I’m not going to start with the benefits of exercise. You already know them or you wouldn’t be reading this. It is helpful to think about those benefits, remembering every time you exercise you’re doing yourself a favour. I know it often doesn’t feel like a favour, it just feels difficult and uncomfortable. So how can you get yourself to WANT to exercise? How do you take away the dread and replace it with pleasant anticipation?
The most important thing is to start where you are, by which I mean, start easy. Really easy. Don’t let your impatience to get into shape lead you into going too hard too soon. Doing so feels torturous which makes it impossible to sustain over the long run.
I used to think I hated running. I’d go out every once in a while and try running like I used to when I was a kid — just full out until I had to stop because I couldn’t breathe anymore. I never got very far and it felt hard and awful. Finally, I just gave up and put the idea out of my head and just stuck with the bicycling and indoor cardio machines that I was already doing.
Then one day I was out for pizza and beer with my buddy Geoff. He told me he signed up for a “Learn To Run” class at a nearby running store and he was really enjoying it. I almost fell off my bar stool even though it was only my first beer. While Geoff was active, walking to and from work and hiking on the weekends, he wasn’t someone I considered a balls-to-the-wall athlete, which I figured you had to be in order to become a runner. He wanted someone to run with outside of class and considered me a likely candidate. I was hesitant, but he said not to worry, it’ll be easy. “I’ll teach you what I’m learning in class.” So I said, “Okay, sure. What the heck.” I was thinking it’s a good excuse to hang out with my friend.
It turns out he was right! It was easy! I had approached it all wrong. We started by walking for two minutes and then jogging or running slowly for thirty seconds. This was completely do-able. Over the next twelve weeks, which was the length of his class, we gradually decreased the time we spent walking and increased the time we spent jogging (or trotting, as Geoff…