Photo courtesy of flickr
I have a cold.
Earth-shattering news, right? Okay, maybe not, but the reason behind the cold is interesting.
I got a cold because I went to a family reunion and there encountered a teenage relation who insisted on giving everyone hugs seven to eight times a day. I pointed out that she had a rather nasty cold and that perhaps sharing wasn't always a good idea, but she got hurt feelings and apparently the only way to make her feel better was to let her go around giving more hugs.
So now I'm sitting here sniffling and cursing my inability to draw lines, define boundaries, and say "look, I know you're needy emotionally, but enough already!" The neat trick is that I'm managing to feel guilty both about being a wimp (for getting the cold) and being a bitch (for hurting her feelings) at the same time.
Not only can guilt be used for pointless feel-bad episodes such as the one above, guilt can be effective for making sure you exercise.
I trained for a 60 mile bicycle ride once. I'd never cycled more than 15 miles at a time up to that point, but a friend and I made a pact to get up early every weekend for 10 weeks and train. Left to myself, I probably would have skipped
When I got to the meeting place for the ride, she would show up and say "you know, I really thought about calling you to cancel, but I couldn't face the guilt."
We used that fear quite effectively to become fit. Then I moved away, lost my guilt-partner, and slid into slothful ways.
Can guilt get you off the couch?
Usually when I miss a workout, it's down to one of the following causes:
1 - Dithering. "Oh, I'll go work out as soon as I've started a load of laundry, raked the lawn, watered the plants, regrouted the bathroom and cleaned out the attic. Oops, ran out of time. Oh well."
2 - Getting distracted. Similar to #1, except that there is no intention of eventually getting up and working out. I'll think about it, agree that it's a good idea and I should do it, then remember that it's almost time for House and I have to take out the trash and check my email, oh look at those nice shoes in that commercial maybe I should go shopping after work tomorrow?
I figure if I can add guilt to dithering or distraction, it will act as the memory-equivalent of a sticky note. If I can keep the idea of exercise somewhere near the front of my brain, I am more likely to get it done.
So guilt works. How can I use it?
I thought there might be some study out there in Research Land that would give me some more hints on how to use guilt as an exercise motivator. But I didn't have much luck.
[ Warning: the following paragraph contains potentially hazardous levels of whining. Nursing mothers and women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are advised that the following may resemble their children's behavior and proceed accordingly.*]
Why aren't there more studies about slugs who know what they should do but don't
[*Not sure what 'accordingly' means exactly, in this context, but it sounded impressive.]
Closest thing I could find was a phone study ("A phone study!" I can hear the jeers already) which basically summed up a successful strategy as 'stop talking about it and exercise already.'
Yeah, that was a big help, thank you so much...
No doubt it's true, but not what I was looking for. What I was hoping for was something along the lines of ways to trick, tempt, taunt or tantalize my lazy-ass self into getting off the couch. (Once I'm actually working out, it's fine. It's getting to that point that is the problem.)
Guilt has nothing to do with Viagra
Interestingly, what I did find is that there are a lot of studies about guilt and exercise in regards toward people with eating disorders. (Sorry, but I can't abbreviate that phrase. When I see "ED" I always think "Erectile Dysfunction" and get confused, since that condition almost never applies to the excellent bloggers who've written about this subject.)
It seems that people who suffer from an eating disorder apparently also tend to overdo the guilt about exercising.
One study of 230 women, aged 18-45, found that women "who always felt guilty after they missed a regular exercise session were the ones most likely to rate highly on measures for eating disorders." About 12 percent of the regular exercisers fell into this category.
I can't comment intelligently on this disorder since it's one that I seem to have escaped. (I have lots of other disorders so I suppose it balances out.)
All I can think is that guilt is a useful but potentially dangerous weapon. If you're one of the 88 percent who don't rate highly on eating disorder issues, if you suffer from low-motivation, have trouble getting moving, or in general spend too much time listening to your inner slug, guilt can be hella useful to get you off that couch and into those running shoes.
But if you're one of the people who need to watch out for eating disorders, you might want to go easy on the guilt, lest it trigger other issues.
I don't suppose anyone out there -- in the 88 percentile -- has any good guilt-inducing tricks I can use to get motivated again?