Learning to enjoy exercise


the iconic nike “swoosh”

Enjoying exercise.  All of us know people that love to exercise.  You might be one.  But, we also know people that don’t enjoy exercise.  You wouldn’t catch them going to the gym or taking a daily jog before or after work.  Not intentionally, that is.

But, why is it that some people enjoy exercise, while others don’t?  Is it simply that some people have more motivation?  More discipline?  That may not be the case, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.  Scientists are now looking at “biological and chemical processes” to see whether more is at the heart of the issue, and what they’re finding is simple, yet extremely profound.

What they’ve found

Everyone has a physical capacity for exertion.  If, though, we engage in more physical exertion than our body has the capacity for, our body can become stressed and begin to feel bad.  According to Panteleimon Ekkekakis, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State who studies the psychophysiology of exercise, that is often what happens.  Many people push themselves beyond their “intrinsic range” by exercising too quickly or intensely, and they end up either hating exercise, or not wanting to continue, or both.  There are many factors that play into this finding; the article refers to ventilatory thresholds, maximum thresholds, intrinsic ranges, and how these levels affect what we are able to do physically.  And, then there’s how we perceive and interpret our actual exertion…  (the article in the WSJ cited below is worth a read).  But, to me, the long and the short of it is: we personally have a threshold.

What is the solution? How can we get to the point where we, too, enjoy exercise?

If we feel like we are one of those people that doesn’t enjoy physical activity, don’t despair.  And, don’t give up.  Take exercise a little at a time.  Build up to your goal, whatever that goal is.

One thing to consider, though, is:  have we set our goals too high? If so, then we could be setting ourselves up for failure.

For instance, many of us have been active throughout our lives.  Many haven’t.  And, sometimes, we just feel like we “should” be able to do something, and do it well, even though it may be beyond our personal threshold.  I feel like I should be able to go out and run a mile because I want to (and, because I have done it in the past).  But, when I go through the process of actually going out and running a mile, invariably one of two things will happen.  It’s either torture to me, because my body isn’t physically up to the task, or I fail because I can’t do what my mind says I should be able to do.  But, let’s think about this.  If my goal to run one mile is really too high of a goal for my current physical ability/threshold, then essentially I’m setting myself up for failure. It doesn’t matter whether I actually performed that activity or not, because even if I did, it was torture, I hated it, and I won’t be doing it again.  To me, that’s a set up for failure, and it’s a lose-lose proposition.

What’s your threshold?

So, what’s your threshold for physical activity?  I challenge you to find out.  Experiment with it.  Go for a short walk, jog, bike ride, or attend a gym class.  Monitor yourself and how you feel, and keep track of your results.

And, try to think about your exercise activity in a “less is more” frame of mind.  If lower levels of exertion will get me out there, and will also help me enjoy it, then less is good!

My new motto is:  “Just do less.”  The only thing is, you still need to get out there and do something.  And, note to Nike:  if you decide to make a shirt with my new motto on it “Just do less” (along with your iconic swoosh), let me know.  I’ll order one.  In hot pink, of course.

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4 thoughts on “Learning to enjoy exercise

  1. Pingback: Why You Hate Exercise and What You Can Do About It | The Not Big Anymore, Formerly Fat Guy

  2. Pingback: Diversify Your Portfolio

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