I’m 61, overweight, 29 years postnatal with exercise-phobia.
Since childhood, exercise, to me, has been something of a dirty word. Our typical family exercise usually began when I was warm and comfy, reading Enid Blyton when I heard the dreaded words, “Get yer shoes on…. we’re goin’ to Sabden.” Now, if you’re not from Lancs, or even if you are, you may never have heard of these bare, cold, windy, depressing moors in the Ribble Valley*. The most exciting thing that ever happened to me on those walks was when I found some strange, black clusters of small round objects. Everyone started laughing and someone shouted, “Put them down you numpty…. it’s SHEEP DROPPINGS!”
(* Google Assistant has just told me that because ‘Sabden is over 500 feet above sea level the temperature is usually 2 degrees colder than its surroundings.’ I KNEW IT, MOTHER!”)
Anyway, enough of my younger days. My point is that exercise was something I was MADE to do, to stop me from doing the things I WANTED to do…. like reading! It seemed like a PUNISHMENT, not a PLEASURE. “A walk will do you good.” was the mantra, but I never felt the benefit.
So now, like Pavlov’s dog, when I hear the word ‘exercise’, those cold, windswept moors come to mind and my brain shouts ‘Noooo!’
I can see the point of exercise if it has a PURPOSE. I played hockey at school, but that, to me, wasn’t exercise, it was…..chasing a ball around a field, whacking the opposition on their ankles and winning!. I’m not averse to walking if it has a POINT, getting to the pub or ambling round a huge bookshop, for example.
But exercise for exercise sake? No thanks.
It’s at this point, I have to make a confession – my path to exercise is paved with encouragement.
My daughter co-owns a fitness company; she promotes the value and enjoyment of exercise at every opportunity. My two granddaughters, aged 5 and 7, have been brought up knowing that exercise is a normal part of life, just like eating. I, therefore, have my own personal exercise guru to hand.
I believe in the benefits of exercise and that exercising can prolong my life and make me fitter and healthier in body and mind. How about becoming a bit more mobile? Being able to run instead of doing my ‘running mime’ in slo-mo that doesn’t get me anywhere faster? Having more confidence in not just how my body LOOKS, but more importantly, in what my body can DO?
I can’t even say I don’t have the time. I work part-time so I have both the time and opportunity to exercise. But I’m constantly procrastinating, promising myself, and others, that I’ll start next week, but never do. Worse still, after a thorough Google search, I’ve discovered that it’s not a real phobia! There isn’t even a fancy, Latin name for it!
I feel ashamed that I don’t seem to have any excuse, just sheer laziness.
However, I did find a helpful article on the ‘Psychology Today’ website, which lists a variety of reasons why people don’t want to exercise.
Number 6 struck a chord: ‘Memories of exercise used as punishment.’1
It did feel like a punishment, for sitting around wasting time, reading. (It’s a wonder I ever kept my love of reading alive!) Now exercise feels like a punishment for being overweight and unfit.
Now I’ve psychoanalysed myself, what can I do? A comment to the article above suggests:
We need to, ‘…..figure out how we lost the delight we as children took in running around and playing with others. When little kids are playing they don’t call it exercise; it is fun. We have to find some way to restore the fun we used to have in physical activity.’2
So that’s what I’ve got to do….any suggestions?
I’ll be keeping you informed as to how my effort to overcome my exercise-phobia is progressing!