My goal is to prove to you by example that even if you don’t like exercise you can end up going into old age at say, age 63, like myself, in amazing shape without being an exercise fanatic or even having to work at it very hard.
I can prove I’m in great shape – go to my web site, http://www.youtube.com/qfeguy and look at the videos. I can Jump Rock, as I call it, with breaks of 30 to 90 seconds between songs, for an hour and more, depending on how hard I push. Just look at the latest workout videos and see for yourself.
Most importantly, I hope you can see how much fun I’m having, because that’s what makes it possible. Ultimately it’s the music, because jumping to music and gradually getting better at it is where the fun is.
What’s the gimmick? Jump Rock is just proof of concept for what I call “Energy Focused Exercise”. I didn’t call it anything when I stumbled across it 30 years ago.
Essentially it lies in focusing on how exercise makes you feel and not on fitness or health. The difference is feeling better is an immediate and pleasurable reward whereas fitness and health are abstract and long term – so there’s no real psychological payback.
But the real key in getting started and changing your attitude is to stop making workouts an endurance contest requiring self-discipline to win. That’s so exhausting that only the really dedicated can keep it up for more than a few weeks or months, and that’s not me.
Imagine you were to start a workout, say a session on an exercise bike, which is how I got started, with no commitment as to how long it would last or how much effort you would put in. If you go in with that attitude, it’s pretty easy to make a start, and if you’re free to quit at any time, it’s not that much of a hardship to stretch it out a little longer, maybe until the end of the next song … until you usually end up with a decent ride, and you feel great for hours afterward.
Now if you do this like I did, every day after work when, if you’re past your early thirties, you’re feeling burnt-out from the day, there’s a huge contrast in how you feel before the ride and afterwards.
And, if you make the commitment I did, to ride everyday with no excuses – keeping in mind on any day you can quit as soon as you begin if you want to – and you actually fulfill that commitment, within about three weeks you won’t have to force yourself to start riding; the knowledge of how you’ll feel after you ride will be so strong you won’t mind doing the ride to get that way.
Here’s an analogy. Let’s say you eat at the same restaurant every night. You eat hamburger; you’d prefer steak, but you’re not willing to pay the price.
Now let’s say the restaurant starts running specials on steak. You can now eat steak on a hamburger budget plus just a little bit. Then after a few months they stop running the specials. Are you going to be willing to go back to hamburger, or will you be more willing to pay the price for steak than you were?
That analogy breaks down in a couple of places. First, I like hamburger, and second, the more you ride in the real world the less you mind it, so the price to feel good doesn’t go back to what it was before.
Unlike hamburger, I don’t like the way I feel when I get home from work. The problem with sedentary work is that you get all the stresses of work but not enough physical activity to burn them off. So at the end of the day you just feel thrashed. Physically you don’t feel so much tired as just weak, which is even worse. So hard to exert any physical effort…
And that’s the rub. To start getting the reward of exercise, you have to start. But mentally we’re configured to conserve energy. In the natural world where there were no sedentary lifestyles, there’s no benefit in exercise – plenty to be had in day to day activity – if you’re tired, or feeling weak, you should conserve you’re energy.
But sedentary stress only makes you feel weak. If you can get past that and start any sort of effort and keep it up for just a little while your blood starts to get oxygenated and you start to feel better.
And that’s the huge difference between committing to hard or long workouts and just starting a workout. You have that weak, tired blood making you think it’s just too hard to do. But if all you have to do is start and then quit whenever you want, there’s an absolutely huge difference in the amount of mental effort it takes to actually make a start.
I know in my case there were many days early on when I wanted to skip a day, and almost did; but I would just remind myself I could quit whenever I wanted, and how guilty I would feel if I skipped a day just because I felt like it.
On the other hand, if I had been confronting thirty minutes when I feel like I couldn’t ride five minutes, forget it. That’s guilt I’m willing to live with. I know, because I did more often than not, before I came up with the idea of committing to just a start.
Maybe this sounds too simplistic to work. One things for sure, it won’t work if you don’t actually do it. All I can say is I know for sure that if I had actually skipped days back when I first started the whole thing would have fallen apart and I’d be in terrible shape today; I’d have missed thousands of hours of feeling good rather than thrashed; and I wouldn’t have started jumping rope 25 years later.
So everything I write is going to be on the theme of focusing on exercise as a source of pleasure, and hopefully fun.