Sunday, May 19, 2013

Overcoming Laziness

            I ride my bike roughly ten miles a day. I probably work out twelve hours a week, not counting my bike riding time. I also have a confession.
            I'm lazy.
            I am, in fact, one of the lazier people I know. Whenever I tell people this, they usually laugh me off and assume that I'm joking. I assure you, I'm not. It would probably be more accurate to say that my natural inclinations lean toward laziness. I love to lay around and do nothing. It's pretty hard to get me to leave my house and do anything that isn't prearranged into my schedule, as my friends can tell you. So, being that I'm lazy, how do I force myself into keeping an active lifestyle?
            First, and most importantly, I try not to force myself to do anything, because that's a losing game. I personally adhere to the idea that willpower is a finite resource. I only have so much willpower to get me through the day, and I use up small bits of it whenever I need to make a decision. Some psychology texts also refer to this as ego depletion.
            To negate this effect, I don't decide to say, ride my bike seventy miles a week. Instead, I just don't own a car. I change the way my life functions. Let's use an analogy. I like to think of my life as a constantly moving river. If I want to change the way it is flowing, taking a bucket and trying to heave the water elsewhere (using my willpower) isn't going to do much. To get the change I want, I need to change the topography of my life. That's one reason I don't own a car. At this point in my life it I don't really need one, and if I had one I'd never ride a bike. If I want food, money or human companionship, I need to get up, get on my bike, and ride a few miles. This lifestyle choice keeps me at a baseline of fitness that is higher than your average person, even if I stop all of my other exercise routines.
            That is one example, obviously it won't work for everyone, but I believe the theory is sound.
            Another way I structure my life is by making my exercise routine as accessible as possible.  I make workouts that I can do in my bedroom. If I have to get up, put clothes on, pack a gym bag, drive to the gym, put gym clothes on, then decide what machines I'm going to work on that day, I won't do a damn thing. That many choices = ego depletion.
            However, if I have to roll off my bed, put on some underwear, and start doing jumping jacks, I'll probably do it. Which leads me to my next tactic. I make the first two exercises in my workout deceptively easy. If I have to start with squats, pushups or updowns, I'll never start my workout.
             If I start with a few jumping jacks, I'm already in the zone when the time comes to do updowns, and by then it's easier to push through than it is to stop. I also suggest creating three to four 20 minute workouts for yourself and using them for most of your exercise days. Once you create those workouts, that's another decision that you don't need to make.
            With that said, you'll still have to make a few decisions if you want to start an exercise routine. But the fewer decisions you have to make, and the more you structure your life around that routine, the easier it's going to be to keep up.
            Before I end, here are two things I have learned to be true for 90% of the population. If you eat dinner before you workout, you're probably not going to workout. If you plan to wake up early in the morning and get a workout, you probably won't workout then either.

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