I have discovered that the usual motivational tricks don’t seem to work for me. The picture of my 18-year-old self in red bikini that I had on the fridge did not make me think twice about what I put in my mouth or induce me to exercise; it just amused the kids, who did not recognize me or their dad in the picture, which was funny, but not useful. (I'm the one in the red bikini. Rick is the blond one next to me. My cousin David and his then-girlfriend Jackie are behind us and that is Lake Tahoe in the background.) The process of tracking what I do bores me more than the results motivate me, although I do like it when Heidi tells me I’ve broken a previous lifting record. As long as I don’t totally embarrass myself, I don’t have to be as whatever as the person I’m biking or lifting or walking with.
Two things seem to work. The first one is perhaps counterintuitive. I have to allow myself to be bad at whatever it is I’m doing. If I’m bad at biking, I don’t feel like I have to ride up Mount Everest at record speed without breaking a sweat on the very first day I get on a bike. Anything I do while trying something I am bad at is likely to be an improvement. As I get more competent, there will always be parts of whatever I’m doing that I’m not good at yet, so it works continuously.
In practice, this means that when I got on my bike today and found all the parts of my body that hurt from yesterday, I told myself I didn’t have to go far or fast. When I had tricked myself into going far enough that continuing on was less work than turning back, I concentrated on the part about not having to go fast. By the end, I had worked through the stiffness in my legs and my behind was back to numb rather than feeling the exact spots where the seat meets the sore bits. I did six miles and I finished fast enough.
The second thing is that whatever it is has to be enough fun. I have accepted the fact that I will never wake up in the morning thinking, “Yay! I get to lift weights today!” It is good that I can wake up saying, “Yay! I get to go spend an hour with my friend Heidi, who makes me forget I’m doing something boring!” Because biking makes me feel like a kid at recess, it works for me. I haven’t quite found the perfect thing to make gym cardio fun enough, but I can at least make the music loud.
Off to have fun being bad at things!