There was a time in my life when I was so tired, it seemed a challenge to walk up a flight of stairs. I wasn’t sick, at least not in a major way. I was simply so low in energy I couldn’t face the simplest physical tasks.
When I started a new job at a company who offered a gym and some pilates classes, I made myself go the first couple times. I really, truly wanted to get in shape. The 50-minutes class was absolute torture! I had to stop almost all of the exercises before I’d done the required number of repetitions.
I stopped going. It was just too painful and also, frankly, humiliating in front of colleagues.
Fast-forward a mere year, and I was practically incapable of sitting in a chair for more than a few minutes. During work (from home, thankfully), I regularly jumped up to dance to a song I’d put on when I had a small break or lunch, I did yoga and aerobics, and I learned archery and swordfighting.
None of this was me being “good” and doing what I “should”. It still isn’t. What I do is pure joy. Now if you’re expecting a tale of pushing myself through the pain and holding on until I got into shape, you’ll be disappointed. What I do want to share is my insights on how physical fitness, joy, and passion are related, and how you can experience them all.
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The two types of people
When it comes to exercise, there seem to be two types of people. First there are the enthusiasts, who tell you: “no pain, no gain”, get up at the crack of dawn to run 10 miles, and post pictures of themselves deadlifting insane weights on social media. And then there’s the couch potatoes, who make half-hearted attempts at best and share social media pictures like “bacon versus exercise – no competition”.
Between those two groups, there’s a seemingly unbridgeable divide. However, I’ve always thought that the best approach starts in the middle. There’s a highly effective way, but people overlook it because it sounds too easy. It’s the way of joy.
Pleasure or pain?
The conundrum is that when you get more physically fit, you also get more energy. And the more energy you feel, the more likely you are to exercise. The issue is getting to the stage where moving feels better than sitting still. It’s all about energy levels.
Incidentally, this also goes for your passions. Energy is at the root of whether or not you manage to devote time to your passion, on top of working and looking after your family. The answer to all of this is pleasure and joy.
Try to think back to a time when you felt very joyful. What was your energy like? Chances are you were basically jumping up and down, bursting with energy. This, this right there, is the state you’re aiming for, and the easiest way to get there is through fitness.
Which activities give you pleasure?
You don’t have to go to the gym. You don’t even have to run, or walk for that matter. If you follow the pleasure principle, you might be surprised what you come up with.
I’m not a doctor, so obviously you should take everything I say here as a recommendation only. Always check with your physician first, don’t overdo it, and use your common sense.
Generally speaking, you need to do two things in order to get in shape and have your energy levels go through the roof: Endurance (cardiovascular) exercise and strength building. All you need to do is find one thing you really enjoy in each of these categories.
Cardio might be dancing, hoola-hoop, trampoline jumping, swimming, swordfighting (yes, really), and lots of other things. Strength is built by resistance, for example yoga, bodyweight exercises and anything that challenges your muscles without getting you out of breath.
The initial hurdle
The most effective way of getting there quickly, is the way most people ignore or roll their eyes at. I’m talking about taking things slowly. There are no drawbacks to this approach, and contrary to popular perception, it leads to fast results.
Do five minutes of stretches or “desk yoga” (google it!). Jump around to a song you like. Ask yourself what you like to do, what excites you, and do just a little of it. Soon your body will catch up, and because you love it, you’ll be dying to do more.
Let yourself be led by your enthusiasm and you’ll soon discover the joys of physical fitness. Your energy levels will be off the scale! Forget about torturing yourself, try joy instead. You’ll be surprised by just how effective it is.