Monday, August 10, 2015

For those who hate exercising.

I can't believe I'm actually going to write a post about exercising, and it's not about how much I dislike it but writing with the intent to motivate others like me to exercise. Before you dismiss this post with "Ah, another 'fitness guru' offering some 'useful' tips to exercising", I'm so not a fitness guru. I'm pathetic when it comes to exercising. I start walking after running 1km. Hahaha. Actually, I started on my 3 times per week exercise regime just last week. I've tried setting regimes like that for so many times but I've always failed. This is the second week and I'm actually starting to have a little more confidence and faith in myself. I'm writing this post not just to encourage you, but also to remind myself, on what makes me feel like running, and what motivates me to step out of my house just to exercise for an hour, 3 times a week.

I'm 22 this year, female, and I'm not starting on this regime so that I can wear cropped tops, have a thigh gap and attract a lot of boys. I hate that the posts I find on the Internet to motivate myself to run are about the idealised beauty. Okay, some posts do advocate exercising for health. But... the workouts recommended are just so unattainable, expensive (I have no money to purchase weird equipment), or difficult to follow. They are simply not for beginners, especially for those who hate exercising. I'm going to exercise simply because I'm 22 and I've this problem of not being able to walk properly after 5-6 days of intense walking. Sounds weird but it's a big problem when I travel free and easy. At the end of the trip, I find myself limping. My feet hurts and I don't know why. It started a year ago but I know that it can't go on like this forever. I'm guessing it might have to do with my posture and maybe my weight, so I told myself that I really need to start exercising. I'm not overweight but my BMI has been rising (seriously, don't always harp on your weight, calculate your BMI instead) and I really can't gain another kg. I love my fashionable trousers too so I want to wear them comfortably and not feel like it's gonna burst after a full meal haha.

So, (again, I'm no pro) here are some tips to get your body moving. I'm going to focus more specifically on running but most of the points do apply to other sports as well. Find a sport that you don't hate that much and start moving! Swimming actually looks so cool and refreshing, if only I know how to swim! But in any case, here goes:


1. Play with your mind
Exercising starts with the mind. I'm not a fan of exercising so my brain often goes "Ew running!". If you always feel the same, that's ok! Continue to dread running, haha. But walking... that sounds okay right? If you are also okay with the thought of walking, the next step will be to set a distance. Set a distance that takes at least 20-30 minutes to complete and one that can make you sweat, e.g. 3km (screw you if you can finish 3km in 10-15 minutes, this is not a post for you haha). This distance is the only thing that you will need determination for. Then go out and start walking 3km! What I realised is that miraculously, your body might react in a different way. As for me, I started to dread walking and I just wanted to cover the distance as quickly as possible. So my legs started to move a little faster, and I was jogging! Continue jogging or running until you feel that it's getting a little too hard, but don't stop there, you have to cover the 3km no matter what. Return to walking, but you will realise that you would start running after taking a little break by walking. Find your momentum and keep to it till the end. And taadaa, you've exercised! Increase your distance after you feel more comfortable. I usually set the distance to 3.2km but realised that I can end up walking 0.8-1km more every time. The next few points are what motivate me to keep to a longer distance.

p.s. If you still find yourself walking for the whole distance, that's okay too! You made the effort to step out of the house and you covered quite a distance there! The key idea is to just implant the thought that you are going to walk so that you won't dread it and you will actually get away from your damn computer and move. Think of running as an added bonus. Don't think from the perspective that you are lying to yourself, i.e. I'm going to walk but I know it's just a way to make myself run. That won't work. Genuinely tell yourself that you are just going to walk, then see what happens.


2. Find a good place to exercise
No, not the gym for me. I always feel embarrassed and depressed when I visit one. Perhaps, start exercising at an outdoor stadium or park in your neighbourhood, i.e. somewhere more encouraging, a place where the young and old visit. These are great locations in my opinion, because you can get motivated by the other people who are exercising. Watch the elderly brisk walk, watch the kids run and laugh. Run with them. It's not a downward comparison, it's thinking about 'why do they run' that helps motivate me to run further and longer. Obviously the old lady is not walking to be as curvy as Kim Kardashian, obviously little boys are not running to turn muscular. They are exercising to stay healthy, they exercise because they have fun with it. I feel so much more encouraged with these thoughts and with the people around me.

3. Figure out the immediate benefits of exercising
Screw all those 'I feel so good after a run/work-out' posts on social media. I don't. I feel hot and sticky. But my brain really clears up after a run. I'm typing this right after a 45-minute run. I always have new ideas after exercising. Also, my skin condition improved after a week of running. Actually, don't listen to what others have gotten out of exercising. You might feel disappointed that after trying your best, you don't achieve the same results. Motivating yourself to exercise again might then become even harder. Figure out what benefits are unique to you and think of them as reinforcements after a run.



4. Wear the proper gear
Change out of your pyjamas. It might not apply for all but wearing the right clothes may put you in the right mood. I was reading this book 'Where They Create' published by Frame and there's this guy who said that he wears t-shirts when he's doing creative work and will actually make the effort to change into a proper shirt when he's clearing the administrative stuff. Or else, invest in a pair of good running shoes that look so pretty you want to wear them all the time. Maybe that can help you find the motivation to run.



5. Reward yourself at the end
I don't mean a bacon sandwich at the end of a run but I think a refreshing cold beverage (a can of ice milo for me) is a good treat. Or, make yourself a good meal after the workout. I can't say this for everyone but since it takes so much more mental power and determination for people who hate exercising to actually exercise, treating yourself to something greasy and fatty seems like a waste of your precious effort. Your treat should still be worthy though, sometimes when the run gets difficult I actually chant 'Ice milo, ice milo' in my head and it miraculously gets easier hahaha. (But I don't take pictures of milo haha so here's a random picture of a refreshing drink.)

6. Run with music
Music at 130 bpm doesn't work for me. I hate all those playlists on Spotify. My head starts to throb and I feel like puking when I'm listening to those while I run. It takes a while to find the right music to run with. I realised that I prefer songs that are slower at the start but has an upbeat and catchy chorus later, e.g. Hyukoh's Comes and Goes, Big Bang's Sober. Again, I can't run well, I always end up walking. But when the chorus is playing, I feel the motivation to run or even sprint. This is just for me really, so who knows, maybe music at 130 bpm is the right kind for you. Go figure out!


(At the Jurong Bird Park yesterday, walked for 3 whole hours!)

7. Alternate between different venues
I realised that I dread running because if I've ran a 3km at the stadium today, I'll remember how dreadful it was when tomorrow comes. But a 3km at the park might feel different, I won't know since I can't gauge how far and tedious a 3km at the park feels like. I can then get myself to start running since I don't know what to expect. My memory can't remember the experience at each location after a few days, so alternating between a few locations allow me to start my run at a new location without thinking "Huh, 3km here so far leh!".


8. Set a system, not a goal
I came across this quote while doing a project for school and I really think that this applies to everything in life. Goals are easier to set because it marks the end of a process, e.g. losing 1kg. It's easier and more achievable since you are able to see the finishing line. However, that's actually the fatal point. You stop after losing 1kg because you need to find so much more motivation to start losing the next kg. It's like, after receiving my tuition fees at the end of the month (I teach little kids to earn extra pocket money), I dread going to the first lesson of the new month. They call this the fixed interval schedule effect in psychology. So, work to build a system. Goals are the little joys, still worth celebrating, but they are not the end. To me, finishing a 4km run/walk is my goal, but a regime of 3 times a week is my system.

At the end of the day, don't feel bad about under-perfoming when you're doing sports. Stay realistic and optimistic. If you realised, I've scattered lots of 'rewards' to motivate myself to move. I think the problem I have is that long term reinforcement feels so far away so I need all the short term rewards that I can get. I attribute my better skin to the run, I wear my pretty Nike shoes that makes me run, I owe my run to a can of ice milo haha. After my internship at a user experience company, I realised that some of us may hate exercising due to the bad experiences we had and bad experiences are caused by problems we've yet to correctly identify. The problem, is often not your stamina, your weight or your inability. It's the environment, the reinforcement and your mentality on what exactly is exercising. List down how you define exercising, your expectations and lower them slightly e.g. from running to walking, so that it's more bearable for a beginner and easier to follow even when you're lazy. List down why you don't want to start exercising and find ways, even the simplest ones (like my favourite ice milo treat haha), to correct your problems and improve your experience. When the experience turns good, you may realise that you want to start it all over again.

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