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  • Audrey Cleo

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    Confessions of a Reluctant Exerciser: “Just do it… because you have to.”

    A recent study showed that exercise is changing our DNA and possibly for the better. Which is great, especially for those of us who LOVE working out, which is each and every one of us, right? Of course not. Yes, despite my love for my gym – and I do love my gym but mostly because it has a steam room and eucalyptus-scented towels – I am what I call a Reluctant Exerciser.

    Now this isn’t a title anyone can earn; for example, if you’ve ever willingly run a 5K, you’re pretty much disqualified.

    A Reluctant Exerciser feels that working out is a chore. Nike’s motto? “Just do it.” Hers? “I do it because I have to.” A Reluctant Exerciser has successfully convinced herself that walking into the gym is “light cardio,” an act that deserves a reward of Chili Cheese Fritos. On more than a few weekends, she’s hitting the snooze button instead of the early Saturday morning cardio class. She thinks those “gym selfies” of people taken when they’re using weights machines are weird because how does that even work, and is that even safe!?

    Similar feelings extend to gym attire. Leave the Swarovski crystal-encrusted tops at home; this isn’t junior prom. No, this is something far more dangerous, a war of willpower and (lack of) motivation and, as such, requires an appropriate battle-ready uniform, usually consisting of worn-in track pants and loose, hole-y tank tops. She counts the minutes until her obligatory 30-45 in the gym of doing whatever are up. This is a Reluctant Exerciser; I am she.

    I blame my Reluctant Exerciser status on my stubborn insistence on making exercise boring for myself. This has been going on for the greater majority of my adult working out life.

    In college, my workouts consisted almost exclusively of jumping on a treadmill for 20 minutes and then doing some free weights or crunches on an exercise ball and calling it a day. I pretty much did this workout throughout my entire college career, save for a couple of times when I went running, which only served to reaffirm the fact that I hate running with the fire of a thousand suns.

    With the exception of a few yoga and Pilates classes, I was mostly too intimidated to do anything group fitness-oriented. So, I resigned myself to a repetitive workout that didn’t make me resent the gym as much as be totally bored it.

    It wasn’t until after my college gym days that I discovered I can like working out; it’s just about making it work for me and doing the things I (gasp!) actually like which – surprise, surprise – don’t include running.

    Over the years, I’ve realized that getting out of Reluctant Exerciser mode means making my exercise “routines” anything but. I started by trying a once-a-week Pilates class and then branched out into various versions of barre, interval training, maybe the occasional ViPR session. Eventually, I worked up the courage to try a dance fitness class which was HUGELY intimidating since, up until then, the only dance/choreography experience I’d ever had was a community center class when I was 8. Now I try to take a dance class three times a week.

    At some point between my first major professional gig and my second one, I started surfing, something I had only dabbled in in high school.

    I would still call myself a Reluctant Exerciser. Some weeks, I’m in the gym every day and others, not a single one. The bed still wins out over morning cardio class on occasion. That’s fine. I’ll take a late morning walk with my dog to the park and some coffee instead. And not reluctantly.

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