Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Don't Be Your Own Coach

In addition to being easily manipulated to want more calories by our evolutionary programming and food scientists, we are also driven to conserve energy. In the past, no one who went out running for fun outcompeted those who only burned reserves in order to gain more nutrition (or impress a mate or subdue a rival). 

At some level, most of us know that exercise is good for our long-term prospects. Not only does being a healthy weight and having a robust cardiovascular system help us live longer and better on average, but following society's dictates for being physically attractive correlates with professional success, even in "intellectual" fields

But it is worse than that (of course). Not only are we subject to our own inertia, the entertainment industry writ large has provided us with nearly infinite excuses to stay inert. 

Combine this with our rationalizing nature and the fact that useful exercise hurts, it is no wonder that gym memberships end up being a big waste of money

It is easier to exercise significantly and regularly when part of a team or group. This is almost certainly why people pay thousands for a Peloton bike and membership rather than a fraction of that for a regular or stationary bike. Even a standard exercise machine in a gym can help, given that it can provide feedback (or even "gamify" a workout). It is, of course, easy to overestimate how much or how hard we're exercising on our own - we simply can't be trusted to judge our exercise output any more than our caloric input.

Trust me, I know the pull of not exercising. Near death experiences aside, my back has hurt my entire life (I was diagnosed with scoliosis in fifth grade). I have degenerative osteoporosis. My right foot hurts most days, and my right knee hurts often. (For the past 13+ months, my hands have hurt constantly, and my neck even more than normal.)

But significant, strenuous, regular exercise is the best thing I do for my overall pain and second best for my mental health. Especially with my arterial blockage, decades of running, even while in pain, is possibly why I'm still alive, part of our family, and able to help keep One Step for Animals going. 

The fact that we can't trust ourselves to be our own coach is one of the reasons I actually watch and listen to Billy Blanks videos over and over: to be sure to do the whole workout, to be sure to do the full exercises instead of half-assing it. (Similarly, I consult a heart-rate monitor when using the stationary bike, in addition to fixed timer.)

It is interesting to consider. Eating just 100 calories more a day equates to gaining fully ten pounds a year. One drink, one cookie, one chunk of cheese ... or, conversely, jogging for ten minutes.

Self-portrait on the inversion table

Heart rate monitor in use.

No comments: