Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Jedi Mind Tricks & Fitness

I wish I could say I'm a total health nut who loves the gym and that I think brownies are icky sugar toxins, but I'm not. It still takes willpower to stick to my mission. I'll never stop loving days where I can completely immerse myself in a video game for hours on end or enjoying a Hobbit themed feast with my friends. For my first month, I completely avoided those things so I could create new habits and in a way, detox/wake up my body. Seven months into this lifestyle change, I've definitely indulged in some treats and devoted hours on end to adventuring in Skyrim without derailing my progress one bit. The question became, how do I use delicious treats and non-active geeky indulgences as motivation to put in the effort at the gym and the table a majority of the time? My answer: A reward system. I unlock an achievement, I get a trophy. I bribe myself to do healthy things I'm not crazy about with things I love but should only do in moderation. 

Even though I don't love going to the gym, I like the elliptical machine. After the "shiny newness" of a new health regime wears off, working out on a machine can feel a bit like subjecting yourself to being on a "hamster wheel" 5 times a week. What makes the day in/day out tedium of watching statistics flash across the screen bearable is being able to watch my favorite TV shows. I don't have time to sit down and rewatch all the shows I love, but if I do it at the gym, then it's accomplishing something instead of just marathoning them nonstop while I sit on the couch and surf the web. The bonus to this system is that it provides another fun way to measure my progress. After all, you can't always expect the scale to go down, so why not measure you're level of awesomeness by how many cult TV shows you've watched while at the gym. For the record, I've watched every episode of Firefly, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and 2.5 Seasons of Xena: Warrior Princess whilst busting my ass at the gym. Next in the queue: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are people who say it's detrimental to watch TV whilst exercising because you'll relax and not push yourself hard enough. To counteract this, I did research to find my optimal heart rate and I make sure that I stay in it while I'm working out. I also choose shows with a lot of kicking ass in them- usually with a female heroine I dig- so whilst Xena is bashing heads or sprinting through the wilds of Ancient Greece, I pick up my intensity. 

There are other smaller "Jedi Mind Tricks" I use to make sure I stay motivated and continue to push myself. For instance, if I try something new and truly despise it, I don't force myself to keep doing it as long as I still go to the gym and do something else. A personal example would be weight training. I tried it out when I started my gym membership, but I never felt engaged by it and I didn't really see any results despite my research and sticking with it for over a month. I just decided there were too many other active things I could be doing/trying with my time. I will note that I initially decided I hated Zumba and now I take two classes a week, so who knows? One day I might totally get back into it. In any case, I still wanted to do some conditioning and eventually I started going to yoga classes two or three times a week. I've built up my strength and balance exponentially. Plus I can measure the progress of my fitness by being able to reach new poses or stay in unmodified plank or chaturanga longer. The other evening I was able to do "upward facing dog" instead of "cobra" AND "unmodified side plank" for the FIRST TIME. I felt awesome afterwards. On days when I'm not feeling particularly "zen," I just tell myself I'm training to be the Avatar. I defy you to do "yoga warrior dance" and NOT imagine you're doing the dance of the dragons with Zuko and Aang. No kidding. That shit works every time. 

My willpower weakens significantly when it comes to video games. If I get sucked into a story or fixated on a goal in game, I will not stop until that best in slot item is mine. Seriously. I have problems.  I used to be like this:

You know, except with lady parts. Not pretty, right? A lot of people think video games are "the enemy" right now, and not just when it comes to fitness. People who know almost nothing about these games are asserting that they cause violent tendencies, rob you of real life experiences, or are senseless garbage that will rot your brain- I could talk about how I don't agree with those accusations all day. I won't because that could be its own post. One thing I can say is that they ARE addictive and that I have personally experienced gaming addiction to the extent that some of my friends had to stop the madness and screw my head on straight again. Did I to stop playing video games altogether? No. I just had to learn to enjoy them in a way that would not prevent me from persistently pursuing a marked improvement in my health. For my first month on Operation: Stop Treating Your Body Like Poop, I didn't play many video games- and certainly no MMOs (my personal crack). Once I had my fitness and nutrition routine under control, I started allowing myself to play games again, but ONLY after I'd been to the gym or done my chores. In my opinion if you're a productive member of society and you're looking after your health, who CARES if you spend 4-6 hours that evening raiding Icecrown Citadel with a bunch of pixelated buddies? I'm sure there are people who still think video games are the devil, but that's my take on the issue in relation to my own health at any rate. 

Are there things you do to bribe yourself into healthy eating and fitness habits? Leave your tips in the comments!


  1. Great job on your health journey! I re-started working out and eating better in Jan. after getting released from physical therapy. I totally agree about weights vs. yoga. Have a great day! :)


    1. Aw thanks so much for reading and for the support Laura! I really do love yoga more and more each time I do it. Just got up into the wheel for the first time the other day and felt like a total champ! Do you have a particular style of yoga class you like best? I hope your physical therapy went well and that you are killing it at the gym! <3

  2. Hi Anne, I really am enjoying your honesty and writing style! I am such a newbie to yoga that I have no idea about any of the kinds. I think it has to do with flow?? I will continue to keep killing it at the gym, thanks! ;)

    1. Thanks! I'm enjoying sharing all the stuff I'm experiencing/learning as I go. It keeps me accountable for sure! There are different styles of yoga that you can do (depending on what you want). I've been taking a Hatha Yoga class that emphasizes seated positions, centering, concentration, and breath and also a Vinyasa yoga class ("one breath, one movement"), which is all about connecting your break to your movement and tends to be a bit more challenging. Then there's also hot yoga (which I've never done) that you do in a really hot room. I'm sure there's supposed to be a point to that. Probably helps limber up/stretch the muscles. I'm using Yoga for general conditioning/stretching so normally any of the options suit my needs but I'm trying to learn about the different types just because I'm interested to know what the take-away is supposed to be for each. :)