Old Ways Won't Open New Doors

On exercise, depression, anxiety, and laziness

Thoughts on exercise, one month ago today

It’s 6:00 AM. I have my coffee beside me and my cat, Abigail, curled up on my lap. It’s cool in my house, far cooler than it’s been these past few days.

When I rose out of bed I ditched my lightweight summer nightgown and threw on a favorite pair of flannel pajamas. There is a cozy blanket on top of me, too.

It’s delightful. It’s also not at all what I should be doing.

Needs more cats.

When I went to bed last night, I promised myself this morning I was going to try one of the workout videos I found on Prime Video. I put my workout clothes and my sneakers beside the bed, so I could easily put them on while I was bleary-eyed.

The strategy didn’t work. I changed before having my coffee, but I put on these lovely comfy cozy cuddly lazy pajamas instead of my workout gear.

After work today, I have nothing planned. I could easily spare a little time for a workout.

I worry I will not.

Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

I worry I won’t do it. Not ever.

Exercise is important. I get none. My average daily step count hovers under 2,000. My home is one story. My car is just outside the front door. The parking garage at my office is underneath the building. There is only an elevator ride between me and my desk.

I always tell myself I will walk the stairs later in the day. I never do.

I want to exercise so badly. Or, rather, I want the benefits of having exercised. Just like I want the benefits of cleaning my home more thoroughly and frequently. I want the benefits of owning nicer clothing. If I’m really being honest, I even want the benefits of dying my hair and learning how to wear it straight.

These are things I accept I will never do. I’ll clean my house every once in a while. I know how to do it and I can get it done when I really set my mind to it. I’ll never be fashionably dressed, though. I hate shopping and spending money far too much for it to ever happen.

And I doubt I’ll cover up my gray hair, although the hair coloring temptations as I continue to feel worse about myself, my appearance, and my appeal to men increase daily. (I have a hunch there will be a blog post soon on the topic of not dying one’s hair as one goes increasingly silver.)

Similarly, I wish I were someone who better knew how to style my hair. I wear it down and curly 100% of the time and am comfortable doing so. It bothers me, though, that I don’t know how to do anything else with it, nor do I have the energy to learn.

These are things I want for myself, for my physical and emotional health, that I don’t do. I want to do these things but I never do. I’m not sure why.


Various therapists and psychiatrists have advised that it has something to do with depression and ADHD. They, and any friends I discuss these feelings with, all provide the same response:

“I wouldn’t worry about it.”

This is what they say about all of the things I want to do for myself and don’t.

The exception, of course, is exercise.

Mentally changing a channel is hard for me. Switching my mindset and doing something wholly outside the current routine is hard for me.

Exercise is not part of my usual habits. I don’t understand how a workout will fit in with everything else I wish to accomplish on any given day. I worry I’ll feel rushed and even more anxious than usual if I put an hour aside for exercising.

It’s increasingly clear, though. I must figure out a way to motivate, to get myself to do something, anything, at least a couple of times per week.

Like tonight, for example. There is nothing on my calendar this evening. In fact, until he canceled on me and told me he wasn’t interested in seeing me again, this was the evening I was going to see Chris. I assumed I’d be a little sad tonight. I set the night aside for self-care. I planned to paint my nails and read. (I’m in the middle of Americanah, in case you’re curious, and am also listening to an audiobook of a Regency Romance called Simply Unforgettable which I am enjoying tremendously.)

Last night, I made a huge Paleo Beef Taco Casserole. I won’t need to cook tonight. Dinner will be reheated leftovers. I should do some tidying up, but that won’t take long.

I really have no excuse to not exercise.

But I didn’t have an excuse to not exercise this morning, either.

This is foolish. I’m sipping my coffee and feeling anxious about whether I’ll exercise after work today. This is something that is 100% within my control. I will decide whether I will work out today or not.

I’ve decided I will. This is not… No, this is a big deal. Changing the channel is hard. Starting new habits is hard.

What is it I would do with that time otherwise?

Paint my nails. Watch TV. Read a book. Play games on my phone.

Are these things truly restorative or necessary?

Painting my nails is restorative. Everything else… Well, I’m not planning to exercise every single day. And on some evenings I can read and watch TV for slightly less time than others. This isn’t a big deal.

So why am I so stressed out?

For one, because I’m naturally an incredibly anxious person. If there’s a way to stress out about something, I’ll find it.

A huge component of that anxiety, though, is a great fear of failure that’s becoming more and more apparent to me lately. It’s why I haven’t attempted to submit any writing samples to publications and continue only to blog instead. It’s why I haven’t asked for a raise at work in ages.

And, on some level, it’s why I don’t bother exercising.

Old Ways Won't Open New Doors
Oh fuck new doors, these old ones are good enough.

The sad truth is this: I see exercise as a means by which someone becomes thinner, fitter, sexier, and more attractive.

I wish I could change my mindset. I wish I felt differently, thought differently. I’m not there yet. I hope someday I am.

And if I start a workout regimen and give up on it, if I fail to achieve my body image goals, I am a failure. I am lazy, I am unattractive, and I am a failure.

Why bother trying if I’m only going to wind up hating myself even more than I already do, right? Why not just continue to do all the things that bring some measure of immediate satisfaction, as is the case with spending an evening relaxing with a good book with my two cats curled up with me?

No. No, I must fight this mentality wherever I see it. I must try. I must do some exercise, even if it’s just a little, because my health requires it. It’s the medicine I must take. It’s not a supplement for enhanced health; it’s something that is essential for basic levels of health. I am sick without it. I do not wish to be sick any longer.

I wish I believed myself when I said those words.

I hope I get my act together. I hope I get home this evening and do what I know I should. I should get home, put my things down, then immediately change into workout clothes and get this task done.

My health requires it. Why, then, is it so hard to do?

Update, one month later

I didn’t work out the night I wrote this piece. I did, however, work out the following night, and have continued doing so 3-4 times per week every week thereafter. I have even started attending cardio classes at the gym I’d forgotten I belonged to.

I still struggle with my mental state about exercise. I try to remind myself my goal is functional fitness, not weight or size loss. I try to tell myself this constantly.

I don’t believe it.

But I’m working on it. And I’m working out. I’m actively engaged in conscious steps to improve my well-being.

I continue reminding myself… That ain’t nothing.

And, I mean, it doesn’t hurt that the people I’m trying to keep up with at the gym are a group of sweet 80+ year-olds.

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