Category Archives: Working Out

What would it take to persuade you to exercise?

“What would it take to persuade you to exercise?” asks this article, Changing Our Tune on Exercise, at the NY Times (27 Aug 2012).

It’s something that I think is very important. For years and years, I’ve always been too lazy to exercise. I still am.

“For decades, people have been bombarded with messages that regular exercise is necessary to lose weight, prevent serious disease and foster healthy aging. And yes, most people say they value these goals. Yet a vast majority of Americans — two-thirds of whom are overweight or obese — have thus far failed to swallow the “exercise pill.”

Exactly! Humans aren’t logical. We know exercise is good, but that’s no guarantee we’ll do it. No pain, no gain, right? Yes we know, but it seems our desire for the gain isn’t as strong as our desire to avoid the pain.

According to the article, researchers now say we should not be offering the prospect of “future health, weight loss and body image” as incentives to exercise. Instead we should “portray physical activity as a way to enhance current well-being and happiness.” It seems, people won’t bite if they see the benefits of exercise as distant or theoretical. The benefits must be reaped in the short term, immediately.

Well, so much for long term investment! We are still hedonistic, materialistic creatures of short term gains. But there is a point.

Essentially, Dr Michelle L. Segar, a research investigator at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan, says we should stop positioning exercise as punishment for being fat and unhealthy. We should instead advertize exercise as a means of gaining daily, palpable benefits. She adds,

“Physical activity is an elixir of life, but we’re not teaching people that. We’re telling them it’s a pill to take or a punishment for bad numbers on the scale. Sustaining physical activity is a motivational and emotional issue, not a medical one.”

They say that different people have different motivations for keeping fit. Many do so for the classic reasons – to lose weight. But for some, such as the elderly, it is the conversations and companionship at gyms that are a bigger draw. For the younger ones, the need to look good is an important motivator.

I started out knowing that I needed a trainer to exercise. I never and still don’t have the will to exercise voluntarily. For more than two decades I knew I had to exercise, but I’d only succeeded in doing so by myself, maybe twice, and obviously my success was limited.

As my children grew, I began to feel that I owed it to them to live longer. I was tired of being fat. I was also motivated by appearance, except I didn’t realize it when I started. It was the sight of an ex-colleague who appeared at a reunion dinner missing practically half of her original mass, that really inspired me. I would go on to train under her trainer. And only the day(s) I found myself fitting into “slim fit”, size S and 29″ pants did I began to realize that, hey, the appearance factor is a BIG, AWESOME thing. It thrilled the hell out of me that I could finally look good. And it didn’t matter that I am age 39 – hey I look even better, I think, than some 20-somethings.

So, regardless of your motivation (or lack of), nowadays whenever someone asks me why I did this, among the words I use will always be something they may not have expected. Vanity.

The times you shouldn’t go to the gym

This Monday past was a public holiday, so I arranged to go for gym training at 11am.  I have been recovering from a bit of minor surgery on my back, so the workout was planned to be fairly light anyway.  But, towards the end, when I was doing abs on the vertical crunch machine, I began to feel pretty bad. Nauseous. No good. My trainer stopped me after the second set. The session was almost over anyway.  A fellow gym-er remarked that my face had gone all pale.

I told my trainer that it’s never felt like this before – never on the ab machine anyway. I wondered aloud to him if it might be because of the antibiotics I’ve been taking, post-surgery, which has been playing mischief with my bowels too. He said that that might be it, and added that I really shouldn’t be doing training when on medication.

On the way home though, it dawned on me that actually the past occasions when this nausea has happened has generally always been in the daytime, e.g. in morning training sessions. And I began to suspect that it might actually be my high blood pressure medication. I usually go to gym in the late evenings – by then the medication has pretty much worn off for the day. But morning – it’s probably still in my system, relaxing my heart.

So if you’re taking medication, medicines – do be careful if you’re thinking of going to the gym, even if you feel fine.

You should also avoid going to the gym when:

  1. You’re not feeling well (obviously), or believe you’re going to fall sick.
  2. You’re exceptionally tired, e.g. did not sleep well the night before.
  3. You just ate, like within the last 45-60 minutes.
  4. On an empty stomach.
  5. When you’re on medication.

I’ll add one reason why you should go to the gym though: when you’ve had a long stressful day at work. Don’t bring that stress home – bring it to the gym, and burn it all away. You’ll feel better for it!

Willpower – and a little forgetfulness goes a long way

Willpower1

At 10.30pm last night, I had a little hunger pang. Not surprising, since I had dinner more than 4 hours ago. It being a little late, I ignored it.

At 11pm. I had a sudden urge to eat a snack. To be absolutely specific, it was an urge to eat tomyam flavoured fried ikan bilis (anchovies) with peanuts, stored in a little plastic container, out of sight, with the cooking spices.

How about a PLUM? Said the good angel.

TOMYAM IKAN BILIS.

I fixed my eyes on the TV, watching Octavian get fed up with Mark Antony.

IKAN BILIS.

How about a PLUM?

I touched my tummy, sitting lazily on my butt, on the sofa, being a couch potato.

IKAN BILIS.

How about a PLUM?

In the end, I ….. ignored them all. I ate neither plum nor little fried fish.

I even told myself, “I’ll have some ikan bilis in the morning before my cereal” but I forgot about it. A little forgetfulness goes a long way. And so does willpower.

If you are thinking about losing weight, I will advise this: for the next few weeks, ask yourself, really ask yourself, are you mentally up for it? Can you do it? Do you have the discipline. It may be that you’ve failed before, or you really don’t know. Then, test yourself – change your diet for the next few weeks and stick to it. Try cutting your rice/white bread and other refined carbs by 1/3 or 1/2. If you succeed, you not only have hope, but you might just lose a couple of kilos during the experiment.

I sort of knew I could change my diet, as I’d already done so for some months, but my weakness is exercise. I have no will to keep myself at it. Perhaps you are better disciplined at exercise than with diet.

Either way, don’t sign up for a weight loss programme until you have convinced yourself you really want to do this. (Or in my case, paying for the gym sessions does force me to keep at it – I am too poor a man to afford such waste).

And once you have accepted it, do not give up. Tell yourself that that is not an option.

Remember: you will get used to it. You will get used to eating less, you will get used to the pain, the exhaustion. My trainer told me on Day 1, when I nearly died halfway through gym, that I will get better with time. I did. When I lost it again while he was away, he said I would recover, and I did. I never thought I would overcome nasi lemak deprivation, but I did.

And worst of all, something that will cause all you ladies to scream in horror, I am now immune to chocolate. I walked into Marks & Spencers one day with my wife. I stood in front of an entire wall of chocolate, and their combined charm had no effect on me.

Well, then again, I am no woman. :)

A 2-Week Challenge

The last 2 weeks have been a challenge. My trainer has been away on reservist training, which lasts two weeks. My last gym session was on Sep 30. So I’m supposed to exercise on my own, and while I’ve done so, it’s really not the same as going to the gym. Not even half as vigorous! I’ve been mainly jogging, about 3 times a week. I’m supposed to engage in some exercises, but I don’t do as much for sure. We were supposed to have a session last Sunday, but trainer was not feeling well so he messaged me on Saturday night to cancel. To be honest, that was one of the most relaxed Saturday nights in a long time, not having to “worry” about the Sunday morning tort… I mean, gym session. But I think by the time I get back to gym this coming Sunday, my muscle mass would’ve dropped.

But the one thing I think I have enough willpower to pull off is continue to cut my weight via dieting. Thus far, other than the appearance of a delicious coca-cola cake from my wife’s oven, and one particularly stressful weekend, my weight has been steadily dropping. One week ago I finally went below 72kg but it went back up to 73 a day or two later. This was from that stressful weekend. I realize that stress is really bad on weight – you tend to eat more, and your body tends to be less efficient. I’ll have to write on this some other day.

Two days ago my office went out for one of those lunches that I dread and enjoy at the same time – a buffet. And it was a really good one: Penang Place at Connexis, Fusionopolis at Buona Vista. Everything was good! A colleague remarked that she has never seen me “eat” like this. But another one later remarked that I didn’t really indulge. I guess I won, because, surprisingly, not much damage was done. Ok, about 400grams of damage lah.

I ate rather carefully the next day, i.e. yesterday. Went for a 40-minute jog/walk. To my delight, this morning I was below 72kg again.

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