By Dave Lesser, of Amateur Idiot / Professional Dad
It could not be more obvious. All you have to do is say it out loud: “Doing some exercise is better than not doing any.” Duh. But it’s easy to get intimidated into thinking that if you’re not working out every other day (or more), you may as well not bother. We’ve all seen the “What’s YOUR excuse?” memes with moms of three who make time to lift 6 days a week or have images of totally ripped septuagenarians who could benchpress your minivan. And you think, “Not only will I never look like that, I will always look like this. Going to the gym once or twice a week isn’t going to do anything, so why bother?” It’s not about changing your body; it’s about changing your thinking. And that can start small.
Okay, I admit that for about 4 months I was running 5-6 days a week and, sometimes, going to the gym another day. I was training for a marathon and I got a little obsessed. It was my first full marathon and I had a goal in mind. This wasn’t just a race to cross off my bucket list; I wanted to know that I did all I could to do as well as I could. And I ended up surpassing my own expectations…and suffering mild hypothermia, unable to walk for an hour after the race, and scaring the hell out of my wife and kids. Good times!
That was in mid-October. Nearly five months later, I’ve run between five and ten times. I was burned out. Most people, clearly myself included, can only maintain that kind of dedication for relatively short spurts. We’re not being paid to look good and there are other things that are just more important. I haven’t been running, but at least I got back to the gym, right? Well, sometimes. Ideally, I like to maintain a 3-4 day per week schedule, but lately life has getting in the way. It happens. Through most of this winter, if I worked out twice a week it was a good week and I’ve gained about ten pounds since my marathon.
I could feel bad about these things, but I don’t. Not really.
When my first child was born, over six years ago, I was twenty pounds heavier than I am now. I have a slight build and it was not a good look on me (think: chicken legs and a beer gut). But more than that, I felt like crap. I started off slow at the gym on the Nautilus machines, eventually making my way to the free weights with the guys I thought were meatheads. Turns out, they’re generally pretty nice dudes who didn’t mind answering questions about form and technique from a skinny punk like me. I ran a couple 5 and 10ks and then heard about obstacle course races. I’ve found that signing up for races of different lengths and on different types of terrain has been a great motivator. They give me a goal to shoot for and a reason to train, as well as different exercises and body parts to focus on.
When nothing is on the horizon, however, it’s important to make sure I’m still doing something. Anything. Sometimes it’s not about gaining; it’s just about maintaining.
Now that the snow is melting, I’m feeling that itch again. I can’t wait to start running regularly and upping my gym visits. Momentum is so important and I’ve made sure that I’m not starting from again from zero. Since I’ve continued working out – be it on a somewhat limited basis – it’s simply a matter of degree. I’m not doing something new; I’m just doing a little more of what I was already doing. Maybe adding a few extra things, you know, for fun.
In the end, for most people, exercise should be fun. If picking heavy things up and putting them down again isn’t your thing, find something that is. Maybe it’s running, swimming, hiking, Zumba, yoga, pilates, cross-fit or barre classes. It doesn’t matter. For me, getting to the gym or talking myself into running can sometimes be a struggle. But when I’m there, in the middle of it, the rest of my cares and stress melt away, if only for a short time.
Exercise for yourself and for your family (they love you and want you around for as long as possible). Don’t worry about that lady with pregnancy abs. She’s a fitness professional. She gets paid to do it. The rest of us? We’re just trying to get and stay healthy. Looking better naked is just an added benefit.
Posted on April 10, 2015