Added On: Sunday, November 04, 2007

How to get more exercise

I've never been a big person for doing organised exercise programs. That's not because I don't think such programs are important. I've just never been able to find the motivation to follow one through.

I particularly find going to the gym distasteful. I know some people love it, but I just find it to be a real chore. There's something really unsatisfying about running on a treadmill or lifting weights for me. It just doesn't seem to be any fun.

The fact that I've never really had a problem with my weight makes me even less motivated. But a few years ago, I found an answer to this problem.

When I first moved back to Sydney from London, I was probably about the least fit I've ever been. Sure, I've always done a lot of walking, but mostly I'd lived a sedentary lifestyle while in the British capital.

A friend of mine in Sydney invited me to come and play squash with a few friends of his. I surprised myself by saying "yes". Generally, I'd become allergic to this type of exercise, but for some reason I decided to give it a try. I almost backed out when the day actually arrived, but I did end up going.

A game of squash generally lasts about fifteen minutes. It's a fast and demanding sport.

I can tell you that about ten minutes into that first game, I was so tired out that I almost felt like collapsing. I remember going down to the bathroom afterwards and splashing cold water all over my hair and my bright red face. I looked in the mirror and it hit home just how unfit I'd become.

"How can I be so exhausted after so short a time?" I asked myself.

I went back up, and played another game soon afterwards, even though my body wanted to do anything but. In total, I played for half an hour, and I ached for days afterwards.

But as well as the punishment of dragging my tired bones around the squash court, something else had happened - I'd enjoyed myself. Me, who'd become so cynical about the benefits of exercise, had found an enjoyable way to do it. There was something about squash I really liked - the fierce competition between the players, the speed, the focus it bought out in me.

Since that day, I've played squash quite regularly. Just last week I played four times for an hour each session. At the end of it, I was tired, but not ready to collapse or anything. The day after each game, I felt fine as if nothing had happened.

In other words, I've become reasonably fit. And I've found a way of exercising that I really enjoy. When I'm playing squash, it doesn't seem like work.

The point of this article isn't to encourage you to take up squash. Instead, it's to approach exercise in a different way to which we've been encouraged in the past few years.

Lately, a swarm of gyms has opened up across the developed world. Everywhere you go, someone is encouraging you to go to the gym, pump iron, and run while watching TV. But among all this something has been lost. Many people just don't enjoy going to the gym that much. To a lot of us, it just seems boring and difficult. How many gym memberships are rarely used once the first month has passed?

Instead, explore all the different sports and physical activities on offer to find one you really enjoy. Think back to physical education in school. Which activity gave you the most fun?

Squash may not be for you, but dancing, surfing, biking, surfing, basketball, or karate might be. Find something regular and fun that you can take up to get that all important exercise. Look past the gym as the be-all and end-all of exercise options.

Most sporting activities have some kind of organised sessions you can attend. Take a deep breath, get on the phone, and call up to find out when they are. This is the way to get regular exercise without the motivation problem.

Who knows? You may even find some new friends on the way.

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