Heyo zealots, zerglings and marines!
So the world is in panic, people are fighting over toilet paper and many of us are in self-isolation around the world. It’s a trying time and it can seem like the end of the world, especially if we watch too much news or read too much of our social media feed. But in the midst of being responsible and taking the crisis seriously, I’m trying to remember to find peace and acceptance of this situation. It’s not too hard these days, in large part because I find immense calm and happiness in my daily exercise. As I’m writing this I’m eagerly looking forward to putting my Witcher audiobook on and going for a jog (I’m up to Baptism of Fire for you Witcher nerds out there). It’s a special time of the day where everything rushes away, the stress, the chaos, the worries. Tense from sitting in my chair, I feel my muscles loosen and relax and I lose myself in the rhythm of exercise. I have an odd zen feeling of calm about the whole thing.But it wasn’t always that way.
I used to struggle so hard to do even a small amount of exercise regularly, even though I knew it improved my quality of life so much. I used to eat a lot of fast food and junk. Smashing entire packets of chocolate biscuits and being far too familiar with eating a jar of nutella with a spoon…
2012 vs 2018 - (Photo selection may exaggerate difference ;))
Obviously changing from A to B wasn’t easy. It took hard work, time and effort. But in particular there were three game-changing lessons that allowed me to completely change my attitude to exercise.
Making a Daily Habit
For many years my attempts to exercise went something like this:
PiG “Hey Jared, you should exercise! It makes you feel good afterwards, and you really enjoy the benefits it gives!”
Instant Gratification PiG “That’s a good point! Let’s do it! But first I have to watch 1 more episode of Firefly”
PiG “... Ok the episode’s over, let’s go!”
Procrastination PiG “Oh wait I think I really need to check my email, it’ll be good to get that done”.
PiG “Oh ok. But as soon as you’re done that yeah?”
Hungry PiG “Oh actually I’m hungry now it’s time for dinner, I’ll have to put it off”
PiG “Now the day’s almost over? I failed to exercise. I’m such a piece of shit. Fuck.”
So yeah, that’s a slight crack of the window into my crazy brain. If I give it a chance, my brain will self-sabotage and find a way to avoid doing things that make me happy. And feel good. It’s a bummer, but a much deeper issue to unpack. For me the hack that allowed me to bypass my crazy brain was having a daily habit. A set trigger point in the day, where I ALWAYS go and exercise. No matter what. No excuses. No reason to EVER delay it. It ALWAYS happens right there and then.
By giving myself no choice over the matter and simply enforcing this as a habit I took out any chance for my brain to reprioritise, distract or throw up any other delays. The first week or two was hard, but after that I distinctly remember the first day where it just clicked. I had finished my stream and then found myself outside, jogging down the street, without really knowing how I got there. I had simply put on my workout gear and shoes and left the house. There had been no mental resistance, I was just going through the motions of the shit I do every day. I somehow had side-stepped all of my own mental bullshit! It was an incredible feeling to realise I could just do this every day without having to deal with an insane self-dialogue and a shitload of guilt.
If you can relate to this sort of craziness at all you absolutely must watch Tim Urban’s hilarious TED Talk “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator”: https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator?language=en
Allowing myself to enjoy the little victories
I used to not only struggle to get going with exercise, but also to feel satisfied and good with my progress. There were a lot of ideas I had about what “real” exercise was. I thought it had to be a hard workout, you had to sweat like crazy, breathe super hard. You needed to be sore afterwards. If I didn’t workout hard I was being lazy, and I should work harder next time. I was judging myself so harshly and any time I performed at less than 100% I’d feel bad and try to use negative reinforcement to push myself to work harder in future.
The thing is when you’re not letting yourself feel any satisfaction or success from your workouts it very quickly becomes demotivating and it becomes even easier for the procrastination to take over. Going to the gym or getting jogging can become a scary experience. Any day you slept poorly and lift 20% less than normal is suddenly a failure. It’s a glass-half empty way of looking at things and was a big part of why I wouldn’t stick with it for the long haul.
Eventually I realised that I was not just unfit. I was REALLY unfit. I was so out of shape, I had a big gut. I would get out of breath from running up a few stairs and needed to drastically change something. It started with realising that literally ANY exercise was better than doing nothing. If I could just jog for even 10 minutes every day I would be infinitely healthier than my current state of inactivity. And so I realised that was the key. Just get going. Jogging to my local park and back is barely 1.5km. And yet I had to start to see even that as a win. If I did that, I would feel proud of my accomplishment. I used this as the basis of my daily habit and eventually added a longer circuit and started doing pull ups (I couldn’t do even 1 for a long time), leg raises and other calisthenics. After years of building up I’ve done some jogs close to a half marathon ~21km. I’ve done intense sets of body exercises and stretches. Yet if I’m low on energy and I just jog to the park and back, I still count it as a win.
Reframing my attitude
Even after working in exercise as a daily habit, even after starting to take pleasure in the little victories, some days are still harder than others. There are days when I have a shitty stream, when competing activities are all pulling me in different directions and I feel stretched too thin. At the end of these days, to go and put on my shoes and get going running can still be hard. There’s still some mental resistance even though it’s a habit and I know it’ll feel good, it’s still so hard to say no to lying in bed and watching Netflix. To just taking a day off. My frequent relapses into bad habits have always been on days like this.
And oh my, does eating some ice cream and lying in bed feel DAMNED good after a long day. Holy shit it’s great. I never notice the difference until about 3 hours later. When my body still feels sore and stiff. When I’m tense from inactivity. When I realise not only have I not exercised but the thought of clearing my to do list feels like an absolute impossibility. That’s when I realise that whilst it feels good immediately to “relax” I’m missing that feeling of looseness. When all your muscles feel relaxed and jelly-like after a workout. Where you’re high on endorphins and breathing in life deeply. Where any other challenges and stresses feel miniscule now that you’ve let your body roam free. Holy shit. The post-exercise high, the boost to mood and attitude. The feeling it gives me is actually the absolute antidote to stress and tension!
I just needed to retrain my attitude to exercise from one of “ah shit that’s a chore” to something that actually solves other problems and makes me feel better, especially on the hard days.
I no longer see exercise as something I force myself to do, but something I NEED to do.
It boosts every other part of my life and especially when I’m stressed, when I’m tired or worn out. These are the times where I’ve trained myself to actively look forward to it. It’s now a staple of my sanity, especially in these strange times.
In closing I’d really recommend climbing as an incredibly satisfying, problem-solving filled full-body workout that is loved by many nerds, It’s really bloody fun, give it a go!
Episode #7 of The PiG Show is up with beastyqt, and I’m very proud to announce all up to date episodes are up as a podcast across all platforms! Not only that but my brand new animated intro logo and graphics are up and you’ll start to see a lot more of them in the near future!
PiG Show #7 w/ Beastyqt: https://youtu.be/4ka7ZsCt2ww
Podcast links: https://open.spotify.com/show/1qHzxM8H70q0JbUAgPyfjr | https://music.apple.com/us/podcast/the-pig-show/id1501113134 |
https://soundcloud.com/thepigshow | https://thepigshow.podbean.com/
As always I hope sharing this has in some way enriched your day! Gl hf out there!