If Exercise is a Chore, You're Doing it Wrong

I was running last week, and I passed another woman running who was wearing a shirt that said “I Hate Running.” My immediate (and sincerely curious) thought was “Why are you doing it?”  

I contemplated this as I continued on my run (my BEST thinking time) and realized that she was probably running in an attempt to obtain an outcome that she values and believes is a likely result of running.

For instance, perhaps she values maintaining a certain weight, or losing weight, therefore she is willing to spend time engaging in activities she doesn’t enjoy in order to attain this goal.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, but it’s:

            1) not necessary

            2) not the best way to sustain a regular exercise regime or a certain body weight                       

A lot of us do physical activities that we don’t like because we are trying to get to some other “place” (e.g., a lower weight, greater muscle tone). When we fall off the fitness wagon we may think that perhaps we weren’t hard enough on ourselves, that we didn’t stick to ultra-rigid guidelines well enough.  We tell ourselves that, in the future, we just need to “do better” to avoid the lapses that have become commonplace.  I propose that spending time doing activities that you don’t like is a fundamental impediment to your success and fulfillment.

Additionally, if you’re telling yourself you like something, but you don’t consistently do it, you probably don’t truly like it. Or you don’t like some aspect of it. Maybe you like the activity, but you don’t like the setting. Or the time of day you have been doing it. Or the people you do it with. Or doing it alone.

Rather than beating yourself up about doing a certain exercise “more” or “better,” try putting that energy towards finding something you sincerely like to do. It takes much less energy to maintain an activity you enjoy than it does to do something that requires constant self-regulation in order to complete it.

When you find activities you genuinely enjoy, they carry their own momentum.

So how do you find something you like to do?

Well, first you have to do some things. Less thinking, more doing.

 

Settle in and embrace the process of trial and error. It may take some time before you figure out what you like. Enjoy learning more about yourself. Acknowledge that this journey will entail:

a)    shifting your priorities

b)   reallocating resources (e.g., time, money, effort) to support those priorities

 

There is no “right” answer for this. Join a gym, find a walking group, go to a new yoga studio, try Crossfit, check out a trail on your bike, find a place to swim, take a tennis lesson, attend a dance class. Sign up for a race, or don’t sign up for a race.  Do it in the morning, or on your lunch break, or in the evening. Do it with people, do it alone.

 

Do all of the above.

 

The race thing was a great revelation for me. I’ve enjoyed running for several years, but felt that I should be training for something. Often people would ask “What are you training for?” or “Are you doing so-and-so race next month” or “How fast do you run?”

So I tried it. I trained for and ran a few races. I usually ended up injured and out of commission for weeks or months. I felt pressure while I was training. I disliked having to run a race route that someone else had chosen at a certain time on a certain day. I didn’t like being stuffed into a sea of people. After my last (and worst) injury from a half marathon in 2013, I swore off races. For good, I think. Over the past couple of years I’ve realized that I don’t care how fast I run or if it is for any “purpose.” These goals are fine, and they motivate many people.

But I had let others’ values crowd my own.

Realizing the reasons why I genuinely love running has been beneficial, because I no longer need an external driver to continue doing it. I don’t have to actively train for anything, I don’t have to consistently improve. I can just run.

Now when people ask what I’m training for I say “life.” When people ask how fast I run, I say “not at all.” In my mind I’m thinking, why would I want to hurry up and be done with something I love so much?

Please comment on the blog or social media with the activities that you like to do, your own stories with trial and error, activities you do even though you hate them and why, how you use races as motivation…whatever resonates with you on this topic.

 

Much love y’all,

Lara