Sunday, February 11, 2018

Exercise is Stupid, and Weigh In

Since writing my post yesterday about how I *need* to start exercising on a schedule and how resistant I always have been to that, I took some time to reflect on why... or rather, what's the mental road block to an exercise routine? First, I searched my blog and found my History of Exercise post, which described how my childhood and young adulthood never involved any structured exercise or sports routine. Then I looked through my blog history in which I have had long stretches of *doing* a routine... usually biking on my stationary recumbent bike, walking for the sole purpose of walking, and lifting weights in my home. I noticed that I have *always* been very resistant to getting any of these routines started, but once I got going for awhile I loved how I felt afterwards... and I loved the results! So why, just why, do I keep saying "I know I need to exercise" but then not actually doing it?

Well, I hate it. It's stupid. That's what comes to my mind when I think about going to a gym or picking up the dusty weights in my bedroom or getting on that bike in the basement. It's how I feel when I think about going to an aerobics class or a yoga class or any of those things. How dumb, what a waste of time. I don't even enjoy it, so there's not even THAT reason to do it. Even though I *know* that building strength, balance, and endurance are not at all dumb, I get this internal eye-roll feeling when people start talking about that kind of stuff. Why?

I think to get past this barrier (which has been an obstacle for me for as long as I can remember), I need to sort it out and directly confront the hidden reasons and thoughts for my resistance. So here goes.

I remember when I was younger... maybe an older teen... there was a book I had to read for some class I was taking. I think it was in college, and it had something to do with pioneer history. There was a lecture by a professor that went with a certain part of this book in which they discussed how hard every single task was back then. The pioneers had no time-saving devices. They were up at dawn and everyone... men, women, and even small children... had essential tasks to complete each day. Every bit of their day revolved around getting their basic needs met. If they wanted a pot of stew for dinner, they didn't just run to the store, chop and dump everything into a crock pot and then sit down to eat 6 hours later. They had to hunt. Walk sometimes many miles to find animals to kill, roots to dig, plants to harvest. They had to gather all of this, take it to a stream to wash it all, skin and clean the animal, and carry water from the stream to their home. They had to gather wood, build a fire, tend a pot over the flame, and then finally they could eat... but then there was the cleanup, too. They had to make and mend their clothing, wash it all by hand and hang it to dry. Everything they needed to do in a day took their hard work and energy and pretty much no one was sitting around getting fat.

The book compared this life to today, with our work-saving, time-saving devices like washing machines, cars. vacuum cleaners, electricity, indoor plumbing, and the like. The professor talked about the laziness of modern people. He talked about how those pioneers drove themselves to exhaustion just trying to do the work needed to survive, while modern humans have so much extra time and energy that they actually go to a gym to "burn off" their excess energy. People actually waste their time and energy on "workouts" that are not actually work. The professor spoke with disdain and mockery about people "running to nowhere" on treadmills and standing around lifting heavy metal weights over their heads for "no reason"... so stupid! How this would puzzle the pioneers, whose muscles were strong because they carried their children, hauled buckets of water, scrubbed laundry and belongings, and worked their muscles for *real purpose*... not silly, manufactured "workouts" but actual WORK.

I guess that attitude has stuck with me all these years, because that is exactly what I think of and how I feel when people talk about lifting weights or jumping around in an exercise class. They are using up their valuable time and energy... for NOTHING! Just for the sake of "burning calories" or "getting fit." I adopted that disdain and sense of "how stupid is it" from that professor so long ago, and it's always been the true driving reason I don't "exercise", but instead, try to increase my "lifestyle activity" (or actual work).

I think to myself sometimes, I am so tired by the end of a day. Sometimes I don't even have the energy left to mop the floor, or walk the dogs, or work on the yard like I should. How much sense does it make to add in useless, pointless activity that accomplishes none of the these tasks and is only burning energy for the sake of burning it? Isn't is more sensible and less stupid to take 20 minutes each day to go out and work on the yard, fix something around the house, walk a dog, paint a room, refinish the deck, or mop the floor than it is to take that same 20 minutes and energy (which is in short supply) and sit on a dumb bike in the basement, biking to nowhere for no reason? My energy is limited, so I tell myself I need to use it to do actual work that needs to be done, and not a silly "workout."

So there is it. That's the mental resistance to the "exercise routine." It's always been that way, I've always felt that way, and in order to get to a place of biking 30 minutes a day and lifting 3 times a week like I used to do, I had to shove those thoughts and feelings aside and just do it anyway. But maybe, instead of fighting it and just "doing it anyway," this time can be different. Maybe this time I can set a goal of 15, 20, 30 or more minutes each day of raising my heart rate and strengthening my muscles... whether that be "exercise" or "actual work." If *that* is my goal, then it obliterates my reasons for avoiding meaningless biking. Because if I *do* have actual work to do... I can do it. Use that as my 20 or 30 minutes, as long as it is heart-rate-elevating and muscle-strengthening. And if I don't have an actual hard-work task to do on a certain day, or didn't have time to get it done because I was sitting doing paperwork or driving to appointments, I can still get my time in my hopping on that bike and lifting some weights... because now it fills a need. Now it is a way to get my physical "work" requirement in without taking time and energy away from an actual purposeful task.

That's what I'm going to do this week. I have a checklist and will do at least 20 minutes of strenuous "work" each day, from one category or the other. I think this will satisfy the need for activity, the limited nature of my energy, and the mental roadblock all at once.

Scale says 205 pounds, which is one pound gone this week,


Anonymous said...

I've always exercised to be fit for a sport. Seeing how increased stamina and strength help me with a hobby I'm serious about motivates me further. Pioneers and all sorts of early humans for millennia before that did play sports, btw... ran races, wrestled, played ball games, swam, did gymnastics or yoga... danced! Does your daughter still dance? I remember you once wrote about your admiration for the young dancers you saw. That's why many people like Zumba actually. Movement doesn't only have to be about completing a task or survival. It can also be, and historically has been, a celebration of the human body.

Kristi said...

20 minutes of getting your heart rate into fat burning mode is a good start. I’ve read a recent article that stated those who want to maintain a loss must exercise over an hour a day. I keep 165 pounds off by eating very healthy and walking at least 1 1/2 hours every day. If I miss or do get up to that amount for more than 2 days and continue to eat the same, I start to gain. Don’t let your prior thoughts be your excuse. Like any athlete, you must push through it. I do not wake up everyday excited to walk, but I do it anyway. Drugs are helping you right now, but this is the time to learn and make new routines, not wait until you don’t have the crutch anymore. Do I have other things, I could be doing besides walking, oh my yes, but my weight is important enough more me to keep off to make time and “waste the energy.” A little secret, the more you exercise the more energy at the end of the night you will have. Try it consistently for a month, I guarantee you will a see a difference.

Anonymous said...

ha, I have thought the same thing! Here is how I cured it. I started seeing exercise as a currency. If I burned x number of calories I could "buy" y number of calories to eat. It's very effective. If I really want that candy bar, I work for it! That way it is not a wasted effort, lol.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone can exercise. Some of us can't, but we still keep out weight down by diet. So don't feel like this is a must. You can do it with diet alone, if you want to.

Anonymous said...

How about using a "real" bike to get yourself to places you really need to go.

Anonymous said...

So interesting to read your insight and analysis on your own experience with exercise and growing up. I really think that professor did you a disservice with his opinion on exercise or you did one to yourself by believing it all these years.

And you have said that you did enjoy exercise previously, so maybe it is something you can find physical and mental room for in your life again. Do you think of reading or art or anything else, just for the sake of enjoyment, as a waste of time? What are you teaching your children about the role of joy and movement?

I personally find the benefits of exercise outweigh any of the aggravations of making it fit into my life. Like other posters have already said, there are lots of enjoyable activities (dance) and practical ones (cycling). I think parts of my job or doing things like certain household chores are not the best use of my time, but I sure like the outcome!

I grew up very active, my parents were both athletic and still are (in their 70s and 80s), and I was raised in a family that skied, skated, hiked, swam, water-skied, canoed, kayaked, played football/basketball/baseball, you name it! Plus I loved all sports in school. If something was competitive, I played it, including all through university. I know that's not true for everyone. We raised our kids the same way and none of them have any sports for which they are really passionate, so I know personality plays a role here.

Recently I have come to be very grateful for my own background with sport and fitness. I was injured in an accident and I think already being fit, having a passion for movement and seeing the benefits of exercise have made recovery much easier. And having a strong body made the healing time quicker.

As I think about getting older, I think of exercise and movement as medicine, just as I do food. What I eat and how I move are going to play such a vital role in how I age and how I enjoy my upcoming retirement.

Here's to hoping you find some peace with all of this. I think your own analysis and new goals are great first steps!

Anonymous said...

The ironic thing is that exercising to keep your body strong is not "wasting" energy--it actually gives you MORE energy to do your everyday tasks.

LHA said...

Lyn, I probably hate exercise as much as you do. I will disagree with some others who say it is vital to weight loss/maintenance because I have certainly lost weight without exercise at times. I'll go further and say that I do not believe for me that exercise contributes in a major way to weight loss, as it is all about what I am eating. That said, I started to exercise regularly a few years ago for reasons of mental health benefits as well as just keeping limber and mobile. It certainly doesn't hurt with weight loss, that's for sure. I joined the Y, and found two exercises I liked enough to tolerate. I love to swim laps, and even if I can't get a lap lane and have to tread water in the deep end for my exercise, the water feels good and I can still get my heart rate up. I also got enough music I really like downloaded on my ipod to (kind of) enjoy the exercise bike and the treadmill. I have a goal to exercise an hour a day, at least five days a week. Sometimes I don't make it, but often I do. One thing I can say when I'm through is "Well, I got that over with" even if I can't say anything else good about it! At least I feel like I am doing something that is good for me in every way and I don't have to feel bad for not doing it. Maybe that isn't a very good point of view compared to others, but I try to never compare myself to others anyway. :)

Joy said...

Lyn, do you have the option of developing a vegetable area in your garden or do you have allotments (forgive my ignorance, I live in the UK) nearby that have a space. That way you would be exercising but in a very meaningful way with something very positive at the end - lovely, home grown, healthy vegetables and fruit. Believe me, allotments take a whole lot of work! :-)
J x

Anonymous said...

I have the same problem. I find exercise so boring and pointless, especially treadmills and ellipticals. I do think you are right and that the key is finding something fun or purposeful to do. For example, I bought a new Dance Dance Revolution game because it was the one thing I could stick to when I was younger. When I play, it feels fun and not like exercise. I try to get better and better at the moves, so it's challenging. After I played, my husband stared at me strangely and said, "I've never seen you move so much before." Lol.

Anyway, DDR isn't for everyone, but I'm sure you get my point. I hope you find something that you love to do, too.

Sam Lupin said...

hi Lyn,

i found your blog by accident last summer and since last summer, i have read every blog post that you've ever written (and they were a lot) and i just got them finished recently so i decided to leave a comment for this post. :)

i am a 22-year-old (turning 23 this year!) medical student from Bahrain. i was overweight pretty much all my life and hit my highest when i was 15... months after dieting very heavily, i weighed myself and was at 217 pounds (and i wasn't eating anything then!). unfortunately, i developed very eating disordered behaviour, but i definitely do understand the binge feelings and i related with you so much on your blog posts! i really am vouching for you. :)

i write comments as i am reading, so if they sound really weird, that's why.

do you think maybe it is because you are finding it discouraging as a weight loss tool? i remember a lot of times that you were exercising but the scale wasn't moving. i know when i used to associate exercise with that, i'd get really annoyed very quickly, but when i started to associate exercise with this mood booster or like a stress mechanism, it got better... i do advise you to exercise, not because i think you /need/ to, but i remember on trips, you do reminisce about times where you were able to complete something... and i hate that you feel like that. i want you to feel good about things like that. and i think you might always have these feelings that *you should exercise* or *what if i exercised* and it's not very healthy!!

that's very interesting that your professor said things like that. i think for me, it's not about for's for me. it's my time, my space to do what i want... it's not something i /have/ to do, but it makes me feel better that i can do it if i want. i always wanted to be the kind of person that did sports as a child, so this made me feel good!

i think though one of the biggest things for me exercise wise is that it gives me energy. and that's what it's supposed to do! i find that when i don't, i feel very sluggish and tired and unlikely to complete the tasks that i want to do. i think exercise is supposed to give you that mental boost that you need to complete these tasks! that endorphins thing really does it for me! and if it doesn't, i feel like you might not have found the thing that you actually want to do. i am, of course, not pushing this but suggesting.

" I have a checklist and will do at least 20 minutes of strenuous "work" each day, from one category or the other. " i am hoping this works for you!

(i am so sorry about how long this comment is)

Sam Lupin said...

i really hope that what i said might help. i really also hope that you remember that even more important than all of this is taking time for yourself. i read your blog posts constantly and i always got worried when you do not take care of yourself! you deserve to be happy. honestly. <3

also, i really like Joy's idea. especially seeing as how much you post about such local fruit and vegetables... i think it's a great idea! when i was a child, we had some trees in the backyard of my grandparents' house that was filled with fruit and we had palm trees literally filled with dates. some of my greatest memories of my childhood involve eating from them! some of them i don't even know the name of! especially since i remember that there was a post some time ago that you mentioned about a tree and your son (i am very sorry. i cannot remember the name of the tree!)

please take care. and congrats on the pound loss!! you should be so proud of the progress that you are making! i don't agree with the amount that you are eating (i think you should be eating more but i also have not been in your shoes and i can see how frustrating it was for you to eat at around 1,500 calories and stall out for months or even gain and i know it is what has been recommended by the metabolic testing... did you consider getting it done again post-Medifast as you said that you think that Medifast has lowered your metabolism?? (i cannot remember when you did it but i remember it being close to the Medifast period!).

take care,
- Sam Lupin

Lyn said...

Thank you all for the great comments and suggestions! Sam Lupin, I love that you took the time to write out such an insightful comment and that you've read all of my posts. I had some thoughts stirring in my head as I read your post, and the others as well.

I have always loved swimming and it never feels pointless, because the point is that I enjoy it! Same for tennis, playing with my kids, and that water aerobics class I took with my friends long ago. I loved doing those things and did them for reasons aside from "just exercise." I was thinking about how part of my attitude towards exercise is also because I can't do many of the things I liked to do anymore. My knees are shot and hips closely following due to arthritis and old injuries. I cannot run or play tennis no matter how thin I get because of joint damage and pain. Even the biking sometimes ends up with me hurting myself, which sounds so ridiculous but there have been several times over the years that after I started with a regular biking routine, my knee or foot pain flared up for WEEKS. I had such a horrible experience with plantar fasciitis for two YEARS that I would do anything to avoid that again. That's a factor I didn't consider in my post, but it's real and it's there. I cannot go through that depressing misery again.

I'm going to work through this and do my activity in various forms and if something hurts, it's getting ruled out. I want to find more things I can do that I enjoy... maybe the gardening would be a great thing for us. And I know as I lose weight and get stronger, that will only help my joint issues.

MaryFran said...

What a fabulous post!!! I have been struggling with just this same thing! I think I may have needed to read this!!!

Karen Cain said...

I first started running because I was walking to help myself lose weight, and the walking seemed to be taking a longer time (I'm impatient). I have four kids, and at the time the youngest was just two, so my husband had to be watching them while I went for walks, and I felt I should get home as soon as I could so he could get back to work. I reasoned that if I started running, rather than walking, I could burn the same amount of calories in a shorter span of time.

I didn't *enjoy* running at first. It felt awful. But I kept at it, because I knew I'd be healthier for it--I'd lose weight a little faster, my heart and lungs would be healthier, my muscles would get stronger. And slowly, as I kept at it, I got "better" in that I could go farther and I soon realized I felt emotionally better on days I ran. Not only did I feel I'd accomplished something that I'd never used to be able to do, but my mood was just better. I ate healthier on days I exercised--I still do. There's something mental about not wanting to "undo" all that hard work.

We're training our kids to run, and one mantra I've instilled in them is "You only regret the run you DIDN'T take." Even if a run (or walk) is short, or maybe you turned an ankle or something, you got out there, you did something concrete with your body. My other mantra is, "I don't run for how I feel when I'm running, I run for how I'm feeling AFTER I run." The runner's high is real, but it doesn't have to be a runner's high! Have you thought about using a regular bike to run errands, or just get outside? I find I enjoy exercise a lot more if I'm outside, not inside a gym, though I use an indoor running track, rather than a treadmill, in the winter.

I guess my point is, unless you are planning to go back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, haul your water from a well, and wash all your laundry by hand and all that, modern humans do need to incorporate thoughtful physical activity into their lives. Just because it isn't what our ancestors did doesn't mean it's bad. It's just different.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand not being enthusiastic about exercise. About 9 years ago, I was 230 pounds and would watch active, fit people out and about running, biking, etc. and I could not even imaging doing those activities. After losing about 50 pounds through diet alone, I decided to start exercising to help with my body confidence. I started a very manageable, but consistent, exercise routine. Slowly but surely, my endurance and strength increased and I began to thoroughly enjoy exercise and tried all sorts of different classes and activities and would continue the ones I liked the best.
With consistency, I believe you will likely go from not liking exercise, to being "okay" doing it, to eventually liking it, and then end up (like me now) where I truly need to be active. I believe the key is to not force too much too soon. Keep it enjoyable and manageable and most people start doing more and more over time.
The mental benefit of exercise is huge. I believe exercise has a cured my life long cycle of depression.
If what the professor said to you all those years ago gave you a bad impression of how exercise was "stupid" maybe you could try re-training yourself to think of exercise in a new way? One thing I think of frequently is "I am SO LUCKY that my body can do these amazing things!" When you do not feel like exercising but know that you should, maybe look up stories about people who aren't so lucky? Reading a story about a paraplegic who would give anything just to walk again might motivate you to get moving and really appreciate the fact that you can.
The change may not happen overnight, but continuing to invest in a healthy lifestyle will pay off. Best of luck to you!

Natalie said...

I don't recall ever hearing a lecture like this but I've always felt this way about 'exercise for the sake of exercise' and struggle to get myself to the gym because it seems so pointless - even though being fit and healthy is of course not pointless! This year I've expended a lot of calories in the garden, we had a swimming pool put in and most of the existing garden was destroyed in the process so there has been a lot of really strenuous work; moving rocks, laying turf, digging etc. I've enjoyed it so much! I could see that I was making a really big difference and ended up with a lovely garden (that still needs a lot of maintenance!). I was on Duromine a lot of that time which helped with the energy levels.

During a period when I did regularly go to the gym, I would set myself goals for various pieces of equipment - like going a certain distance in 30 mins on the rowing machine - that would take me around a month to build up fitness to achieve. I liked having a concrete goal to aim for. Other times at home I've used Kinect fitness games like Just Dance where I've worked on getting 5 stars on the hardest setting for every song. I've never found just going to the gym or going for a walk inspiring without a specific goal to achieve.

Anonymous said...

Watch "Impossible Dreamers" @ senior athletes on Netflix. It runs an hour. Might change your life. Impossible to imagine watching these go-the-distance-of-life people and not be inspired and encouraged! Take care of your bones--and your heart. I think you can do this.

Signed, a long-time reader, first-time commenter

Phoenix said...

In response to some of the comments you note your joint issues, which limit your ability to exercise. You also say you used to love swimming and water aerobics.

Those would be the best thing for someone with knee/hip pain and joint issues, no? Have you considered returning to those forms of exercise? I think they would not tax your joints or cause pain or flare ups, but would be great for health -- both mental and physical.

Exercise should be thought of as promoting weight loss. Those sayings about "abs are made in the kitchen" and "you can't outrun your fork" are true -- exercise can certainly be a weight loss aid, but what happens in the kitchen (that is, what you put in your mouth) has a FAR greater impact on your weight.

So exercise should not be thought of as a necessary evil to lose weight and instead embraced as vital to component in promoting overall mental and physical HEALTH. You will live a longer life and be more comfortable during it with regular exercise. You will also be happier, as regular exercise = mood elevator and energy booster.

Lyn said...


Absolutely! I love to swim. I'll have a membership to a pool again this summer, but don't have access to a pool in the non-summer months unless I go to a hotel or that kind of thing. Can't wait for June!

Phoenix said...

Just wanted to correct a typo in my post -- that should say that exercise should NOT be thought of as promoting weight loss.
My point being that while it can contribute to it, it is definitely not the most significant factor. Exercise should be done for other important reasons but not motivated solely by a desire to lose weight.
You don't have a YMCA or gym near you with a pool?

Lyn said...


Our YMCA does not have a pool. The gym that I joined a few years back, with the pool, is not something I can afford right now.

Anonymous said...

But you can afford road trips and nights at hotels?

Lyn said...

last Anon~

That is precisely why I can't afford the gym anymore. Medical expenses and travel for medical reasons. Believe me, I'd gladly give up this kind of travel if I could.

Laura said...

Great post Lyn. I relate to much of what you said about not growing up in an active family and thus, exercise has always seemed like a chore rather than finding fun ways to keep active. I've been consistent with a strength training routine for about 6 weeks now - a new record for me. I think what is helping is looking at it as a personal challenge - I want to prove to myself that I can stick with this - and also, as a few other commenters said, thinking of it as putting in time to help my physical and mental health (because I too have found it way too easy to dismiss exercise as stupid and a waste of time).
All that being said, I would agree with those who have said exercise is not essential to lose weight. If it's easier to just focus on your food right now rather than adding another factor, that's probably the best thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Maybe now would be a good time to start walking with your daughter. Not just to school but taking the dogs for walks to the park together. Then eventually you could add in some hiking. I am 62 and I still walk with my daughter who is 37 several times per week. We started when she was in junior high I think. When my son who lives out of town comes to visit he drags me on hikes that he knows I can handle. It gives us a great opportunity to talk about things that may not come up if we just stayed home or went out to dinner with the entire family. Now it is to the point that I enjoy walking. I put in my earbuds and blast my music and enjoy the scenery. You should try it-it's a lot of fun.

Kristi said...

I had another thought, maybe you missed. This has shown you can stay within 1100 calories a day and lose 1 lb. 1100 is doable without drugs. And it means that in 40 weeks, you could be st goal all by yourself! How awesome to see that on January 1st, 2019, if you stay at your 1100 calories, you could be at goal. If you put some exercise into, you can even get there faster. THAT would not be a waste of your time.

FrenchyMcFrenchcake said...

That’s not 100% accurate as your body gets more effiecient as you restrict calories so you don’t continue to lose at the same rate that is why exercise is vital at this stage to shake up the metabolism and build muscle which will increase resting metabolism.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that exercise needs to be one-dimensional. As others have pointed out, there are other ways that exercise can be fulfilling--socially, emotionally, etc. I second the idea of walking with someone. It's a great way to have a non-interrupted conversation with your kids, a friend, a neighbor. It also helps to have someone else looking forward to your walks because it helps to keep you accountable. I would also recommend finding volunteer opportunities that allow you to move. For example, I help with a free food market every week, and it involves loading and unloading the produce, which can be a pretty good workout. I'm also curious as to why your stationary bike is in the basement? I know that I would much rather watch TV while biking like that!

Lyn said...

last Anon~

It's in the basement because there's no room for it in my bedroom, kitchen, dining room, or living room and none of the kids want it in their bedrooms. So it's downstairs in the family room, where there is space (and a TV).