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Don't Exercise, Play


Posted on March 23rd, 2009 by Matt Schoeneberger

Here’s a little something I wrote a while back.  More musing than anything….

Exercise is boring. Exercise is a waste of time.  Exercise is dying.  Exercise is dead.

Living a healthy lifestyle requires motivation.  It’s easy to slip into a cycle of laziness and gluttony, to let your health take a back seat to any number of other things.  With schedules full of responsibilities, full of chores and tasks, it can become daunting to add exercise to the list.  After all, we know we feel better when we exercise, but that fact alone is rarely enough to get us in the gym after a stressful, tiresome day.

The Common Cure for Motivation

What if there was a cure for this motivation problem?  What if we could simultaneously add joy, fitness and long-term health to our lives all while making it easier to find the motivation for gym-going?  Well the truth is we can, it just takes an adjustment in the way we approach exercise.

Exercise is a replacement for levels of activity our distant ancestors achieved through survival activities.  We used to need to hunt and gather, to build shelter, protect our families, and to travel long distances by foot.  Modern life has made these activities largely unnecessary, so we have invented ‘exercise’.  Our distant ancestors, however, partook in one form of activity that exists today, and has existed in many different species for many years; play.  We adapted play to our modern lifestyle and sport was born.  Sport, or play, is the key to our new motivation.

Sport

We all need heroes or role models to look up to.  As children, we often look to athletes as role models, as someone to model ourselves after, to make us work harder and excel in sports as well as other areas of our lives.  When we grow into adulthood, we often continue to admire sports figures.  We devote chunks of our time and energy into our fanaticism, all while letting our own athleticism slip away.  This is our mistake, our wrong turn on the path to health and happiness.  We stop playing.

The excitement we feel when watching one of our favorite sports teams or athletes compete is little compared to the feeling of our own involvement in competition.  The ‘butterflies’ prior to competition, the level of unparalleled focus during competition and the feeling of satisfaction after playing your hardest and knowing you performed to the best of your ability are rarely felt by many of us after childhood.  These feelings of accomplishment and involvement are important for health and happiness.  The athlete inside of us demands increased performance each time we compete and this is our new motivation, our source of drive.

Exercise is Dead

Exercise is an activity for regular people.  Exercise is regular people’s modern day replacement for survival activities of the past.  Exercise is their means to an end they know they need, but have no real desire to achieve.  Health alone is rarely a motivator.  We, as athletes, do not exercise.  Athletes train.

The difference may be undetectable to some, but training is worlds apart from exercising.  Training involves a focus, a drive, a desire that is fueled by the need for performance, for victory.  Training allows you to achieve feats you never thought possible and acquire confidence that carries over to all other aspects of your life.  Our natural competitiveness makes getting to the gym after a stressful, tiresome day a no-brainer, a non-decision.  We’re already there.  We’re athletes.  We train.

Becoming an Athlete

We, as adults, sit and remember the games we played as children and file these memories away, not realizing we could capture that excitement all over again.  There are recreational leagues for many sports and many age groups.  If we feel we’re not in shape to begin playing in a local league, our time in the gym should be focused on regaining the athleticism needed to compete at the most basic level, while adding sport-specific practice (i.e. shooting baskets for basketball) as part of our routine.  Once able to join the games, our training focus shifts to increasing performance for our sport and position.  Training continues as long as we improve, and for as long as we continue to play at any level.

Remember, we’re athletes.  We train.  Get to it.

New recreational sports league:

Phoenix Dodgeball

For more about training:

Online Personal Training

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