E X E R C I S E!

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that every health-related document I read talks about how exercise can improve your health, increase your longevity, reduce your stress levels, and minimize side effects of cancer treatments. It sounds like a total winner, right? And definitely something that anyone interested in optimizing their health should be doing.

So what’s wrong with me?

Try as I might (and I have tried, albeit not very successfully), I just can’t get motivated to exercise.

I joined a gym once. It was a nice gym with a juice bar, a fancy spa, nice changing rooms, and great equipment I guess, although I’m no expert. I rationalized away the cost of membership by thinking that a nice gym with high-end trappings would make me more likely to do the workout. It didn’t. I just ended up feeling foolish for wasting so much money on the monthly dues. I’m sure I came up with a good reason for cancelling.

Then I decided that I’d be more inclined to work out if I hired a personal trainer. After being burned on the gym’s monthly dues, a friend and I decided to share the trainer’s time and split the costs. The added bonus, we further rationalized, was that we would motivate each other on the days when we didn’t feel like showing up. Not only that, we said, but it would be so much harder to blow off a session if we knew that the trainer was waiting for us. (We didn’t, it wasn’t, and because we felt guilty about the missed sessions we paid for them anyway. The experiment was a failure (but we had many good reasons to explain why).)

I have a bike, a tennis racquet, walking shoes, wrist and ankle weights, and a swimsuit – all lightly used. I even bought a fitness tracker last year. It’s still in its box, all shiny, new, and completely unused.

Over the course of my adult life, I must have joined at least fifteen different yoga studios. I’ve done a little better with yoga than I have with my failed gym attempts – and although doing yoga stretches once a week for 50 minutes is better than doing nothing, it isn’t really the idea. I’m signed up for a weekly yoga class even as I write this, and it’s been five weeks since I last went. But I have a good reason for missing three of the five sessions: I was on vacation. Why did I skip the other two? Well, I missed the first one because I was getting ready for my vacation and I missed the last because I was recovering from my vacation. It’s fair enough, no? I mean, those two hours that I saved by skipping yoga really made the world of difference to my schedule. Not.

During the vacation, we were very active – the trip involved a lot of sightseeing, walking around, and clambering over ruins. And I realized something. I actually enjoy the feeling of being active, of being strong enough to walk around all day, of being healthy enough to want to go on an active vacation. So now I’m reevaluating not only my approach towards exercise, but also my attitude.

I realize that I’ve been going about it all wrong. I had turned exercise into a “thing” to be done at a set time on set days of the week – the goal was more about being able to check off the calendar entry that says “Go to yoga” than it was about being able to feel good.

So now I’m going to make a concerted effort to improve my level of activity (I’m not going to use the “E” word in case it still has some weird hold over me). In looking at Ruth’s blog about the stages of change, I think the pre-vacation me was hovering just slightly beyond stage 1 – I was aware of the problem but I had no real intention of making a change. Now I would say I’m between stages 3 and 4 – definitely intending to act in the next month and ready to modify my behavior.

My commitment to myself for the next week is to come up with what seems like an achievable goal for my increased activity. Will it be as simple as playing bocce ball with my neighbors once or twice a week? Or will it be taking a yoga class once a week, and walking at least 5000 steps on three other days? Or maybe 10,000 steps two days a week? (That doesn’t sound too likely.) But maybe I’ll at least crack open my activity tracker and give it something to do.

My commitment to you? I’ll keep you posted on my progress, warts and all.

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