Voluntary Exercise vs Forced Exercise—Do what you Enjoy!

September 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’ve made a decision.  And this is it.  I have to be physically active.  It’s not optional.  So daily exercise WILL be a part of my life.

However I have recently made a second decision–and it’s this—

I am no longer willing to inflict misery on myself when it comes to exercise.

You see, I realize that there is an optimal way to work out.  There is a kick butt, take no prisoners, no-mercy way to throw your body into peak physical condition.  And I admire the people who do that.  I admire them like you will never know. I’ve spent the past 3 years trying to BE them.  And this may sound like a giant cop out–BUT……

I give up.

I give up on trying to be someone I’m not.

Now don’t get me wrong—I don’t give up on trying to lose weight.  I don’t give up on trying to be physically fit.

But I give up on trying to do the things that in reality turn me into a miserable person.   I just don’t want to dread my workouts  anymore.  I don’t want to spend time trying to force myself to do exercise I hate.   And I’m at a point now where I no longer want to keep trying to be someone I’m not.

I don’t need to have the body of a model.  I don’t need to lift 300 pounds.  I don’t need to be perfect.

All I really care about is being healthy.  Yes, I want to be at my goal weight.   Yes, I want to be in good physical condition. But I want that so I can enjoy my life instead of having it be a daily struggle.   I want to have the strength to lift things like the Christmas box in the garage.  Like heavy groceries from the car.   I want to be able to give my kids piggy back rides.  I want to play tag with them.  I want to walk upstairs without having to stop for breath.  And I can do all those things NOW.  However, there was a time when I couldn’t do those things at all.  Now that I have regained that ability— I don’t want to lose it.  So staying in shape is important.  But not so I can look good in a bathing suit.  That’s not really what motivates me. It’s the regular daily tasks made easier.  Time with family more enjoyable.  THESE are the things I actually care about.

The problem for me though lies in the fact that exercise has become drudgery for me.  It’s as if I am always trying to attain something that I can never reach.  And I usually despise my workouts.  Dread them in fact.  And due to that fact, it makes it hard to be consistent.

The other day I read an article at Mark’s Daily Apple website.  It said something I had heard before and it’s this:

The best exercise is the one you’ll do


I really like this saying.  I think it’s true too because if you absolutely hate what you’re doing—you probably won’t be doing it for very long . And consistency really is the key.    It isn’t one single act of exercise that makes you physically fit.  It’s the repetitive, consistent participation in that activity that makes you fit.   And that’s where I am lacking.  I am lacking now in consistency because I keep repeatedly pursuing physical activities that I totally hate.

The article on Mark’s Daily Apple made some great points.  It defined  “voluntary exercise” as physical activity that you WILLINGLY engage in.  You don’t do it by force.  You do it because you like it.  Research has shown that voluntary exercise is more beneficial than forced exercise.  There was even a study with mice that compared forced treadmill running to voluntary wheel running.  They were trying to determine which one of those activities helped to improve colitis in mice.  The forced treadmill running actually made the colitis worse and in some cases even killed the mice! The voluntary running helped it though.  Another study showed that voluntary exercise helped Alzheimer’s more than forced exercise.

For me, I really relate to this.  Most often what I do for exercise would be in the category of “Forced Exercise”.  And just like the mice…I feel it draining the life out of me!  I’d much rather do voluntary exercise NOT forced exercise.  But what I ENJOY doing voluntarily is usually not what “they” call the most effective form of exercise.  What I like is usually not considered “Good Enough”.

For me it’s come down to this.  I’m tired of pursuing things I hate.  Things that make me miserable.

I’ve decided for now to do a bit of an experiment.  I’ve given myself permission to only do  exercise that I like and enjoy.  I’ve given myself permission to NOT be perfect.  To not compete anymore in my head with others.  And I’ve even given myself permission to not worry anymore if the type of exercise ‘program’ I am doing is the most effective.   Yep that’s right!! I’m not going to worry about that either.

What I choose for physical activity is for now going to be based off pure enjoyment and nothing else.

From now on as long as its movement of some kind—it works. Its acceptable.

I choose to say….it is  ENOUGH.

I was reading all the comments in the comment section of that article I cited above.  So many people talked about how they were living life this way.  Scrapping all the forced workouts that made them miserable and doing what they loved.  Some people said they just got outside and went for a walk. That’s what they did every day and that was enough.  Some people were backpacking.  Some were dancing.  But the people who had scrapped whatever they were being told do in favor of what they ENJOYED—all seemed happier and reported being in good health.

Now obviously I won’t give myself permission to lay on the couch and do nothing.  But aside from that, I am going to free my mind.  I started trying to think of anything that I have ever enjoyed doing in the realm of physical activity.  At first I couldn’t come up with anything because like I said I am a bit of a couch potato by nature.  But the more I thought about it, the more things came to mind

1.  Riding a Bike— I used to have a bike when I was a kid.  And I LOVED riding it. I think I’ve lost enough weight that I could fit on one too.  Now I’m afraid I’d feel terribly ridiculous but aside from that the idea of riding a bike really peaks my interest.  To be honest, I think this adult tricycle is more my speed but the kids thought I might look silly.   Seriously though…this seat is way more the size of my BUTT!  I may have lost a lot of weight but trust me…the booty is still in tact!


2.  Swimming—I LOVE being in the pool. It was something I missed so much when I gained a lot of weight.  Since I have moved here I have not been to the pool at the YMCA even though I joined it back in June.  I think it’s time I start swimming again.

3. Walking—I actually do love my Leslie Sansone walking videos.   I can’t say enough good things about her.  I don’t know where I would be if I had not found her when I started out and to this day I still love her indoor walking program.  One of my favorite things to do is put on Pandora (the music channel) and just do my own walking moves that I have learned from Leslie videos.  I even bought her book many years ago.  It came out back in 2008.   Here’s a picture of it.

Product Details


In this book, she teaches you the 4 basic walking moves and you can do them on your own set to music or use her videos.  Honestly it can’t get easier than that!!  And I actually like doing it.  I cannot say that about a lot of other things.   One of my favorite things to do now is put in her 5 Mile Mega Walk and then do it in 1 mile increments.  I do 1 mile and then hit pause.  Later I might come back and do 2 more miles or more.  Doing them in 1 mile increments though helps me to ENJOY it instead of HATE it! Leslie Sansone even has a program that you can take to become a Certified Walking Instructor.  To be honest,  if I was ever going to lead anything in the realm of physical activity—that would be it.

The problem is that I always get in some mental mindset where I tell myself that because I enjoy it—it must not be good enough.  That I should start doing things that are more difficult. That I’m not ‘hard core’ enough.  As I said above that usually leads to me starting something I will eventually quit.  I just don’t want to do that anymore.  It’s time I allow myself to do what works for me and let that be enough.

So here’s a picture of the walk video from this morning.

(Oh! And on a sidenote…what should I hang on each side of the tv/fireplace.  I’m still trying to decorate the house after having moved in and I’m just not sure what to put here.  Should they be uniform and the same to match each side? I am TERRIBLE at decorating so I thought I’d throw that out there for anyone who has an idea!)


The 5 Mile Mega Walk video has 5 totally different miles which keeps it interesting.



I also enjoy walking outside when the weather is nice.  What I do not enjoy very much  is  forcing myself to walk when it’s too hot/too cold and/or I go so far that my knee hurts.  I feel that I reached a point somewhere along the way where I just removed all the joy from my outside walks. It became all about how far I could go and how fast I could go.  It became a chore.  I no longer saw the trees, the sky, the birds.  It was as if I drained the joy from it.  Once that happened, I no longer even wanted to do it anymore.

I think I’m going to try once again, though, to view outside walking again as an enjoyable activity.  The way I saw it before I turned it into a chore and took all the fun out of it.  I’m going to try to get back to the beauty and peace of my surroundings.  Viewing it as more of a spiritual activity than simply a calorie burning exercise.  Someone left me a comment on how they saw their walks as “prayer walks”.  I used to do this too!  In fact in the beginning all I did was pray.  Pray that I wouldn’t have a heart attack! Pray I wouldn’t fall!  I often used it as a time to have conversations with God.  Where did all that go? When did I replace my walks with God with nothing more than a tracker to count miles and calories burned? When did I stop seeing God’s creation because I was so focused on my pace?  Yes exercise is important but when the beauty of God’s creation is washed out—my eyes are focused in the wrong direction.  It’s time I get back to the joy of walking before the joy was overshadowed by other things.

After all—who doesn’t like this sky to meet you on the way out the door?



4. Dancing—-I have always liked dancing.  I’m not saying I’m good at it.  Just ask anyone who attempted to 2 step with me during the time I lived in Texas.  Even a simple dance is usually tough for me.  But I still enjoy myself even if I do look ridiculous!  I do often dance with the kids in the living room so maybe I need to do more of that!

5.  Rebounding—I mentioned last week that I had heard about this and wanted to give it a try.  One of my awesome readers who has also become a great friend, Anne, actually sent me a rebounder she was not using.  Totally brand new!!  I couldn’t believe it.  What a BLESSING.  I am so excited!! Today I actually bounced on it for about 10 minutes!!  I have to adjust to it as I have balance issues and general lack of coordination but I’m super excited!


Charlotte testing it out


Holding onto Annabelle for support!


I don’t mean that I have given up on trying to push myself in the area of fitness.  That I’ve just given up on trying to do the hard things.

That may be what this sounds like though.

I think what I’m trying to say is this:  Life is short.


As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my friends has cancer and they have literally given her 2-3 weeks to live.   We met through the online weight loss community and connected over our struggles with our weight.  But do you think THAT is something that matters right now?  Of course not.  What matters now is making the most of the time she has left.

And when you really stop and think about it—she is no different than any of us.   The only difference is she has been given a more concrete timeframe than the rest of us about how much time she has left.

But all of us are on a time limit.  We just don’t know WHEN our time is up just yet.

I guess this puts things in perspective for me.  It makes me realize that I just don’t want to waste my time being miserable or draining the joy out of life unnecessarily.  Yes exercise is important.  But you know what?? I want to make it enjoyable.  I don’t want to make it a chore.  I’m tired of not even noticing the sunrise because I’m too busy killing myself on the way up the hill and tracking my speed.

I’m not saying those thing aren’t important. But I’m saying  FOR ME…there needs to be balance.

I think in order for me to find peace with my workout routine–I need to put the joy back into it.

Even if that means I do things that the world would consider less effective.

Even if it means I never get a medal.

To me—it will be worth it.

 I’d rather walk a little slower and enjoy the sunrise.   I’ve just come to that point where I no longer feel the need to do it any other way.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandi September 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm

There are times when I feel like pushing myself and on those days I do. There are other days when I’m just not feeling it. Those are the days I stop and smell the roses, look at the clouds, and just enjoy my dogs company. Knowing I can choose keeps me committed to doing something and not giving up.
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Mariah September 24, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Treat yourself to the trike if you’d like one…nevermind what the kids say! I have a pink trike that I love so much! I’ve always been two-wheel challenged, and it’s such a relief to not worry about tipping over! Plus the big basket in back is perfect for running errands. Little kids are always surprised when they see an adult trike, it’s adorable 🙂


Startingoveragain September 24, 2014 at 9:50 pm

While I would love to run and lift weights, my body just won’t let me, at least right now. I have to contend with aging and fibromyalgia (so frustrating). So I walk and lift light weights when I am able. My walking is the prayer/meditation you referred to. As you stated, life is short, so I try to remember this phrase I created to help me cope, “Live in the moment, be grateful, breathe.”
As far as what “they think”-I was thinking about how people in other countries live their lives. In many countries, walking is part of a daily routine to run errands or visit with friends.
Regarding your fireplace, here are my thoughts:
Built in bookshelves on each side of the fireplace at least up to the mantle. Paint them to match the mantle (white). I would also replace the tv (if possible to relocate it) with a mirror. That would allow you to also put a beautiful vase or art piece on the mantle. Lastly, most decorators would paint out the brick in white, gray, or black.


Ronda September 24, 2014 at 9:53 pm

I think you should put a mirror on each side of your fireplace. I love mirrors, even though I am overweight. I like to check my hair, makeup, etc at different times, and it will bring more light into your home. It also will make a room seem bigger. I am not talking about full length mirrors, just the kind that you can see yourself from the shoulders to your head….and they dont even have to be matching mirrors 🙂


Natalie September 24, 2014 at 11:00 pm

This was a really good post for me today. I have gained some weight over the past few weeks and today I was getting ready to punish myself with high exercise and super low calories (until I burned out in a few days, or maybe a few hours!). This is such a great message. Do what you love. Be grateful for life. Make the most of the sunshine.


Rhonda W September 25, 2014 at 2:14 am

I agree with the mirror comment, however I would put a large mirror on one side and a pot with big sticks/branches on the other. I have a pot with sticks and I absolutely love it. I even put lights on the sticks at Christmas for instant holiday sparkle!


robin September 25, 2014 at 10:41 am

Oh we are so on the same page with this one. I just let my health club membership expire, because I HATE it there!!!!!! At almost 52 I cant waste my time on crap I hate, sorry but true. I have give myself permission to let some things go and this is one of them. Id rather come home from work and rather than sit on the couch just keep busy moving. That’s it in a nut shell. Garden, clean up the house, vacuum the car, wash the car, just MOVE. Because you know what really is my body going to know the difference if im on a machine for an hour or if Im being productive at home? Its not, what it does know is Im using it, moving it non stop and that’s OK!


Holly September 25, 2014 at 11:16 am

What a great shift in attitude towards exercise! I lead a weight loss support group at my workplace, and the advice I have given people many times is to think back in what they loved to do as a kid, and try reconnecting with that. It works! I hope you get the trike!
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Alison C. September 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Yes yes yes! I have noticed a huge change in my attitude towards exercise and my body in general when I relaxed my expectations about my exercise. I used to feel that if I was going to go for a walk, it HAD to be a power walk! Fast pace, sweating, getting the most out of that walk! There was NO OTHER way to walk! Then one of my dogs was diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly it was more important to walk according to his speed, to his ability, and to be cognizant of how he was feeling. That finally allowed me to just go for a walk and ENJOY it! He has since passed, but now I walk my other dogs at their pace and I don’t care one bit about if I’m burning calories or anything like that, and I am finding joy in our walks. I also go to Yoga and Zumba 1x a week, and I have given myself permission to take it easy in these classes! I don’t go crazy trying to do the full version of every yoga pose, or the hardest variation of every Zumba move – I give myself permission to just have fun and enjoy myself, and listen to my body. If I feel I can and want to increase my exertion, I do it. If not, I pat myself on the back for just showing up to class! It’s a great feeling, and has really relieved me of pressure and stress that did nothing but make me feel bad about myself. So enjoy those walks and bike rides and just moving your body!


Barb September 25, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Doing an exercise you like makes all the difference in the world. I found my love for walks. We live in the country so I walk down our road surrounded by fields and trees. I just love taking in natures beauty. Yesterday I had a deer walk out on the road about 40 feet in front of me. The puppy and I just stopped and we all looked at each other for awhile and then the buck ran off. Priceless!

As far as your fireplace. Definitely consider painting the brick. I did it to a fireplace once and it gave the room such a warmer feeling and it wasn’t hard to do either. I painted it white over about the color of yours and it covered great. The built in book cases are a good idea or you can buy really nice book cases. I would do different things on each side if you hang something. Not sure if you have a Hobby Lobby near you but they always have nice hanging handle type things. I have a large round one that holds about 8 candles. You can get fake candles on timers now that turn on automatically so they’ll be lit up at night.


Kerstin September 25, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Finding an exercise I enjoy was a game changer for me. A damaged ankle, palpitations and lack of motivation have created a troubled relationship with exercise and mostly meant no exercise at all. I also love cycling and went through great length to find a way to incorporate cycling in my life (I wrote about here if you are interested http://deardietmonster.com/nsv-healing-my-relationship-with-exercise/). Mind you, this was easier when I was not working and now now that I am back in a 9-5 job I am finding it more challenging again to fit it in. But when we decided to downsize into a smaller house finding a place with cycling options was one of my priorities. So in a few weeks we are moving to a new apartment from where I can walk or cycle to work as well as the river Thames. So go for it Holly because enjoying your exercise is the only way you’ll get consistent at it. Good luck! Kerstin
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Shannon September 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I think you are absolutely on the right track with your thoughts on this. I’m a walker, and at times, I’ve felt pressure to RUN… and I’m not really a runner and I don’t LOVE running. But, I like walking, and that’s good enough! 🙂


Anneli September 26, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I like this! (I also loved your Tiger out of the cage a couple of days ago). I love do do the wii fit at home, but I rarely do it because I think it isn’t “good enough.” Well, it’s a whole lot better than sitting on the couch! Perfectionism sabotages me in so many ways! I love to draw and paint, but I don’t do it very often because I really hate it when the picture doesn’t turn out. So silly!! if I want to be a good artist of COURSE I have to first be a poor, then mediocre, then a little better than mediocre before I can be a good one. Same with anything else. I love that you’re chasing your joy. I agree that that is the best workout there is!
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Steelers6 September 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Hey Holly, I thought it was funny that you said you are terrible at decorating, bc any of your pics that have ever captured either of your homes always look so nice.
I would like to see a mirror as well, perhaps one that looks like a window. It may fool the eye a bit and add light and expand the room. There are lots of this type of mirror out there, here is one example of what I mean-

The other side could possibly have some type of wall art, multiple framed items. Maybe 2 horizontal frames 1 above the other? Oh and also a vase of some type with decorative branches as Rhonda suggested. You might like pulling the chairs away from the wall (maybe they are, hard to tell) and put a piece of furniture there that isn’t too deep. Then you can style accessories on the top of it.

Hope that’s helpful: your place is really becoming a home. Looks great.


Kendra September 27, 2014 at 4:22 am

I love your list! I started riding a bicycle again recently and it brings me so much joy now. It hasn’t all been easy– I’ve fallen off a few times when I was about as graceful as a cat falling into a toilet. But I truly enjoy riding, it’s something about the adventure and how amazing it is to pedal places that would take a long time to walk. And the wind. I hope you love it again too– and if not that you find something else on your lift that gives you the same feeling of happiness and strength.


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