We live in an abs-obsessed society. You can't walk by a newsstand or channel surf without being bombarded by huckster-esque pledges like, "Get a six pack!" or "Killer abs in 30 days or your money back!" Google "Get better abs" and you'll literally get 107 million results. Through no fault of my own, I live in Abs Nation. I also live in Butt Nation, as "Get a better butt!" mania also rages. But I'll keep this discussion above the belt.
I love many forms of fitness--swimming, running, basketball, driving a golf cart around the course, even strength training--except for training one muscle: my abs.
My abs are my nemesis. Biceps curls? Yes! Leg Lunges? Bring it on! Those are glamour muscles. I also like planking, which make my arms a bit toner and keep my pectorals looking, well, taunt?
But even at my sexiest last summer (in my own opinion, as I had dropped down to 135 lbs), my abs were nowhere to be seen, despite my excruciating and considerable efforts to bring them into the light of day. There's no six pack in my past or future. Maybe working my abs helped shrink my belly. Maybe they helped me lose weight. They definitely strengthened my core, which is very important to my overall body health.
I still work my abs, albeit less frequently, but there's something about the distinct type of strain and pain on those last few crunches and other ab exercises that I find unbearable. So one goal of this hopefully therapeutic post is exploring a few ways to overcome aversion, even revulsion, to certain forms of fitness you know are good for you.
But a cornerstone of therapy is that you have to fully recognize the scope of the problem before you can reckon with it. So, I did some soul-searching and, in search of catharsis, came up with 7 Horrible Things I'd Rather Do than Work My Abs:
1. Go to engineering school: I majored in English for a reason: I wanted to be fluent in my native language, and that was the only unqualified success of my college career, except for the fact that I didn't quite graduate. My friend was an engineering major. All he did was study. I'd get an 88 on a breezy sociology exam; he'd get a 39 on an engineering exam, putting him in the 60th percentile of his class. At my school, liberal arts majors coasted and got degrees. Math and Science majors suffered and got real educations and degrees. I didn't even know what calculus was until I asked a math professor I met a few weeks ago. But I'd rather suffer through four years (actually it would probably take me six) at the University of Oklahoma than work my abs.
2. Read Ulysses: I read a lesser-known James Joyce book in college, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. My fluency in English didn't help. The book was unintelligible. Even the Monarch Notes were hard to follow. I'm only glad it was fiction and that I never had to meet the protagonist. That would have been one torturous, insufferable dinner party. Still, nothing made me feel more ill-equipped for life or the workplace than my dismal failure to decipher a novel by "one of the greatest writers of all time." But I would read Joyce's most celebrated and convoluted classic,Ulysses, in a heartbeat if it could get me out of working my abs.
3. Brush the Harshest Kitty: Loyal readers may recall that my family has an issue with adopting stray animals. This is a blessing and a curse, really. If it's roaming the streets, it will find us. A few times, some of those fostering failures turned out to be "kitties from hell". One find, in particular takes residents at my madre's house. She has six toes on each foot and we have affectionately named her DIGITS, but what we should have named her was HARSH KITTY. The Harsh Kitty hates anyone infringing on her personal space. She'll hiss, bite, swat at you with massive tiger claws, and make a god-awful gurgling noise from deep within her throat and threaten your very life if you come at her with a brush. I'd much prefer not ever do it, unless the only other alternative was working my abs.
4. Cleaning up "Harsh Kitty's" Trophy Collection: The unvarnished truth is that the Harsh Kitty is a vicious, bloodthirsty, sociopathic serial killer. She devours and dismembers birds and mice, then deposits their severed heads, entrails and dismembered legs on my mom's doorstep. We aren't sure if she's offering these remains as a gift, or showing off, or saying, "If you brush me again, you're next." But being the undertaker for her gruesome, merciless crimes beats working my abs any day of the week.
5. Burn my collection of multi-colored flip flops: I mostly couldn't care less about clothes, but my prized possession is my collection of flip flops every color of the rainbow. I've bought out Old Navy time and time again! I have some with heels, some without, some with jewels, some with feathers. I adore flip flops. If I'm not running or forced to attend a function that is "closed toe" only, you will find me sporting my favorite shoe accessory. But I'd rather douse my whole treasure trove in lighter fluid and strike a match than work my abs.
6. Watch the auto-insurance commercials of every leading insurance company: What's up with all the auto insurance ads? If a Martian came to Earth and watched television, especially sports, for 24 hours, he would think that saving 15 percent or more on car insurance is more important than going to school, getting married, having a job or any other endeavor on Earth. If auto insurers really wanted us to save on car insurance, they'd stop spending so much money on advertising and passing the cost on to consumers. Every auto insurance ad I see leaves me awash in frustration and annoyance, but compared to working my abs, it's like swimming in the Mediterranean off the Greek Isles in July.
7. Actually try to figure out which auto insurance to buy: With so many competing claims and loaded corporate mathematical frameworks, trying to calculate which policy actually would save me 15 percent or more on car insurance would render this (almost) English major a quivering mass. But it would absolutely rock compared to working my abs. (For the record, I buy an all-in-one insurance policy through an agent I trust and call it a day.)
Now that I've probed the depths of my aversion, how can I possibly bring myself to work my abs, and gear up for other forms of fitness when I really, really don't feel like it?
1. I remember that, more often than not, motivation doesn't create action; action creates motivation. The aversion to starting to do something is usually stronger than actually doing it. How many times have you told yourself, "Hey, this isn't so bad after all"?
2. This English major draws on what she loves: the infinite power of words.My go to source for one- or two-liners that will get me off my booty can be found at Healthy Inspiration from SparkPeople. Today's nugget is from Lance Armstrong: "Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever."
3.Find an Incentive that Encourages You to "Pay the Price": I've always been someone that needs constant motivation. What happens when my motivation and drive fizzles? The answer for me is, "Nothing." Thank goodness that many people have an easier time losing weight than I did. "Unless you have a specific medical condition that hinders weight loss, at the end of the day, your ability to lose weight comes down to whether you're willing to pay the price; whether you've reached the point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired of making the same old choices and excuses…. A successful weight-loss journey requires consistently paying the price by ditching previous habits and making healthy choices again and again in daily life... When we commit ourselves to paying the price, we're doing more than just improving our health and reaching for other goals… We're saying "Yes" to enthusiasm, performance, purpose, striving, integrity, character and life…"
Sooooo. . .my new personal fitness goal for the month of August will be a "CRUNCH FEST". I understand, aside from the Plank-a-thon that I just completed, crunches and sit-ups are the key to getting this stomach in perfect beach shape is a million crunches. Tighten and tone. And repeat. A million crunches seems to be a bit overzealous, so I will round it to 50 sit-up/crunches per day for 31 days. That's a total of 1550 crunches in August. Let the "CRUNCH FEST" begin!
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go work my abs. Ulysses will just have to wait for another time.
What is your greatest source of overall motivation? What exercise or form of fitness do you dread most? What unpleasant things would you rather do? How do you get yourself to do it?