How a Couch Potato Began to Look Forward to Exercising Every Day

Auriane Alix
The main reason why sport has become a drug for me.
Photo by REVOLT on Unsplash
“If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.” — Mandy Oaklander”

I’ve never been the Netflix Sunday kind of person. I always liked to go for walks in nature, swimming in the sea, and I didn’t end up out of breath when I ran after the metro. But every time I decided to really get into sports, I would wake up the next day wondering what had gone through my head.

I spent 6 years without doing any physical exercise, apart from walking around Paris every day.

Looking back over these years, I can’t understand how I could live without the rhythm with which I train today. That is: every day. I’m serious: every damn day. And it feels great.

So, how did I go from a total lack of motivation to a daily impatience with the moment I was going to move my body? The answer is, I discovered some crucial tips, which I felt I needed to share with you. Just so that you can discover how much it changes someone’s life.

First of all: The 4 basic principles

As I don’t know where you start, I can’t go over the essentials. Getting physical exercise every day requires you to tick a few boxes. Otherwise, it is difficult to start, and even worse to stick to it.

Below are four basic tips for starting to exercise every day or so. I’ll get to the crucial game-changing advice right after. Stay with me!

#1: Start slow

Let’s be honest. No, you won’t go from a sedentary lifestyle to a 60-minute workout a day. Human beings need slow changes. Pretend you don’t want your brain to notice what you are doing.

Slowly slide into it.

I started a year ago, with 20-minute workouts two to three times a week on the carpet of my bedroom/living room/dining room. Then I slowly increased to 40 minutes a day, 6 days a week, during lockdown. After that, I was more interested in doing cardio. This leads me to number 2.

It’s not about quantity. It’s about consistency and frequency. Start with short sessions, several days a week. It doesn’t have to be a chore.

#2: Listen to what you feel like doing

You can’t force yourself for very long to do something that looks like a punishment. You don’t need that in your life.

What drove me to stick to it was the following: I didn’t have the motivation to get out of my flat to train. I didn’t want to be with people either. Training alone at home was the perfect fit for me at the time.

Now I want to go out since I came back to the south of France where the sun shines every day. And I want to clear the fog from my brain because I work more. Cycling and running, therefore, suit me perfectly. But when I don’t feel like going out, I ride my stationary bike while watching silly TV shows, and that’s great too.

Do you need something to do at home? In nature? In the water? With or without other people? Do you need to be at the gym to find motivation? Do you need something low-impact? Free?

Answer all the questions that come to mind, and the ideal sport will appear before your eyes.

#3: Make it a part of your daily schedule…

… just like brushing your teeth.

A tailor-made routine is an excellent tool for structuring your days. I don’t believe in leaving your workout to chance. At least it doesn’t work for me.

Instead, I found a place for it in my daily schedule. Right after work, just before lunch. It allows me to relieve the tension that has built up throughout the morning and to start the afternoon positively.

You may be the morning type. The lunch break type. The late afternoon type. Or the pre-dinner type. Find your moment, and stick to it. Put it in your schedule if you need it.

What’s planned gets done.

#4: Know why you do it

Telling a child not to touch an object without telling them why is a waste of time. They will go and experience it for themselves. On the contrary, if you tell them why they shouldn’t touch it — it’s dangerous, it’s hot, it cuts, or whatever — they will understand.

It’s the same for you, even if you’re not a child anymore. Why do you want to start exercising? Because you are told to? I’m not sure it’s going to work.

You have to find your own reasons. Mine were getting rid of my excess energy and preventing weight gain. Now, it’s for slightly different reasons. Which brings me to the crucial, game-changing point.

Here is the main reason why I became addicted to sports

I can’t go a day without moving. On the rare occasions when this happens, I feel more tense, less concentrated, less balanced. Compared to my previous self, the change is huge. There is only one reason for all this.

I’m addicted to the feeling of well-being that comes with it.

Have you ever noticed this lightness, happiness, that flows through you right after a sports session? Well, once you get past the state in which your body perceives moving as an insult, you will notice that this feeling grows and stays longer and longer.

That’s what gives me the motivation. I like to feel my body relaxed, my muscles tired positively, and my mood so calm, focused, light.

Practice just long enough for this feeling to become present, and feel how much you miss it when you don’t have it anymore. That’s how you will become addicted.

Just in case you’re wondering where this feeling comes from

“If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.” — Mandy Oaklander

The state of well-being comes from how physical activity has a positive impact on cognition. In an article entitled Exercise is brain food: The effects of physical activity on cognitive function, Michelle Ploughman, Ph.D. in Physical Therapy, explains the three most important effects of exercise on human cognition :

“While exercising, oxygen saturation and angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) occur in areas of the brain associated with rational thinking and as well as social, physical and intellectual performance.
Exercise drops stress hormones and increases the number of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, which are known to accelerate information processing.
Exercise upregulates neurotrophins (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, insulin-like growth factor, and basic fibroblast growth factor). These support the survival and differentiation of neurons in the developing brain, dendritic branching, and synaptic machinery in the adult brain.” (source)

Juliette Tocino-Smith, who has an MSc. in Medical Anthropology, summed it up in an article for Positive Psychology, where the following diagram can be found:

As a result, regular exercise leads, among other things, to improved emotional processing, short-term euphoria, an increase in energy, concentration and attention, and a decrease in “brain fog”.

“All of these benefits are connected to neurogenesis (the generation and creation of new neurons) and neuroplasticity (synaptic plasticity, or alterations to the strength of already existing synapses).”, explains Juliette Tocino-Smith.

Final thoughts

It’s not much to say that training daily has changed my life. I couldn’t go back to the way I was before. I have noticed many positive changes, like increased attention. I am calmer, more energetic, it makes me want to eat healthily, I feel fitter and better in my body, and so on.

However, the human body also needs rest. There are a few rare days when I let my body rest. Just so that I don’t burn out or hurt myself. But on those days I can’t sit around all day either. So I walk 10,000 steps at the pace I want. I’ve found that it’s another way to release tension, even if it takes a little longer and the feeling of euphoria is not as powerful.

To sum up, here’s how to do physical exercise daily:

  • Start slowly. Remember: Consistency and frequency are more important than quantity.
  • Find something you really enjoy doing. Did I mention that I also surf when the waves are good?
  • Make it part of your schedule. What’s planned gets done.
  • Know why you’re doing it.
  • Stick to it just long enough to see the positive effects, and you’re screwed. You’ll have to get your daily dose of exercise.

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