Attitude Triggers, Motivation, and Exercise

I’m a computer programmer, and from time to time I’ll get stuck on some problem where I have trouble even trying to figure out what it is I’m trying to do. I sit there and dither, feeling generally anxious and unhappy. But if I put my hands on the keyboard the anxiety fades away and happiness beings to seep in as I type in even the barest kernel of an idea towards understanding the problem.

It helps of course, if I have something helpful to express; but even when I don’t the mechanical act of typing soothes my fevered brow. My subconscious associates it with the thousands of hours I’ve spent in the past building programs that work; I have a ‘resoirvoir of satisfaction’ that I can draw on when I need a little more satisfaction and a little less frustration in real-time.

Of course there was no conscious effort involved to bring this about. It just happened over the years. Recently I’ve become aware of another instance of the same thing.

Twice a week, instead of JumpRock, I do resistance training after work. Overall, it’s much more difficult to drum up the motivation to get started on a weight training session than a JumpRock session. Even after all these years the strongest impulse is to just collapse after work, because ‘sedentary exhaustion’ is based on blood chemistry, and at the end of a day behind a desk, I can’t be happy that I’m about to start a workout. No matter how hard I try to feel good about it – I don’t. And a lot of days my conscious mind is convinced it’s just too tough, so I have to act on what I know instead of what I feel.

With JumpRock, no matter how bad I “feel”, I “know” how good I’m going to feel about 3 seconds after I start jumping. With weights, not so much.

Now here’s the first important part. If weights are so tough, how do I overcome that blood chemistry thing?

After all these years I’ve become unwilling to settle for feeling the way I do when I get home from work. There are days when I decide pretty firmly on the drive home that I’m going to give it a rest and just collapse, but I keep having this nagging thought that I could feel so much better than I do. So eventually I give in and decide to give it a shot. After all, I still work on the principle that a little is better than nothing at all, so better to start and quit afer a few minutes than to not even start. I can’t actually remember the last time I quit after a few minutes, but I still need that out.

I only started doing weights again a few months ago and then sporadically. I’ve owned a universal machine for years, but it’s gone for years at a time unused. Partly that’s because I discovered JumpRock and it was so much more fun to jump than to lift. But awhile back I started using the machine again ever so often; a few sessions or even only one, interspersed with weeks of none. But gradually I fell into the pattern of Mondays and Fridays , always after work of course, because I jump as long as I can on both weekend days, so I take a break before and after.

On a lot of Mondays and Fridays I really, really think I want to skip the workout and I go through that thing I where I eventually decide I would rather workout than feel lousy, so I go ahead and do it. Now it used to be that I would have to be almost all the way through a weight session before I would start to feel good about it. There are glimmers right from the start, but I’d still be pretty glum about both life and the workout for a good while after I started.

Now here’s the second important part.

Lately, almost as soon as I start the workout a sense of contentment starts to fall over me; almost from one moment to the next. So now, even when one part of my brain is telling me I really, really, really don’t want to go out and start pushing weights around, another part is telling me that if I do I’ll start feeling better real soon.

It’s not surprising really, because the difference in how you feel before and after a workout when you’re suffering from sedentary exhaustion is dramatic. It’s like being released from chains. But you have to experience it over and over on an almost daily basis for several weeks to really make a difference in motivation; I was lucky enough to discover that a long time ago, and the principle of ‘minimal daily commitment’ that makes it possible to actually go through with day after day.

So, just like the typing triggers endorphins that soothe me when I have nothing to say, the expectation of pleasure after my workout triggers endorphins at the beginning before I’ve really done much of anything, spurring me on to do more.  

It’s  my good fortune that I now have another weapon in my ongoing fight to feel good rather than bad whenever possible no matter how old I am. It’s so simple – all it takes is repetition and a good faith effort. Your subconscious will handle the rest.

Exercise is great, but being fit, especially as we age, also requires medical care. Medigap health insurance offers the best help I’ve seen in figuring out how to cover the needs that Medicare doesn’t.

Disclosure: While I have been compensated for the above comment, the opinion is my own.

I'll be 70 in less than 6 months (it's Dec 2016 now) and never expected to be in this kind of shape or have this kind of stamina, at any age. Then I discovered JumpRock at 55 and HoopRock at 66. Both are so much fun it's actually easy to get fit and stay that way; this blog is to encourage you to follow my example and be in great shape yourself going into old age - that's all I can promise for now - we'll see how actual old age goes. I'm highly optimistic.
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5 Responses to Attitude Triggers, Motivation, and Exercise

  1. Gail says:

    In search of endorphins and loosing weight…

  2. Joshua says:

    Rich my man, you’re a beast. I’m in my 20’s, a basketball player, and I would almost guarantee that your stamina, and your endurance, is better than mine. This is truly an inspiration to lots of people out there, i’m sure. The thing about it that stands out to me, is that this is a very cheap method of exercise, but at the same time, its fun, and extremely efficient. At practice, we frequently jump rope to help increase our verticals. However, none of the guys on the team are quite as skilled as you. lol. Keep up the good work Rich.

    • Rich says:

      Hi Joshua,

      Wow, I’m blown away.I know I’m in better shape than I was in my 20’s, or ever for that matter, but to have a twenty year old basket ball player say that is incredible. It’s also a vindication, because about ten years ago, a few months after I started jumping, I realized how much fun I was having and how my stamina was building. I had never expected either so there must be millions of others who could get the same benefit, if they only knew. So spreading the word became my goal way back then.

      I had no idea of course, that I would be this fit or have this kind of stamina at age 65 (close enough, I have my medicare card). So that’s a benefit, and probably the most important one, that I didn’t know about.

      But in another sense the most important benefit is the one that will keep you exercising. From age 31 to 55 that was the immediate after effect, when I rode a stationary bike every day to get past the the end-of-the-workday feeling anywhere between angst and kill-me-now that starts
      hitting you in middle age. With JumpRock I can add fun as maybe the most important benefit.

      So my goal is to get people’s attention with what I can do at my age, which still amazes me, especially the stamina – it doesn’t seem natural at my age, or any age without serious training. Hopefully they can see how much fun I’m having and realize they can do the same. Fitness in old age and fun – What could be better? And it all started out with a vow to just start a bike ride after work every day with no commitment to time or effort. If I had punked out on that then none of the rest would have happened.

      I’d like to say that old age doesn’t have to be a death sentence, but of course it does. Fortunately there are steps you can take to make death row a lot less unpleasant. For me age is still just a number. I want to keep it that way as long as possible. I used to say I hope I die before I get old starting shortly after Peter Townshend said it first in ‘My Generation’. I still do, but I mean it differently now.

      Happy New Year to you and the team.

      Peace,
      Richard

  3. I have to say that for the past few of hours i have been hooked by the amazing articles on this blog. Keep up the great work.

    • Rich says:

      Thanks. Basically I just keep trying to come up with different ways to say you can deliberately get hooked on exercise because of how it makes you feel and hope that some of them will resonate.