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Distractions… because I hate cardio too.

“Isn’t walking on a treadmill boring?”

“Yep.”

“Doesn’t peddling a stationary bike seem like the most monotonous thing in the world?”

“Uh huh.”

“So what’s the secret?”

“Netflix.”

This is a conversation I have with myself almost every single morning.  When I say that I used to hate cardio I mean it with every ounce of my being (and when I first started to lose weight I had about 2,240 more ounces to hate with.)  The first time I got on an exercise bike at the local YMCA I lasted 6 minutes.  My heart was beating out of my chest.  I couldn’t breathe.  I had gone into it already knowing I hated cardio and couldn’t possibly find success with it and this experience only reinforced that idea.  At the time it seemed like the worst 6 minutes of my life.  So much so that I didn’t try cardio again for over a year. 

When I finally decided to try again I bought a used exercise bike off of a relative and put it in my bedroom.  If it was in my face every day I couldn’t ignore it.  It took up a lot of space but that was kind of the point.  If this machine was going to be in the way, I was at least going to use the thing.  This proved good enough motivation to get me on the bike each morning, but what about STAYING on the bike……for more than 6 minutes.

You Mean It Doesn’t Have To Be Boring?!

This is where distractions came in.  I soon came to realize that cardio for me was much more of a mental game than a physical one.  If I wasn’t thinking about peddling, then I could last for as long as I wanted.  If I got bored, suddenly each peddle weighed 100 pounds.  This was sometime around 2006 and the options weren’t as plentiful as they are now.  I had a handheld electronic crossword puzzle that I would use, the TV was usually on, sometimes I would play PlayStation, but more often than not I would read.  The trick I learned that would keep me peddling was to take a book that I really enjoyed, and not read it unless I was on the bike.  No matter how much I wanted to know what happened next. I would not read a single page unless I was peddling.

This approach evolved over the years but the principal stayed the same.  In 2016 I purchased a treadmill.  Reading and gaming weren’t as conducive to walking as they were peddling so I needed a new set of diversions to keep me from remembering how boring walking is.  This is where streaming services came into play.  I took the book approach that had worked so well for me and applied it to TV series that I enjoyed.  No matter how badly I wanted to watch the next episode, I wouldn’t turn it on unless I was standing on the treadmill. 

Treadmill Shows!

The important thing to consider is what will keep your mind on the program and not on the stepping.  I’m certain a documentary on the varying rates at which grass grows in different climates could be incredibly interesting in the right context.  This isn’t one of them.  It never takes long for me to lose interest in a show and suddenly remember that I’m walking in place, and it’s boring, and I hate it, and I want to stop.  What this has led me to is what I call (irritatingly for those around me) treadmill shows.  Someone will suggest a TV series to me and I’ll ask “is it a treadmill show?”  Meaning, is it exciting, is there a lot of action or suspense, will it keep my mind off of the monotony? 

I won’t pretend to have the silver bullet list of shows to keep you interested in cardio.  I’m fairly certain there is someone right now leaving a comment on the mind blowing aspects of climate variable grass growth.  So while shows such as Sons of Anarchy, The Last Kingdom, Vikings, Jack Ryan, and Peaky Blinders work for me.  You’ll need to find what works for you. 

Walking – The New……Walking

What if having a treadmill or bike in your home isn’t an option?  That’s fine.  Whenever I stay at a hotel and use their gym I take my ipad or phone with me and watch my show on that and the same applies to going to a local gym.  Take your distractions with you.  Almost all cardio equipment has built in device holders.

What if the use of any exercise equipment is off the table?  I have an answer to that too.  I live in Western New York where walking outside is not a year round activity.  But when the weather agrees, I am always outside on a path somewhere.  What about the distractions?  Books on tape and podcasts of course!  I apply the same rules as with reading on the stationary bike, or watching TV on the treadmill.  If there is a podcast I really want to listen to or a book on tape I’m really excited about, I don’t hit play unless I’m walking.

Replace The Boredom

It doesn’t matter if your struggles are rooted in boredom or fear. Boredom of long periods of repetitive movements or fear of your heart exploding (and I’ve had both.) You can use this method to not only get yourself started and keep yourself going.  And to be clear, 6 minutes is a fine place to start.  Just do 8 the next time.  And then 10.  And then 15.  Before you know it you’ll be burning more calories than you thought possible.

Using this “trick yourself into forgetting your bored” technique I’ve managed to lose and keep off over 140 pounds.  As I said right at the beginning, I argue with myself almost every single morning before getting on the treadmill or bike.  But I consciously remind myself that I need to know what happens to Uhtred of Bebbanburg and if I don’t start walking, I’ll never find out.

You don’t need to be riveted by fictional tales of 9th century England, you just need to find the mental outlet that works for you and keeps you walking, peddling, rowing, stair stepping, ellipticalling, (yes I made that up) or whatever your heart rate increasing activity of choice is.  And don’t be afraid to start with 6 minutes.  Just don’t be like me and allow yourself to get frustrated and quit before you even really begin.

After all.  If I can do it.

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