Maria’s Musings & Advice was just a few weeks old when this letter arrived:
I need to exercise more. I wasn’t very athletic growing up, and I never got into the habit of working out. I hate sweating. I’ve tried exercise buddies, Zumba classes, joining the Y, swimming. I go for a few days or sessions and then slack off again. Any suggestions?
Self-Conscious Couch Potato
It takes a certain hubris to launch an advice column. “Who does she think she is?” you might say, or maybe that was the gremlin in my head. This letter came along and held up a mirror to me, proving that self-appointed advice gurus need counsel, too. “Self-Conscious Couch Potato” might have been me. For days, the question knocked around in my head, weighted down by my own self-doubts about offering advice on a topic I hadn’t handled all that well in my own life. Deadline looming, I crafted a response from my Better Self—the one who makes wise choices and takes good care of herself. So, she wrote:
Dear Couch Potato,
Thanks for being honest about hating exercise. What you probably haven’t told me is how often you call yourself “lazy” when you don’t do it. As Dr. Phil might say, “How’s that working for you?” Try this tactic instead: do only exercise that you like to do, for just 10 minutes every day. That’s it. Sometimes, just getting started is the biggest hurdle. Start off slowly, and notice how good you feel afterwards. At the end of the day, “lazy” doesn’t apply anymore, because you’ve done what you’ve said you’d do. Pay attention to how your body and mind feel after you exercise. For me, after I’ve walked, my breathing is clearer and stronger, my chest feels lighter, and my mind is clearer. On a good day, I even come up with new ideas for my writing, or a new perspective on a problem in my life. Affirming the good things exercise brings (with even one round of effort) will inspire you to keep at it the next day. Then, your sessions will get longer, the days will add up, and you’ll reach bigger goals of weight loss or increased strength and stamina. So, rather than forcing yourself to exercise because you should, do it because it’ll make you feel better today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
Here’s a great playlist I put together to motivate writers. I think it will help here, too!
Since publishing this column in June, I’ve walked about a mile every day. It’s not much, but it’s more than before. I feel great. “Life Changing” may be too grand a descriptor for such a humble effort, but it is. Thank you, Couch Potato, for pulling me out of my chair (bed), out of myself, and out into the world. Thanks for helping me remember how great my morning walk can be. My Better Self shines through!
Years ago, in another failed attempt to get an exercise routine going, a young trainer at the Y asked me, “What are your goals for this exercise program?” I said, “I want to get to the point where I miss it if I don’t do it.” Outside my back door, I found that place. Thanks, Couch Potato. Let me know how you’re doing!
Dear Readers: In a quandary? Life got you down? Need some perspective? If you’d like to submit a question, click here. I look forward to hearing from you, or “for a friend.” Please add your thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section, below.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity, and all comments are moderated.