The other day in the gym, one guy performed what felt less like a workout and more like a dance. As he was slowly moving through what seemed like a well-organized routine, his body movements were mesmerizing – hanging off a high gym pole with his hands, he slowly changed his position from initial push up, to keeping his body horizontal to the ground for more moments than seemed possible, and finally going upwards. He could not put his full body vertically as acrobats do – the gym’s ceiling was not allowing it – so he ‘only’ did half body position, circling the gym bar, before making back to the ground.
That is not a usual sight in the gym. Bodies there move with brutal efficiency, with exact amount of repeated lifting of weights, loud upbeat music blasting through the speakers and occasional personal trainer shouting ‘no pain no gain’ into someone’s ear.
I hate it. The environment is overstimulating – lights, noise, smells – and the attitude is not exactly my life motto either ‘if you’re not feeling pain you’re not doing enough’. Strenuous exercise is hard and boring enough , but my attitude to pain is different too. If I overdo my exercises, the pain does not mean ‘i am not doing enough’ but ‘I am not able to move my arm so can’t work tomorrow.’
I would choose anything that gets me out of the gym, but the reality s that I sit for most of the day, so I need gym to ensure my body gets enough physical activity to be healthy.
Still, motivation does not come easy – Resistance seems to always meet me somewhere on the way there. I need A LOT of energy to pass her and keep going.
I accidentally came upon the best name for this Resistance in an excellent book by Bo Seo Good Arguments. He calls it:
‘Butt Off the Couch threshold’ – the ridiculously high amount of energy required to persuade anyone to do anything in this world’.
Admittedly, he was talking about persuasion in the debates, but the description fits well the Resistance I seem to meet so often.
Willpower is the go-to tool to knock the Resistance off it’s feet. The problem is that willpower is so overused during the day, that by the time night comes, little is left. And there is no guarantee the morning will be better – just a whiff of bad sleep means less energy to survive the day, let alone have some left or the gym.
It is easy to overlook emotions as the source of energy to fight the Resistance – the only time we associate emotions with energy is when we battle them. The frustration and anger we fight to suppress, humiliation or rejection we fight to hide, but even hopelessness or sense of unfairness can seem light a battle as they dampen our energy and impact motivation.
But there is a reason the word ‘emotion’ derives from the word ‘movere’– move. As it evolved through ages, it embedded this function even further – French word ‘emouvoir’, eventually adopted as ‘emotion’, means ‘to stir up’. Emotions evolved to inform us and move us towards our goals, but we rarely use them gear us towards where we need to go.
Despite hating strenuous exercise and some health limitations, I never need to push myself to go for a hike. If the view at the end of the journey is worth it, I will climb through boulders, get stuck in mud or risk slipping into rivers.
Chasing the excitement of exploration, the pride of achievement, the joy of being in nature, and the awe of sights and sounds of wilderness does not require the ‘ridiculously high amount of energy’ at all. It is a breeze.
So next time I struggle getting myself to the gym, I will seek the help of my awe to knock of the Resistance. The hope of a beautiful performance in the gym might just be enough to cross my Butt Off the Couch Threshold.