Scene: Jeremy and I are in the kitchen after eating a delicious dinner of taco bowls.
Krysta: I have a real question for you, but you can’t laugh
Jeremy: I might. If it’s a dumb question, I might. I’m an INTJ and that’s what we do, so prepare yourself for that.
He’s joking, kind of. He’s not rude, but since his personality profile describes him as “the most strategically capable” he does find certain questions amusing and often asks “how do people survive in this world?” when they ask them.
Krysta: I signed up for a month long booty and ab challenge with Betty Rocker. She’s this workout guru in Denver…anyway, each day I get a new 30-minute workout video sent to my email. Every day. Like, EVERY DAY, except weekends because you have to have rest days but still, Monday through Friday I have committed to work out for a whole month.
I have his attention. This is new territory for me. For the past three years I had weight trained for 45 minutes consistently 2 days per week with a little 4-minute high intensity tabata or HIIT session at the end. There was usually another day or two during the week when I’d hike or walk or jog as well but not quickly and nothing else.
Getting to this point, my friends, was a huge deal for me. I had gone from dabbling in a yoga or zumba class a couple times a year to a consistent 2-3 day per week workout without too much struggle. In my mind, I was already slaying.
Krysta: And Jeremy? These are high intensity workouts. It’s jumping cardio stuff in-between challenging deliberate body quivering things like planks. What I’m trying to convey is that it’s uncomfortable for me. I don’t like to work that hard when I work out. I like keeping a nice pace hiking, or gassing it on a jog for a bit before coming back to a comfortable pace and mostly, I do all these things so I can listen to podcasts and music and get lost in my thoughts. That’s what make physical activity enjoyable for me. But just working hard the whole time is not enjoyable for me. It’s hard and I don’t like what I’ve signed up for.
Jeremy: yeah, you don’t like to feeling physically uncomfortable.
Krysta: Right. I discipline myself in other areas, but I always let myself off the hook when it comes to pushing myself physically. I quit a workout early or skip days because I can’t remember what the huge deal is in completing it if I’ve done “enough” already. I don’t ever feel bad about cutting workouts short or skipping days if I’ve already given a solid effort and done more than I would have. I actually believe it’s not that important to finish so long as I keep doing good enough. I don’t know why. Being alright with good enough is healthy many times but when it comes to the subject of discipline, not so much. I recognize I haven’t put my hand to the fire in this specific area. That’s why I signed up but I’m scared because I know there will be many days I don’t want to do it. So my question is what should I do to make myself do the workout when I don’t want to do it?
I’m asking Jeremy because he is the most physically disciplined person I know. He races mountain bikes and is always going on training rides when he doesn’t feel like it, when he doesn’t have time, when it’s -1 outside, you name it.
Jeremy: Well, discipline is doing what you want to do when you don’t want to do it. In order to motivate yourself, I think you need an activity you love. Or at least an end goal. I make myself go on all my rides because eventually I have a race to compete in. Theres a race goal.
Krysta: Yeah, I don’t have a goal outside of just feeling like I should.
He lifts up a magazine. The picture is of a guy mountain biking through rough terrain by a lake. “Well it helps to be doing something you theoretically like doing even when you don’t want to do it. That activity for me right now is mountain biking. I love the sport but I don’t always want to go on rides. See this picture right here though? It makes me want to ride. I see this and I imagine biking through this place and instantly I want to get on my bike and go. Do any activities make you feel like that?
Krysta: I know what you are talking about but I feel that way about writing and cooking and a few other things. Sometimes I’ll read something that’s so inspiring I literally have to stop everything I am doing and write down my thoughts about it. Or sometimes I’ll come across an idea for an interesting recipe and I’m already half way to the store to pick up the ingredients to make it immediately. Never though, do I experience that in the exercise realm. I enjoy hiking or running on occasion if it’s not too hard and I can listen to podcasts and get lost in thought but—I don’t experience that with any challenging physical activities. Ever. And I could be wrong but I really doubt I ever will.
We live in a small town. There is no Soul Cycle here.
Jeremy: You liked skate skiing though?
Krysta: I enjoy it, but I’m not jonesing to get out and do it again or anything. I’ll go and enjoy what I can but after a while it’s sort of like, okay enough.
Jeremy: You know, every morning I come down and read books for my quiet time but I don’t particularly enjoy it. I do it because I know the tremendous value of reading and the things I learn by doing it and so it’s kind of like a discipline for me each day.”
“You don’t like…READING?!?”
I’ve been married to the man for fifteen years, and he reads every morning. We have rows and rows of books on our bookshelf that he’s read. He has never said this before.
Jeremy: I mean I do for a little while, but I burn out pretty quickly. I don’t want to keep doing it. I mostly discipline myself to do it each day, which is why some of my quiet time’s are shorter than others and maybe that’s what physical activity will be like for you. A discipline you can enjoy the benefits of but not something your all hung-ho to do over and over again everyday.
This for me, ladies an gentlemen, was like an Oprah A-ha moment. The second he said it something clicked together in my brain that hadn’t come together before.
THAT’S IT! I thought. That’s exactly the way I need to think about my workouts. Maybe it’s okay that I don’t get fired up all the time to be active. Maybe nothing is wrong with me. Maybe it’s okay that I don’t like to do it the whole time. When it comes to food that’s not our favorite we always tell our kids “you know, you don’t have to like it to eat it.” We do this because we know the value of eating something less than enjoyable and we take nutrient intake seriously.
Of course, there are also many enjoyable aspects to making a choice to workout daily. I feel energized and happy after a challenging workout. I feel proud of myself and inspired about life, about projects, about everything afterwards. This also leads me to make better food choices naturally because I WANT to. I don’t feel like burgers after I workout. I feel like salads with chicken and sprouts or smoothies with protein, greens, berries and avocado. This sets me up for the next meal and the next and it snowballs. I sleep better when I workout. I feel like connecting with people or slaying everything on my to do list with enthusiasm after I work out. I feel capable in all respects after a workout. I may not particularly enjoy the 30 minutes that I’m working hard but it’s thirty minutes. I can do anything for thirty minutes. Thirty minutes is nothing, really. It could be so much worse. It could be a 90 minute yoga class.
Maybe it’s okay that workouts don’t beckon and interest me like they do other people. Maybe other people don’t get pulled to the page to express themselves creatively like I do, or inspired to the kitchen to try a new recipe either. I’ve often been told it’s lucky that I like to cook since I have to do it anyway each day.
I’ve always thought people who like to work out are lucky since it’s something that we are supposed to do everyday.
I’d never considered that those work-out enthusiasts had to perhaps discipline themselves in the kitchen or another area that I’m much more inclined.
My friend Ailini likes to clean. Serious. She LIKES it because it makes her feel calm. I’ve always thought that was lucky since again, it’s something we all have to do anyway. So I thought I’d try thinking of working out as something I had to do to—same as laundry or dishes or any other of the mundane tasks I loathe but regularly do because I have to.
I guess this is what fitness people mean when they say “make workouts non-negotiable” but for whatever reason I never understood it that way. I never understood it to mean to make it something you have to do in order to keep your very life running. If I didn’t do the dishes, I could get away with it for a day or so but before long we would run out of forks.
What the hell is it with missing forks anyway? Never the spoons, always the forks.
The point is I would HAVE to do the dishes in order to move my life forward. It wouldn’t matter if I didn’t feel like it. I would have to stop whatever more enjoyable thing I was doing and wash the dishes already so that I could then eat dinner without issue. What if I approached it that way? I could get behind that.
Maybe it all just evens out in the end. Some necessary things are easy for us, and some necessary things are hard for us, and there’s a huge space in between that we feel sort of indifferent about, but disciplining ourselves to do what we ought, regardless of how we feel brings tremendous value, regardless.
I’m lucky that the two areas I feel most inspired about is cooking and creative expression, mostly of the written sort. At first I de-valued the creative expression one. I mean, people don’t have to express themselves creatively. However, the discipline of writing teaches you many valuable things that make life easy in other areas. I was at a talk last week for Jordan Petersons Book 12 Rules For Life and he reminded me that the act of writing and editing teaches you how to think. This bleeds into all areas of life. Writers get to think about things more thoughtfully and carefully than the average person has time for. This is an advantage and a luxury.
All is not lost. We are all lucky. Bonus points if what you like has to be done daily, but even if it doesn’t every noble and creative thing has value and place.
I’ll see you in the gym tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that because I’m going to look at it as something the whole rest of my life depends on me to do in order to function well. After my month is up, I’ll have disciplined myself into a spot that’ll allow me to think only working out four days a week is luxuriant. But I just might keep going with this whole five days a week regime because it makes so much sense to me now and really, it’s 30 minutes. I think I used to think a workout = an hour minimum, but a workout could mean 15 minutes. It adds up if done daily and I think that’s what I’m sold on. The daily aspect.
I don’t have to love it to do it. What a revelation. I just have to do it regardless of how I feel, baring injury or sickness. It’s so simple. You do that in enough areas of your life and that’s what success is born of. It’s easy to do what you want to do. It takes someone with strength of mind to do what they don’t want, for their own good.
That’s what I’m learning anyway.
I think this is especially true regarding physical challenges which require an output on your part. It’s not like I hadn’t had physical challenges before. I voluntarily chose drug-free natural childbirth—twice. I can withstand suffering. But to produce my own suffering voluntarily, over and over again is another story.
But I guess it’s what I’m doing for the next month. I wonder what’ll be next? I mean, I’m only on day 3 and I’m already so sore I can’t bend down to pick up my dogs or walk down the stairs but you know, I think it will get better. It’ll get better. It’s got to get better.