Courtesy of Shirt.Woot
On Twitter the other day, someone asked about exercise in graduate school. Like you, I’m busy with writing and life, but I make it a point to work out 4–5 times per week. Before you think I’m one of those ultrafit “supermoms” who throw elaborate toddler birthday parties while writing my dissertation with perfect manicured nails, let me just say HAHAHAHAHAAA! My house is much less Cosby Show and way more Roseanne. I go to the gym because it’s a break. My local YMCA offers free babysitting for up to two hours, so I have, in a word: incentive.
I used to struggle with getting to the gym. I would pay out the nose for gym memberships only to go for a week and give up. Starting an exercise routine is easy, maintaining it is fucking hard. But I think, no, I KNOW, that taking time for yoga/jogging/meditation/Zumba is crucial to your intellectual maintenance. When you’re writing a dissertation, it’s the equivalent of running a brain marathon and you need to keep your mind and body fit. I don’t mean anything drastic, I simply mean setting aside time for yourself. Some people knit, others bake, I exercise and if you want to workout, you can to.
Like I said before, I used to join gyms and lose momentum after a week. Why? Let’s blame the “excuse center” of your brain. My excuse center goes into overdrive when I have to do something I don’t want to do. I am incredibly stubborn and this can make me my own worst enemy. So in the interest of getting you off your butt, here are my top 5 excuses and how I deal with them and maybe they’re resonate with you too:
1) I don’t have time! Yes you do. Working out doesn’t take long, and if the thought of leaving your dissertation for an hour freaks you the hell out, then go for 30 minutes or do one of these 20 minute yoga sessions. The fact is, a good workout boosts your energy which will give you more stamina to write.
2) Ugh, I just don’t feel like it today. It’s one thing if you’re sick, you should never workout when you’re sick (duh!), it’s a completely different thing if you’re just unmotivated or feeling lazy. Rule Number One in regards to physical health and fitness, you have to make it a habit. This is hard because a habit, by definition, is a regular practice that you do, often without thinking about it. When (re)starting an exercise routine there’s nothing regular or unthinking about. It can feel like you’re adding extra stress into your work routine, which for control freaks like me is simply chaos. It takes three weeks to build a habit and make it stick, but start easy. When I first started going to the gym, my goal was to go on Tuesdays and Thursdays for three weeks. That’s 6 times total, easy. Workout buddies help, so does making bets. I told myself that I only had to do it for three weeks and if I didn’t like it, I’d quit the gym–but I had to go for three weeks, no exceptions.
3) It’s raining/snowing/hurricaning outside. Listen, I live in New York, bad weather is ugly. It’s cold, wet, dirty, sloppy, basically: the perfect excuse to hide indoors. So when it’s pissing down rain, the thing that really gets me out the door is knowing how awesome I will feel for the rest of the day. Even if I have a shitty writing day after the gym, I won’t feel like the day is a total loss because at least I did something. However, sometimes it is weatherpocalypse outside and it would be pointless to wade through waist high snow for a workout. On days like that, just stay inside. It would be good to download free podcasts or invest in workout DVDs, I like Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred is available on DVD on Amazon Instant.
4) I went to a conference for a few days and blew my entire routine. Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’ve managed to workout for 5 weeks straight, it’s unheard of, you feel amazing! Then you leave town for a few days and instead of using the hotel gym, you sleep in and shmooze with Duke’s history department. When you come back, you feel like that 5 week stretch was for nothing, you have to start over, you ruined your streak. If you’ve been in this position, just remember that a habit is a practice. If you went a week without practicing, it doesn’t mean you should give up on it altogether. Just pick up where you left off and keep going.
5) Exercise is boring. Yes, it can be. I get bored doing the same thing everyday so I shake it up. I take classes, I do circuit training, I run. If the thought of going to the gym is too boring for words, change your playlist, go for a walk in your neighborhood or the local park, or sign up for a different class at your gym.
If you want to exercise it is within your control to do so. Listed below are resources that worked for me, hopefully they’ll help you too. Good luck!
Couch to 5k — C25K Running Program — I’ve been doing this for the past 3 weeks. It has an iPhone app and the site is a great all around fitness resource
one hundred push ups, two hundred sit ups, seven weeks to fitness, etc. — I like this one because all you need is your body, also a great all around fitness resource
Nike Running — Another iPhone app that syncs your runs on the inter-webs so you can see your progress in cool infographics
Nike Women — iPhone app of free circuit training workouts that are serious butt kickers. It’s an incentive app so after you workout for a number of hours, new workouts are made available to you
reddit fitness resource — Reddit is a news site with user submitted content. They have an incredible fitness and nutrition page with tons of helpful tips. Reddit is FULL of nerds, so most of their content is aimed at the desk-sendentary like us
Disclaimer: Of course, this is not a substitute for advice from your doctor. You should always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any fitness or nutrition program.