What’s So Great About Exercise?

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I know that when people first start working out, they have a very hard time getting “what’s so great” about it. It isn’t necessarily fun. Usually it hurts, and we live in a society where we try to keep from ever feeling pain. It takes up time that could otherwise be used pursuing exciting things like reruns of The Match Game and the latest reality show.

That’s the point at which I think you truly have to “fake it until you make it.” Just say “I am going to have a good attitude about exercise, even if it kills me.” Plaster a fake smile on your face. Muster up some fake enthusiasm. Hyper-self talk yourself into believing that exercise is the latest greatest thing since sliced bread and peanut butter, honey, and bananas.

When I first started working out I was having an instant message conversation with a stellar young man who was one of my students. I had to get going to do my exercises I had prescribed to myself. I said, “I’ve got to get going because I have to work out. UGH!”

To which he replied, “Ugh? You don’t like working out?”

“No, I hate it. Talk to you tomorrow!” (We were chatting on IM about a homework assignment.)

“Really? Wow! To me a day without exercise is like a day without sunshine!” (or something like that)

“Well, J, I’ve always knew you were a little cracked, but I admire your attitude. I wish I had that attitude. TTYL!”

I signed off I went and did my Pilates DVD, which I completely hated because it wasn’t very active, it hurt, and it hurt. But those words kept echoing in my head, “I wish I had that attitude…I wish I had that attitude…I wish I had that attitude…”

I thought about that all the next day. After all, what is attitude? It is how we “feel” about something. But what is a feeling? Is it something that ‘just happens’ or is it something we can control? I had taken this marriage seminar one time called “Love is a decision” and the crux of that statement was, “We don’t always love everything about the person we have married at every moment, so it is in those ‘unlovely’ moments that we must decide to love that person anyhow; even if you’ve picked up his crusty socks off the floor for the 14th time this week. Love is a decision.”

But love is a feeling. But no, love is also a decision. So if an attitude is a feeling, could not an attitude ALSO be a decision?

And right then and there I chose to adopt that attitude of J’s (who has now graduated from college in an effort to make me feel really old). It started with self-talk. “I have to go work out” was immediately re-worded to “I GET to go work out.” I also found an exercise I liked. NOW I like Pilates because I have better endurance, but at the time it was just not the right exercise for me. I joined a local women’s only gym. I stopped “fitting in” exercise around my day and started planning it; every day after work I’d go straight to the gym and work out.

So fast forward to almost six years later and I love exercise. You know why I love it? Because exercise opens up opportunities. I started running in 2004 and through that have met some fantastic people. I started triathloning, and through that have met even MORE fantastic people. I can jump in the water and swim across the lake…twice and feel GREAT afterwards. I can bike five cities over and feel like I’ve accomplished something and had FUN doing it. I am strong! Yesterday I went on a kayak paddle with my husband. We were out longer than we had anticipated, so the last half hour was brutal against a slight current. He had to take breaks and I just kept on paddling. That felt awesome! Not because I was doing more work than he was (he’d kayaked with a group of us swimmers the night before and was sore), but because I held my own the entire time.

Exercise also allows me to be active just for the sake of being active. My husband and I were talking about this yesterday. His parents needed something fixed on their computer network, so they asked him to come over. Rather than drive over, we walked over to their house and I ran six miles while he fixed it. We visited for awhile, then walked back home. On the way home we discussed how different our lifestyle is now. Before we adopted this active lifestyle we used to see a lot of things. We saw plays, movies, concerts, and watched a lot of TV. We watched other people doing things, but we didn’t do a lot of things ourselves. We still see plays, movies, and concerts and watch TV, but we also DO a lot of things. We bike, we paddle, we run, we hike. We just have allowed fitness to open a whole new world to us. Summer days pre-weight loss would be waking up late, watching TV for a few hours, going to see a movie or to the mall. Now it’s getting up early, going for a run, biking to a town 25 miles away for lunch, or kayaking on the slough. We still might see a movie, but more likely we’ve biked or run to the movie rather than driven. It just plain rocks.

Exercise has even allowed me to have the confidence to start my own personal training business! Fat Tory would have never DREAMED of this venture. Fit Tory, on the other hand, can’t WAIT to see where it takes her.

So give exercise a chance and see where it can take you!

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