“Humans are designed to move. Since emerging as a distinct species, humans moved (exercised) to secure food, escape from dangerous situations, attract mates, and do a variety of other activities that have allowed the species to thrive. [. . .] the organ systems involved in energy metabolism function best when subject to regular physical challenges.”
– American Council on Exercise
I came across the above passage in my studies to become an ACE certified personal trainer. I didn’t even finish the first sentence before I knew I had to highlight the entire paragraph.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about exercise and how I incorporate it into my craft. In the midst of the holiday season, I thought I’d give one to remind you that there isn’t really a time or “season” of working out, getting fit. You don’t have to wait till spring to start cutting or winter to bulk up; there’s no need for the planets to align that tells you it’s time to start to getting active. Adopting (and maintaining!) an exercise regimen or a diet shouldn’t be temporary or with a short-term goal in mind. It should be a lifestyle. You should want to do it well . . . for life. Sure, people start getting into shape for a wedding or a family reunion. These are great motivations but short-term. You can conceive a point in time in the future where you will live past your goal, and you’re left with the choice to continue or stop what you’ve achieved. As a personal trainer, I’m looking to educate clients on how to create goals that build off another, creating a lifestyle of exercise not just a temporary one. However, I’m also an author, so there’s a responsibility to encourage people to read more as well.
Both exercise and reading ask a lot of us. They are time commitments that can be so easy to dump off our list of daily tasks; for some that kind of elimination may come as second nature or with a readily available “excuse” to put it off. Which is why it’s critical to recognize that in any pursuit (not just exercise and reading) you must be in the right state of mind or possess intrinsic motivation. It’s how to centre yourself and funnel your attention to the thing you want when you’re on the grind. Try running a 5K, preparing to ask for a raise, or studying for a final exam without mentally preparing for it. You might even do so without knowing you’re doing it. If you can apply that to exercise and reading, it will be all the easier for you to start enjoying yourself instead of viewing it as a chore. The mind can be harder to change than the body.
This, of course, isn’t to say you must always be motivated to “do the thing.” I can recall many days where I didn’t want to go to the gym or even sit down to my computer and chisel away at my novel. I think the best technique to employ when you’re not feeling that intrinsic motivation is to commit to memory the feeling you get when you leave the gym or the desk. If you can hold on to that sensation of completion, of bliss at taking an hour or so to take care of yourself, you can come to love (if reluctantly) the labor of the grind. Knowledge of accomplishment is sometimes its own reward in addition to the actual benefits of exercise and reading. You realize you can commit yourself to an action without being reminded by a trainer.
A great way to find that mindset every time you get to your workout is plug in to a good book. I’ve written before about audiobooks’ pairing with exercise. Reserving your exercise time for the only opportunity you get any exposure to literature is a good method to assist you looking forward to the labor. There’s no reason why you can’t exercise your mind at the same time as your body.
Of course, we all wish we could sit for that hour and read an actual book instead of working up a good sweat. But if it was a choice of doing both simultaneously, one or the other, or neither at all, which do you think I’d prefer? If you’re on a cardio machine–and possess the acute attention–you could even read that book rather than listen to it. Either way, I hope this helped remind you these aspects of life should be so easily shunted to the side because we’re “too busy” or “not motivated” Audiobooks allow you to stretch your legs while it stretches your imagination! We are designed to move. Don’t ignore what we’re meant to do.