You may have figured out that the primary goal of this site is to get you past the wall that separates your intent to exercise from actually exercising. That’s what changed my life way more than I could have ever imagined when I stumbled onto the secret about 35 years ago.
But today I just want to share the result of a single instance of getting past that wall. After all these years it’s not that difficult, but still there’s a separation between what I know and what I believe, or maybe it would be more accurate to say what I can imagine, that keeps it in place.
So today was a typical afternoon after work. There was no question that I was going to jump rope because I was in a reasonably good frame of mind, which is usually what makes the difference between “just doing it” and having to cajole myself into “grudgingly doing it”. Programming in a production environment definitely has its ups and downs and they usually accompany me home.
But at best, at the very best, at the end of a work day, even though I’m going to jump rope and I love to jump rope, there’s puzzlement in my mind over how this is going to work. Which is really quite an improvement over the early days when there was no puzzlement in my mind at all. I knew absolutely for sure there was nothing I could do to take me from how I felt now to the way I felt, oh I don’t know, after I exercised the day before.
You read that correctly. In spite of daily going through the same old “I’m too tired, but I said I’d at least start, so I guess I will”, I would firmly believe that on this particular day I really was too tired and it really was just pointless. I had to shame myself into it. I literally would say to myself, “If you’re so pathetic that you can’t even go through the motions after you committed to it then that’s really, really sad. You cut yourself an unbelieveable amount of slack and you still can’t do it.” And stronger language than that. Oh, I showed myself no mercy.
So, even though, and I can’t emphasize this enough, I still firmly believed that today, unlike the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that, and so on, I really was just too burned out for exercise to make a difference and it would be pointless, even silly, to make the attempt. Even though I had all those perfectly good reasons to not even try, in order to avoid the guilt that would come from being such an abject failure, I would go through the motions of changing my clothes, climbing on the stationary bike, and pedal a few times, just to shut me up. Sometimes maybe I was a bit too harsh on me, but results are what count after all. Wait, which one is me? It’s getting too crowded in here.
And much like a gazillionare who’s telling you how he made his first dollar, that’s the start of my success. Regardless of how well or how poorly I do financially or professionally, or how many material things I own, the shape I’m in at 65 is success beyond my wildest dreams that no amount of money can buy. It just never would have occurred to me that at age 65 I could be:
(a) in this kind of shape
(b) able to jump the way I do for as long as I do (or at any age).
Of course (b) –> (a).
That only came about because all those years ago I figured out that
(c) it actually is possible to start a workout every day.
and where this is going:
(d) I haven’t peaked yet, so I’m actually improving in fitness at age 65 doing something I actually enjoy.
Don’t believe me? Go look at videos on my youtube site from 2009 and then from last week.
So (c)–>(b)–>(a)–> (d)
But getting back to today and my puzzlement. In my opinion, when suffering from sedentary exhaustion, you become a dullard and your imagination shuts down, especially when it comes to thinking about anything other than being a dullard. There’s not enough oxygen in your blood and there are probably a lot of stress related chemicals floating around that aren’t helping. So you literally cannot imagine what it feels like to feel good; you can remember there was a time when you felt good, maybe as recently as this morning. Hmm, what must that have felt like? You knew before when you were feeling it.
Fortunately, after about six weeks, you’re pretty much able to get past all the drama of having to shame yourself into starting. Like taking medicine to get better from the flu, you take your “sedentary exhaustion medicine” to get better from sedentary exhaustion.
But even after all those years I still occasionally have days when I drive home thinking I’m going to take a break from working out because really, I’ve been working out so much lately, blah, blah, blah; those happen to be days when the programming is not going as smoothly as one might wish, so maybe it would be easier to just sulk.
But, satisfying as it might be to sit around feeling sorry for myself, it gnaws at me that I could feel better than I do, so I end up jumping or doing weights anyway; exactly the opposite of my natural inclination. But I’ve developed an appetite for feeling better than I do after a day of work; my inclination is overwhelmed by desire and I’m willing to pay the price.
And that brings it full circle, because the only price is getting past that wall I mentioned in the beginning. But now the grass looks so green on the other side and the wall has gotten so low that it takes almost no effort at all.
For instance, today, after I watched Colbert with Wifey Wiferson on the DVR, it wasn’t that difficult to go out and start jumping. And I knew that I’d probably enjoy myself once I got started and into the music. But it’s like a magician that keeps baffling you by pulling something out of his hat that can’t even exist, but there it is. The chemical balance in your blood is just not there for you to imagine how you would feel if it were there. So even though I knew that within about 30 seconds I would be enjoying myself I couldn’t imagine it. Speaking of which, if I start jumping and it’s not fun within a minute or two then I know I really do need to take a break.
And as usual, I did get into the music and got in a really good workout. And I no longer had to try to imagine how this feels, because I’m feeling it right now. Endorphins, oxygenated blood, and who knows what other optimal chemical balances pretty much result in mild euphoria. When I contrast how I feel now with how I felt 45 minutes ago I still marvel even though it’s exactly the same as it was 35 years ago. Even more than how you feel physically, it’s that all those negative thoughts that you were going to wallow in instead of working out are gone; largely because of that those days when I think I’m going to skip the workout but end up doing it are the days when the difference is the greatest and I almost feel panicky that I almost missed it.
That’s how it worked for me and as far as I know I’m about the most successful guy in the world, just because I took steps to feel good every day for the last 35 years;that started with making the wall as low as possible and then just getting past it every day.
Feedback does the rest, because no matter how happy or unhappy you might be you’ll always be happier if you feel good physically. And in the long run you’ll feel better physically if you stay fit. So mod that behavior by giving yourself a daily jolt of happiness and be happier for the rest of your life.