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Fighting Your Inner Sloth

What motivates people to stay in shape? Peer pressure, fear of fat, vanity, health, a sense of accomplishment--you name it.

July 10, 1996

Motivation and exercise? An impossibility, you say. Not according to several Life & Style staffers who offer their secrets to what gets--and keeps--them going.


When I tell people that I rise each day well before dawn to go to the gym to sweat like a farm animal, I invariably get that squinty-eyed, cocked-head look that says, "You are more than insane."

Maybe. But it sure beats the alternative--10 years ago I weighed close to 200 pounds, had constant headaches and was always tired. I knew I'd have to make some changes in my life or I was probably going to die early.

Easier said than done. My weight fluctuations over the years, if charted, would look like the Viper ride at Magic Mountain. But this time was different--I had hit rock bottom. No more diets. This would have to be a major life change.

It took me a year to lose 85 pounds, but I've kept them off. What motivates me now is not a dreaded fear of gaining the weight back. I know I won't. It's more an appreciation of how hard I've worked over the years to get--and stay--where I am. I like being able to sprint up a flight of stairs and not be winded. It's a trade-off; I gave up copious amounts of Mrs. Fields for this. But I wouldn't have it any other way.



I run four or five times a week, sometimes more.

I run at least 3 1/2 miles, usually five, occasionally eight.

I tell people I do it for stress reduction, for mental balance. These are lies. Well, not lies exactly, but side benefits without which I would run anyway.

My running partner and I work out the mysteries of life as we run along the beach--why, for instance, men fall asleep after sex, while women hop up and vacuum three rooms. We discuss this as we run past the Santa Monica Pier, past the lifeguard station and past the man we call "Dill, the human pickle," who is drinking himself to death in front of our eyes.

Speaking of whom, I also run for health. Don't want to stop drinking, but want very much not to end up like Dill.

All of these, however, are subordinate to the main reason I run: fear of fat. I have a secret worry (not anymore) that if I do not run, I will wake up one morning and I will accidentally weigh 300 pounds.



Know why?

Because once I was 20 years old.

And the next day, I woke up and I was 40.

See what I mean?



Motivation was easy to come by in high school, when my taskmaster coach had whistle and eyes trained on me--five days a week, three hours a session.

At the time, the mind / body equation wasn't the issue. I was more interested in making that layup look effortless and not embarrassing myself on the free-throw line come Thursday night's game.

I kept active throughout college; swimming and yoga striking the meditative balance to all that earlier knee pounding.

But after college I parked my high-tops. I lost my way to the pool and yoga classes were just too damn expensive.

I felt my life wouldn't accommodate a regimen--that is, until my end-to-end days had my hair falling out like Charlie Brown's forlorn Christmas tree.

I wish I could say I recognized the restorative meditative properties of swimming and yoga.

No, the answer was finding another taskmaster coach whose name is Gudrun.



Peer pressure. Plain and simple, that's what keeps me motivated to work out. OK, "motivated" may be a little strong. That's what keeps me scared enough to go to the gym on a semi-regular basis.

The trick here is to get two friends who will be guaranteed to be nasty enough to intimidate you into going to the gym when you don't feel like it. Friends who aren't buying it when you say things like, "I need to get home to water my Chia Pet." Friends, who, frankly, are just in better shape than you and can physically force you into the gym.

That's pretty much where Adrienne comes in, but note I did say two friends. A simple two-person buddy system won't work. Too easy to talk someone out of a workout with the lure of, say, a chocolate shake. Sound familiar, Jan? But with a three-person system, you can count on someone being upset enough with a recent weight gain to get us all moving.



Three years ago, I gave up Dove Bars--and a lot more. And I dropped 40 pounds.

It wasn't the first time I had lost a bunch of weight. Knowing that, two years ago I decided to join a gym. And then I discovered it--the StairMaster.

It didn't matter that I was the kid in P.E. who couldn't dribble the ball. Or bat the ball. Or do much more than collect the balls at the end of class.

I had found something I could tackle--something that wouldn't tackle me back.

A tough day at the office? Go pound the pedals. Distractions away from the office? Go pound the pedals. Sometimes faster, sometimes slower. And once in a while, on the drive home, I can stop at the market and treat myself to a Dove Bar.



What motivates me more than anything to lose weight and exercise is how I feel in my clothes. The most uncomfortable feeling in the world is tight clothing.

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