How to Love—or at Least Not Hate—Exercise

I had to think upside down to find ways to embrace exercise.

Posted May 11, 2018

I hate to exercise.

I understand the logical arguments–being healthier, stronger, fitter, more creative, more energetic. I get that.  I’ve read motivational books. I’ve tried classes. I’ve even gone through bouts of exercising on a regular basis. For two years, in fact, I ran enough that I was able to train for and complete two half marathons. But it doesn’t “stick.”

But why am so disciplined in the rest of my life but fail when it comes to exercising? I have pretty good genes, and I suppose I’ve been depending on those to carry me through, but I know even that won’t get me to the finish line.

So why is it so hard for me to alter this behavior and do something that I know is good for me? Does no one else fight this?

As I analyze it, I come up with several reasons that apply to me.  First, I need a partner in crime.  When I ran for so long, I had a great partner, which meant we were accountable to each other (had to get up at 5 a.m. to meet for a run).  Also, we talked while we ran (obviously, we were slow runners) so the time went by and I didn’t have to concentrate on the activity of running and hurting and sweating.  Right now, no partners in view so no running in sight.

Second, I realize I need a destination goal, as in “where am I running to?” or “how many miles or minutes must I run?”  My dog and I used to have a specific destination in mind, like the bank or the library.  Then she died and I got lax.  The good news is that a new dog is a walker (not a runner) and so we’ll see if that helps. 

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels
Source: Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Third, I go into downward spiral routine once I’ve gotten out of any regular routine.  Then it’s twice as hard to get going again.

Finally, I realize analyzing this is yet another excuse to avoid it.

What does this tell me about why behavior is so hard to change, whether it’s exercise, or trying a new management style at the office? I suspect in both situations, it’s hard to do alone, it’s hard if there’s no tangible result or goal, and it’s easy to procrastinate. So much has been written on the difficulty of changing behavior. I understand the process in my head, but I’m still struggling.

So, I began to look at the problem creatively, in an upside-down fashion. Rather than logically convince myself of the benefits of doing something I dislike, I’m trying to turn exercise into something I could love or at least like. To do that, I ask, “What are the activities I love, that I would sneak around to be able to do?” Reading is the biggest one. Why? Because I lose myself in a story or in a new place, I learn something unexpected and I make “friends” who have no clue who I am, but that doesn’t matter.

But audiobooks don’t work for me. I need to see the words and feel the pages, especially if it’s a long one. So, I’ve turned to podcasts as my ear’s form of reading. Interviews with people I would never meet are the incentive. I’ve learned about rock climbing, Home Depot’s culture and leadership approaches, true crime in Australia, and how our brains work. Listening to different interviewers, I’ve learned how to ask better questions, create a connection with someone, and how to use silence. Podcasts give me a partner, a destination (getting through the full interview), and keep me doing what I love—learning through ear reading.

And it’s working—by finding a way to “lose myself,” especially during long walks, I’m learning while moving. Now I have another problem: I don’t have enough exercise time for all of my listening desires.