The vast majority of people who begin an exercise program, abort it within a very short time frame. Their good intentions and exuberance is a timid and highly ineffective match for the reality of consistent physical effort. Exercise bestows us with some wonderful and profound health benefits, but that awareness alone is not enough to sustain the discipline a long-term workout program demands. So, how do we achieve stick-to-it-tiveness? As with forming any strategy, one must look at the entire concept of an exercise program and determine what the objective is. The objective here is not just to start a program of exercise—anyone can start one—we want longevity, ongoing action; and we do it by changing our behavior from the inside out—from the psyche to the body.
WWWWe base our behavior modification program on a successful, true and tried, never failed us, human trait—laziness. We want to circumvent enthusiasm and rely upon laziness. Sound paradoxical? Perhaps. Until we see that laziness offers us an opportunity for conditioning without relying on the initial frail and fickle enthusiasm that abandons us quickly like an over inflated balloon, that when get near heat, just pops. This will put the odds dramatically in our favor to succeed long-term, remembering that the definition of success is to maintain, sustain, and uphold what we are starting; where the value lies in carrying on and not over-doing it for a couple of weeks or months then fizzle like a short fuse.
WWWIdeally exercise should be a habit, where we define habit as an action we perform without conscious thought. Unfortunately, few of us attain that level of automatic action as it relates to exercise because it requires great effort exacerbated by being boring, requiring conscious thought before you can gear up for action; and the only action that that thought will induce is regurgitation. We can though, shoot for the next best thing—psychological addiction, which is achievable. It’s a state of mind that exerts a force over our behavior that is in most cases more powerful than our natural inclination to resist exerting effort.
WWWFor instance, you come home from work, you’re tired, maybe drained, your motivation is barely twitching and enthusiasm is undergoing the death rattle. You are experiencing a feeling, a powerful feeling that devastates any thought of physical exertion before it evens begins. Your feeling is saying, “Are you kidding Flash? Let’s eat and find the remote.” But then, you find yourself changing into your athletic clothes, preparing for a workout. That’s psychological addiction. It’s a behavior. It’s a feeling of cheating and denying your best interests. Notice I’m saying feeling, not logical thought. Only a feeling can overcome another feeling, whereas rational thought doesn’t have a prayer.
WWWWith this process there’s rarely a mental war of self-motivation, rather a powerful conditioned behavior dynamically promoting action regardless of the initial feeling. It is a nemesis to laziness using laziness to defeat laziness by following a logical path. So, how do we become psychologically addicted? Through conditioning, through long term behavior. But haw can long-term behavior be achieved if long-term and exercise is a contradiction in terms? The answer is—easy effort; with short duration. Easy and short duration is a concept to condition the mind. The process looks something like this:
Since we can’t start with psychological addiction, we need a substitute, and easy and short does it until psychological addiction starts to take hold. We’ll rely 95% upon easy and short with gradual increase, and 5% on self-discipline. This is infinitely more in line with long-term success. Relying on self-discipline and enthusiasm from the very onset for a full-blown workout program is a recipe for failure, where enthusiasm will short circuit conditioning by doing too much too soon, and therein our undoing lay waiting. Note: Too much doesn’t mean you can’t handle a program physically, it means you cannot emotionally sustain it.
WWWThe mental and emotional aspect of ourselves needs to be addressed first—it is the foundation for success for a prolonged program. This is a way to keep yourself centered, and psychologically in balance as it relates to this program. Becoming excited about starting something new is great, but one must be optimistically cautious because our emotions play tricks on us. Enthusiasm puts us off-center, a position of disadvantage in terms of long-term success. It’s common sense to know that a person who starts out real, knowing what it takes, has an enormous advantage over someone starting with stars in their eyes, especially when we know that the vast majority of people who engage in an exercise regimen fall by the wayside in short order.
WWWSince we’re speaking about adding something to your life that will contribute mightily to your long-term health and youthfulness, it’s imperative to manipulate the odds in your favor from the start. There are a plethora of how to workout books and video tapes all showing their nifty routines. None that I know of address this most crucial aspect of dealing with long-term success. Except for the most disciplined among us, the yippy-yi-o-you-can-do-it approach doesn’t work, because as it is written, ” The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
WWWA detailed description of an exercise program itself is beyond the scope of this article, but generally you can pick five exercises such as push-ups, curls, pull-ups, squats and sit-ups. Then a cardiovascular activity like walking. Start with 3 repetitions each for the exercises, and walk for 1 minute. Do that twice a week on specific days of your choice. Do that regimen for 2 weeks, then increase the repetitions and time you walk to 2 minutes for another 2 weeks. The following chart is a suggestion of the pace to guide you. After reaching the last entry on the chart, you can begin doing 2 sets of 10 reps for each exercise, or stay at that level if you’re satisfied. Once you reach that level of conditioning, you can customize the program as you wish, and be pretty confident you’ll continue it.
This strategy and program is supported by a basic tenet of exercise, which says, a little effort goes a long way. The effort-to-reward-ratio is high, an offer difficult to refuse. By exerting a little effort, very little in the beginning; will dissipate any intimidation you may feel, and you’ll soon feel in control.
WWWOur society is not in very good shape, and that includes more and more of our children. In a sedentary, fast paced, fast food society where obesity and stress are epidemic, directing our energies to the priorities that can be the most effective in rejuvenating and enriching our lives is paramount—what gives the most bang for thy buck. And few investments can compare with the enormous return exercise offers us.
© Joe Arrigo