Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fitness for lazy and frugal. How to become a habitual exerciser: easy way.

29 August 2009.

Hi there!
It's me Svetlana.

I would like to start with the second most painful question we ask ourselves: how to begin EXERCISE REGULARLY (the most painful question we ask ourselves is how to stop eating too much)? Let me make it simple. If you reading this, you probably are NOT an exercise addicts. This is OK. This is very normal and very common, not to exercise at all. But the simple truth is: exercise, some form of it, some movement rather than none, is vitally important. In a short run some form of physical activity will make you stronger, improve mood and self-esteem, and in a long run it may prolong life, and make old years more functional and happy. Getting old sucks enough, but getting old being immobile, disabled, depressed, and in pain sucks all the way. So, the rule of thumb #1: some kind of physical activity, moving around is vitally important.

As a cardiologist I feel it's my duty to remind you: check with you doctor if you are healthy enough to work out before starting any exercise program!  Do it even if you are young and otherwise healthy. Heart disease may have somewhat atypical symptoms in women, so you may not know you have any problems.

Rule of thumb #2: exercise program that brings fast, but short lasting results is worthless.

You are extremely lucky and may stop reading this chapter at this point if you are a habitual exerciser. This means that on most days of the week, month after month, year after year you move around with a goal of physical fitness. It does not matter what level of physical activity constitutes a habit for you. You can be a marathon runner or a just a walker, or yoga enthusiast, or just do calisthenics. If you do it regularly, not just sporadically, you honestly do not need to continue reading this post.

If you do not do any kind of physical activity on the regular basis, read this, because after you finish reading it, I guarantee you will become a habitual exerciser of some sort. Why? Because I will make it very easy for you. I will show you how to do it easy and cheap. You will start looking at the whole exercise situation from a different point of view. You will stop regarding it as an unpleasant, hard, boring mandatory self-inflicted torture, and will start seeking it.

Let’s first analyze why you could not become a habitual exerciser, even though you probably tried to start a program many times (New Year resolution, for example) and are fully aware of multiple benefits of regular physical activity. Want to get ready for beach season after a season of holiday pigging out? How do we usually do it? Correct, we are used to a “crush routine” of going on yo-yo diet and killing ourselves with hours of cardio for about two month. What did we learn each time we did this? We learned one thing: being constantly hungry and struggling at the maximal effort on a treadmill does not stick. It does not last. We quit as soon as we reach our immediate goal. We go on a short beach vacation, display proudly our freshly toned, slimmer body, come back home and... ditch working out for another nine months. Our body and brain reject the idea to continue a self-torturing routine. Why? It’s too unpleasant. One can’t make something very unpleasant a stable habit. Period. Plus at some point the laziness kicks in and easily overpowers already dying enthusiasm.

I called my approach to exercise” Fitness for lazy and frugal” for a reason. I have high respect for laziness, because this is one of the most powerful vices of a human being, along with procrastination and a fascinating ability to spend much more than we make. I learned to respect laziness as a part of me, and try to work with it reasonably well to achieve acceptable overall results in various aspects of my life. One could spend years and die trying to eradicate laziness completely, and still fail. The best thing for me is to coexist peacefully with your laziness, bargain with it, reward it once in a while, and be happy. So if I could persuade MY laziness to cooperate with my desire and physical need to become a habitual exerciser, I don’t see why you can not do the same. This is simple: tell yourself you will not disturb your laziness for more than several minutes per day. What is several minutes? Seven or ten minutes per day, for example. You laziness can give you that. Starting VERY SLOW is the only way to prevent burn out and make the program stick!!! Keep borrowing several minutes per day from your laziness for moving around, and some time later you will notice that the laziness will allow you to borrow more and more "locomotion" time. A PYRAMID APPROACH is the key: starting with very easy and very short sessions and SLOWLY (the slower, the higher chances to stick with it for good) building it from there. So I like my "borrowing minutes from your laziness" pyramid exercise approach.

Author Brooke Castillo in her book “If I am So Smart Why Can’t I Lose Weight" suggests changing the "entire paradigm about exercise as a tool". She advocates not using exercise as a tool to lose weight and see immediate results but rather making a "shift from a taker to a giver". The difference is that we are used to periodically abuse our bodies with short-term fitness boot camps to see immediate results and gratification. We are used to exercise based on what we can get from it, how much of self gratification and self-esteem boost we can get from it. We are used to “take” from exercise whatever we can take, and if the process is not pleasant (because we exercise too much and too heavy to get quick results, or chose unpleasant and too strenuous ways to exercise) or slower than desired (because we are not that young anymore), we stop.

Brooke Castillo suggests we exercise in order to GIVE our body what it deserves, "without expecting anything in return". By GIVING our body the gift of exercise, motion, stress relief, increased energy and strength, good mood and improved health we show our body that we value and respect it. Give your body locomotion "without expecting anything in return", just because the desire of giving comes from within, and not dictated by the external needs for quick results. As a result, you will never fight with your own body again. When you eventually lose weight, don't take it for granted. Rather remember that weight loss is a gift you body gives back to you for taking good care of it. You may not realize it, but the weight loss achieved through the process of GIVING to your body is going to be PERMANENT, because you body will start giving you gifts back.

In my next post I am planning to tell you how to change your self-perception to a one of a habitual exerciser.

How do you stop thinking of yourself as a couch potato and start thinking about yourself as a habitual exerciser? Definitely not by sitting on the couch and repeating out loud, "I am an athlete".

Please keep reading!
See you later!


Suggested reading:
1. Brooke Castillo "If I am So Smart Why Can’t I Lose Weight".

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