Carrots & Sticks

I did not want to work out yesterday morning. Did not, did not, did NOT! When my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., I lay there and felt the beckoning of my anatomy textbook, which I really wanted to sit and read while drinking my coffee (I’m just weird that way).

But no. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I lift weights. That’s that. It did not matter that I was feeling less than perky after a busy Sunday of studying, laundry, studying, painting the chicken coop, and more studying. I exercise, therefore I am (OK, that was a little over the top).

Resolved, I made my way (coffee in hand) to my basic-but-functional free-weight gym setup in my semi-finished basement (I dream of replacing the faux wood paneling with drywall and painting it a vibrant, inspiring color…but that’s a dream for another day). 45 minutes later I was done, feeling virtuous, muscles pleasantly taxed, and I got to settle in with my anatomy text, and a coffee refill, for a spell.

To make a larger point here, I know what it is to have demands on my time that compete with the need to exercise. I know how hard it can be to shove everything else aside to go for a walk, ride a bike or do some bench pressing. I work full time, I am taking two rigorous science classes, I prepare healthy food from scratch (I eat out about twice a month), I garden and I recently started raising a tiny flock of backyard chickens. We won’t talk about how clean my house is(n’t).

Why do I make the time to exercise? Or, maybe the better question is how? The answer is one of those answers that might sound sort of simple, but it’s not. Essentially, I’ve committed to exercising regularly, and made it one of my core values (for lack of a better term). It’s something I just do, and it’s part of who I am. That’s it in broad brushstrokes.

Drilling down to detail level, I pretty much constantly feed myself either positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. The carrot or the stick, if you will.

If it’s carrot time, I’ll remind myself that if I want to look the way I want to look, and feel the way I want to feel, then I know what I need to do, and I better darn well do it. If the stick is up to bat, I’ll remind myself how I don’t want to look, and how I don’t want to feel, and that if I don’t do what I know I need to do, then I’m going to end up in an unhappy place, darn it. Kind of variations on the same theme, I guess.

My carrots and sticks are both health and appearance-based (yes, I am not without vanity, but really, who is?), because that’s what works for me. If I had kids, I would probably toss in “If you want to be able to keep up with the kids, you better pick up those dumbbells!”

The takeaway is this: Choose your carrot, select your stick, and wield them mightily!