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What lifelong exercisers know that you don't

lifelong exercise

The difference between lifelong exercisers and the rest of you is that fit people don't start with the PRODUCT of exercise. Rarely will you hear them talk about losing weight or getting a six-pack or buying cute new clothes. Lifelong fit people focus on the PROCESS -- which starts with understanding their own mental processes, and sets them up for success. Halibutboy has spent a lot of time talking to older gym rats and breaks it down for you, so you don't become one of those sad people squeezing in a half-hearted half-hour on the treadmill because you feel like you should.

To become a lifelong exerciser, you need to understand how to pick the right activities for your peculiar psychology. These are some common mental-emotional motivations that you hear about from long-term fit people, that don't necessarily seem as central to the thinking of the sedentary population. Make them work for you so that every outing gives you emotional satisfaction as well as physical exertion -- that's the key to long-term exercise success.

* Multitaskers are strongly motivated by the idea of getting exercise while doing other things, like bike commuting, carrying groceries home, or even playing golf without a cart. They don't care that it "takes longer" to do any one activity, because it's almost always more efficient than driving to work plus the grocery store plus the gym. Nothing makes the multitasker happier than beating traffic on a bike or on foot. Halibutboy is totally in this category -- at one point I even learned to sprint on the treadmill while reading books! A good tip for the multitasker: try to have "walking meetings" at work anytime you have only one or two other participants.

* Team sports! Because of the internet it's easier than ever to get outside when a group of people are relying on you and cheering you on and scheduling events for you. Especially in cities with large populations of single people, you can easily join sports leagues for every day of the week: kickball, softball, bowling, hiking, soccer, badminton, Zumba, or what have you. This is a popular method of stealth dating, especially for the more time-sucking activities like Crossfit. I even know a guy who joined a co-ed volleyball team after he realized he was mostly attracted to Asian ladies -- and in short order he was engaged to a teammate! Just don't be That Guy who hits on every single woman in the yoga class...

* Dynamic duo. If you're lucky enough to have one or two lifelong fitness-buff friends, don't be embarrassed to ask if you can glom on to their mojo. Walking is especially popular with followers of this strategy, but it's also extra good for sports that are intrinsically a little dangerous and shouldn't be attempted solo, like backpacking or rock climbing. Also obviously there are sports that absolutely require two players, like tennis. But never get a tandem bike or two-person kayak with your spouse, those are notorious divorce triggers.

* Seekers of "alone time". Swimmers and runners are notoriously motivated by the need to have long chunks of time with no conversation or distraction. Other seekers of solitude are prone to sports that require a lot of equipment and skill, like surfing or skiing. You might think the hours of training are boring, but for this mindset the ability to be alone is critical for mental as well as physical health.

* Strict scheduler. I don't know which comes first, but I've often noticed that serious lifelong weight training is only possible for people who are fanatically organized. Maybe because weight training takes a lot of time and concentration, carries a nontrivial risk of injury if rushed, and requires planning to get good results -- but the "I like to plan what I do and do what I plan" personality is practically the only one who can stick with this type of regime over a long period of time. It's ironic that the stereotype of the gym rat is a roided-out frat-bro doing shitty reps at way too high a weight, because in the long run those are the LEAST likely to commit to lifelong training. Tip: don't try the "dynamic duo" strategy on your friends of this description unless you can really commit long-term, it WILL hurt the friendship!

Stashed in: #health, Best PandaWhale Posts, Motivation, Fitspo, Awesome, Standing, life, Fitness, Real Talk, Fitness, Walking

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It seems like people who hire a personal trainer are seeking the dynamic duo scenario but don't have a fitness-buff friend.

And it seems like that is a fine substitute. 

I think people who successfully employ the "Dynamic Duo" strategy tend to be motivated by either 1) enjoying the social interactions, or 2) being great "joiners" but not good "initiators". Or both! Good trainers in my experience do not have much social interaction, they are not there to chit-chat. They can help the great-joiners type though.

Maybe I'm being unnecessarily puritanical here, but I'm always skeptical of people who use personal trainers to outsource the motivational part of their training. Unless they're fabulously wealthy, it always comes to an end... and the individual has not become any more able to motivate and evaluate themselves. I see trainers and coaches for most people as being a SKILLS TEACHING tool, not a long-term motivational crutch.

You're right that there's a big difference between hiring a mercenary to work out with you, and exercising with someone you genuinely want to spend time with.

Everyone needs a fitness buff friend!

My main takeaway is that it doesn't matter what motivates you to move your body as long as you know yourself and what motivates you and you do actually move your body. 

What motivates you to find MENTAL-EMOTIONAL satisfaction while moving. Without that, I don't think most people will be able to become lifelong exercisers.

You're right, it's got to be satisfying emotionally or there's no way a person would stick with it. 

yes to all of the above!  it's great to find an activity you love that involves movement. 

i fit into a multitasker and an alone-time seeker. biking is a great way to get around while getting exercise.  swimming and doing handstands in the ocean is how i get alone time. :)

dancing seems to be the magic one that fits every category.

Not all of us can do handstands.

It really seems like you're into the variety.

How can you multitask while dancing?

i dance instead of walking!  :)

But what else do you multitask while you're dancing?

cooking, cleaning, watching the kids... a lot can be done while twirling and tapping!!

You make me wonder why we don't dance while doing EVERYTHING.

Great job, Halibutboy. This is an interesting way to categorize the different personality types and what might work best for each. I'm sure most of us have one or more of these categories that resonate for us.

I wonder if there is a similar analogy to this for work styles which would make it more easy for people to work hard and smart within a style that works best for them.

I think you're onto something, Beth.

Motivation to exercise and motivation to work seem like they derive from the same place.

The difficult thing is getting over the threshold of experiencing an exercise feedback loop.  Childhood exercise is important, but even more crucial is carrying it through transitions, especially at the end of high school and college.  Someone only in team sports that stops playing team sports needs to find a continuance or an alternative.  Endurance (alone time) sports, which are probably best for you anyway, also seem to carry over those thresholds the easiest.  You can join in at any point, but many people mistake both their mental states and their initial aches and pains as being constant and permanent.  Once you are "in shape", the experience changes significantly for the better.

Yeah, I think a lot of people never quite make it to a good exercise feedback loop.

And to your point the experience gets much better for people in shape. 

This guy is a little bit extreme -- he made GRAPHS of his time usage! -- but a great look at the psychology of the "multitasker":

You're right, he's extreme. But wow, you're right, the mindset!

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