The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Adventures in Fitness 21: One Guy's Attempt to Knock the Rust Off: WHY Is It SO Hard to Maintain a Regular Fitness PROGRAM???

Here is the great mystery of exercise. It feels good, I know it feels good and I feel great afterwards. I'm energized, my body feels smooth and well turned ... and yet SOMEHOW in between exercise sessions part of my stubborn mind forgets all that and is forever looking for excuses not to go. It is tedious, annoying, galling, and that lazy butt in my brain often wins, which is baffling given what I know about exercise.

I searched the web for wisdom and found common excuses we use. The ones that my brain toss up are ...

  • I don't have time.
  • I'm too tired.
  • I never see the results I work so hard to receive.
There were eight altogether, but only these applied. I know these are nonsense excuses too. When you work full time, have a family, and successfully manage to go to seminary on evenings and weekends, you learn the "I don't have time" excuse is baloney (keeping it clean here, you know what I was thinking). Sure there are only 24 hours in a day ... but we have more control of those hours than we think. We prioritize the stuff we really want to get done and time takes on a more fluid quality than you'd imagine. So, that's not it ... although I'll piddle around enough to make it SEEM true some days. 

I'm too tired: THAT one hits a lot closer to home. That's the dangerous old law of objects at rest tend to stay at rest. No exercise equals tired body equals no exercise. This is my most dangerous enemy. But, I know from past experience that a body in motion also tends to STAY in motion. My problem is there are certain conditions that tend to jump up periodically to make exercise impossible (very hard to exercise with filled sinuses for example) that throw me off my stride. But, I've noticed that while muscle mass decreases and weights able to be lifted lessen pretty quickly, endurance is more ... enduring, which is encouraging upon my return. 

The third argument is whining pure and simple. Results take time and persistence. These whiny excuses cut into the persistence, lessening the visits to the workout equipment and therefore reducing the time spent with working out, hence the results. 

Another article told me that somehow experiments with rats (you know, I don't want to know how) led to the discovery that if you TELL yourself you feel good while exercising and that you're doing well, you'll stick with it longer and get a better workout. 

A third article suggested changing exercise priorities. Switch from exercising to lose weight and move to exercising to feel good. Well, at least that one works with the experience I've had. I wonder if I can get that one past that inner lazy masochist who apparently would rather sit there feeling down about himself and doing nothing than get out there and feel good. I think I can focus on that guy as the adversary and maybe make this work.

From my extensive (snorts with derisive laughter at that one) research, it appears the answer to "why or why can't I keep exercising even when I know it feels so good and is so good for me" IS ... drum roll please ... my BRAIN keeps getting in the way. The body loves the workout, the brain tries to sabotage the joy for strange, twisted, selfish reasons. Well now, that's not helping ... even though it appears to be true. Not ALL my brain, just a whiny, selfish part that would rather be on the couch watching nerdy shows ... the part I need to bring along for the ride, acknowledge is there, and work to diffuse the strengths of his never well articulated arguments. 

As one NASM elite trainer, Deb Froehlich, states, the secrets of mind game success include (she provides the points and I've expanded on them ... you can't blame her for the extended explanations, those are mine, the main points succinctly stated are hers): 

  • Be happy and grateful for where you are and what you have now: after all, I can actually do this and know many who can't. Okay. That helps reorient that stubborn portion of my brain.
  • Love and respect yourself: Hmmm, harder, but I'll work on it ... like exercise. She adds have enough self respect to make good food choices ... okay, that hits close to home, especially right after Valentine's Day ... but I'll gather up some more fruit and get on it.
  • Care for YOU first: Meaning, care enough about yourself to get out there and move those muscles ... without (as I've learned) comparing yourself to the individual next to you whose younger and fitter at the gym or on the track. This also means not tearing down that brain piece that is reluctant so much as acknowledging its there and encouraging it instead of berating it. Encourage it to be part of the team.  
So, it's a mind game. I should have know ... and did suspect ... this all along. 

I'll try to use the same tactic I use to get past not writing. I disengage my brain long enough to start writing (the part that comes up with all the excuses not to write that is ... disengage the rest and nothing would appear on the page AND I would die) and discover myself enjoying myself writing. Once I'm into it, I have much less trouble continuing the work. I guess I'll just have to apply that to this workout bog down I'm in at the moment. 

Well, see you at the gym. Keeping the brain in the game ...

Update: 1 PM, same day. Made it to the gym. Exercised for one and a half hours, felt a little bored on my favorite machine (elliptical) and stepped up the pace to drive boredom away. However, the point here isn't to brag. The point is that after writing this article, after learning how the mind tries to slip out of exercise, my brain kept trying frantically ... mostly with the there's no time today excuse (really lame excuse, brain!) ... to do just that. Oh brain of mine, just give in to the inevitable. Get with the workout program. I'll treat you to a book or movie later. What do you say???

For the previous post on fitness, see:

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