NaBloPoMo 2016, Letters to Patients, Day 7
To Patients Who Struggle With Exercise:
Anything is better than nothing!
Are you a natural exerciser? Do you move your body every day because you just can’t help it, as opposed to the rest of us, who do it occasionally because we know we ‘should?’ If so, this post is not for you. But I do have a request: The next time you’re with us, the unnatural exercisers, don’t judge us. We are secretly inspired and awed by you, even as we hate you. Your active non-judgment, which serves as passive encouragement, may be just enough to lower our threshold for doing something.
Okay so, for the rest of us: How can we overcome the exercise barrier? Wouldn’tcha know it, I have a suggestion! Wait for it… Do anything! It sounds silly, right? Too simple? I have learned that simple is key, and silly can be fun. Three years ago I was decidedly a non-exerciser. In early 2014 I connected with a personal trainer and have since rediscovered my inner athlete, one baby step at a time.
Our initial sessions focused on awakening my core (apparently I had gluteal amnesia). I never knew I could break a sweat holding a simple yoga pose. I got discouraged at the prolonged lack of progress in cardiovascular endurance and strength. But little by little, I could do more. Early last year I downloaded a free workout app and aimed to exercise 7 minutes (read: get through one circuit, however feebly), 3 times a week. Holy cow, how humbling to discover how 30 seconds of jumping jacks could make me so breathless? Suffice it to say, I established an unequivocally low baseline. But somehow I was able to let go the judgment of the failure to be fit already. I congratulated myself for trying at all, and decided to keep going. I bet I can get better, I thought.
And that’s the point: We can always get better. So often we don’t even try because our expectations are unattainably, if unintentionally, high. We can tell because it feels pointless. The workaround is to set our expectations stupendously low, guaranteed success-low, simple- and silly-low… Then trust that iterative success will drive progressive improvement. By mid-year I had a smiley sticker for every week, mission accomplished. This year I set a new goal: 5 times a week, 3 times ‘intense.’ Don’t get the smiley stickers every week, but now it feels positively abnormal to not move for more than one day. That progress is remarkably gratifying.
When we take our short-term goals more lightly, we allow for the freedom of modifications (push-ups on the knees at first) and trial and error. We become open to previously unseen options. We live in the present and appreciate what we can accomplish already today.
If it helps, read this article and repeat to yourself, “Floss one tooth, ” or “One push-up.” ONWARD!