out despite the fact that it’s probably not in her top thirty list of ways to spend forty minutes of her day, which makes me respect her more than someone for whom being physically active comes naturally. She’s witty, she’s articulate, and she’s even more fun than making bird houses out of milk cartons! Enjoy!
Just Enough Exercise…
…to not get fat. That was the motto that I quoted to Alicia when she proposed the idea of guest posting on her blog. I think it pointedly summarizes both my goals and my motivation for exercise in my life. Hello, my name is Angie and I’m old friends with Alicia, dating all the way back to Mrs. Doxy’s third grade class at Highland Elementary. After congratulating Alicia for publishing a couple articles on other websites (by way of whining that I haven’t been invited to post anywhere other than my own blogs – shameless plug), she kindly and maturely invited me to write a guest post on her blog – exciting! The only problem left is that this is a written homage to the joys and love of running, which I technically loathe.
So why would I accept an offer to guest write on a runner’s blog? Well, aside from the simple fact that I would write about nearly anything just to hear the sound of my own typing, I also do think I have something valuable to offer Alicia’s fair readers. What I would like to address are the different ways that a person who has no inclination, ability, or desire to exercise can manage to incorporate such an activity into their daily lives. I would like to discuss – disclose, really – the secret methods that I have devised to trick myself into keeping myself reasonably fit.
First, let’s address what I’m up against. Since I clearly do not know the exercise habits of each of Alicia’s readers, I can only hope that every one of you isn’t spectacularly toned and in tip-top shape and may experience some of these issues as well. I will assume, for the sake of the validity of this post, that some of you are slightly less excited about fitness than our beloved host. That at this very moment, you yourself are perhaps munching a tasty treat that is not terribly nutritious or are sprawled on your couch for the night with no plans to participate in anything more physical than a jaunt over to the tv stand to pick out a dvd. Not that I wish poor health or lack of motivation onto any of you – on the contrary – I simply would like to suggest some solutions that I have found to work, as a person faced with these sorts of issues. And, selfishly, I hope that one or two of you can relate to my lack of desire to exercise, or at least find it amusing.
So, why don’t I want to exercise more? Upon analysis, I believe these are my main problems:
1. I was blessed with relatively good genes. My stick-figure-body from childhood has matured into a normal-sized* woman body. This may seem like a good thing – and it generally is – but it provides little motivation to keep fit. Why work hard when I already look just fine? Which brings me to my 2nd point:
2. I am decently satisfied with the way that I look. Again, another good thing, but it’s not providing any driving force to change how I look via exercise. I mean, how much better can I really look (with a wink in the mirror)?
3. To move away from the shallower motivations, exercising does not make me feel any better. I try to pretend like it does, but it really doesn’t. I don’t feel refreshed, recharged, nor do I appear to have any more energy in my daily life as a result.
4. I am not particularly good at anything physical. I’ve never been horrible at sports, but I am the worst runner who has ever lived (no, really, it’s embarrassing) and I’m not really gifted at anything in particular (exercise-related only – I am excellent at other things, I assure you).
5. And finally, it hurts to exercise. I’m a huge baby and lifting weights, jogging, biking – whatever – is painful and doesn’t really seem to get any better for me over time.
So, with all this working against me, what have I done to overcome these obstacles and do what I know my body needs? Well, that’s the start of it – I know, both from common sense and from the unstoppable spread of information and knowledge that is the age of technology, that exercise is good for me. No matter that my body and mind don’t really appreciate my efforts, I know it’s upkeeping all the bits and pieces stored neatly beneath my skin and helping to fuel them for a longer, healthier life. It’s a bit of a case of use it or lose it – I want this body, damn it, so I gotta use it!
That’s my first smidgen of motivation to keep fit – the fact that I should. But, this is not really enough to get me off the couch and into running shoes, which is why I have devised several other methods to trick myself into doing what I ought to. Though they seem contradictory, I make sure to get into a routine but remember to change it up. By routine, I mean a time of day or days of the week; a class or a set schedule. This has had many incarnations for me: volleyball with friends on Thursdays, going to the gym after work three days a week, exercise classes on my lunch break, etc. The point is, I need to find a way to put exercise in my list of things required to do in a week, right along with eating, working, and sleeping. If I don’t convince myself that it’s a necessity and give it appropriate time and priority, then it gets overlooked. So I have had to incorporate it as such and get comfortable with this additional living requirement.
Another problem that I have, which, I believe, even avid athletes compete with, is the threat of monotony. A routine gets boring and that’s all there is to it. So, while keeping a good handle on including exercise in my days, I also need to make sure to vary my activities enough that I don’t start to completely hate (and hence avoid) them. Since I’ve moved around every couple years for the past while, this really hasn’t been a problem. A new gym is always fun to join and moving around to different gym equipment is a good way to keep interest from waning. At gyms, there are always different classes to try (when I feel like showing other people how bad I am at things). And then there’s always the possibility of Going Outside. This is a whole other topic for another day, but hiking or outdoor sports can be fun if you find the right people and the right pace. Change it up and keep it up!
Next for me is to remember not to be too hard on myself. If I give continual effort during a workout or during a month of workouts, I’m not afraid to allow myself some slack. Some weeks I can skip a visit to the gym to get off work early or cut a workout short if I’m having a bad day. It’s so much easier for me to stay dedicated to something that I don’t feel constantly guilty and disappointed about. If I never felt like I was giving enough, I would be tempted to give up all together which wouldn’t help anything. If I’m attending regular workouts and my pants still fit, I’ll be happy even if I’m not giving 100% every time. Be happy with what you can offer yourself and find your own balance to your own life!
And lastly, one of the most difficult items to address: do not be afraid. Change is difficult for everyone. If you’re not used to exercising or have never used a gym, starting up can be daunting, or even repelling. It took me ages to gather the courage to join a gym and parade myself around in front of all the ridiculous hard bodies as I fumble with equipment that isn’t clear whether it’s meant for my arms or legs. I’ve only tried a few fitness classes and when I did I was mortified each time I didn’t know what move they were doing or where I was supposed to sit. But, really, who cares. I’m doing this for myself not anyone else. And it’s not as if anyone will remember that tall blond girl who couldn’t work the hamstring machine correctly, you know? If you’re overweight it must be rather unnerving to be at a gym (I can guess since my modest love handles feel a bit like saddlebags as soon as I’m around all these trim, tan bodies), but who can fault you for trying? The exact reason that you’d be afraid of people making fun of you is the thing you’re tending to by being there! Relax, forget about other people, and do what you need to do to feel comfortable giving your body what it needs.
So, that’s it. I have been a dedicated gym-goer for over three years now. Granted I’ve never had a set workout, I’ve been a member at three different gyms, and any given workout is never more than one hour (usually 45 mins for me!), but I’m doing something. I will never look as good as I could and I probably couldn’t outrun an 8-year old, but I’m making an effort and contributing steadily to the maintenance of this body that I hope to have for many years to come. For me it will always be an uphill battle, but certainly one worth exercising for.
*I am aware that there is controversy over what is “normal-sized”, especially for females. I am 5′-8” tall and 140 pounds. Size 10 pants, size 10 shoes. I’m in no danger of being asked to be in a calendar photo shoot, but I am also probably never referred to as “that chubby girl”. I consider myself pleasantly thin with some junk in the trunk. Just FYI.