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50 Reasons to Exercise Now, Not Later
Marilyn dumbbell press

For years, I've been carrying around in my head thoughts, observations, and personal tips on exercise. I've started to keep a list: "Sweat 101s," I call them. 

#1: Try to learn something new every time you exercise. Start today.

#2: The gym is one place where copying is never cheating. Steal from others’ workouts shamelessly.

#3: Don’t exercise only because it’s good for you in the long run. Life is short. Find other reasons.

#4: Spot someone jogging more slowly than you & deliberately overtake them. It feels good to feel fast.  (See #47 below too.)

#5: If your trainer checks his or her I-Phone for texts/email even once during a session, get a new trainer.

#6: The moment you stop thinking about what you’re doing, you let your body enjoy exercising,

#7: Want to lose weight? MMM-MO: Move More Muscles More Often.

#8: See someone rocking out & clearly enjoying running on the treadmill? Ask what they’re listening to. Buy that music.

#9: If you don’t sweat during an abs workout, you’re not doing an abs workout.

#10: Work extra hard at the gym tonight? Have a drink. You deserve it.

#11: Dread the gym? No time for exercise? Okay. Get off the subway or bus one stop early, then walk the rest of the way to your office of home. There, you’ve exercised.

#12: Create phony excuses to have to leave your desk. Drink so much water that you have to walk to the restroom hourly, then to refill your glass. There, you’ve exercised.

#13: Pretend-send documents to the printer on another floor, then act bewildered when they don’t appear. Do it again. There, you've exercised.

#13: Walk home from the grocery store with full bags in both hands. At stoplights, do shoulder shrugs and a few biceps-curls. There, you’ve exercised. Now, make dinner.

#14: Recognize what is anti-exercise—elevator, moving sidewalk, escalator, car—and choose to walk or take stairs instead.

#15: “Walking,” an anatomist once told me, “is a series of aborted falls.” In other words, our muscles work constantly to keep us upright and from collapsing into a pile of bones. Appreciate this. Stand up straight, still, and strong for several minutes.

#16: Don’t designate 3 days a week, e.g., for exercise. You will come to dread them. Instead, exercise every day—some more, some less, sometimes at the gym, sometimes not. Think of exercise as just a synonym for movement.

#17: Try jumping rope. You will gain a whole new appreciation for 10-year-old girls.

#18: Is stretching an exercise? Yes. Does it replace cardio? No. Now, go for a walk!

#19: I have a friend who says she abhors exercise. But every morning she closes her bedroom door, puts on music and dances wildly nonstop for three songs. This is exercise (but don't tell her).

#20: You say you can’t do push-ups--a great all-body exercise? Okay, then do a single push-up—just one. Next day, two. Keep going, adding just one day. Soon you'll be at 10, then 12, and unable to say you can't do push-ups, plural, any more.

#21: One of my best pieces of advice comes courtesy of Aristotle: Become what you do. Yes, become what you do.

#22: In the words of Susan B. Anthony: “The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood.” - 1896

#23: Don't expect a different result from doing the same thing. (See #1 above.)

#24: Listen to Hippocrates (400 B.C.): "Those who get exhausted with running should wrestle, and those who get exhausted with wrestling should run." Classical CrossFit, no?

#25: Run with your shadow. When the sun is behind you, pay close attention to the form exhibited by your alter-ego in silhouette--posture, gait, shoulder alignment, position of head--and make adjustments until the two of you are one, running smoothly, rhythmically, together.

#26: The shoulder joint is "highly mobile, but not very stable." Which sounds like a fairly accurate description of certain people I know, including myself.

#27: What is good for your body is good for your brain. Clear your head: Work up a sweat.

#28:  If I exercise constantly instead of trying to do all the things on my endless To-Do list, will the endorphins override my sense of hopelessness about ever completing the list?

#29:  Squats are a great all-body exercise (using weights isn't even necessary).  The secret?  With a straight back at 45 degrees, picture your bellybutton riding an elevator--down to the ground floor, pause, then gliding smoothly back up.  Now, again, and again, and again. 

 #30:  See #1:  When I say "learn something new," I do not necessarily mean a new exercise.  It could be trying a tiny adjustment to your freestyle stroke (see how that makes a difference?) or something new about your body, as you pay attention to a muscle you've hardly noticed before. 

#31:  Of your life, every now & then stop & ask yourself, "What channel am I on?"  If you don't like what you see, change the channel.  Just change the channel. 

#32:  Exercise your ankles:  Stand on one foot while waiting in line anywhere, any time.

#33:  Do you often say you're "really busy" or "too busy to exercise" or to go to the gym?  Try substituting the word productive for busy instead.  If it doesn't sound right, maybe you're actually wasting time that could be spent more productively.  Think about it. 

#34:  Listen up:  If you are texting, emailing, talking on your phone, or reading the paper while exercising, you are not exercising.  You are texting, emailing, talking on your phone, or reading the newspaper.  So step away from your iPhone.  Let your body sweat.

#35:  Don't second-guess yourself:  Rather than saying, "Did I make the right decision?" Say: "I'm going to make this the right decision."

#36:  Strength is more than a feeling; it can be defined:  Muscular strength is the minimal amount of force that can be exerted against a resistance.  However, see #37....

#37:  Not often but sometimes poor form actually comes from not using enough weight (I see this especially with women).  The dumbbell or barbell should be heavy enough to create some resistance to work against.  It is called resistance training for a reason.

#38:  If one takes some exercise, one must expect to give something back.

#39:  "The erudite body is a good body to have," contemporary philosopher Colin McGinn observes.  So:  Fill your body with new physical information.  Your brain will appreciate it too.

#40:  Get stoned on your own body chemistry:  Have an endorphin rush.

#41:  Exercise is movement.  Don't think of exercise as something done at a certain place and time and for a fixed period, but as something begun the moment one wakes, feet to the floor, and takes a step.  

#42:  Remember:  "Breathe from your downtown area!"  (See my blog post above, 6-12-13.)

#43:  Don't hold onto the bannister when going up or down stairs; this will force you to rely less on your arms for support and more on your core muscles and legs.  Good for balance too.

#44:  Reward your head:  Keep a damp towel in the fridge to cool your face, neck & brow after a hard run, bike ride, walk, or workout.   It is astonishing how good this instantly makes you feel.  

#45:  Even if you've never heard of the Talking Heads, trust me on this one:  Download the song "Crosseyed and Painless" from the "Remain In Light" album, and go for a run, do the elliptical, dance in your bedroom, however you like to move.  I guarantee, you will "get the message from the oxygen":

Lost my shape / Trying to act casual!
Can't stop / I might end up in the hospital

Working by hindsight / Got the message from the oxygen...!

#46:  Crouch down, hug your knees tightly to your chest, raise your heels, and balance for a moment only on the balls of your feet.  Notice how this small part of your anatomy is able to carry your entire body weight.  Appreciate this.    

#47:  What works with jogging also works in the pool (see #4 above).  Spot someone swimming more slowly than you in another lane & beat them to the other side (even if you have to use flippers).  It feels good to feel like a fish.

#48:  Walking does not only involve one's leg and feet.  Notice how the arms can't help moving and the trunk wants to rotate.  Let them.   

#49:  The calves are the first place I look on a body.  They tell you a lot about a person.

#50:  Get exercise because of how it makes you feel NOW—in your body, about your body, about yourself—not because of how it may make you feel or look later. There may be no "later."


 - Notes from Sweat: A History of Exercise

All copyright (c) Bill Hayes