I’m introducing a brand new feature today – Fitness Fridays. Those of us who spend a lot of time in a chair reading, writing and communicating online need to remember to make physical activity a regular part of our lives.
A friend of mine said today she couldn’t bring herself to exercise because she hated it. “My sister likes it,” she added. “She always says she feels bad if she doesn’t exercise.”
But, the absence of dislike is not the same thing as like! I hate exercise, but now I can’t live without it. I’ll explain why in a minute.
I think people who danced or played a lot of sports when they were younger have a bit of an advantage, but even those who have been couch potatoes for their entire lives can benefit from the dreaded “e” word.
I was not an athletic child or teen. I was weak and had bad posture and terrible coordination. It was a great relief to me when my sister started playing softball, so that my dad could focus on her and I wouldn’t be under any pressure to play. I did play basketball a little in junior high school, but I was always getting hit in the face and the lenses would get knocked out of my glasses so then they’d have to call a time out while we searched the floor for the missing lenses. And that was it for my interest in sports.
My parents were not particularly athletic either but my dad used to power walk for exercise and when the running craze started in the late 1970s, they jumped on the bandwagon and took permanent seats. They both hated running, but six mornings a week they’d be out, often before daylight, getting their exercise.
After a few years, the guilt started to sink in. My parents weren’t exercising because they enjoyed it; they were exercising to get in better shape, feel better, and live longer, healthier lives. Like eating vegetables, it was probably something I should do.
I was pretty skinny as a kid but when I stopped growing in high school, I noticed that I was developing flabby legs and my middle was a lot larger than I wanted it to be.
It was time.
So in my senior year, I started running. No, I wasn’t going nearly fast enough to call it running. I was jogging. Very slowly. I could only go a minute at a time at first. Then I’d walk for a minute, then (sigh) jog for another minute and repeat. Within a week, I could jog for a much longer period of time without stopping and before too long I was able to run for 20 minutes without stopping. I hated it as much as my parents did, if not more. But I noticed an amazing benefit right away. As soon as I’d finished that awful 20 minutes, a great burden of guilt lifted from my shoulders. I felt like I had accomplished something. And that great feeling lasted all day until that guilt descended the next day. I had never really realized how much that guilt weighed me down until it was gone.
That is what has kept me going for almost 30 years now. The guilt-banishment function of exercise. Other things have motivated me to try different workouts, to work harder or longer, but what keeps me at it five days a week (I always get weekends off!) is the knowledge that I will feel guilty until I’ve got it done.
There are a lot of other benefits – I’m still noticing new ones. And recognizing what an important role exercise is playing in my life, I just got certified as a personal fitness trainer so I can try to help others. The certification training was very interesting, so I am going to continue to learn more and try to pass information along that I think might be helpful or motivational.
I hope you’ll join me!
Check back next Friday for a special guest post by exercise physiologist, personal trainer, author and lecturer Joe Cannon, MS.CSCS. See you then!