How to Be Happier, Step 3: Exercising
On January 2, I posted a list from the blog of psychologist Jeremy Dean of ten habits that science has shown make people happier. For the next ten days I’m posting individually on one of these actions/states of mind in hopes that we can all learn to make them habits.
Today’s topic is exercising.
This is on a list of how to be happier—that doesn’t make me happy.
This is one thing I do not do well, at least not as well as I should.
Does anyone—other than my husband—really enjoy exercising?
Those who preach about exercising tell you to find an exercise you really enjoy. Really? The only exercise I really enjoy is turning the pages of a book.
Nevertheless, and surprisingly, I am better at it now than I was when I was younger. I remember even as a child that I couldn’t run very far without getting a stitch in my side. When I became an adult, and suddenly running (by adults) was all the rage, all I could think was, Are they nuts? What’s the point?
Now I do enjoy walking. When I was growing up my mother didn’t have a car or a driver’s license, so we would walk into town or take a bus to go longer distances. Now my husband’s and my favorite vacations are to great cities, where we can walk all over.
But running? Never gonna happen, I thought.
My husband is a runner. He competes in races. After we were married I began going to races with him as a spectator/cheerleader. He often ran with people he worked with, nice, intelligent people who didn’t seem crazy at all to me. In fact, they were enthusiastic and happy to be on the race course. Gradually I started to feel twinges of envy. What would it be like, I wondered, to be able to actually run three miles?
Then I decided to walk in a few races. Having enjoyed that, I started thinking, Hey, maybe I could run just a little bit. From one tree to another. To the stop sign on the corner.
That’s how it started. Just like they advise you to do. Start out slowly. Run for one minute. Then gradually increase your running time. Eventually I was able to complete a one-mile race, and later my first 5K—without walking! It was a thrill.
I am not by any means a good runner. I’m still slow. I don’t do it as regularly as I should. Especially in winter. Every spring I start all over, thinking that this year I’ll run several times every week. I’ll get in shape. I’ll do the ten-mile race in July. I’ve done that race exactly twice, and certainly not running all the way.
But I remember when I first began being able to run that three miles and the “runner’s high” I got. The feeling of yes, I can do this!
I still fight my own core of laziness. I still look for excuses when my husband asks if I want to go to the gym. (The very word gym reminds me of high school horrors in gym classes.) I prefer to say the Y—YMCA doesn’t have as many negative connotations for me. Sometimes I distract myself by putting on HGTV while I do the treadmill. Love It or List It has managed to keep me going for an hour.
I know I need to do more. Maybe sign up for a yoga class. Do weights or stretching at home. Lose that extra five to ten pounds that seemed to come up on me out of nowhere.
But this nonexerciser at least tries. Does it make me happier? Maybe. I know there’s at least one part of every run that’s happy: when it’s over and I walk back in the door of my house, knowing I did it.