Exercise is my enemy.

Hello, Strange. This is Name You’ll Hear Wrong But Promptly Forget calling from your company’s program where we try to get you healthier, which is partially for your benefit and partially because we really hate paying high rates on health insurance for the lazy midwestern-American chunk of McFlab you call a butt. You signed up for getting calls to discuss your health.

Oh. Right. Yeah, I did, didn’t I? I think it entered me into a contest to win an iPad or a kidney or something.

So the health assessment you filled out shows just a few areas that you might want to work on to achieve better health. Let’s see here. Exercise, stress management, strength, sleep, height, foot odor, procrastination, lack of tidiness, taste in clothing…

I’m sorry, what?

So, exercise? We could talk about that if you want, or what area would you say you’d want to work on most in the next several months?

Ummm…

Exercise?

Well… maybe not.

Exercise?

I guess stress relief.

Stress management.

Sure. Is there a difference?

Yes. So, okay, stress management. One of the best ways to manage your stress is through exercise.

Damn it.

So what do you currently do for regular exercise?

Um. Nothing.

No, I mean what do you do when you are exercising?

I… I don’t. I don’t exercise. Not on purpose.

Well, what have you tried?

I’ve tried to avoid exercising.

Okay. Do you know what your numbers are?

What numbers, exactly?

Cholesterol?

No.

Blood pressure?

I know it was three digits over two digits.

How often do you see your doctor?

When I need antibiotics, I guess.

So… so what kind of exercise have you thought about?

Well, that’s the thing. When I think about exercising, it increases my stress. Because I haven’t found any exercise that I enjoy.

Have you tried at all?

Here and there. I tried weightlifting, but I found it tedious and I wasn’t seeing results. I don’t swim. And I’m not the type to try Zumba or anything like that.

What about walking? Nice brisk walk?

Well, yeah, I’m okay with walking, but it gets pretty cold and rainy here, so I can’t do that all the time. Plus, I just never feel like it’s doing me any good. I don’t see weight loss, and I don’t feel more energy or anything like that, and I don’t feel like I know if I’m doing it right or wrong to actually get any benefit.

What about just playing basketball with your friends?

Well, most of my friends don’t live within ten miles of me, I’m pretty sure most of them don’t play basketball, I’m absolutely terrible at basketball, I don’t enjoy playing it, and the fact that it involves spending a great deal of time proving to myself over and over how inept I am, it doesn’t exactly relieve my stress.

Oh. Volleyball?

Worse at that than at basketball, plus all the other aforementioned issues.

Any other sports?

Listen, the problem is that I’m extremely competitive. I don’t have to win all the time, exactly, but I have to feel like there’s at least a fair match. And when you’re as bad at sports as I am, you don’t get fair matches. You get frustrated because you’re overmatched. All the time. And when you get frustrated, your stress goes up. So, no. I don’t do sports.

Have you thought about joining your local community center or YMCA?

No, I haven’t. Because I don’t think my town has a community center, and I have no idea where the nearest Y is, and what would I do there anyway?

Well, they offer things like… um… weight rooms, and pools, and basketball courts… and… um…

You realized what you were saying, didn’t you?

Yes.

No, I haven’t thought about joining anything.

What about yoga or tai chi? Do you know anything about them?

Just that they look weird.

They can be very relaxing.

The thought of doing them suggests to me very tight control. I feel like I’m under way too much control as it is. I’m wound very tightly. I feel like I would be trying to assume positions and I would just feel my fury growing.

Breathing?

I’m sorry?

Have you tried deep breathing? You lie down and breathe in through your nose and hold it and breathe out through your mouth. You might even fall asleep.

No, I haven’t tried that as stress relief.

Management.

You’re saying it wouldn’t relieve the stress?

It would help you manage it.

Listen, um…

You forgot my name. It’s okay. I expected it.

Yeah, okay, listen. I’m not trying to be difficult. I know that’s probably hard to believe, but I’m really not. I would love to find exercise that was right for me. I would love to find a healthy way to lose weight and get in shape that didn’t just add to my stress. And it’s not that I thought you’d have any new ideas. I’ve been through all of this sort of stuff before. But the only time I ever did anything physical that made me feel good was when I was in high school, and I used to punch some gym mats as if I were in training for boxing. I’d occasionally work them so hard that my knuckles would bleed. For years, I had tiny little scars on my hand. They finally faded away in my late twenties. And it felt good because while I was doing it, it overcame my general high school feeling of helplessness. I felt like I was strong enough to take on my challenges and leave them hurting. And it was only after I washed the blood off my hands and put my school clothes back on and went back into the hallway that I’d go back to being stressed and trapped in situations I couldn’t get out of. But it wasn’t just the feeling of strength. It was the feeling that I was capable of solving my problems through violence. I’m much older and smarter now, and while violence still has its base appeal, it’s not something I want to pursue. Punching things now won’t de-stress me. They’ll just serve to remind me that the situations that stress me are ones I can’t fight my way out of. There’s no bad guy to blame, there’s no puzzle to solve, there’s no magic word, no deus ex machina, no sudden revelation that pushes me through to the other side. There’s just stress, like everyone else has. And right now it’s actually lower than it typically is, because I had several weeks off of work and I’ve logged a fantastic number of hours holding my daughter. So I appreciate that you’re following up on whatever I signed up for, but if you’re not calling to tell me that I won that iPad, I think I’m just wasting your time.

You just don’t care for hard work?

I love hard work. Give me a project to accomplish with muscle power, and I enjoy it. But find one more part of my life that’s adding a routine with no feeling that there’s accomplishment at the end of it, and I will scream hard enough to rupture blood vessels in my eyes.

Well, you know, life isn’t about the destination. It’s about the journey.

I’m sorry, no. It’s about both. And adding an activity that feels pointless because I don’t see progress? That feels like a detour away from the journey I want to take. Give me an activity where I feel like I’m accomplishing something — something that doesn’t make me feel like an uncoordinated weakling — and show me how it’s doing me some good, and we’ll talk. Otherwise, I think we’re probably done with the call, don’t you?

Okay. Well, I’ll be following up in four to six weeks to see how your new commitment to exercising is working out for you.

…Yeah, okay, whatever. Sorry about my tendency to be honest. I hope you have some exercise you can do for stress relief.

Management.

Management.

Mostly, I drink.

Well… cheers.

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8 Responses to Exercise is my enemy.

  1. In a year or so you can pick up a program of running around a park with your daughter. Chasing the giggles is very rewarding.

  2. sara says:

    Hilarious! Your blog is quickly moving into my must-read pile.

    But because I have a tendency toward bossiness, I have to add two things – one, let me create a program for you based on what results you want to see. If you base it on your results, and then you see results, it doesn’t seem so pointless. The hard part is coming up with tangible results, instead of generic stuff like, “I want to lose some weight” or “I want to look better nekkid” (which is what Grant’s usually is – ha!). I’m a bit of a dork about this stuff, but I’d be up for the challenge if you are.

    Second thing, if my first thing sounds boring and lame, watch this video: http://youtu.be/aUaInS6HIGo. I think it’s pretty compelling – and easy. It’s a fun and easy thing to do as a family too. Jasper is constantly asking to “go walk, Mama!” We’re all busy people, but 30 minutes a day is totally do-able. Just give it a shot, even if it’s boring and you don’t see results…the science proves that it will actually help you stay healthier longer (something that should be high on your priority list after little Sage’s arrival).

    Stepping off soap box…

    Can’t wait to see you guys and give Sage a big squeeze!

    • strangedavid says:

      “The hard part is coming up with tangible results” — can you give me an example of tangible results? Because the generic ones you mentioned are pretty much the only two ideas that I had.

      • sara says:

        Of course! Examples:
        :: I want to be able to do five (or number of your choice) pull ups in a row unassisted. Some other tests along these lines here: http://yourfitnessdecision.com/mens-health-fit-test
        :: I want to fit into [specific size clothes] (fitting into a certain size is a better goal than weight loss because hopefully, you’ll gain some strength with whatever you decide to do and muscle weighs more than fat).
        :: I want to lower my cholesterol to [this number]. I want to raise my HDL above 60 and lower my LDL below 100 (depending on where your numbers fall).
        :: I want to run a sub 8-minute mile.
        :: I want to squat/deadlift [this number].
        :: Do something like this [http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/physical-fitness-test], and then set goals for improvement for a certain timeframe (i.e. I want to improve across all standards by fifteen percent in 8 weeks].

        Does that help?

      • strangedavid says:

        It starts to help, but it creates more questions.

        To someone who is already interested in healthy living like you are, this question may seem to be deliberately obtuse or difficult, so I want to stress that this really is the way my mind works and I’m not just throwing monkey wrenches into everything for fun.

        The goal of wanting to fit into certain size clothing is one I don’t think I can personally get behind. Clothing as a goal baffles me. You can ask Ann — I have a closet full of clothes that I don’t wear, not because I don’t fit in them but because I have no idea what they “go” with. I don’t notice clothes. I’m not sure that a different size of clothing would inspire me, because I generally don’t know what size I am now.

        For the goals that are number-based (I want to raise my HDL or lower my blood pressure, etc), I don’t think I have a good enough understanding of what the numbers mean for me to get excited about targeting them. If I raise my HDL, what will be different for me on a daily basis? How will my life be changed?

        For the goals like “I want to do x pull-ups unassisted” or “I want to run a sub-8-minute mile,” I can understand the goal, and I can understand what would be changed. I would be working toward having more strength or endurance. And here’s where I know I’m going to sound really difficult… I would have more strength and endurance, but to what end?

        I know that being healthy is a good goal to have, but I don’t feel UN-healthy now. What I think I need to understand, in order to be actually motivated, it what non-intrinsic results would occur. In other words, if I get to the point where I can run a sub-8-minute mile, how does that benefit me beyond being able to say that I can do it?

        My life is pretty good, but it has its problems like anyone else’s life has. When I look at the problems that I do have in life, what am I solving by following this time-consuming and energy-consuming pursuit? It won’t make me like my job more, it won’t make me better able to afford a new car, it won’t give me more sunlight in my day.

        That’s why those intangible goals make sense to me. “I want to look good naked,” a great line from American Beauty, is a goal that makes sense to me — NOT because I plan to be naked around people who do not happen to be my wife, but because what it’s really saying is “I want to like the way I look” and “I want to believe that I am attractive.” Those are goals I get. I do want to believe that I’m attractive. I would love to walk around with the confidence that says, “Women want me, but they can’t have me.” (Note: Men, you also can’t have me.)

        So that’s my hang-up with finding those goals. Having those goals be the end result just doesn’t sound like something I can get behind. If I can do 25 pull-ups, I’m not sure what the practical application of that skill would be. If I can look good with my shirt off, that at least makes a handful of summer interactions less stressful.

        (This was practically a blog post by itself!!)

  3. Karen says:

    I run… but only if a bus is about to run me over. 🙂 Exercise is not on my radar of enjoyable activities.

  4. Cory says:

    Good post, Dave. Glad you’re blogging. Glad you’re not beating gym pads anymore. Although if you were still up for it it sounds like training in a boxing gym might be a good fit.

    I also struggle to exercise, because I know that I should, but I generally feel good and look good so the motivation is low.

    However, if you’re looking for a goal that you would reach only by getting some physical activity in the process of accomplishing it, how about yard work? I don’t know what your living environment is these days, but if you have a yard and present or potential flowerbeds, shrubs, etc., and if you gain a vision for beautifying these things, then your goal is an aesthetic objective, not a health one. But in the course of working on it, you’ll have to do a lot of physical motion including lifting and moving moderately heavy things from time to time. I used to hate yard work when I was a kid and it wasn’t on my own property because it just felt like a meaningless chore. Now I like it. I like being out in the fresh air in good weather, I like that I get to be physical without my lungs or legs burning, and I love how when I’m done for the day I can see actual, tangible evidence that I actually accomplished something, which is probably the best part.

    • strangedavid says:

      I like the way you’re thinking, but I kind of hate yard work. It so often involves dirt and bugs, which are two things we built houses to try to get away from. Also, I usually can’t tell a flower from a weed and have virtually no eye for the aesthetic; unless a yard is a true disaster of overgrown everything, I often have no idea what the difference is between a pretty yard and a not-so-pretty yard.

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