I started computer school when I was about 31, which was also when I started, like most middle-aged people, to feel like death warmed-over when I got home from my mostly sedentary job every day. So when I wanted to study in the evenings it was really tough. I knew from being in the army that exercise will refresh you, so despite all my past failures I bought an exercise bike. I figured since it was right there at home and I had a definite goal I would ride it every night. WRONG!!! I could rarely make it past the hard place. I can still remember that sickly feeling of procrastination when I knew I should get started but just couldn’t push myself to do it. Remember, this was even pre-VCR, so I always had something that just had to be watched, like Emergency re-runs, or just one more chapter I had to finish in some book I was reading. I literally remember thinking “I’ll start riggggggggggghhhht now!!!” and still being unable to get on with it.
And thinking about that moment in time at the hard place was my first clue. It always seemed that there was something I was intensely interested in doing just at the time I needed to start riding, like the Emergency re-run or reading the book, and I really didn’t want to tear myself away for twenty or thirty minutes, whatever it was. So I reasoned that if I didn’t worry about getting in a decent ride, but just starting one, then I could immediately go back to what I was doing. I don’t know how I dealt with missing part of ‘Emergency’ – either I left the TV on (which I don’t recommend) or I made Emergency exempt and always waited until it was over.
The idea was, that like Pavlov’s dogs, I would become conditioned to getting on the bike at that time every day. Once that happened I would worry about making the rides last longer. But, as it turned out, it was getting started that was the really difficult part. Once I eliminated the time commitment excuse it was actually easy to ride for a decent amount of time because if you know you can quit any time it’s easier to say “just a little longer” or “just until the end of this song” and not feel oppressed or depressed.
I never did get to be like one of Pavlov’s dogs, which seems pretty silly in retrospect. But I did get hooked on feeling good so I was no longer willing to put up with lethargy at the end of the day when I knew I could feel so much better. And in the years when I had long commutes it was pretty close to Pavlovian – I was into exercise clothes and on that bike first thing through the door. My evening did not start until I got the energy bump.
But I never really enjoyed the exercise bike, just the result, which was all about feeling good. Monotonous, yes, but that can be good because from repetition it starts to go by like a dream so you can’t really remember it later, or lets you think about programming problems, or just listen to the music, and sometimes, cheer yourself on as the kid in the stationary bike races – endorphins are strong. Still, I didn’t really enjoy it. Fortunately, twenty-three years after I started I came across jump rope. Now I JumpRock every day and I hope you can tell how much I enjoy it, because I think if people knew how much fun it is and actually easy if you keep it up long enough for muscle memory to take over, there could be a lot more people healthy and fit into old age. And it’s all comes in the search for pleasure – the Quest For Endorphins.