Making It Look Less Easy

The July Project: Number 23

I’m thrilled when people comment on my exercise regimen—or my blog—and say that I’ve inspired them, or that I make it look easy. But I wonder sometimes if “making it look easy” is doing a disservice to people who are working hard on their own projects for self-improvement. So tonight I want to come clean—it ain’t always easy.

I spent an hour last night trying to come up with a blog post. It was the end of a very long week with mountains of work, many hours of writing, two rowing classes, and a workshop to finish preparing …[MORE]

Wet Sneakers, or the Moral Equivalent Thereof

The July Project: Day 21

I headed to the park for my walk early today because my first Learn to Row class was tonight. I arrived there around 3:30, the hottest part of the day. I didn’t have to wait long for relief from the heat, though. The sky clouded over, and then about halfway through the first lap, it started to sprinkle. It didn’t rain for very long—maybe about 10 minutes—just enough to get me miserably wet. Then the sun came back out and turned all the fresh rain into a layer of hot steam that hovered over the trail.

It was too humid to dry out from the wetting, but it didn’t matter, because another one was coming anyway. As I got to the last half-mile leg of the 6½‑mile walk, the sky opened up. This time, it was more than a sprinkle. The torrential rain continued until about the time I arrived back at my car …[MORE]

Laying a Minefield of Metaphors

The July Project: Day 20

I received a note this morning from a Facebook friend who’s struggled as hard with weight loss for most of her adult life as I have. She asked, “Can you send me some of you exercise motivation magic? [I’ve] fallen off the wagon…. The battle never seems to end.”

I wrote back to say that I know the feeling very well, but that somehow it’s helped to stop thinking about fitness in those terms. I’ve tried to make exercise part of who I am—not a short-term project, and not a battle, either. Her words stayed with me all day: the battle never seems to end.

Last weekend I happened to catch an interview with Valerie Bertinelli on CBS News Sunday Morning in which the 49-year-old actress talked about losing 45 pounds, and about her efforts to come to terms with why she gained the weight in the first place. She mentioned plans to run a marathon, and the interviewer chose to sum up the story …[MORE]

Go Ahead, Play With Yourself

The July Project: Day 19

I’ve written elsewhere about my exercise rules and about the idea of making a game out of achieving goals.

Scoreboard

I play a lot of games in my exercise routine. I make up arbitrary rules and give myself extra points on an imaginary scoreboard for achievements above and beyond the normal daily routine. I’m not always sure whether these tricks help keep me motivated, or just give my idle mind something to do.

Here’s a rule I made up tonight:

  • Extra points are assessed for walking on a day so humid that you finish the outing dripping wet from head to toe …[MORE]

But Really…Every Day?

The July Project: Day 18

In 2008, I attended a lecture by Dr. Henry Lodge, one of the authors of Younger Next Year, a book that purports to offer ideas to help men fend off some of the physical symptoms of aging. The central theme of Dr. Lodge’s talk was a point that might seem counterintuitive: that we need more exercise as we get older, not less.

In the question-and-answer session that followed his presentation, someone asked Dr. Lodge, “So how much exercise is the right amount?” He replied that although no one has nailed down a precise, scientific answer to that question, a good rule of thumb might be four days a week in your 40s, five days a week in your 50s, and six days a week from your 60s on …[MORE]

The Practical Effects of “Everything Counts”

The July Project: Day 16

I’ve written a couple of times before about Rule #2: Everything Counts. Today will be one of those days when I invoke Rule #2. I put in a long work day, then packed my bags and took off for Galveston. I didn’t get here until after 10 p.m., ate a late dinner, and then settled in to write. As soon as I publish this post, I’ll go for a walk. It’ll be after midnight, so I only plan to walk the four blocks down to the Seawall, then maybe a few blocks along the beach and back. That’s okay, because in this game of getting some exercise every day, everything counts.

I don’t entirely grasp the psychological mechanisms at work in Rule #2, but I know that it works …[MORE]

Words Translate Will and Desire Into Action

The July Project: Day 14

It takes a thought to make a word
And it takes some words to make an action.

—Jason Mraz, “Life is Wonderful”

For two weeks, I’ve been kicking around a draft post about mantras. I approach the topic with trepidation, because I don’t ever want want to sound like I’m trying to spout “wisdom.” (Somebody please kick me in the head if I ever start believing I’m wise.) I have no wisdom except what I’ve borrowed from other sources, so I can only add my two cents—the results of experiments that I’ve carried out in the search …[MORE]

Eating With Intentionality: Ask the Hard Questions

The July Project: Day 13

I’m an emotional eater. I’ve learned this about myself over and over again, but sometimes the realization doesn’t set in until 10 or 15 minutes after the food goes down. Here’s the process:

  1. Experience mildly negative emotion—frustration, boredom, anxiety, irritation.
  2. Seek comfort in food.
  3. Later, realize that I ate for the wrong reason.
  4. Feel disappointed in myself.
  5. Repeat process starting at step 2, ad infinitum.

I’m trying to train myself to anticipate step 3 before I act on step 2 …[MORE]

Catch My Breath

The July Project: Day 11

Once in a while you might have a day when nothing goes quite right,

and all your best-laid plans fall flat,

and you’re tired because you haven’t had enough sleep all week,

and you have a million things to do,
but everything takes longer than you thought it would,

and distractions keep cropping up,

and in your panic to get something accomplished, you relax the rules, you try to quiet the sense of panic by stuffing yourself full of snacks,

and you know you’re doing it,
but you’re in that bruised mood where you can’t be bothered to care,

and then you force yourself back to banging away on tasks that refuse to yield an inch of progress,

and finally,

finally,

finally it’s late enough in the afternoon to say, “Screw it, I’m going to the park, at least I’ll get some exercise,”

and you think to yourself for about the thousandth time:

If you can’t do everything, you can at least do something.

You Can Make Up Rules, Too

The July Project: Day 9

A few days ago, I mentioned the rules of the exercise game that I’ve been playing:

Rule #1: Do something every day.
Rule #2: Everything counts.

On Wednesday, someone who’s been reading this blog lately said to me, “I just can’t exercise every day.”

I replied, “I’m not saying that you should …[MORE]