The Enemy Within: Overcoming Procrastination With Exercise

Physical exercise is one thing many of us avoid. But what if I told you that making it a purposed part of you day would make the rest of your day better? What if doing that activity you avoid could actually lengthen your days and make the quality of them better too?

The Oxford Dictionary says that procrastination is to “delay or postpone action”. At the beginning of a new year we often reconsider doing the things we have been neglecting. What about in the middle of the year?

If you are like me, the absolute last thing you want to do in the heat of summer is exercise. Recently, I found myself on a beach not liking the selfies and on a boat unable to step in and out of it without assistance. I knew if I wanted to be better on either of those fronts, I needed to make a conscious effort to add strength training gym activity to my life. But how am I supposed to have time and money for that when the cost of everything–especially gas–is increasing but my wages aren’t?

I’m not a great swimmer, so I don’t trust myself in the depths of the ocean. Standing in the ebbing ocean waves, letting them push and pull my hips, my heart longed for more time in the water. I had a few hours over two days to dip into the salty sea, and I was saddened to leave it. Why? Because time away in peace and exercise is nourishing to the soul.

Health Benefits of Exercise

According to research on PubMed Central, exercise is important for mental and physical health.

Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal. Exercise is especially important in patients with schizophrenia…patients…who participated in a 3-month physical conditioning program showed improvements in weight control and reported increased fitness levels, exercise tolerance, reduced blood pressure levels, increased perceived energy levels, and increased upper body and hand grip strength levels. Thirty minutes of exercise of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking for 3 days a week, is sufficient for these health benefits. Moreover, these 30 minutes need not to be continuous; three 10-minute walks are believed to be as equally useful as one 30-minute walk.

Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for mental health. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry8(2), 106. https://doi.org/10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a

Though some argue that time in exercise has to be consistently brisk for 15 minutes or more to be beneficial, I would argue that ANY amount of time is better than no time at all–especially if it creates a habit of doing so continually over time. Exercise is not about clicking a bell at 15/30/60 minutes or more; it is about establishing lifestyle changes that effectively change the quality of life you have for a lifetime.

Further research in the article confirms that exercise plays a role in making you sleep better, have a better sex drive, increased endurance, increased mental clarity, and so much more.

Just Do It!

It’s a Nike slogan but the point is still true; the only way to go from procrastination to living an active lifestyle is to just do it. It may start small and that is okay. Do whatever you can afford and maintain with consistency. Let it grow over time from there.

You have to find your motivator.

For me, I thought about what I wanted my life to look like over the next 10-20 years and the health I would need to do those things. I also think about people I know who struggle with health issues that could have been prevented if they were proactive when they were younger.

You have to let go of misperceptions.

I used to think that working out in a gym was for people who already had toned bodies and were trying to keep it so. That is SO not true! Most people are working out to overcome health issues in their lives that are both seen and unseen. One of my dear friends lives an active lifestyle and has the body to prove it, but she does so because of internal issues that would leave her nearly bedridden if she were not actively addressing those issues in the gym. Like there are suits for all sizes of swimmers, so there are gyms for all sizes of workers. Don’t feel intimidated by the person beside you who has more experience than you, and don’t look down on those who are fumbling on equipment trying to find their way. It doesn’t matter if you can press 15 or 80lbs. What matters is that you are doing it at all in the first place.

Develop Consistency

There are no end to negative thoughts and voices telling you to quit a good thing when you get started. You don’t overcome procrastination by ending the negatives; you overcome it by not listening. Establish a routine that you do consistently and keep it up for one week, one month, one year. The longer you do something, the easier it becomes to do it again.

Plan With Caution

If you have certain health risks, consult a physician and personal trainer before you take on any particular activity. Never attempt a new activity without proper training on equipment lest you hurt instead of build your muscles. If you have joint, back, or weight issues, consider joining workout classes in water that use Newton’s Law of Inertia to increase the intensity of your workout without harmful pressure from weight on your joints.

My Experience

My first week back at the gym was exciting. When I got in the pool, I felt like I found my tribe! It was a little unnerving working out in the gym around all these guys watching me pull small weights while they huffed through big ones. I almost didn’t go in one day, then I thought of how much better I would feel with the strength to walk beaches without losing my breath or climb stairs with strength in my knees to do so. I think about the things I will be able to do because I am caring for my body now–while I still have the options to control it. I think about the way my body will begin to reflect shaping from all my efforts and look better in the clothes I own. THAT makes the time and effort worth overcoming the obstacles.

I hope this inspires you to take a proactive role in your personal health.

Be blessed!

The Tree

I remember when we planted you:

one small twig in an ocean of sand. You bloomed

where you were planted and stretched your arms into the sky, your feet into the sand. You left me

white flowers in spring and sweet fruit in summer. By autumn, you were yellowing but still offering me shade and a safe place to climb. You fill my yard with golden

shreds of yourself; I let them decay and nourish the earth where you left them. Winter settles in and you are stripped bare. I shudder

at the thought that you’re not here. I remind myself you are just sleeping; green life still oozes inside your warm, wrapped branches. I wait,

for spring to waken you and summer to harvest and share you with the world.

But if I’m honest

I’d be just as happy to keep you

all to myself: my special apple secret beneath a yellow moon.