Simple Living

Exercise: We’re Doing it Wrong

Have you ever noticed the way city people work out? The work out is a scheduled block of time during which the participant performs a series of physical maneuvers altogether different from the ways in which he typically moves through the world. He or she engages in moves such as the ‘burpee’ or the ‘upright row.’ The upright row resembles the action of rowing a boat, but of course the exerciser hasn’t been anywhere near an actual boat because he’s been sequestered in a cubicle all day.

City people have to schedule their work outs because their ordinary activities are sedentary and offer no physical benefit. Sitting at a desk, driving on the interstate; we sit and then we drive so we can sit some more. I’ll never forget a piece of a speech given by Eustace Conway in the book ‘The Last American Man’ by Elizabeth Gilbert (fabulous book by the way; go buy it right now). He said that we are woken up by a noisy box to sit in a moving box that takes us to another box where we sit all day. At the end of the day we get back in our moving box to go back to the first box. We wake up and do it all over again the next day. This lifestyle does not lend itself to physical fitness, which is why we have to schedule a work out.

A hundred years ago no one worked out. Most people lived an agrarian lifestyle and tending the farm gave them more than enough of a work out. Carrying water, tossing hay bales, walking fence lines looking for holes, saddling horses, churning butter… you get the picture. We don’t do that stuff any more. We sit in front of screens at work and then sit in front of screens at home. We have to schedule physical exercise into already over-scheduled lives.

In my opinion, people who are doing exercise right aren’t working out. They move throughout their day and their exercise is a natural component of their balanced lives. People who are doing exercise right walk to the store or the library. They play soccer in the yard with their kids. They go surfing before work and walk down the beach looking for the best break. They run or bike or kayak because they enjoy it, and they’re not obsessing about losing five pounds with each step, pedal or stroke.

Some people say they hate to work out. I say they’re doing it wrong. Everybody hates feeling forced to do something they detest. Everybody hates slogging through a work out when they’re dead tired.

What can we do instead? We can do that most difficult thing of all, even harder than pushing through a work out. We can change our lifestyles to include something other than sitting. For me it meant getting involved in my kids’ bike time instead of being a spectator. We ride bikes in our cul de sac almost every night. Instead of sitting in the driveway and watching, I try to skateboard or kick around a soccer ball instead. Tonight I stood at the entrance of the cul de sac and played goalie while the neighborhood kids tried to kick balls of various sizes past me. I worked hard running and kicking back to them! I was sweaty and tired at the end of it. It didn’t feel like a work out at all. It was fun, and the kids had a blast!

The typical advice about how to be consistent with exercise is to find something you enjoy so you’ll stick with it. I don’t care how much you love running. Sometimes you won’t feel like going for a run. Instead, build an active lifestyle that incorporates exercise. Walk your kids to school. Walk to the store if you only need a few things. Mow your own lawn. Clean your own house. Let the neighbor kids pelt you with soccer balls. At the end of the day when you feel too tired to work out, you’ll realize that you already did.

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