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!