warning: exercise can lead to increased levels of contentment

By now it is surely no secret that I’m happier with the modified version of me. lighter, fitter, sticks at things and provides a good example for my kids.

In many ways, “increased happiness” has been an unintended by-product of what I imagined I was setting out to do. The simple fact was that I didn’t consciously realise that I needed to improve in those areas. As corny as it may sound, it’s been something of a voyage of personal discovery.

so can you get some of this contentment stuff of your own?

well, yes, yes you can. but there’s a few things you need to bear in mind:

  • there is no silver bullet / magic formula
  • what works for one person, may not work for another
  • you have to be “ready”

Of those points, the key factor is that you have reached a point where you know something has to change and you’re ready, willing and able to do something about it.

A point you must keep in mind though is that fads, potions, pills, 3-easy-payments gadgets on TV and magic shakes are not the solution you are looking for.

You can’t get away from the fact that you will need to take your readiness to change, use that to provide ongoing motivation and momentum, and apply the basic formula of “eat better, move more”.

You’ll also have to find your own way; the unique blend of tools, techniques, routines and activities that suit your preferences, your lifestyle and your circumstances.

A personal trainer, books, online articles, blogs etc. can help, but they can’t decide for you. they certainly cannot get you out of bed each day and ensure you put in the work!

be open to ideas and avoid pre-conceptions

Over the past 18 months, I keep bumping into the basic ideas of not being a control freak, not having pre-conceived ideas of how things will pan out, and being willing to simply go with the flow.

Currently, this is mostly reflected in my running; I’ve stopped setting expectations of times for each run, stopped trying to pre-determine if I’m going to have a “fast” (in relative terms) run, or a slow one.

I simply go with the flow, jog at whatever pace my body wants to do, and resist the urge to beat myself up for not hitting some arbitrary target or other. By doing those things I’ve discovered that I actually enjoy running!

you can still have an overall goal in mind

As laid back as that approach might seem, I am still aiming for the specific goal of completing a marathon, and obviously I have no real control over where and when official marathons take place.

So my training does follow a schedule, my 20 week program culminates with a 42-and-a-bit km run on Jun 16th 2013, but every time I set out to do a short, medium or long run I have only 2 things in mind:

  • complete the route (which is worked out based on the distance I need to run that day)
  • enjoy the run (as much as possible)

The net effect is that I’m putting in the kilometres needed to get myself ready for the marathon, but I’m not stressing or burning out. I’m not injuring myself by forcing a pace beyond my limits. I’m not losing interest and motivation.

it really is a marathon and not a sprint

With the training being something of a marathon itself (20 weeks of dedicated effort in my case), you don’t want the novelty to wear off, or for the motivation to wear thin. Yeah, sure, you can probably push through it with brute force, guts, grit and other heroics, but what would be the point?

This isn’t a one-off event, this is a new, improved, lifestyle. It simply won’t stick if it’s painful, unenjoyable, uncomfortable or downright frustrating.

Approach this the wrong way and you’ll wind up back at square one.

Approach it the right way, however, and you can boost your health, fitness, happiness and many more unexpected areas of your life.


p.s. Interestingly, as I was contemplating the topic of this post, the latest article from one of my favourite blogs (zenhabits.net) dropped into my mailbox. Leo has just released a free ebook that deals with a whole range of ideas, many of which can be related to the ideas expressed above. Do yourself a favour and check it out.

The Little Book Of Contentment


image courtesy of Creative Commons License flattop341 via Compfight

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