Reader Questions :: Exercise and Doing It All

A topic that came up several times in the my Reader Survey is my running and exercise routine.

I’d like to know how you got into running. Did you try other exercises first and they just didn’t appeal to you? I’ve been trying to get into an exercise routine, but I just can’t find one to keep my interest.

And . . .

I’m interested in how you balance everything you do. I can’t seem to find the time some days to even put dishes in the dishwasher AND exercise. It’s one or the other. Your busyness and organization amaze me. 🙂

Okay, so these are really two different topics, but I can address them together. I’ve written before about not doing it all. NO ONE DOES. We all make choices, and while it may SEEM like I do a lot, there are plenty of things I don’t do that you may do. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we can’t beat ourselves up for not doing more than time allows.

I have struggled my whole life with finding the time and motivation to exercise.

When I casually mention running and working out, please don’t think that it’s second-nature to me. I love this image I found on Pinterest.

I love it BECAUSE it is such an awesome reminder that we all make time for what is important to us. And we will always let slide the stuff we don’t really care for. This is why my house is rarely perfectly neat and clean (except on Thursdays for about an hour after the cleaning lady leaves.) This also why I don’t do crafts or scrapbook or watch much TV or hang out at the mall anymore.

And of course, at different times in our lives, we make time for different things. I used to take a lot of time and pride in decorating my home, but nowadays it is an afterthought at best. I used to be an avid scrapbooker, but that went quickly by the wayside when I discovered blogging.

Ironically, I’m busier now that I’ve ever been, but exercise is a regular part of my life because I have made a conscious effort to fit it into my schedule even though there are always a dozen other things I feel like I could/should be doing instead. Exercising keeps me off of depression medication and keeps my digestive system working. {Dead serious.} If I go too long without running, I start to feel like my digestive system is backing up. And a few years ago, it was running that got rid of my seasonal affective disorder and allowed me to stay off meds that I was considering. Ever since, I have referred to running as my mental health insurance.

I’ve never been athletic and I never really enjoyed exercise. It was always a means to an end, or something I felt like I should be doing. I have tried everything from The 30-Day Shred to power walking to Jane Fonda’s aerobic workout videos to weight lifting to running to Pilates . . . I think the only things I’ve never tried are swimming and yoga. (And yoga’s on my list!)

At several times throughout my life, starting in high school, I tried running and could never stick with it. But I always wanted to like it. I wish I could tell you how and why it finally clicked, but I honestly do not know.

It was a few years ago when I was doing the 30-Day Shred and had worked up to the third level when I injured myself. I pulled an abdominal muscle and couldn’t do the workout for a few days. I didn’t want to lose my momentum so I decided to go take a walk. It was a pretty spring day, and I was enjoying the fresh air and the sunshine, but I soon got antsy and wanted a harder workout so I started to run. I just ran a little ways, until I felt winded, and then I went back to walking. After walking for a while, I got bored again and started to run. I probably ran/walked a couple of miles that day.

Fueled with a sense of accomplishment and also with the freedom of allowing myself to walk or run, whichever felt good, I went back out again. I started working up to running more and walking less, but I always allowed myself to walk when I wanted to. I bought myself an iPod Shuffle and put some fun music on it and started to really enjoy the time to myself. Before I knew it, I had tired of the Shred but I was running/walking fairly regularly.

Running used to bore me, but these days, running is my escape from work and kids and house. And having a killer playlist helps immensely! Even when I don’t feel like running, all I have to do is turn on my music, and I’m raring to go.

I have been exercising with some regularity for several years now, which is a HUGE record for me. When I went through Dinneen’s counseling program, she made a point about exercise that has stuck with me ever since, and I credit her with my ability to keep it up for this long.

You see, in my mind, I was always exercising or I was not. There was never an in-between. I would do whatever I was doing at the time 2 or 3 days a week, for several weeks or months, but once I went away for a vacation or got sick, and missed a week, that was it. I wouldn’t do anything strenuous for months or years at a time until the next exercise fad.

Dinneen pointed out that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. She encouraged me to look at exercise as a regular part of my life, and not to get bogged down in how long it had been since my last workout or how much strength or endurance I might have lost. I was allowing the failures of the past to inhibit me from getting out there again. I felt like there was no point in “starting up again” if I was going to quit.

In fact, it was the simple fact that I viewed all those other times as failures that was my stumbling block. Dinneen freed me to see all those past exercise attempts in one big picture, not a bunch of separate illustrations. There is no such thing as an exercise failure — every single time you get your butt out there and move, it is a success story. In reality, I have been exercising my entire adult life. At least, that is the way I look at it now.

And it is taking that perspective towards exercise that has enabled me to keep going for so long this time. See that? I still fall into that habit. I don’t run as often as I’d like, but nowadays, even when I’ve missed a week, I get back out there. I don’t let how long it’s been affect my psyche anymore.

Last fall I started going to the gym again (see that? again . . . old habits die hard) and working out with weights. I am also taking a TRX class. I always loved how I felt when I was working out with weights, and the older I get, the more I feel the need for strength training.

My mom likes to say, “You do aerobic exercise to extend your life, and you do strength exercise to improve your quality of life.”

Because I have paid for classes, I am committed to going. Truly, that is the ONLY thing that gets me to the gym most days. I go twice a week, and it pretty much kills the entire morning. I hate losing the time from work or home commitments, but I am determined to fit it in because I know it makes the rest of my life that much more enjoyable.

I think everyone has to find what works for them, the type of exercise they enjoy, the time of day that they can fit it in, and most of all — a reason to keep going. For me, it’s not so much about weight loss or even body toning, but it’s about my mental health and my quality of life. I love feeling strong and energetic. When I let a few days go by without doing any physical activity, I don’t like how I feel, and that motivates me to get back out there.

How about you? What exercises do you enjoy? What motivates you to get out there?