How to avoid couch potato syndrome using one simple rule and other mental tips to promote physical well-being.

This article may not seem consistent with content I have provided you with previously, but if you look deeper you can see how it aligns with the core values we at ATF have always promoted:
-Mental Clarity

If we build balanced, aesthetically pleasing dwellings but neglect our health, all of these values could be severely neglected. So here is a dose of motivation in a related arena!

I like the benefits of being in shape and physically active. If I need to lift a beam, my risk of injury is low and the mental clarity you get by being active goes hand-in-hand with elevated moods and a positive outlook. I’ll share the tips I use to avoid long periods of inactivity.

The following simple rule is the backbone to my collection of tips:

Never take a shower without first breaking a sweat.
This could mean a simple 5 to 10 minute workout. When I don’t feel like moving, getting a quick workout usually leads to a more extensive workout because you start to feel better as you move. I will occasionally hold the workout to 5 minutes even if I am ready to keep going. Why? Because I want to train my subconscious that 5 minutes does not always translate to a long workout. The threshold to starting stays low, and I continue to see myself as someone who likes activity. This is really important! Anything you can do to positively manage your self-perception is a huge help.

Tip #1: Have a repertoire of “pocket exercises.” This dovetails quite well with our simple rule. Your pocket exercises need to be flexible. These should be exercises which can be as short or as long as you want. Also, they should require only body weight, not special equipment, so that you can do them anywhere.

I have a few pocket exercises I use which can be done in an area as small as 4′ x 7′ if need be. One is a routine of alternating push-ups and sit-ups. Another short, intense workout is to perform as many burpees as possible in 7 minutes. And of course, squats, lunges, and calisthenics such as jumping jacks can be done almost anywhere.

Tip #2: Mix it up. Never stay with the same routine for more than a couple months. You will especially want to avoid a routine which exposes you to repetitive injury, such as distance running, day after day. By introducing variety into your activity plan, you will avoid weak muscle areas which could be prone to injury and also avoid the temptation to quit because of boredom. You can get cross-training workouts from many sources such as books, YouTube, and ideas from friends. You could also join a health club or hire a fitness trainer to help you with your cross training ideas.

Tip #3: Partner Up. We have all experienced the combined power of accountability and social interaction. If you have made a commitment to exercise with a friend at a certain time, what are the chances you will cop out? Working out alone can also lead to mediocre workouts over time, which is better than nothing. I prefer giving a good solid effort. And, of course, a partner or trainer makes it more fun and interesting.

Tip #4: Look for unique opportunity. You may remember an example of this tip at the beginning of the Timberline story. I skip the chairlift and incorporate an uphill hike into any snowboarding outing.

It can also work to leave early when you plan to go somewhere with another driver. You can stash your clothes in the vehicle and leave early by bike, by foot, or even by rollerblading! Agree on your route and when you expect to be picked up. This works best when headed home, so you don’t have to shower upon arrival!

A routine I used when my children were younger comes to mind. I would take a starting position at the bottom of the stairs and begin counting. All four children would get a head start. Upon counting to three, I would sprint up the stairs, trying to grab them before they made it downstairs! The thrill of being chased was great fun for the children and 20-30 repetitions made for a great workout for me!

If you are on vacation, being creative and flexible is almost a must in order to exercise and keep your energy up. I’ve done quite a few strange combinations due to travel.

Tip #5: Think about immediate benefits. If I am on the fence about whether or not to exercise, I often use the following rationale to get started:
Wasted time: I’ll ask myself, “If I don’t use this window of time to exercise, will I get anything worthwhile done? Or will I simply fritter the time away?”
-Avoid lethargy: I’ll tell myself, “If I can get started, I can shake this lethargic feeling, be more focused, and enjoy sitting down to eat.” Food even tastes better!
-Turn mountains into molehills: If I am in a bad mood or a problem has been eating at me, breaking a sweat will diminish the size of the problem. It is a bit like taking a nap or talking to a trusted friend to regain a real perspective.

Tip #6: Schedule a physically demanding activity. This would usually involve a group activity such as climbing a mountain, a three-day bicycle tour, a hunting trip deep into the backcountry, etc. You could also use motivators like looking good for a wedding or for summer weather, but because the prime motivator has to do with external perceptions, it may be more likely to fail you.

Now, what about you? What has worked for you in the past? What motivates you? Do you have a back or knee problem that disappears when you are fit? If you already have consistent exercise habits, kudos to you! If you would like to be more physically active, remember to start small. Unrealistic, overambitious goals can kill your effort. You can view a handful of “Pocket Exercises” videos I’ve put together for you on the ATF Members Exclusive Content page:

To a low starting threshold!

Bert Sarkkinen