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Getting Slightly in Shape

July 1, 2009

I managed to run over 3 miles yesterday.  Considering I’ve never stuck with any exercise routine long enough to make it a routine, this is awesome.  After having a bad spring semester and desperately needing warmer weather and light when I awoke, I somehow managed to start getting myself out of bed at 6:15am every morning, feeding the cats, then going out for some good old fashioned eustress.  I’ve started down this path numerous times but never lasted more than 4 days.  Once the initial excitement of having a new goal wore off, so did my self discipline to get up and get out.  Once I made it past the week mark and the initial burst of excitement wore off, somehow I kept climbing out of bed when the alarm went off.

Why is this time different?  I’m not entirely sure.  Perhaps I’m getting older and more mature.  I am, I would like to think, growing stronger in my quest for self control and this prevents me from turning off the alarm and sleeping.  I also tell myself every morning, while I am still in that sleepy state wherein you would do almost anything to continue being in that state, that I have to get up and go outside but if I don’t feel like running, I can walk instead.  Many mornings I am sure, as I push myself into a standing position and start slogging through the morning routine, that I will be taking it easy and going for a nice, long, enjoyable walk in the cool morning air.  Yet every time when I get to my usual starting place for my jog, I start my stretches and take off at a fast pace.  I know that I cannot argue with myself in the barely awake state.  I am not a reasonable person and I cannot possibly win an argument (even one for a healthier self) if I will do almost anything to go back to sleep.  Instead I don’t think, don’t go over the options, don’t allow my lazy self even a tiny foothold.  As soon as I turn off the alarm, I start counting down from five.  I don’t think about anything else.  Just 5 . . . 4 . . . . 3 . . . . 2. . . . 1. . . take a deep breath, push myself up.  Sometimes cursing is involved as my body starts moving through the motions of making the bed and putting on clothes.  But by the time I’m awake and able to think rationally I am physically where I need to be to start jogging and I am ready mentally to start.  I’m usually not excited to start, but I want to get/stay in shape so just like I do when I get up, I don’t argue with myself, I just go.

This, for me, was the key to becoming an early riser and exerciser.  The person in charge at the moment of waking from sleep is grumpy, tired, and wants to continue sleeping.  He isn’t stupid, though, and uses ingenious logic to keep himself in bed.  You don’t need to get up now, it only takes you 10 minutes to get ready and you don’t have to leave the house for over an hour.  You don’t need to get up now, you did 2 miles yesterday and you worked late and your feet are tired.  You should relax a bit and not overstress yourself.  You know you should get up and excercise but he, being you, knows exactly what to say to lull you into complacency.  You can’t win so don’t play the game.  Like I said, I don’t argue and I don’t think.  The get your ass out of bed now counter starts ticking and after 5 seconds I’m out of bed.  I’m still grumpy, but every minute that passes allows the good side of me to wake up and take control.

A side note:  The Nike+ for the iPod is a great tool for runners.  It isn’t GPS accurate, but good enough for most purposes.  It records distance, time, calories burned, and has several workout modes to aim for distance or time or even open workouts.  Some mornings I go for distance (I’m aiming for a 5k run next), or some, like this morning, I go for shorter but faster goals.  I didn’t allow myself to get this until after I’d been running for a month though.  Gadgets won’t do the work for you and if the gadget is the reason for your initial excitement, it will in no way help you conquer your demons.  Once I had proved to myself that I was serious, then I allowed myself an extra tool to measure results.  If you’re already running and own and iPod, it’s inexpensive and worth a look.