I’m going to let you into a secret: I don’t actually enjoy exercise. It bores me and I find it really difficult to motivate myself.
I know that swimming will help loosen up my shoulders, I know that it will mobilise my back, and yet I find it really easy to find reasons not to go. I never have enough time, or there are more important things I could be doing. The honest answer at the root of this reluctance is that I don’t want to go, I get bored of going back and forth very quickly.
I’m the same with running: I did the Great South Run in 2008 with a colleague. He’s taken up running and does marathons. I put my running shoes away in the cupboard, never to be seen again. I was persuaded to do a 10K run in the autumn, my preparation consisted entirely of finding those shoes again and nothing else. I enjoyed it because of the people I was running with and the reason I did it. At the end Mel asked me: “so, will you take up running?” I said “no” and took the shoes off again.
The answer is simple really: I ride my bike because I enjoy it. I am fit enough that I can enjoy the rides I want to do, I put in miles so I can enjoy myself when I ride. The motivation has nothing to do with exercise or fitness, it’s about enjoyment. It’s the same reason I haven’t been a member of a gym for over a decade. It has no appeal.
I have no idea what my VO2 max or lactate threshold are. I have very little interest in knowing my training zones are. I’m baffled when I see people out on their bikes suffering their way around a ride. Where’s the fun in that?
I’ll admit that I enjoy being physically active. I’m very much a kinaesthetic learner. I enjoy the physical sensation of the movement on the bike. I love the feeling of motion I get when I ride fast downhill. I thrill at the feeling of the wind on my face (except, possibly, in the depths of winter when I’m less enamoured of it). I’ll admit I even enjoy the challenge of a steep climb and feeling out of breath at the top. It’s all fun.
The sights and sounds of the countryside are a pretty special reward for getting out too. The scenery, the fauna and flora are all worth the effort.
That’s what gets me out to the shed to grab the bike in the morning.
So, when I say I understand your reticence to start exercise, it’s the truth. When you say you find it difficult to convince yourself to get out and do some exercise, I get it, I really do.
I’ve been told that people are very bad at doing things that are good for us. We are much better at doing things we enjoy. Which is why backpedalling isn’t about getting fit. It’s about getting outside and enjoying yourself. It’s about seeing some special things and going some special places.
That’s why I run the Rusty Rides (warning: last year’s link at the moment) in January and February: because they are fun. So Why not join us next week and see how being active can be enjoyed rather than endured?
The fitness will take care of itself.