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On Waiting to Love Exercise

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I've just seen another thread on the Fitness and Exercise board begun by a Sparker who is troubled by her/his distaste for exercise. This Sparker asked "what if you hate exercise?" In that question, I hear an assumption that one must love, or at least like, exercise in order to do it. It's as if one's revulsion for exercise is whatsoever relevant to the task at hand (crafting a lifestyle change toward good health).

While many other Sparkers posted helpful suggestions of strategies for getting in some fitness without engaging in painful workouts, I was left feeling a little flat. Of course, exercise needn't be torturous. And many of us have punished ourselves with exercise (the flip side of punishing ourselves with food). Indeed, the self-punishment of excessive exercise is a sign to me of the emotional baggage we carry forward into today, just as surely as our excess weight and/or tormented relationship with food are signs of unhealed pain. The truth is that while getting stronger and healthier today through weight loss will uplift us in many ways, it won't "cure" the past.

I think we get into "hating" exercise sometimes because we tie it to self-hatred around our bodies, or perceptions that we are somehow inadequate. For many of us, the thought of exercising today carries with it shame -- perhaps we were unhealthy in the past, or we were clumsy, we were awkward, we were unpopular, we were unathletic. We may feel guilt for putting ourselves in the position of needing to lose significant weight. We may feel regret for "lost time" or lost health. Obviously, this is old baggage and really has nothing to do with taking a 2 mile walk today.

But what if we could separate exercising today from all that past pain? We can work to develop insight, perspective, forgiveness and an overall healthier relationship to our past, certainly. Yet getting fit today does not have to be dependent upon all that healing. In other words, we can get fit today while continuing to be aware there's unhealed, unfinished business. We don't have to postpone wellness today because we were unhealthy emotionally and physically in the past!

Let us stop dragging the past into the present! If we don't yet feel enjoyment in our fitness activities, sure, we can experiment with different activities, schedules, venues, etc. But we can also strive to adopt a neutral (if not happy) attitude about our fitness activities today. I'm talking about the attitude you adopt when it's time to take out the trash, put gas in your car or do some other basic necessary task of life. We just do these things, without waiting to enjoy them or thinking we must enjoy them in order to do them. We simply have no emotional charge on them at all. These tasks are part of life, and when we do them things just go better for us. Fitness can be like that. It really can.

And along the way, just as when I took out the trash this afternoon, we might notice a beautiful bird singing just for us.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I read that post about someone not loving exercise. I hate exercise to be honest. Hate is a strong word but if I could sit on the couch and get the same results, I would. But when I do my workouts yeah I change it up to keep it fresh but I also just think about the results. What goes through my mind when I get on the treadmill is "If I do this workout and workout for an hour, I will definitely lose weight this week. I will feel awesome on my weigh in day. I will be one step closer to another size smaller. And I definitely won't gain." Its exactly as you said. You do it because you have to, yes you can make it fun but sometimes you just have to do it to continue what you started. Awesome blog.
    3872 days ago
    I never really thought about exercise that way. I have never really enjoyed it and probably for many of the reasons you stated. It is so different when you feel that you are doing this for your health and that's it. I just started running and I had to think to myself that I don't care what anyone thinks about how I look. This is for me.
    3877 days ago
    This is a great way to begin thinking about exercise. For me personally I enjoy the exercise and like the way I feel - I just don' t "feel" like like always have the time (for excercise or anything else).

    ...but even stating that after reading your blog I think I need to learn to give up the words "I don't have the time" as well. You have given my a new perspective that I think would benefit many people.

    3877 days ago
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    What an interesting notion. I struggled with the premise at the beginning, because I really do enjoy exercising these days and I love the way it makes me feel. I don't know that I have attached any baggage to it, or if I had in the past, I have long since forgotten about it.

    Obviously, not everyone feels that way. And as I think about it some more, I suppose I do have those days when it feels more like a chore than a joy. And on those days, I don't always go.

    In those moments, if I think of exercise as just another task that needs to get done, that might be enough of a push to get me to go. I mean, I don't like taking the trash out, but I do it each week because it needs to get done.

    Hmmm. I really like this blog entry. It's given me food for thought.

    3877 days ago
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