Truce with exercise

It goes without saying that as computer programmers we need to do regular exercise to stay healthy. Not only do our jobs give near zero physical exercise to our body, it requires us to sit at one place for unhealthily long hours.

So we start every new year with a “resolution” to follow a certain workout routine and get in shape. But as the new years loses its novelty we realize we have failed at our resolution again. So how do we fix that?

There are two extreme things that can happen in regards to our exercise routine.

1. We stick to our plans with great determination till the end of year. We regularly do X sets of pushups, Y sets of crunches and Z minutes of running. And at the end of the year we see Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie when we look into the mirror.
2. We totally fail in sticking to our plans. Forget about getting in shape, by the end of the year we can’t even do X/4 sets of pushups, Y/4 sets of crunches and Z/4 minutes of running. And when we do a occasional visit to gym, we wake up with thousands pains all over the body next morning.

1 is what we hope to happen in our mind, 2 is what almost always happens in reality.

I think I have found a truce with exercise.

To do that I have redefined the problem.

I no longer define the plan as X number of pushups everyday, Y number of pullups every day,… and so on. I instead define my goal as by the end of the year I should be able to be doing X number of pushups and Y number of pullups. So all I have to do is every week I just have to make sure I can do those many sets. It doesn’t matter when I do it, I do it any day of the week or any time of the day. I don’t enforce upon myself how many times I have to do it. I do it at least once. But I have found that once you make sure body remains on the threshold of physical activity, it automatically demands more of it every now and then. And when it does, you only have to obey. I don’t make it to X sets of anything every day, but I certainly make more than halfway towards that goal by the end of the week.

The key to execute this new strategy is, easy access to exercise equipment. Not that you need equipment to do excercise, but you do need little space and privacy sometimes. Paying for the Gym membership is not a solution. It asks for you to show up at some place at scheduled times and it requires a very big context switch. You have to get out of your home or office, drive all the way to gym, get dressed for the occasion and perform the tasks that you are supposed to do. To the creative, imaginative and free mind of computer programmers, this restraint never works and that’s why they fail to stick with it over period of time. So what we need is adapting our exercise goals with our special kind of mind.

True discipline is a good thing and if one can train themselves to follow a rigorous workout schedule regularly, it’s all well and good. But as Computer programmers or any desk job workers, we already need to observe such discipline in achieving other goals in our life. We can not manage to take more hardships to observe another kind of discipline. This is a default excuse to avoid exercise. Although it is true, it doesn’t mean we can totally give up on our physical health. Being the hackers of all things that we are, we have to hack our mind and body to make it do what it doesn’t want to do, but we know is good for it.


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