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Love your workout! Replace exercise with activity

David Schary offers his advice for finding an exercise program that works for you!  A PhD candidate in sport and exercise psychology, David has found his joy in running.

David Schary's Half Marathon

David says "Half-marathons are great, long enough for you to feel like it was a real challenge but short enough that you do not kill yourself completing it!" Here he is running his first 26.2 - the San Diego Rock 'n Roll marathon.

It’s that time of year when people flock to the gym with dreams of toning and sculpting their bodies until they look like a Roman statue. Unfortunately, many of these new gym rats actually hate exercise. It becomes a necessary evil that is fueled by guilt.

American culture surrounds us with unrealistic images of beauty that we then feel compelled to judge ourselves against. Magazines have attractive, computer-enhanced models adorning their covers. Movies are filled with chiseled actors and flawless actresses. This column is not a critique on society or beauty, but it is important to understand why people feel compelled to punish themselves with activities they don’t enjoy.

Running on a treadmill may help you lose five pounds, but before you hop on, please ask yourself, “Does this add anything to my life?” Now, before you work-out diehards send me hateful e-mails, please do not think I dislike treadmills. In fact, you can find me on them twice a week. My point is, exercise should be personally enjoyable, not a chore you have to do, like flossing.

So how do we change this view? To begin, let’s throw away anything and everything we have ever been told about exercise. It shouldn’t be a dirty word, a punishment for holiday excess. How about we start fresh? Exercise is an experience. Think about it like a vacation; you can’t wait to start and you hate to leave.

If you are rolling your eyes right now, unable to swallow my idealistic vision of exercise, please let me explain. The current interpretation of exercise focuses on the destination, when we should concern ourselves with the journey. That’s why all those New Year resolution treadmill runners, flooding the gym in an attempt to chastise themselves to lose a couple pounds, will never find it enjoyable. They are choosing a treadmill purely for the end it provides. This is problematic. As most know, results come slowly in exercise. Therefore, if you are solely relying on the destination to drag your butt back to the gym every day, to do something you don’t really like, you are in trouble. When any extra pressure hits we all begin to prioritize our activities, and those things we don’t particularly enjoy doing fall to the bottom of the list.

Ever wonder how people who don’t have time to exercise still have time to watch “Grey’s Anatomy”? It has nothing to do with time and everything to do with priorities. Without a passion for the journey, I promise you will not choose exercise over a comfy couch. This leads to the million dollar question. How? How do you create a passion for exercise that focuses on the journey and not the destination? To answer this question, let’s look at the definition of physical exercise. It is “any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness.” Note that nowhere does the definition say you must go to the gym and run for an hour. So working with that definition, exercise is really anything physical that gets your butt off that comfy couch and moving. It should be an activity that captivates you: Something that’s fun. It doesn’t matter if you rock climb or play laser tag. The point is to just move and be active in something – anything.

I leave you with a plea. Stop thinking about exercise as only going to the gym. Get out and do something you enjoy. Whether it’s running at the gym or taking an evening stroll, it all counts. When you replace exercise with activity, it’s no longer hard to drag yourself out of the house. It just becomes part of who you are, not just what you do. And that’s not so bad.