Recently the Washington Post published an article by Jim Plunkett: “You’re thinking about fitness all wrong.” It’s an engaging title, and it got me thinking. I count myself among those who know I should get more exercise and don’t. So, I hoped that this article was going give me a new motivation to get moving.
As Plunkett suggested, many of us don’t feel at home when we join a gym, surrounded by those who are looking to be “ironmen” or “hard bodies.” In fact, we rarely see ordinary people enjoying exercise or dedicating themselves to being fit. When going to a gym, there are a few common sights. Some exercisers are devoted to showing off their muscle development. Some are following fitness instructors who take pleasure in demeaning their clients into reaching exhaustion.
So what motivates other people to exercise? What is it that makes them work so hard, when I don’t?
Some people enjoy winning. They are willing to set goals that make them better than others or better than they were yesterday. This is why the wearable trackers have been so popular. People who like to prove themselves are eager to exercise. I don’t fall into this group.
Some people enjoy exercise because it gives them time to be by themselves. It’s a way to leave the stress of life behind and feel a “high” from expending energy. I understand it, but I can enjoy a good book, movie, or music, without all the sweat and exertion.
Some people make eating and drinking a big part of their social life. They aim to balance their food and beverage calories with adequate exercise. I’m not quite there either.
Some people exercise to keep from having to buy a new wardrobe. Did you overdo it during the holidays and find that your favorite jeans aren’t fitting anymore? Time to pay the price by exercising to get back into shape. I think this is a short-term goal that explains why the gyms are full in January but less so in June.
So, what does get me moving and regretting the times I don’t do some daily exercise? The truth is that at my age (let’s say I’m “seasoned”), I feel that exercise keeps me from being focused on my limitations. I may not be able to run a marathon, but I want to wake up without aches and pains. I want to stay in good condition so that I can enjoy a walk on a clear day without getting winded. I want to swim or bicycle to join a friend. I also want to feel responsible. I want to know that I kept my body as healthy as I could. We don’t get second chances with our bodies. You get only one body, and it’s my responsibility to keep it in tune. I want to read my doctor’s reports and know that I did the best I could.
These are not everyone’s goals. They are just mine. But, since many people have trouble finding their own motivations to exercise, I am willing to share my secrets. One trick to making exercise enjoyable is associating with people who are active. This adds to the community spirit that makes life less isolating. So, I won’t be running races or cycling across the country. But, like Jim Plunkett suggests, finding your own reason to exercise is important no matter how big your goal is.