Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why you don't exercise

Don't blame exercise. It didn't mean to look like this.


Exercise needs a new PR person. Pronto.

We're hip deep in research and inspiration. Our access to information has never been easier. Our culture has never been more desperate to get thin and be healthy. And yet, exercise is the first thing that falls off the list.

I know all the reasons because I've used them.
  • There's no time.
  • Going to the gym is a drag. And expensive.
  • I'm exhausted already.
  • I'm not an athlete.
  • I'm too old to start now.
  • Who am I kidding? I'm not coordinated. I'll look like a fool.
  • Using machines makes me feel like a hamster in a wheel.
  • The weather's too unpredictable to exercise outside.
  • My schedule changes. I can never get into a routine.
  • I've never found an activity that excites me.
These are all perfectly legitimate reasons, but they're smokescreen, and our minds know it.

All the campaigns to encourage exercise have actually backfired because they haven't challenged one core belief: that exercise is a chore. We have fast-paced lives with pressure and information coming at us from every direction. We have to do more with less, think faster, compete to keep our jobs or find another one, make our relationships meaningful and have more fun, dammit!

It's all work, work, work from every direction.

Exercise is just another source of anxiety. We should lose weight, get stronger, lose more weight, fit into smaller jeans, look younger, run faster, and look great doing it.

It's no wonder we're rebelling. And I have to admit, I have a lot of respect for that part of ourselves that says, "Screw this!" and scarfs ice cream in front of the TV. It can sniff out disrespect in a second. With all the other stress it's handling, why should it take on a challenge that sneers, "You're not good enough"?

Why should any of us take that crap?

At this point, many exercise experts use discipline and willpower as a fallback, suggesting that you need to do battle with this slacker part of yourself. Force yourself, see some results, and that will carry you through! That can work for a while, but life inevitably throws us some curve. Or we get sick of fighting. Pretty soon we're fed up and back to our doubting, couch-loving habits.

There is another, radical way. But it requires a bit of mindbending.

In fact, it's about getting out of your head altogether.

After I lost my almost 20 pounds in 2009, I looked around and asked, "Now what?" The goal was attained. The work was done. What was the reason for exercising? There had to be more than beating back the fat barbarians from my backside.

It took me a few months, but I slowly realized that I liked to exercise. I needed to exercise. I'm no PollyAnna, but even I had to admit that I even really enjoyed it. I was pretty stunned.

Even though exercise had given me a strong body, let me explore the world in a new way, and even allowed me to ditch my thyroid medication, I was still at a loss. Why had I gone from hating exercise to craving it?

Exercise had become a place beyond performance, achievement and results. Miraculously, it became a place where I could do two essential things: get outside my problems and integrate them. And come back for more.

 No fighting. No willpower. No guilt.

No tips, tricks or secrets, either. I want to help you find that place too, but I'm not selling a magic exercise plan that will peel away pounds and inches. I just have my earnest, sassy self, willing to create a space to honor your body and your life.

In the coming weeks, I'll be taking down established fitness advice in a series I'm calling Fitness Heresy. Think of it as sweet revenge for the hours spent in gym class.

I'm making no promises about ripped abs or 30 pounds in 30 days, but you'll probably get your sanity back.

This is what it's all about.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Cherilyn, I come to the same conclusion every year. I run or bike or swim, and I can just go and my mind gets to wander and deal with what it wants to.

    Problem is I go into hibernation mode in the winter and have to rediscover it ever year. But maybe that's the good discovery mode.

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  2. Hi, lyshea! Hibernation mode is a good discovery mode. We emerge curious and eager, having broken the habit of taking everything for granted. Great observation.

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