The Bag of Chips Approach to Working Out

December 10, 2013

(or, The James Brown Approach to Working Out!)

No, I’m not going to put you on a guilt trip for eating that entire bag of chips (or that entire pint of Haagen Dazs) last night.

I’m going to share something I’ve learned recently from that bag of chips about getting myself to work out.

We all know the way to NOT work out: tell yourself, in the throes of miserable post-bag-of-chips regret, that you are going to get up at the crack of dawn and run 5 miles and Work Off That Bag Of Chips.  Or Finally Get Fit.  Or Whatever Guilt Trip You Are On.  You wake up the next morning and it is dark.  And cold.  And the bed feels so good.  And you don’t go.  OR, worse, you go and it feels even worse  than you did after you ate that bag of chips.  The next morning comes.  The alarm clock goes off. And you say “to heck with it” and stay in bed.

Now think about what made you eat that bag of chips in the first place.  You didn’t start out intending to eat the whole thing.   You started with only a handful.  They tasted good.  So you ate a couple more.  They tasted good. Then a couple more.  Oh, they taste so good, just a couple more.  By then you’re so close to the bottom of the bag (or the carton) that you say “Ah to heck with it” and finish it off.

And then the guilt begins.  “Why didn’t I stop?” you ask yourself.  “I know better!”

The answer is that in the moment, those chips tasted really good and you were enjoying yourself.  The power of That Feels Good kept you going until that whole bag was gone and you hated yourself for it.

But what if you could harness the power of That Feels Good – for good?

Recently I decided that I need to lose 20 pounds.  (My sister is getting married and there will be family photos that will endure for generations.  You get the picture…)  I Will Work Out, I told myself, but I didn’t do it.

And then one day, after I had been quilting all afternoon, I decided to go for a walk.  Just a walk.   I had intended just to go around the block, but it was a beautiful day and it felt so good I went to the park and back instead.

The next day, I again decided to go for a walk – just because it felt good.  I went to the park.  And then a little further.  It felt really good.

I kept it up.  A couple of weeks in, I found some stairs, so I walked up them.  It felt good.  I started routing my walk to find stairs, and each time I found some I walked up. It felt really good.  Then I started coming down the stairs doing my ski-preparation moves.  That felt even better.  Plus anticipating how much fun I was going to have on the slopes added an extra dose of “That feels good!”

A few days later, I decided to do a couple of push-ups on the back of a bench.  I could barely get through 5, but it felt good.  A little later in the walk I felt refreshed so I tried some more push-ups.  I only made it through 3 more, but it felt good.

I quickly learned that if I did half-depth push-ups and did 3 at a time with a rest in between I could do a LOT of push-ups.  Within a week, I did 50 pushups.  It felt good! Then a few days later I did 100 pushups.  It felt better!  Today I did 120, and I noticed that my pushups are getting deeper.  It feels GREAT!

Today we got the first real snow we’ve had this season and the park was beautiful.  I went out for my walk.  I felt excited, invigorated.  So I ran.  Just a little way – to the lightpost.  It felt good!  A little further along I ran a bit more.  This time I made it to the lightpost and realized I could go a bit further so I did.  It felt amazing!  I kept running in sprints, setting nearby goals and then exceeding them.  It felt GREAT!

Within just a couple of weeks, I’ve done a 180-degree turn: instead of hating to work out and doing it out of fear and guilt, I have found the power of That Feels Good!

Just like that bag of chips, I start out with the intention of just going for a walk.  But then it feels good so I do a bit more.  And that feels good so I do a bit more.  And that feels good so I do even more.  And by the time I get home I’ve enjoyed a really nice walk and gotten a great workout.  I feel really good physically.  And I feel really good emotionally because I did what I meant to and then exceeded my goal.

I’m looking forward to my walk and work out tomorrow — and that feels GOOD!

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