Avoiding Exercise – An Expert’s Guide

NOTE: All excuses given in this post are in the public domain and free to be used without source acknowledgment. You’re Welcome. 

I’ve been successfully avoiding fitness for 40+ years. I think that makes me an expert. I have, however, been getting more skilled at analyzing my reasons for avoiding fitness. I find this more interesting than actually getting fit. (See how good I am at this?) Here are some of the the contributors to my success:

“I’m more of a project person than an upkeep person.”

I can put endless hours, days, weeks, even months into one project. I forget to eat, I sleep sparingly, and awake from my  project only to discover it is now spring and my family has moved on with their lives. Friends I once had no longer remember my name. This is true about me. I know myself. After years of killing plants, and fish, I wondered how I would ever keep children alive. To this day, I’m amazed when they get to the end of each day, fed, wearing clothing that mostly fits, and without any major deficiencies. It’s probably my partner’s doing. I have exercised on and off throughout my life, but never for more than a few months, after that it feels like upkeep.

“Society has taught me that pain is bad and should be avoided at all costs.”

Have an ache? Take an Advil. Have a headache? Take a Tylenol. I believe that it is important to listen to your body. Your body knows what it needs. Mine needs nacho chips, salsa and a soft couch. Exercise hurts; it can’t possibly be good for me.

“My body can’t be trusted.”

I know this contradicts the idea that you should listen to your body. The problem with me is that my body occasionally lets me down. It gets sick, sometimes for no identifiable reason. It sometimes hurts and I don’t know why. If I can’t trust it when I’m just going about my daily business, how can I trust it not to collapse when I actually do try and push it? I’m not really a risk taker, so….

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my frustration with my body, and my struggle to love and care for it in a post called My Shitty Body.

I vowed to start trying to take better care of my body and stop calling it names (like “shitty body”).

I haven’t quite gotten there yet (at least with the name calling) but I have been working on it.

Here’s an update:

  • I did go to physiotherapy and tried to be consistent with the exercises. After a brief relapse around a deadline for my last thesis draft, my neck is now much better than it was.
  • Monthly pain has improved, since trying a new pain killer.water.jpg
  • I started trying to drink the chair more often, and get outside at least once a day.
  • I even downloaded an app to try and remind myself to take a second and breathe. I admit that t’s been a bit ‘hit and miss.’ Crisis, priorities, and occasionally laziness takes over.
  • Since posting “My Shitty Body,” I’ve started an Instagram account, and, on a whim, decided to start working on my own emotional first aid kit and posted the results there.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try and make a better plan, to try and use some of my skills in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to assess where I am currently at, where I want to be, and the steps needed to change. I thought this might be a good time to share it. True to CBT form, I began with a list describing the things that felt unbalanced in my life. (For more on self-care assessment see What do You Really Need? – A 6 Step Complete Self-Care Assessment Guide). I quickly realized that there are more things needing balance than just my physical health, so I added them to the list and called it

Problems:

MSB-problems

I then made a list of where I wanted to be ,overall, in these areas and called it

Winter Goals:

MSB-Goals

I then spent a few days, without changing anything, noting what my current practices are and made up this list:

Current Practices:

MSB-Current practices

I then brainstormed, based on what I am currently doing, all the things I could do to make changes in my problem areas.

After brainstorming, I took a marker and put a coloured dot next to each item indicating by colour, items I considered easy, medium, or challenging. I tried to think of the days when I had the least energy and motivation, and what things would still be do-able on those days, versus the average day, versus a day when I had a lot of energy and motivation. (Some of the dots bled through the page from the other side which is why the first few items might be a bit confusing;)

Brainstorm and rate level of difficulty:

MSB-brainstor

Finally, I came up with a plan  where I listed,

The Things I Need to do Every Day:

This included:

  • Getting outside for 15 minutes
  • Drinking 3-4 glasses of water
  • Spending 15 minutes a day doing a mindfulness exercises
  • Connecting with my kids and my partner.

Under “The Things I Need to Do Every Day” I wrote:

“Drink 3 glasses of water; take vitamins; get outside; spend 15 minutes in meditation/mindfulness.

Do one ‘easy’ or ‘medium’ activity in each area (BODY; MIND; SPIRIT; EMOTIONS & RELATIONSHIPS). Every week do one challenging item in each category.*

*If  ill, or dealing with a major crisis, you may limit yourself to one easy item a day.”

I then made categories which included BODY; MIND; SPIRIT;  EMOTIONS & RELATIONSHIPS and organized the items from my brainstorming list under each heading according to my rating of easy, medium or challenging.

I have not referred to my list every day. In fact, I was away this weekend and did not look at it at all, but still tried to do the things on it.

Most fitness/wellness plans I’ve looked at give clear, reasonable, daily instructions. I tried to do the same. Here’s another excuse you are free to use at will:

“I’ve never been great at following instructions.”

I studied music for many years, and would often play songs by ‘instinct,’ the way I thought they should sound, not necessarily the way they were written. This was not intentional. Most of the time I thought I was actually playing what was written on the page, only to discover that I had lost track of the notes. This frustrated many of my music teachers’ who would often say, “That sounds great, but that’s not what’s written here on this page.” I feel like my learning process often involves absorbing a ton of material by reading, discussing, and writing about it, and then ‘winging it.’

music

I no longer study music. In fact, I rarely play sheet music. I do, however, play by ear and occasionally write my own music. I think/hope this process of figuring out my own fitness/wellness plan will result in a relationship similar to the one I have with music. If I can do it my own way, it will stick, and potentially even become enjoyable… (okay that might be stretching it, but what have I got to lose? …don’t worry, I know what’s at stake, you don’t have to  answer that.)

 

Lately, I’ve incorporated mindfulness into my daily practice. I’ve been trying out several different apps and have noticed a shift in my attitude towards my body. Often the instructions will be to notice where there is pain or discomfort in your body, and to send compassion to that place. This has been a new experience for me and I find myself less angry at my body and more curious about how I can better care for it when it expresses pain.

Obviously I still have quite a ways to go with this fitness/wellness thing, but feel like the process of evaluation and writing things down, breaking them into bite sized pieces, being honest about what is realistic and setting out minimum standards is a great starting place.

I do notice, that over time, the things that work well for me, tend to stick, and I actually do incorporate many new things into my various practices, but the process is not always linear or smooth.

A few things that have crept into my daily life as steady wellbeing upkeep practices (aside from feeding and caring for my children) include watering my plants, feeding the birds, getting outside, connecting with my kids and partner, doing some lite housework, and daily mindfulness practice. I have found doing these things each day, to be steadying. And I’ve noticed a peacefulness that I haven’t had at any other time in my life. My drive to complete urgent projects has been tempered… a bit (I can hear my husband scoffing as he reads this). Some might say that this is just a part of growing older, but I know older people who have never lost that intense, anxious, overworking lifestyle… and never do. I plan to keep these daily practices and hope to add to them until I find a balance that works for me and my body.

While I can’t say I completely trust my body, I do feel that these ‘baby steps’ of adding daily wellness practices might be something I can build on. I don’t actually have to climb a mountain today, but I can walk to the bank and back, and possibly spend 15 minutes on the rowing machine without much fear of major injury or pain. Maybe that trust will grow, in time.

I don’t think there is one way to take care of oneself, or one process that works for everyone. My hope in sharing my process is that those of you who might not be very good at regular acts of self-discipline, or schedules, or following instructions, might discover that it’s not just you, and maybe find some motivation to keep trying to find ways to better care for yourself as well. We all know what’s at risk if we don’t, (heart attacks, shingles, diabetes, etc. etc.)  but figuring out what’s in it for us is a much better long term motivator, I think. I wish you all the best in this.

 

For more on self-care see What do You Really Need? – A 6 Step Complete Self-Care Assessment Guide

Also check out my previous post on this topic My Shitty Body (Image)

You might also want to read What’s Worth Digging For? Finding your Values

And How to Make a First Aid Kit for Your Emotions – Part I

 

3 thoughts on “Avoiding Exercise – An Expert’s Guide

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  3. Pingback: 50 Ways to Go for a Walk | It's Not Just You

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