From a subjective point of view, my progress on this reboot of my health and fitness goals is not as going as well as I had hoped for so far. To put it another way, I’m not meeting my own expectations.
But I now also recognize that as a trap in my own thinking. Here’s what I mean. In the past few weeks I’ve been looking at the issue of getting healthy through the lens of addiction. My current addictions include cigarettes and sugar, and if I’m honest, electronics.
I’ve come to understand addiction as avoidance behavior. So during those times when I’m caving into addiction, smoking a cigarette or overindulging in birthday cake, I’m avoiding some piece of my life that I don’t want to deal with for whatever reason. (Side note: I have a pretty good idea of what I’m avoiding and why, but that’s for another day and probably a different venue.)
The way addiction basically plays out as avoidance behavior is by diverting my attention from whatever thing I’m seeking to avoid—and into thinking about that addiction, like how I am letting myself down every time I light a cigarette, for example.
So take that basic scenario in terms of working out: If I skip a workout, that tends to take me toward beating myself up, like I do with addiction. “I’m letting myself down. Why am I doing this? Why didn’t I do that? I know exercise feels good and will make me healthier, so why am I skipping it?” I don’t know about your brain, but mine is capable of playing a track like that around the corners of my thinking for hours, days, and years.
I feel strongly that understanding these patterns gives me the key to unlocking them, and freeing myself from that dysfunctional thinking.
So while, my workouts so far in this first month of the new year have not been strenuous, or many, I choose to focus on the positive aspects of what I’ve been doing. And mostly I’ve been dancing.
I’ve been dancing because I have a goal to simply enjoy the feeling of my body in movement. I’ve had a desk job for the past 15 years or so, and a pretty sedentary lifestyle to go along with it. That has brought me back pain and hip pain among other ailments. The more I exercise, the better I feel physically. This I know.
My work is to train myself to go to movement first, and reap the physical and emotional benefits of that, rather than focusing on the benefits and why I’m not seeing them yet to the extent that I want.
The way I do this is by choosing things to do that express joy in movement. This past weekend I did some walking by Santa Rosa Lake as I visited a friend there. And of course, anyone who reads this column will know by now that my favorite thing to do is dancing.
My approach as I work toward my reboot is to focus on the enjoyment and how good it feels to just boogie my body around, without worrying about calories burned, steps counted, or any other check box that my mind wants to impose on what I do. My aim is just to have fun while moving myself around.
Other activities that I can pull into this include gardening (playing outside in the sun and dirt and getting a bit of exercise along the way), hiking (playing outside in the sun and dirt), swimming (playing outside in water, mud and dirt), going back to the rock climbing gym (playing around inside with cool gear and harnesses), or climbing trees (reviving a childhood pastime of playing outside with trees, and let’s face it, dirt). I just noticed a theme: I like to play outside.
If I look at my quality of life as a whole, then bringing more joy and fun into play makes sense to me as the doorway into an active lifestyle.
My goal is to accomplish a mental shift from thinking of exercise as a chore into thinking of it as fun. When I’m doing it, I think it’s fun—it’s the starting to do it that trips me up. Like everyone, I like to do things that are fun and try to get out of doing things I think are not fun.
It’s an intricate mental puzzle to work it all out. But what else am I going to do? Dying young from preventable diseases or spending the last decades of my life in poor health doesn’t sound like fun at all.