Several women I know have recently started the Couch to 5K running program. They are at the point I was at when I turned 40. The kids are no longer an excuse for the baby-weight or the lack of exercise, but you don’t know where to start. I am happy for them, and hope that some of them stick with it and catch the exercise bug. But I know from experience that most of them will do it for awhile then drop it. So I was thinking about what keeps me going, besides family culture and support. There seem to be several factors for me, and looking good in my wedding dress is not one of them (not that I don’t want to look good, but outward appearance has never been a strong enough motivator for me to stick with a diet or exercise plan).
Options: This is a big one. I planned to run this morning, but it turned out to be below my running temperature threshold (which is wimpy for a New Englander – it was something like 25 at 6 AM) and it had snowed last night (*&$#&%*# New England weather $#&%). I just couldn’t face it. So I hastily pulled together my gym bag, work clothes and lunch, and headed to the gym. It’s not as good a work out as a run, but it’s not bad and it’s certainly better than grabbing another cup of coffee and sinking into the couch for an hour.
Experience: I know how good I feel after working out. In fact, I was chatting with the guy at the front desk of the Y as I left today – he noted that I’m always smiling when I leave, no matter how I look when I come in. I also know how out of sorts I feel if I don’t get enough movement. I know that I’m going to largely enjoy myself while I’m working out. All those things have grown over time. I have a good base of experience to know that if I do grab another cup of coffee and sit for an hour I’m going to regret it the rest of the day, and I know that I’m going to enjoy myself as soon as I get to the gym. That’s usually enough to get me up and going when inertia is dragging me down. When it’s not enough, it usually means I’m over tired or sick, and I also have enough experience to know that I can take a day or two to rest, and I’ll get back to it when I’m feeling better. So a rest day doesn’t feel like falling off the wagon.
Ability/Endurance Level: When I started running and biking I liked how I felt, but afterward I was drained. It made it harder to motivate myself to get out the door, knowing that I was going to be tired the rest of the day. Now my regular daily workout is enough to energize me but not drag me down. So I’m not actually committing the entire day, just the hour or so when I’m exercising.
Goals: This is another big one. I’m learning about myself that I need a short term goal. The long term goals are fun, but like the wedding dress, they don’t actually get me out the door. I need a race or a long ride booked, or my workouts are aimless and less intense. Sure I’ll run, but I’ll be more casual about my distance over the week, I’ll bike when I’ve got a big chunk of time but I won’t make time for it. But I’ve got a 10K scheduled for mid-May, so I know I need to get my miles up before then so I can do well. The goal focuses me, and improves the quality of my exercise.