An Old Gal not working out

I had a patient once who hated to exercise. Not only hated to exercise, but she found the whole thought of sweating as disgusting. When I heard this, I knew that there was little chance that I could help this woman. If a patient will not exercise, there is almost no lasting benefit I can offer in physical therapy.

I saw this patient for a few courses of therapy over a several year period and really just offered her temporary relief. I tried in various ways to make her exercises simple, easy, and very comfortable. It did not matter. This woman did not like working out, so she didn’t.

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To a large extent, exercise is a component of your attitude. If you do not want to exercise, your attitude needs an adjustment. Sometimes people choose a work out that is too difficult. Then they quit. They think, “I do not like to exercise,” when the reality is, “I do not like to exercise that hard.” The secret is to find an exercise that is  relatively easy and somewhat enjoyable.

Swimming offers a great example. Swimming is really hard to do because the swimmer has to move through water (which is much harder than moving through air). At the same time the swimmer must keep their body afloat. (Again, this is much harder than simply walking or running on solid ground).

If someone wants to take up distance swimming, the trick is to break it down. Instead of trying to swim 1600 meters (1 mile) non stop, which is incredibly hard, swim for 25 meters, take a break, then swim for another 25 meters. Keep doing this until you have done a total distance of 400 meters and call it a day. Over time, start increasing your individual lengths  to 50 or 75 meters. Increase your total distances to 600 or 800 meters. As your swim stroke gets stronger and your endurance improves, you will soon be swimming for 100 meters without a break and you will be working out for a total distance of 1000 meters, 1200 meters, and eventually 1600 meters.

At some point you may be able to swim 1600 meters non-stop. And if not? Who cares? If you are spending 45 minutes to an hour in a pool – swimming then resting then swimming again – you are getting a great workout!. That is what is really important.

This same concept is true for runners, walkers, weight lifters, hikers, bikers and all of the exercise dislikers. If you want to get in shape, stop being a hater (of exercise) and go out and find your passion (the exercise and exercise intensity you like best).

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