A year of attempts to exercise

I was not a sporty child. I have terrible hand-eye coordination – at primary school I was still learning to bounce a ball off a wall and back to myself while the other kids got to throw balls at each other 😦

But, I realise the importance of exercise. Not only does it keep you physically healthy, it can benefit your mental health, too. Since starting my PhD I’ve been trying to incorporate exercise into my routine, because there was no way doing a PhD wasn’t going to increase my stress level

Here are some of my attempts so far:

  1. Running! I started the Couch To 5K programme, which takes you from jogging in short intervals to running 5km non-stop, theoretically in as little as 8 weeks. I got to week 6, last autumn, but while I enjoyed running in intervals, once I had to run for 20+ minutes at a time… I got bored. I am slightly ashamed to admit that my willpower is not sufficient to get me through even half an hour of exercise against my body’s complaints. I tried audiobooks, music, podcasts… and then it got to be dark and cold and wet in the evenings and I stopped trying 😦
  2. Bouldering – my partner is a rock climbing fan, and he persuaded me to give it a try. I do really enjoy bouldering, but I don’t find it relaxing! There’s a big problem-solving aspect to it, and while I know that it works for some people, I can’t focus on bouldering problems when I’m stressed out by something else.
  3. Jujitsu – well, okay, I thought about trying this but the classes aren’t at a convenient time. I knew that if it was a choice between finishing an experiment and getting some exercise in, I’d probably choose the experiment. Yep, I’m that obsessed. Plus, see previously mentioned lack of coordination.
  4. Running –  again! Recently I started going running with a few of my labmates. Amazingly, even the first time I went with them, I ran for 20 minutes without stopping and without getting bored. It seems that for me, company is a much better motivator / distractor than anything else. Unfortunately, the evenings are too dark now for the running time that works best for us all (~6pm), given that we work in a slightly-dodgy, not well lit area. Which brings me to…
  5. The gym! Tonight I went to the gym with some of the people from running. We did a mix of things – a bit of treadmill, a bit of bike, a bit of rowing, a bit of weights. I enjoyed it a lot, and I’m not sure why I’d been putting off checking out the gym. I used to go during my last couple of years of undergrad, and I did enjoy it. Our gym is free for students (yay!) so I really have no excuse now. As long as I can persuade my workout buddies to come with me 🙂

So, the moral of my attempts and partial successes at becoming someone who exercises regularly? What works for others may not work for you. Some people are into yoga, some #bikedouchery cycling, but whatever they do, no matter how much they love it, if you don’t, you aren’t going to stick with it. If you are not naturally inclined to exercise (like me) then finding something that you enjoy, and that you can fit into an existing schedule rather than carving out time to fit in something new, will be key.

So, what’s your sport / activity of choice? How do you fit it into your schedule? Teach me your wise ways in the comments!


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