Diet and Exercise General Motivation Productivity

Exercise: What’s Currently Working for Me

I’ve always hated exercise. Even the words exercise and working out repulse me.
I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that while I excelled academically when I was in school, I didn’t excel in physical education nor on the playground nearly so much. Those words have always carried very negative connotations to me. No, I don’t want to exercise or work out–not now, not ever, and certainly not every day or on a daily basis.

Over the years I’ve attempted to form exercise habits in spite of my distaste for it. I’ve employed a number of psychological tricks over the years to aid in forming a physical fitness regimen. It has never lasted, however. You may even recall my experiment a few years ago where I set out to walk at least 45-minutes a day for 40-days in a row through the use of a Paper Clip Chain. That worked for about 42 days. I never got to the point where it was a habit or where I really wanted to do it. I’ve tried several other similar things over the years and nothing has ever stood the test of time.

A number of things have conspired to inspire me to add regular physical activity to my life. I normally don’t get a lot of physical activity during my day. I sit at a desk and work on a computer most of the day and I haven’t had any strong desire to be more physically active.

I recently read The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance by Tony Schwartz, and one of the thing he talks about in that book about how our bodies affect our overall work. The book is about brining balance in to all areas of our lives for maximum energy, engagement, and productivity. It’s certainly not a book on health, diet, and exercise, but there are a couple chapters related to this. In chapter 7 he writes, “Experts say we need twenty to forty-five minutes of exercise three to six days a week…” After reading that, it has been in the back of my mind as something I needed to start doing again.

I’ve also shared about how I’ve been dealing with depression in my life. As I’ve talked with others, some have indicated that regular exercise also plays a role in regulating the chemicals in the brain that are related to depression. Some have shared that they can really tell a difference if they don’t work out for a few days. So, I thought that exercising might help me as well.

Along with depression, the medicine that I’m on has a known side effect of weight gain. In fact, I gained 3 pounds the first two weeks that I was on it, and I made a strong effort to eat less because I knew this was a likelihood. I’m already quite over weight and I don’t need anything else to add to it.

So, I’m trying something new now, and it is working so far. A couple weeks ago I decided to go for a 1-mile walk around my neighborhood right after I got up in the morning. I didn’t enjoy it, but it did seem to make me feel better throughout the day. The next morning I changed the route a little bit to a 1.2-mile route that took me about 24-minutes. This was a more challenging route that takes me over steep rolling hills which provides some nice intervals during the time I’m walking. This is the route I’m doing now.

I’ve decided that I’m only going to do this on regular work days (typically Monday through Friday) and not on weekends, holidays, or when weather doesn’t permit. And I’ve decided that I’m not going to feel guilty on those days that I don’t go. There is a good chance that I’ll get more physical activity during the regular course of the day when I’m not working as well.

Another thing that has changed this time is that I’m not doing this to lose weight. I certainly would like to lose weight, and I hope this will help, but weight loss isn’t my goal; I also don’t consider my walks to be a tool for weight loss.

So far, these three things have helped to solve a couple problems with my past experiences. First, in the past I’ve made my walks to be at least 45-minutes to 1-hour; that’s a long time! By cutting that in half to 20- to 25-minutes, it’s much more agreeable. Second, in the past I’ve made it an everyday event with no room for exception. By making it a workday only thing, I can look forward to breaks on weekends and holidays. Third, by eliminating the goal of weight loss I’m not looking for results that I may not see every day.

More than anything, I’m doing this because I seem to feel better because of it. Last Friday I slept later than usual and thought that I would just skip my walk. I felt drawn to go ahead and walk anyway, so I just went later than usual. I don’t know how to describe the feeling exactly, but it is kind of like that feeling where you know you need a shower or need to brush your teeth–you just feel icky if you haven’t done it. I feel physically icky when I don’t walk on the days I should now.

A word to my critics: You may be thinking that 20- to 25-minutes walking isn’t enough exercise. That’s OK. What I’m doing is certainly better than nothing. You might even say that it walking isn’t challenging enough. The route I take is over rolling hills which provides some extra resistance. Also, if you know me in person, you recognize that I weigh nearly twice what the charts say I should. So, I’m moving a lot of extra weight on that walk as well. If you can imagine walking this distance over rolling hills while carrying someone on your back who weighs about the same as you do, you can get idea for what my walk is like. It’s a pretty good work out in my opinion. 🙂

So, why am I sharing this? I know how difficult it has been for me to add physical activity to my life over the years. I’m hoping that by sharing what is currently working for me that others will be encouraged as well. Perhaps something similar will work for you as well. Also, by sharing this publicly, it provides a certain amount of accountability–which is always a great motivator. If I’ve inspired you to try something like this too, let me know in the comments! Happy walking!

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  • Reply
    6/21/2010 at 1:29 pm

    20-25 minute walking is great! I started with just what your doing and found it very beneficial…especially after 6 weeks of consistency! In addition I worked up to adding two 15 minute short burst work-outs 4 times a week. One in the morning, one in the evening.
    A study published in The Journal of Physiology found that small amounts of high intensity exercise yields the same benefits as traditional endurance training.

  • Reply
    Reinout van Rees
    6/22/2010 at 2:37 am

    I switched jobs in January. No more 1.5 hour train commute, but half an hour of cycling! That’s just so awesome.

    We don’t have a car. I *can* take a tram, but I’m saving that for when there’s a pouring rainstorm. So without needing to think I’m getting 5 hours of exercise every week.

    Only drawback: my reading stack is gaining on me now that I’ve lost the daily train trip and thus reading time 🙂

  • Reply
    6/22/2010 at 8:49 am

    Kathy – Thanks for the encouragement and information! I’m proud of your success as well. Thanks for sharing!

    Reinout – Nearly 4 years ago I left a job where I had a 45-minute commute each way. I hated that commute for the first couple years, then I discovered audiobooks and began to really loook forward to my drive time each morning and afternoon. Like you, I now miss that 1.5 hours of podcasts and audio books. Amazingly though, I don’t feel like I gained an extra 1.5 hours a day. Kudos to you for biking to the new office and getting in a lot of ‘incidental’ physical activity!

  • Reply
    6/25/2010 at 2:42 pm

    Good for you! 20-25 mins of walking is very effective for mental and physical health- you can do it!

  • Reply
    8/20/2010 at 1:49 pm

    I think this is great. Much like you I HATE exercising as well … but I have to … my body falls apart when I don’t (knees hurt, cholesterol off the charts, etc.). I have been working out (riding my exercise bike) first thing in the morning. I like this because that early in the morning I just don’t have enough brainpower yet to argue and rationalize with myself. Also, it’s part of my morning routine. I just do it … works for me.

  • Reply
    11/26/2013 at 11:45 pm

    I’m a lot like you… I have a computer job and don’t exercise much. I always hated sports and to be honest, I just don’t enjoy moving around that much. Most people seem to be able to find some kind of physical activity they enjoy; for me I would almost always prefer to just be still. I am very academic and musical and have a thousand interests and talents and passions that involve staying in one place and concentrating. Plus, I’m extremely thin, almost underweight, and can’t gain any weight no matter what, and my thyroid is low so I’m usually tired. Therefore, the impetus to exercise and eat like a sparrow isn’t there… in fact, I have to make sure I eat enough so my blood sugar doesn’t drop. And I don’t want to exercise so much that I lose weight.

    However, I can’t deny that my body needs exercise, or that it can feel good after doing it. As I get older, I feel worse as I am sedentary. But I still just have the hardest time forcing myself to move! Going to some other building, paying money, putting on different clothes — all of these are deal breakers for me. I do enjoy walking and riding the bike, but getting the motivation to start is almost impossible most days. For Lent this year I forced myself to take a 20-minute walk every single day except Sundays. Like you, I was able to keep it up until Lent was over… no longer.

    But I like your idea of not making it so rigid. In principle I like the idea of getting up and going out early, but I know I’d never be able to maintain that… just getting out of bed every morning takes an hour, and it’s all I can do to get to work most days. But perhaps I can find another time during the day to set aside for exercise, in order to take better care of my body, before my health really does deteriorate. I feel I desperately need to, even though I desperately would rather be doing almost anything else.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

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