Straight up: it’s exercise. Done deal. I’ve mentioned it countless times already but realised I have never dedicated a full post to it, so here we go. It is my greatest life hack.
First, a little backstory, to understand why exercise is so important to me and why I advocate it so. So get comfy kids, it’s story time!
Over the years I’ve had my ups and downs when it comes to being physically active and healthy. From a young age my dad encouraged me to play sports and I tried quite a few. The ones that appealed most were badminton, basketball and football. (Although the latter was mostly high school peer pressure). I was never really athletic in any way and lacked a real sportsman’s spirit, yet I enjoyed it somehow and kept at it. At some point during high school I simply got better at sports. I was never the best but had no aspiration to be the best either. I started getting good grades and most importantly, I started to really enjoy it. Luckily, that development stuck with me.
For a long while the reason I played sports and exercised was because I hated it when people called me ‘skinny’. I wanted to build muscles, hoping that in turn I’d become more confident as well. A common problem among young guys I’m sure, and while there is nothing demonstrably wrong with the motive, it wasn’t the right one for me. It didn’t motivate me enough to keep at it. The only motivation I ever found to work for me was to enjoy it. As soon as I really started enjoying working on my body and becoming more healthy and fit, motivation was no longer a question. Looking more fit became a bonus, not the goal.
There’s more! Through being active I realised the importance of it all. I had heard all the stereotypical statements and quotes from people before and have heard them countless times since. It’s so true though.. Exercising is good for you, period.
“Take care of your body, you’re going to need it.”
– Tim Minchin
I don’t mean you have to pump iron or to go for a run every day, you have to decide for yourself how you are going to stay healthy and fit. I am merely talking about the benefits of it all and how I experienced it. Like with all posts on this blog, it’s what you do with the information that’s important. The decision to become more active, get in shape and to take care of my body has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That’s why I call it the #1 life hack, it has given me nothing but confidence and joy. Back then I had no idea of the benefits and how much positive energy it would bring me. Furthermore, it enables you to face and deal with stress, setbacks and adversities more. You can take on the world.
On a more scientific note, working out releases endorphins. Maybe you’ve ever been on a run or you’ve done a heavy exercise and at some point the physical exhaustion got to you, but it made you feel great and euphoric nonetheless. This is due to your body’s endorphins. It’s a chemical with just one goal: masking physical pain. You feel great because of the other chemicals that have been released and because endorphins make sure you don’t feel the pain. This also happens when you laugh so much it hurts, your body simply runs out of endorphins. (Without endorphins in our bodies, laughter would always hurt).
If you’re having trouble keeping up with exercising schedules or simply can’t be bothered most of the time, here’s the tip: find a sport/exercise that you love to do. As soon as you start liking it, the question is no longer ‘if you work out’ but ‘when you do the next one’. If running is not for you, don’t feel like you need to run anyway. There’s plenty of alternatives. Exercise is supposed to be exciting, not just another obligation on your to do list. Whatever your goal is, make enjoying it your priority and the goal will become the bonus.
What could help for some people is having an accountability buddy (or a group of people like in team sports). Go do sports/workouts together and push each other forward. If someone else knows your goal they’ll hold you accountable if you don’t show up or don’t do the work. Another way that could help is having a goal you want to work towards, sign up for a running competition or football tournament three months from now, and know you have to work hard to perform well. Again, it’s simply a way to get you moving and active, you’ll start liking it after a while. That hurdle is the first and biggest one. Might not work with the first thing you try, but have a go anyway. I’ve heard countless stories of people who eventually cleared (or literally jumped) that hurdle and none of them regret it.
I prefer working out alone, got my own tempo, music and reasons, and I love it. Also, I haven’t really played a team sport since the Spice Girls broke up so it’s hard to compare the two. But now that I’m more fit, I’d be more up to try something, because I’m confident I could bring something to a team or sport.
So there you go. If you need me, I’ll just be over by the phone waiting for Wenger to call ;-).