Thursday, January 11, 2007

Better Living Through Trickery

Went up steps twice today and down once. Wheezy and poundy.

(From the Notes section of my WW journal, today.)

Now, come on people! One minute of stairs is enough to get me out of breath. This from a person who was a high-level college athlete back in the day (for those of you who row, I sat 6th in the eights and loved every lung-burning moment of it). For three years I've been fairly regular at my three-times-a-week workouts. And still...there is an exercise out there that makes me feel like I am dying after ONE MINUTE.

I mean, you cannot get more physically pathetic than that. It is a sincere, back-breaking effort to make myself do this every day.

So. We are going to have a pep talk! Just for fun. Today I am going to talk to you about what you think you can do versus what you can actually do. The way I made it through months and months of stadium hills, running, swimming, weight lifting, and thousands of meters on the water is by sheer trickery. I worked out till I threw up, many times. I pushed myself beyond the limits of everything I ever thought I could do. And it was all Better Living Through Trickery.

I trick myself all the time - it's one of the little weird things about me I've come to know and love. I respond well to trickery (and stray animals, and infomercials). If you're a runner, maybe your trickery consists of just getting yourself out the door - that's half the battle. Or you run in groups and watch the feet of the person in front of you. Or you sing little cadences to yourself. If you're a knitter, you watch TV or listen to audio books during those long eye-bleeding stretches of stockinette that make your fingers pulse with boredom and have you trying every way to make a knit stitch you have ever read about in your life. If you're dieting, you fill your house with low-calorie, high-volume snacks so you don't feel deprived.

All this is one big run-on way of saying that you have to trick your mind to do anything that is by nature restrictive, exhausting or boring. It's against human nature to expend effort doing things that seem difficult and not immediately rewarding. Trickery is a way of a) making things easier and b) making rewards seem more important.

I learned Trickery from a girl named Pam at Grand Valley who was a Runner. She ran cross-country, and she was my friend Jill's roommate, who was also a Runner. In contrast, I ran best when someone was behind me with a whip. So when Jill and Pam and I went to work out, I felt like a pathetic slob who couldn't do anything. They were nice enough to take me on as a charity project. By then I lifted weights with the football team and could swim 45 minutes without stopping, in addition to rowing 2000 meters indoors in 45 seconds. But I stunk at running. I am by nature a competetive person, and I got through a lot of those miles through sheer contrariness alone. But one day Pam said something to me that I have never forgotten, one day when I was so tired and crabby and whiny and not feeling like doing ANYTHING, let alone running as the charity project part of my friends' workout. She said, "As tired as you are, if someone ran up behind you and tried to rob you, you could run away, right?" I said, "I don't know." She said, "Try it. Run hard. Just see if you can." Contrariness took over and I took off, and what do you know? I ran hard for a good half-mile.

And people, I learned Something. I learned that unless you are dying of hunger somewhere, in a hospital bed or have some other extreme setback going on in your life, there is more gas in the tank. And from that day on I have never let the excuse "I don't feel like it" stop me. Because right now, after eighteen flights of steps and wheezing and pounding, I could run if someone was chasing me.

You can almost always do more than you think you can. The mind is a terrible underestimater. You can trick yourself into doing more than you think you can, and train your mind to go farther. And when you train your mind to go farther, your body can go farther.

There are a whole host of little tricks and triggers you can do to make yourself do these things. Can I do twelve steps? Why do I think I need to miss today? I like that my stomach feels flatter. Etc.

Well, yeah. I always give myself the out of getting on the elevator when I can't do anymore, but I never take it.

So...y'all must use tricks, too...what are they? How do you trick yourself into using stash yarn, not spending your whole paycheck on Rowan, not calling that guy you like so much after twenty-four hours because you don't want to see overeager? How do you do it? How do you go beyond what you think you are capable of doing?

Share! (And I promise I'll have some pictures tonight.)


Blogger lorinda said...

I hate you because you told me what I needed to hear, and I love you for it too.

Tricks, huh? When it's something crushingly boring, I make up stories in my head--usually staring me and Clive Owen. ;)

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, that is just what I need to hear too! Thanks so much for the motivation. I will start living better through for my own tricks, I only buy yarn if I have a pattern to use it impulse "that's so pretty, I must have it" purchases.

2:18 PM  
Blogger TheBunny said...

I can trick myself into "prioritized" things because I'm just as ferociously protective about allowing certain priveleges. For example, I curb a lot of spending by thinking how much work it will be to dust/vacuum/store it. That generally gets me out of the mood to buy something fast.

But I always allow myself to get pretty notecards when I see them. Because I use them, I send thank yous and notes that please other people and I think because they make me and those around me happy (and I'm not storing them somewhere in my nest) that it is money well spent.

I also get pedicures and facials because I think those go to good grooming. I generally don't go to movies because they are expensive and I don't really buy books anymore (library). So I have to just decide what has the biggest positive impact and allow those, guilt-free.

Now don't get me started on the exercise thing. I like the result but I so passionatly love being sedentary that I still struggle with that one. I need a really big trick.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

Dude--you went to Grand Valley? I teach at Grand Valley! Small knitting world. You don't still live around here, do you?

And for the trickery, I heartily endorse the "Just 15 minutes" approach--"If I just clean the kitchen for 15 minutes, I can watch tv when I'm done!" And of course, 15 minutes in, I'm either done or have been posessed by whatever I was only supposed to be doing for 15 minutes and keep on doing it.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous knitting bandit said...

I am with Ashley...I totally do the fifteen minute trick and it works! I trick myself everytime! I've been using a sinus infection as an excuse to not get "moving" but thanks to your trickery reminder, it's time to do at least ten if not fifteen. Thanks!

1:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I rowed the 6, too. Now I have knee problems, too. Coincidence??

I have to trick myself into "just 1 more interval" or "five more minutes" as well. I usually do it by remembering what I USED to look like. That is my motivation.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

agree, completelly. Using tricks is an efective way to achieve many goals that one would easily give up. Me, apart than tricking myself, try to avoid temptations (oh my, oh my, what would Mr.Wilde say)and that way my mind does not get away from what I want.
read u!
PS: came to your blog looking for an old friend, but it has been a pleasure to find you. I'll try to keep on moving 'round it.
PS2: sorry for my english =) -but in spain it's not -yet- main language

3:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i trick myself into thinking that certain foods are just ordinary, that i don't like common plain old brownies, that i'm picky and i only like death-by-chocolate brownies, and even tho i only make them about once a year, i'll be picky and wait till then. also, at work, i imagine that the people who got into the donuts ahead of me touched them all with dirty hands.
at the gym, i don't know. i work out at gold's, in the cardio cinema, and usually i add time to the treadmill so i can see the end of the movie. getting into the gym is still hard.

9:46 PM  

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