Staying In Shape For Life
I once knew a man who exercised every day. His routines were sometimes as long as three hours, yet he never missed a day. I asked him one time what he was training for, why he stayed in such good shape. He merely replied: “I’m staying in shape for life.” I then asked him how he was able to do it, how he managed to face such a gruelling workout day after day without a miss. He said simply: “I enjoy doing it. I look forward to my workout everyday.”
This sounded logical, but I still went away with the impression that he had some unusual powers of self-discipline and self-motivation. Not many people in the world could do what he did. He just didn’t seem to have the same motivation problem that most of us have.
Motivation is indeed a serious problem for all but a select few. But how do we overcome this motivation problem? How do we become more consistent with our daily exercise programs? Is there an ideal exercise program that will help us do this? This paper is designed to help answer these questions.
For the past four years, I conducted a study on Exercise. I wanted to find out why it is so hard for people to motivate themselves to exercise. I talked to many people—some who were jocks and some who weren’t. All, I found, agreed on the same thing: Exercise is important but hard to do. Rarely did I find anyone who was satisfied with his degree of consistency. I heard many excuses and alibis. They ranged from overcrowded schedules and personal problems to physical ailments, mental stress and plain laziness. However, in reality, all these were nothing more than the motivation problem in disguise.
Being a former professional athlete myself, I know how it feels to be in good physical shape. I want to stay in good shape all the time. But now that the ole coach isn’t around to drive me, it’s hard to psych myself up for the workouts. If I don’t have anyone to work out with, it becomes twice as hard. The daily routine becomes as appealing as facing the Sahara Desert. Many others feel the same way.
Based on the information I gathered, I concluded that the motivation problem is linked directly to the exercise program itself. The more the person enjoys the exercise, the sport or the workout, the easier it is for him to get involved and challenge is the main attraction. The desire for exercise because we need it is, at best, secondary.
Obviously, the root of the motivation problem is in the head. Exercise Reform is a head trip—mind over matter. We are basically lazy creatures, prone to do only what is convenient and enjoyable. We just naturally need fun reasons to do things. The key, then, to Exercise Reform, is to find some way to make the workout as convenient and enjoyable as possible. An exercise program has to be designed to accomplish this. It has to be tailored to the average person with a busy schedule, to the person who
doesn’t play sports, who is faced with the task of working out on his own, often without the support of a workout partner, felt, if I could devise such an ideal program for myself, to overcome my own motivation problem, perhaps it would work for others as well.
It took the better part of a year to design such a program. I tried many different time schedules, different exercises and routines. Finally, I arrived at a comfortable program and spent the next three years experiencing it and studying the results. I am now convinced that it’s the ideal program I was looking for. It has solved my own personal motivation problem—I consider it a complete success. The results of the past year, especially, leaves no doubt that almost anyone can achieve the same success.
Anyone can win out in his motivation struggle with his own personalized exercise program. However, in designing such a program, the person must focus on three main areas: He must: 1) choose a suitable time of day to work out; 2) choose the proper exercises for his program; and 3) focus on building the program into his bodily system. These are the three keys to consistency in the Exercise Reform.
Choosing The Proper Time For Exercise
As we consider the first of these keys, we are trying to choose the best time of day to work out. In doing so, we must focus on the most important thing: We must choose a time of day when we cannot be disturbed or interrupted by anyone or anything. This must be our time, a sacred, inviolable time that we devote entirely to ourselves.
However, finding a suitable time slot in a busy schedule is not easy. It seems we must give up something. Giving up an hour’s sleep in the morning is the most logical thing to give up. For the lark, the day person like myself, giving up an hour’s sleep in the a.m. is not hard. Most day people enjoy getting up early. But for the owl, the night person, it may pose a serious problem. But once over this obstacle, the owl, like the lark, will find many advantages and rewards connected with the early a.m. workout. Early a.m. is the most ideal time of day to work out for the following four reasons:
First, we must get up in the morning anyway, usually for reasons other than our own. But getting up an hour early is getting up because we want to, for our own reason—to work out and maintain our good health. This also eliminates the chance of oversleeping, causing us to be late for work and other commitments.
Second, getting up an hour early clears the workout away before the regular daily activities begin. This eliminates unforeseen complications such as changes in schedule, minor illnesses, extra tiring days, etc. from causing cancellation of late scheduled workouts.
Third, in the early a.m. the stomach is empty and exercise does not complicate digestion as it would from exercise later in the day.
Fourth, in the summer, morning workouts are coolest, more comfortable and less taxing to the body than workouts during the heat of the day. (During the winter, indoor exercising with the use of the indoor runner’s treadmill prevents cancellations of the routine due to extra cold mornings.)
I personally find the early a.m. workout the most peaceful and enjoyable experience of the day. I get up at 4:20 a.m. and jog for an hour from 4:30 to 5:30 a.m. This really puts me on top of the day, clears my head, keeps me mellowed out and in balance all day. I find I’m much more alert and aware of life; I’m able to experience it to the fullest and enjoy it more. My appetite is better, and at the end of the day I rest better. But if I feel sleepy during the day, I take a short nap, especially if I went to bed late the night before. This eliminates another common excuse for postponements and cancellations.
Once you overcome the obstacle of getting up an hour early, you too will find the early a.m. is not only the most enjoyable time of the day to work out, but the most ideal, all things considered. It’s the only time of day when no one can disturb or interrupt you: They are still in bed. And once you have established this “sacred” time of day, you have taken the first big step toward consistency in your Exercise Reform.
The Exercise Routine
Once our time of day is settled, we must then focus on the next of the keys—the routine itself—what kind of exercises we’ll be doing. We are looking for a few good exercises for our ideal routine. Our most important consideration here is to select exercises we find enjoyable to do. They must, however, be exercises that will provide us with a good upper and lower body workout. The routine must be both simple and effective, and it must not be too time consuming.
If we hate our exercises, we will soon dread and hate our routine as well. A troublesome conflict will then arise, and, instead of looking forward to our workout, we begin finding more and more excuses for postponement and cancellations. This is an unnecessary conflict and burden on our lives. It is the most common cause for failure in Exercise Reform because it undermines our motivation. It robs us of the joy of exercising and all the little rewards our daily exercise programs brings to our lives.
We know we must exercise our bodies for good health. It is up to us, then, to devise an exercise routine that keeps us exercising consistently—not for the need of it, but for the enjoyment of it. That’s why I have adopted a routine I find thoroughly enjoyable.
My principle exercise is the jog. It is the most complete and enjoyable exercise we can do. It requires only a few supplementary exercises to give us the balanced, ideal routine we are looking for. In addition to my daily jogging routine, I add four sets of fifty pushups for my major upper body supplementary exercise.
I do a set of these every quarter hour during the jog. After the hour jog is over, I add the supplementary exercise routine consisting of four torso-limbering exercises: Toe-toucher, Windmill, Sidebender and Trunktwister. I do only one set of each of these exercises and only twenty repetitions per set. This takes about five minutes and my routine is done. The important thing here is that the workout is over at the time I’d normally be getting out of bed. After a shower and perhaps a fruit breakfast to complete the a.m. preliminaries, I look forward to the day with great expectations, unbelievable energy and a positive attitude that makes life a real joy to live.
An hour’s jogging, of course, is a goal to work up to. It should be done gradually, depending on age and physical condition. This goes for choosing the exercises and number of repetitions as well. The main thing is to choose supplementary exercises that work the upper body to supplement the jog if it is being used as the principle lower body exercise in the program. These exercises must be simple, effective, not too time consuming and, most of all, they must be enjoyable to do. The routine then becomes enjoyable, something we look forward to each day. In this way we take the second big step in solving the motivation problem in our Exercise Reform.
Making The Exercise Program a Way Of Life
Once we have decided when we’re going to exercise and what exercises we’re going to do, getting the program built into our system is relatively simple. All that is required is that we become loyal to our newfound routine for a few months. The principle of “building it in” is to make the exercise program a way of life, an integral part of our life activities. We want the workout to become a necessary bodily function like eating, sleeping, defecating and urinating. These bodily functions are so much a part of our life activities that we do them each day and scarcely notice. That’s the way it must be with our exercise routine. We must do this routine each day if we expect it to become a vital bodily function.
Some people advocate alternating exercises or even the routine itself every other day. I disagree. The key to consistency is building the routine into the system. This can only be achieved by doing the routine, like all other bodily functions, every day.
Trying to become consistent with our Exercise Reform should be looked upon as a project, an exercise in goal-setting and self-discipline. That is the way I approached it. The first year while I was still designing my program, I allowed myself one miss per week. At first it was hard to maintain this level of performance. Gradually, however, my body became accustomed to the exercise and my mind to the routine. The workouts became easier and easier to do because the workout had become built into my system. The second year I allowed myself only one miss per month. This was easy.
The routine by then had become effortless, very enjoyable and rewarding. The third year I missed only three days. I was so much into the routine by then that I wouldn’t have missed a workout for anything. It just never occurred to me to miss. Last year, the fourth and final year of the study, was a complete success—not a single miss—complete mastery over the motivation problem. I was indeed staying in shape for life and was enjoying every minute of it.
Such excellent progress can also be yours once you’ve completed the third big step in your Exercise Reform—once your workout has become like a bodily function, completely built into our system.
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The three steps you have just taken in your mind can be taken just as easily in reality. You too can achieve success in your desire to become involved in your own Exercise Reform. It doesn’t matter that your daily schedule is crowded. It doesn’t matter if you’re not an athlete or in good physical shape.
Even if you must work out alone—you can succeed. In designing your own exercise program, all you need do is focus on these three steps: (1) Choose a time of day when you cannot be interrupted by anyone or anything, and think seriously about the early a.m. hours for your workout. (2) Choose exercises for your routine that are simple, effective and not too time consuming. But most of all choose exercises you like and will enjoy doing every day. (3) You must do your routine faithfully every day until it becomes built into your system like a vital bodily function.
Following these steps should produce the desired results—the ideal exercise program you have been looking for, the program that helps you overcome the motivation problem and keeps you exercising consistently, not for the need of it, but for the sheer enjoyment of exercise. In this way you too will have no trouble “staying in shape for life.”