Exercise: some motivation required… lots of motivation, actually

I own the following T-shirt from Shirt.Woot!:


It accurately describes one major aspect of why I don’t regularly exercise. Lack of motivation… and there is an unfortunate dearth of gigantic prehistoric predators around to provide such motivation.

I need some kind of distraction while exercising because, frankly, it is both painful and boring. I need something to take my mind off of what is going on, something similar to the TV screen on the ceiling when you go to the dentist. Last year I came across the courseware offered through the Teaching Company. I set myself up first with an iPod, then with a portable DVD player next to my treadmill/exercise bike, and only allowed myself to view a “lesson” (which are nicely broken up into 30 minute chunks) when I was exercising. As such things go, this was pretty successful. I completed just under 50 lessons or two complete courses in 11 months, which means on average I was exercising once a week. Far below the ten hours a day that most truly fit people seem to claim you need in order to stay healthy, but a vast amount more than zero.

Looking at 2010, I continue to need exercise, and continue to lack motivation. I have added one more mental trick through my regular use of the LiveStrong.com food and activity tracking website. I get more or less immediate “feedback” regarding my calorie input and consumption, so when I eat a bit extra I can offset that right away by exercising the same day. The graphs and visuals help trick me into thinking I’m accomplishing something, which is an important part of overcoming my negative inertia. And, although it is still very early in the process, I’m actually beginning to see a link between net calories and weight loss. In a month or two, assuming this continues, this linkage might be a significant motivator by itself.

I’m starting to think, though, that I need one more push to get on the treadmill or bike a bit more often than once a week. I have been considering installing TV sets in my exercise room, and establishing a “you can’t watch <some desirable program> unless you are exercising” rule. This has several benefits. First and foremost, it means I have to acquire a bunch of new gadgets: LCD panels, wall mounting hardware, and something to bring the DVR/Apple TV recorded programming up to the exercise room. Secondly, it is in the same vein as my already-proven “you can only watch these educational lessons when exercising” approach.

Or I could just clone myself a T-Rex or a couple of raptors. That might do the trick too…

3 thoughts on “Exercise: some motivation required… lots of motivation, actually”

  1. I’m “fortunate” in that my work requires a fair bit of exercise, because I too find exercise for the sake of it boring beyond belief. I don’t ( generally ) find it painful as such, not enough to inhibit me from doing it… just BORING.

    I try and walk where possible, use stairs where possible … but winter makes it difficult. Walking across icey parking lots while people who haven’t cleaned their windshields and aren’t paying attention whiz by … well that may make you fitter – if you survive, but it isn’t healthy!

    I think your exercise while doing other things approach is a good one … not so sure about the “But honey, I need all these new tech toys! The widescreen TV is part of my fitness program. Really.” strategy, but hey, if it works πŸ˜‰

    I’m waiting for motion capture technology and first person shooter games to merge, then you will have your T-rex πŸ˜€

  2. Dodging cars while walking on icy roads: that’s gotta burn some more calories than just walking πŸ˜‰

    The “pain” aspect for me is generally two things: weak joints, and lack of muscle tone. I’ve more or less learned to avoid the third thing that used to always do me in: over-doing it. My lack of muscle exacerbates the joint problems. But I am getting better at minimizing the joint issues. I spent several months earlier in 2009 walking on the treadmill using “barefoot” shoes, and that built up my ankles and heel tendons sufficiently that I don’t have as many foot problems.

    As for deploying new gear to distract myself- well, it is always constrained by Irene’s reaction. Generally she’s pretty good about tolerating my geeky need to over-complicate things and spend money on silly stuff. My current “dream” is to have two smallish (e.g. 12″) LCD panels at our two main torture…er, exercise devices, and to rig something up using a Slingbox or similar for remote connectivity to the DVR and AppleTV… I’m not sure yet. Shelving, then TVs (not directly related, but those are my priorities), then fancy electronics. We already have basic cable in that room…

    Currently I’m happy if I can get thirty to forty minutes of exercise twice a week with a target heart rate of about 60-70% of maximum. I regularly don’t get that much, but perhaps with the right motivation I can get close. I still think the “re-create ancient predatory megafauna” idea would probably be the most effective…

  3. I wouldn’t worry too much about the target heart rate business. It’s good if you want to build cardiovascular endurance ( which actually applies to me, ) but for you, what you need is just to develop muscle tone and counteract the effects of sitting in a chair most of your waking moments. You just need to move around more.

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