When I exercise regularly, which is most of the time, I look forward to exercising. On running mornings it's rare that I don't want to get up and run. On CoreFit and Tabata nights it's rare that I don't want to change, grab my mat and head across town for another crazy workout. When the little voice in my head suggests that it might be nice not to work out, the much louder one tells it to shhhh and there is rarely an argument.
Exercise begets more exercise.
For two weeks while I was sick, I did not exercise. At all.
This week, I'm back at it but only about 60%. I'm running but not quite as far and I'm back to CoreFit but only just. Swimming isn't even on the table yet.
The biggest lesson I learned is that not exercising begets even more not exercising.
The body gets used to whatever it does the most. When I exercise regularly, that becomes the norm and it is what my body knows and expects. It feels best when that pattern is maintained.
When I couldn't exercise, the first few days were tough. I felt awful but wanted desperately to go out for a run anyway. Didn't matter how long. Fifteen minutes was fine. I just wanted to move.
As every day went by, I became more and more comfortable not exercising and, in less than two weeks, not exercising became my new norm.
I knew I wanted to get back out there and run but it was my mind telling me to, not my body. My mind knew it was good for me. My mind knew that I would feel better and have more energy once I was moving regularly again. My mind knew I would use less insulin and have fewer highs once exercise was the routine.
My body was quite happy to sit on the couch after work. It was quite happy to sleep in until 6:30am, shower, eat and go to work. No 5am alarms.
I think I understand now how difficult it is for people to motivate themselves to exercise when they are not used to doing it. It's hard to get motivated. It's exhausting the first few times you do it and you're more tired afterwards. I don't think the endorphins come out to play for the first few weeks.
Only the fact that I know how good I'll feel once I get over the first few days gets me up when the alarm goes off. Only the fact that I have a vague memory of how much I love CoreFit convinces me to head out, in the dark, after work for a class.
For folks out there who are trying to find a way to motivate themselves to move more, here are my two cents for what they are worth. Use your mind to motivate you at the beginning - tell yourself all the reasons why it's important to walk, run, swim or whatever it is that appeals to you. Convince yourself of the value and talk yourself into moving. Once you get used to moving, your body will take over and motivate you to keep doing it.
Because, I have to say, it feels so darn good to be active. And the memory of feeling that good is what gets me moving again.