Perhaps you know (and dislike) one of those dreadful people who never miss an opportunity to tell you that they ‘don’t watch TV’. Not, crucially, that they don’t own one (which is obviously fine), or are picky about what they watch, or can’t sit through an episode of Spartacus without doing pullups (guilty), but emphatically don’t watch TV, like neglecting the medium that brought us The Sopranos and 30 Rock is somehow a mark of cultural superiority because it’s the same one that hosts Doomsday Preppers and Duck Dynasty. These people are usually a slightly different brand of elitist to the type who are proud that they ‘don’t read comics’ (two words: Maus, Persepolis), and I’m actually more contemptuous of both than people who ‘don’t read books’. At least the last lot usually have the decency to be ashamed of it.
And so, to exercise (please continue reading this post if you do exercise, there’s still a chance I’m going to have a go at you, and also you’ll learn my terrible secret). People who’ll happily tell me that they ‘don’t really like exercise’ don’t have the same effect on me as the comics/TV/books crowd. They astonish and sadden me. Here’s why.
Exercise gives you a better quality of life, I think we’ve established that by now. And, just as books can run the gamut from George Orwell to Dan Brown, and comics from Barefoot Gen to anything by Rob Liefield, exercise comes in so many forms that all they really have in common is raising your heartrate or making your muscles ache. Some are amazingly efficient at making you better – others are barely worth doing. But saying that you don’t like ‘exercise’ is as ridiculous as saying you don’t like films. In fact, it’s probably more ridiculous – there’s nothing about sitting still and watching actors for 90-120 minutes that’s ingrained into human biology, which is not something you can say about chucking a ball around or going for a run.
And I’ll go you one further. If you exercise but don’t do resistance training and cardio and mobility work, you are still doing it wrong. Even medical professionals recommend a combination of the first two, and I’m insisting on the third – because what’s the point in making it to 90 (or 80, or 60) if you can’t get off the toilet? So you need to exercise, and you almost certainly need to do the sorts of exercise you’d tell me you don’t like. Ah well. As a great man once said, life is pain.
So, in the interests of helping rectify this situation, here’s my terrible secret: I hate exercise. LOADS of exercise. Tempo-style bodybuilding training, for instance, I find absolutely excruciatingly dull and painful. I can’t stand it. Similarly, I don’t really like classes where people less fit than me yell at me to ‘push myself’, I don’t enjoy pilates, and I’m not a massive fan of hardstyle kettlebells, running clubs or anything that involves dance music.
But that still leaves loads of other stuff. For instance, I absolutely love deadlifting. I like rowing. I like doing metcons, and yoga, and any form of fighting that involves regular sparring. I like bouldering and gymnastics and ginastica natural and MovNat and kayaking and parkour and doing dozens of pullups while I get drunk in my flat watching old UFC fights. I love exercise, just like I love George Orwell and hate Dan Brown. And this isn’t unique to me: I know dozens of people who once thought they hated exercise, but then discovered that what they actually hated was doing cross-country runs or playing football and they actually really like roller derby or jiu-jitsu or Olympic lifting or whatever.
So here’s the take-home message. If you still sincerely think you hate exercise, keep trying different kinds until you find one you like. If you like cardio/conditioning but hate resistance training – or vice versa – do the same with them. Do powerlifting or German volume training or cycle sprints or ultra-running. Most of it works, and it’s better than doing nothing. If you have friends or relatives who don’t like exercise, do the same with them. Nobody really hates exercise: it’s not the way we’re built. You just have to find the one you like.
HOMEWORK: Do the sort of exercise you like this week, whether it fits into your training plan or not. Enjoy it. Remember why you like exercise. It’s one of the most important things you can do.