There are probably only a handful of people on this planet who don’t, at SOME point, feel totally demoralised and dejected about “exercise”. Even personal trainers and health gurus who continually bang on about how important exercise is, feel like it’s the biggest chore of their day at times. Myself included.
It takes up time, it requires sweating and struggling when all I want is comfort, and it demands consistency. You could exercise for 6 weeks straight, fall off the wagon, and you’re back where you started in no time. How frustrating is that?!
Trust me, I get it. But there’s a reason you feel like this and thankfully, there is something you can do about it.
Think about it like this. 200,000 years ago, Homosapiens emerged on this planet. That’s us. We had a bunch of very serious rivals for food.
They were other species of humans and they were smart, strong, and relentless. Around 30,000 years ago the Neanderthals, another human rival, died out after the ice age caused serious food shortages.
During times like these, there is one key survival strategy that is so ingrained, it hardly takes thought.
When food is scarce, humans have to preserve energy. In order to do this, they must move as little as possible.
The only two real incentives to move would be 1) to go and get food and 2) to run away from predators. Everything else is needless energy wastage, even going out into the cold!
Keeping warm takes energy, playing takes energy, washing takes energy and walking takes energy.
Fast forward to where you are now. Look around, I bet you have food readily available nearby. You don’t need to worry about competing with a hungry Neanderthal and protecting your land from a nearby group of homo-erectus.
So with all that historical programming, why on earth would your brain want to run on the spot, as a grey conveyor belt whizzes by under your feet, and you stare at a screen that shows you how much more of this mind numbing activity you have to put yourself through? You are literally not programmed to run nowhere. After nothing. Away from nothing.
Your brain is still coming to terms with your new lifestyle. It will get there, but for now, it’s still trying to help you preserve energy. Suddenly “I can’t be bothered” takes on a whole new meaning.
What Can You Do About it?
I had a little realisation recently, after I'd mentally committed to learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I read books all the time, and I’d heard from numerous people that I admire, all about the benefits of this martial art.
I loved the thought of being a Jiu Jitsu master, but after one session, I found myself really dreading my next one. It felt like such a chore. One hour before the session I was moaning and wishing I hadn't booked it, but I was preparing to force myself to go.
Now there are some things in life where I feel discipline and pushing past discomfort are key life skills, but this wasn’t one of them. My partner asked me “why are you forcing yourself when you don’t need to?” And she was right. There was no reason to force myself into this one. So I thought about what it is I wanted from Jiu Jitsu and created a list:
- The discipline to start something as a beginner and follow it through to become advanced
- Learning self defence as a life skill
- Meeting like minded people who valued fitness and health
This stuff didn’t have to come in the form of that particular class or martial art. Maybe BJJ is just not my thing. So I went back to the drawing board and booked in for something different.
And that’s the key. You are not going to commit to exercise if you are forcing yourself to do things that you don’t enjoy. There are countless ways to get fit, meet people, lose weight, get strong! I couldn’t even begin to list them all, but here are some options:
Getting a dog & walking with other dog owners
Cycling or spin
Look how varied they are! And none of them include “gym”.
One of my clients has recently taken up surfing. She travels on her own down to the coast and spends the weekend doing surfing lessons.
Another client just enlisted on a fencing course. She is shocked at how it really gets her working up a sweat.
Then there’s the client that’s just run two half marathons because running is her thing. Another one hates running but she does Zumba classes.
The opportunities are endless.
You have to give your brain something to strive for. Give it a stimulus that it looks forward to. Test and learn. Don’t be afraid to hate something, just make sure you don’t stop looking.
Just because you see the “majority” of people going to the gym or running, it doesn’t mean that you have to like that too. Life is all about finding your individuality, your niche, your ikigai.
Just start with a list like mine. What do you want from exercise? Why are you doing it?
Try to get broader than just “weight loss”. What else can you get from it? This will help narrow it down so that you can find that thing you enjoy.
And once you find it, you might love it for a year and then get bored. But that’s fine, too.
Switch it up, try something else. Keep challenging yourself and your brain will welcome each hurdle. You’ll become more resilient and you’ll learn when it is time to push through discomfort.