Have you always loved exercise? I sure haven’t.
In 7th grade, I got a D in gym. Some kids seemed to be having fun playing dodgeball and indoor field hockey, but not me. I didn’t like getting hit with a ball, nor did I like hitting other kids, and I kept getting whacked in the hands with the hockey stick by overenthusiastic players.
I preferred drawing, sewing, and reading.
I hated having to change into the awful white cotton gym suit with pinchy elastic around my chunky thighs.
The skinny girls were able to do the required number of pull-ups for the President’s Physical Fitness Test, and I couldn’t do one. The test also included standing long jumps, which seemed like a dumb, arbitrary measure of physical fitness – having to leap into a long narrow sand pit and land without getting a mouthful of sand was difficult for most of the kids, but some of them really seemed to be enjoying themselves. The gym teacher through middle school loved the demoralizing song “Chicken Fat”, which made some kids laugh and dance, but is still painfully burned into my brain.
Exercise seemed like torture for years afterward.
As a hippie art major in college, I thought jocks were dumb.
Art majors and athletes were two entirely mutually exclusive things in my mind. An “earthy” free spirit in long braids, granny dresses and sandals would never wield a lacrosse stick.
Even after college, exercise for its own sake, even going to a gym seemed like a waste of time and money. Activities like gardening, running, and riding a bike felt like fun, not at all like exercise, and it felt good to do errands by bike and to be productive growing vegetables and flowers.
Little did I know that these “fun” activities were indeed exercises. At the same time, aches and pains were creeping in and injuries were occurring.
This is why I train.
I realized that I needed a plan to train for life. Cardiovascular training would help me ride longer and stronger pulling kids in a trailer and bike seat, and strength, flexibility, and stabilization training would reduce the chance of further injury working in the garden.
Does exercise have to be fun?
I’ve procrastinated, dreaded, almost bailed on workouts, and sometimes couldn’t wait until the session was finished. That goes double for physical therapy exercises. Even as a personal trainer and nutrition coach I admit it’s not always fun, but the mental and physical investment pays off in spades.
Training can be tough, and not so much fun.
So I don’t know whether the pleasure principle is the best way to approach exercise and wellness. The fun element is certainly helpful in keeping us moving, but exercise is often hard work, and it takes dedication and willingness to build a habit, whether for a specific goal or for general health – and either can take a long time.
Will it be worth it? Definitely. Will it be fun? Sometimes, maybe often, yes.