Health, Living

Breaking the Couch Routine

Not today, you temptress!

Laziness comes easy to me. It feels so simple to lay out on the couch with a good book, or watching tv, or on my computer, that even the smallest suggestion for movement becomes massively difficult for me to acknowledge. As a kid and young adult my default lifestyle would be: wake up, school/work, couch, sleep. The cycle went on for so long, and anything outside of that little lifestyle seemed like extreme living to me.

It was only recently that I began to question this form of “living” – I don’t even think living is the right word for it. Existing, I guess. It was unfulfilling, I felt like shit, and I started getting aches and pains in new places all at once. About two years ago I read a book about the dangers of sitting for long periods of time, and it inspired me to get up and move for a few days. I even started walking the 5km to work, though to be honest my reasons for that were more to save money than for my health. At first it was easy: I was so motivated to no longer be creating a permanent ass indentation on my couch that movement of any sort was my new default.

And then laziness crept back in, puncturing my enthusiasm for movement slowly and steadily, and I found myself back into old habits that were killing me. I am a fairly rational person, and I know when something is good or bad for me. It seems so difficult to actually act on the good things, while the bad ones are so seductive. We all know this. I guess figuring out the why is a topic for another day, because I still don’t have the answers. All I know is that my new strategies for beating laziness are helping way more than previous attempts.

Habits

In a moment of enthusiasm I signed up for a soccer team. I’d not played in 10 years, I was unable to run particularly far, and I felt shy around a team of players who had played together for years. I also realized that I was finding excuses that made me feel lame. Do I suck at soccer now? Absolutely. Does recovery take longer? For sure, and every week is quite painful. Am I going to stop? Hell no! That sign up day turned out to be the best thing for my health. I’m having fun exercising, I’ve made new friends, and there is a set schedule that I am compelled to follow every week.

On top of this, Tuesday is now my gym day. It’s non-negotiable. Tuesday after work I go to the gym, and that’s that. I say that to myself regularly, and the habit has formed and stuck. It may only be for a 15-minute barbell workout, but who cares? The Tuesday gym schedule has helped me keep my sanity because it’s easy to remember and easy to fulfill.

Good habits have help me snatch a few hours away from the couch every week. The couch will not win. I know view the couch as a sort of drug, one that can be enjoy every so often but must be restricted from heavy usage.

Identity

I’ve always loved walking. As long as comfy shoes are worn there is nowhere I will not walk to. I am the very annoying friend who tries to convince everyone to walk instead of taking a cab. Things really ramped up when I decided to limit my use of the car as much as possible.

After a year of continuously walking to work my colleagues now assume that’s what I do. They ask me questions about my walk and how I prepare for inclement weather. They have stopped offering me rides. I am the walker of the school. Having it as a major part of my identity makes me proud. It is far better than other traits I am known for (drinking like a sailor and making inappropriate jokes at wrong times) and it makes me feel good. On days where I feel lazy and look longingly at the car keys, I remember the shame I feel when I tell people I drove that day.

By adding a new, active identity to who I am I’ve managed to transform my mental and physical health. The joy of walking out in the quiet, crisp morning air is meditative in its own right, and my brain wakes up without the need for caffeine. Walking home allows me to run over the day in my head, filing information away, and then putting it away by the time I get home. Walking is a huge part of who I am, and I am all the better for it.

Patience and Forgiveness

If I miss a walk or a workout I have stopped beating myself up over it. I recognize that I feel crap about it, accept that I don’t want to feel like that again, and carry on with my day. I no longer throw myself on the couch feeling like a failure, looking for a distraction to my “woe-is-me” moment. I forgive myself and choose to control how I spend my evenings off the couch. I read my book while walking around my living room. Or I do some jumping jacks and push ups. I cook and do the dishes while dancing to ridiculous music. Even if I only feel like doing a tiny little moment of exercise, I am still better off after it than I was before. Small victories like 10 push ups a day add up, and should never be discounted.

Instant gratification still has a hold on me, but I don’t expect miracles to happen with my body anymore. I remember as a teenager I would do 100 crunches every day for a week, and then be hugely disappointed that I was still a fat kid. Now I am learning patience, and I am also learning to enjoy slow progression. I am no stranger to fad diets – over the years I have dramatically dropped weight and gained it back – so the slow, patient strategy is a new one. It feels better and more sustainable than anything else I’ve tried.

None of these are groundbreaking thoughts, but it seemed to take me a very long time to put them into practise. Now that I have I feel in far more control of my life and far better than when I would spend every evening as a zombie on the couch. Maybe I needed the message to be sent to me multiple times before I could break through the laziness siren song. Now that I’ve seen the other side, the side where I am capable of so much more, I am going to work my butt off to make sure I stay there. Laziness be damned, I want to live my life better.

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