On the issue of exercise and personal goals…

For some people some things just come naturally. For example, I write for pleasure whether or not I am recognized for it (folders full of poetry that I’ve written over the years attest to this), whether or not I ever get paid for it (the lack of royalty checks arriving in my mailbox proves this), and whether or not anyone ever reads it (boxes full of journals throughout the years proves this!) I also enjoy fiddling with and teaching myself new skills on the computer.

Some people quilt because it is a form of relaxation to them. Some scrapbook. Some people truly enjoy and find it relaxing to iron so they iron obsessively. They iron their husband’s underwear and t-shirts when they have ironed everything else in sight. Many of us look at these people with such amazing talent or apparent drive and we think, “I wish I had what it took to do that sort of thing!” or, “I wish I was that driven!” But in many cases these folks aren’t really “driven,” they are merely doing what brings them pleasure. There was a good discussion about this over at the Well Trained Mind K-8 General board recently. Some on the other hand do these things out of compulsion or to make someone proud or because they have a goal and they will not be happy until that goal is met… those people, I think, are driven.

Then there are those who exercise as a normal part of their existence. They run daily simply because they like to run. They don’t necessarily do it because they are dying to be thin or hoping simply to keep their girlish figure. They do it because it’s actually almost relaxing to them! I must admit, though I know this to be true from knowing a few runners, it is a concept that is quite foreign to me. “How can you feel relaxed or a sense of pleasure while running for no reason at all? I wouldn’t run unless someone was chasing after me and trying to kill me!” They just might feel similar angst if they were asked to write something on the spur of the moment. “Write? Why? For what purpose? I wouldn’t write something unless a professor was chasing me down and threatening to keep me from graduating if I don’t!”

Some people exercise because they are driven by a goal. “I want to run a marathon so I am getting in shape for it.” or “I want to wear this sexy red dress by this time next year…” or “I want to be able to go play soccer outside with my kids without feeling like I’m carrying lead weights in the seat of my pants and in the sleeves of my shirts.” or “I want to go jet skiing and not be embarassed to be seen in a bathing suit.” Some folks have goals like this that they continually remind themselves with by way of pictures or phrases or quotes that they have stuck up on their mirrors and refridgerator doors.

Many of us very much want to exercise because we know we need to, it’s good for us, we will look better and feel better about ourselves and life in general when we just do it but…. but what? But whatever. Something gets in the way, whether it be tiredness, something more enjoyable to do with our time, depression… Whatever our obstacle is I think those of us in this crowd tend to have the hardest time making ourselves “just do it” because it is not hard-wired into us like it truly is for some (like those crazy wonderful people who just find pleasure in ironing!) or because we lack the drive or a goal that we can visualize that is far enough out of reach that we know we have to work towards it but close enough that we know it can be realized. We likely set unrealistic goals or vague ones like, “I want to be skinny.” (And many of us will tack on, “like so and so” which adds the death nell of comparison to the mix.)

Do you exercise regularly? If you do, are you one of those people who exercises as a form of relaxation or stress relief? What makes you get up in the morning (or whatever time of day) put on the exercise attire and just do it? If you are hard-wired for exercise what shaping influences do you point to that you feel made exercise something normal, like eating and sleeping? If you are driven and goal oriented and successful at accomplishing what you set out to do with regards to exercise, what goals did you set? How did you measure your successes along the way? What do you do with yourself after you achieve a stated goal? How do you form the next goal? How important is accountability here?

If you struggle to make exercise a regular part of your life but don’t have specific goals in mind other than “keeping fit and maintaining general health” and you find that, practically speaking, pretty much anything will trump exercise what do you think will perhaps be the key to getting you out of the pattern that you are in?

This is one area where I struggle. I own a treadmill for Pete’s sake! I want to get on it but I lack a concrete goal and I lack the drive. I am too easily swayed by other things that I’d rather be doing, whether they be writing, reading, sleeping, what have you… I just don’t prioritize it as I ought to. I am not here suggesting that everyone ought to have the same kind of goals or regimens with regards to exercise. I don’t think that’s realistic. I do think that most of us want to be fit and healthy but we also want to be content with ourselves, which to an extent is a great thing. We need to be conent with ourselves without, at the same time, “letting ourselves go.” I never want to let my contentment argument become an excuse for my bad habits rather than a true and good statement about my self-worth.

For those who do not find the area of exercise to be a struggle, what is your motivation? What advice would you give to those who struggle with the just do it answer to this issue of exercising regularly? Advise those who might honestly and idealistically believe in just do it (like a skinny 7th grader on the bus who routinely gets bullied and swears that next time he’ll take that guy down) but when their just do it gets into an early morning fist fight with their just sleep a little bit longer and their just sleep a little bit longer routinely wins, how do they coach their just do it side into finally fighting back and beating the just sleep a little bit longer bully up once and for all?

This post is also posted at The Well Drained Mind

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  1. As I was reading your post, I was reminded of this quote from the movie Chariots of Fire (a movie about runners, btw). Runner Eric Liddell, when discussing with his sister whether he should return to China as a missionary or stay to train then compete in the Olympics for Britain, tells her, “I believe God made me for a purpose. For China. But He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure. To give it up would be to hold Him in contempt. You were right. It’s not just fun. To win is to honor Him.”Many who I think would commonly be described as “driven” are actually working as Liddell ran… to feel the pleasure of God. To have a taste of “well done, my good and faithful servant” here on earth. I wish my motivations were as pure and concrete. Many times, though, I am surprised to find myself in the midst of something tedious and difficult and am gently overwhelmed with a sense of pleasure, peace and joy. It is unmistakable. It is His pleasure. It is true worship. And it tastes sweet as honey.Blessings!

  2. it hurts. fibromyalgia.BUT… I enjoy walking … it is a pleasure. Unfortunately walking hurts because I have a disintergrating arch.My orthotics help, and I just got this dandy pair of old woman shoes.. and I’ve been walking a bit more.So my excuse is It hurts.

  3. Tutor, that is my favorite line from that movie! Favorite line. Thanks for the kind comment!Pamela, I think pain of the sort you describe is a pretty valid “excuse” though it’s hardly an excuse… it’s a reasonable reason. A few months back I experienced about 6 weeks straight of headaches, neckaches, backaches… I actually started thinking I had fibromyalgia or something and I can say it was all I could do to get stuff done around the house. Exercise was not even on the radar screen! I’m so sorry you suffer so. :^(Nan

  4. I hate exercise. I don’t like it one bit, and no matter how long I do it, it never gets any easier.I only do it because eating less would be more painful. I run to support my eating habit.I know that I feel better when I exercise, I know that I tend towards mild depression when I don’t, and I know that I’m doing myself a whole lot of good by exercising. But I’ve never gotten out of that “I-hate-this” mindset.I’ve gotten to the point where I do exercise fairly consistently, though, even though I don’t like it. Being sensible about my own failings helps. I’m so very good at finding excuses that I’ve had to schedule my workouts at times when I have no excuse. First thing in the morning, so “I’ve had a hard day” doesn’t cut it. During ds’s swim lessons so that “Well, I could be writing a paper right now” won’t work. Etc.There were a few times when I had an exercise buddy–that helped, because I was too embarrassed to call at 5:30am to cancel.Multi-tasking my exercise also helps. I do all my own heavy gardening chores, because I enjoy gardening and it can count as exercise. I listen to a book on iPod while on the machines at the gym, because enjoying the book masks the pain of exercising. One of my professors does all of his advising in the gym. If you want to meet with him, you’d better be ready to get on a treadmill! *grin* Anyway, that can help some people–doing something else at the same time can make it either more enjoyable or less painful.Some people give the advice that you’ve got to try a lot of different things until you find one you really like. That only worked for me once. When we were in Paris, there were bike lanes everywhere, and I loved taking my bike to far-off markets or stores or sights. It was so. much. fun, and I loved, loved, loved that it counted as exercise. I probably biked an hour or more five times a week from May to October.Unfortunately, it’s not as safe to bike here in suburbia where I am now as it was in rush hour traffic in Paris, so I’ve lost that one form of exercise I truly enjoyed. Hopefully, someday I’ll move somewhere it’s more feasible. I’d love to bike to work or something like that.

  5. I also exercise to support my eating habit. In Jan 06, I joined Curves and that was the turning point for me. I was not overweight, but was feeling bad. I have been exercising an average of 5 days a week for 15 months now and I feel and look so much better. So, besides the whole eating thing, I guess I am motivated to exercise because I saw results (a total loss of 25 inches) at Curves and I don’t want to gain it all back! I also have a better state of mind from all those endorphins! In addition to Curves, I walk and just started running this year1 I love it!

  6. Well, as you know–God gave me the motivation…Hopefully He doesn’t have to go that far with you…

  7. Excellent essay. I loved it.I think you’re correct that many habits others possess, that we may stand in awe of, they simply do for enjoyment

  8. Thanks for the most excellent comments today folks! Great insights… Pilgrim, I hope not either! Glad you are still heeding the kick in the pants though, good for you!… I need to Just Do It (that cursed phrase!!)Design Mom, thanks so much for your comment. I went and checked out your blog and I found it so sophisticated and informative that I added it immediately to my side bar! :^D Thanks for visiting!Nan

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