Are You Genetically Lazy?

I have often wondered why some people like exercise and others don’t. When I was a kid I wouldn’t say I was a person who really enjoyed exercise, primarily because I wasn’t good at most sports due to lack of practice, and the fact I wasn’t good at it meant I didn’t want to practice, creating sort of a negative feedback loop.

As I got older I started liking it more, I think primarily because my tolerance for not being good at things got higher as I got older. Not knowing how to do something, or just not being good at it, wasn’t a blow to my self esteem. I knew that there were other things that I was good at, making lack of mastery in the sports arena less threatening. For instance, I enjoy running but I know I’m not and likely never will be a fast runner. And that’s okay. I find the exercise itself is rewarding, and I like how I feel after.

I know this is not the case with everybody. Some people really struggle with motivation to exercise. Which seems odd, because it’s something our bodies really need – you’d think that psychological issues aside, we’d all be equally motivated to do it. But science is showing that’s not really the case.

This video from ASAPscience shows that research is proving that there is a genetic mutation that can be responsible for some people’s couch potato tendencies.

I think there is also a habit and nurture aspect to this as well. For me, I am motivated inherently to exercise IF I’ve been doing it enough. When I’m fit, my body starts to crave exercise if I don’t do it enough. But if I let myself get out of the habit and out of shape, I will have no motivation at all – mostly because I know that exercise = pain if I’m not in shape. And it will take a few weeks of pain to get back to being in shape to the point where I enjoy it again.

So it is a habit – and one that you have to experience some pain to develop. There could also be a nurture aspect, in that if no one models for a child that it is possible to get past the pain to a point of enjoyment, and also that this is a desirable and enjoyable thing to do once you get that far, then that child might not have much motivation to seek out that experience. Which in humans, may play into a “generational couch potato” link as well.

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Hurts So Good

I got my full Physical Therapy routine started at yesterday’s PT appointment. I’m going to Experience Momentum, which was recommended to me by a running friend who had used them.

They designed an exercise program to help with flexibility and hip strength, and to strengthen and stretch the muscles of the calf so that my posterior tibial tendon isn’t forced to work so hard. Most of the exercises aren’t too difficult except for two that directly target the area of my right hip that is the weakest. So although I can barely do them, I know I have to keep at it since whatever they do must be what I need to work on.

I also think it’s interesting how easy these exercises are on my other leg – major muscle imbalance between left and right side going on. Which I guess is not totally surprising given that I never have been able to walk or run in a straight line – on the treadmill I am always slowly meandering between the guard rails.

So far I’ve been impressed because the exercises they’ve given me and techniques they’ve used have already made a big difference. Last week, my ankle flexibility was so severely limited that I literally could not get my knee forward past my toe without a lot of pain – now I can get within a couple of centimeters of what the other ankle to do. That’s a lot of difference in a week. Now we just need to strengthen that hip so it can do its job a bit better.

Also might be nice to be able to walk straight – call that an added bonus.

In addition to exercises and stretches, yesterday’s appointment also included something called ASTYM. You can click to visit the website if you want to read the scientific mumbo jumbo, but what I was told is it’s basically a deep tissue massage of sorts that utilizes a hard plastic thingie that the therapist scrapes along the muscles and tendons that are causing your pain. The hard plastic thing supposedly helps move inflammation and scar tissue and also stimulates blood flow to promote healing.

It is rather uncomfortable but not excruciating – I yelped a little but mostly I laughed. I just tend to laugh at a certain level of pain. I know that makes me sound like a badass. But I am just talking about the level of pain where it also comes across as somewhat pleasurable because your body isn’t quite sure what the heck is going on. Like being sore after an extremely tough workout.

Of course, much past that level of pain comes yelping, then shouting, then tears. And kicking or punching if it doesn’t stop. We were at the laughing and yelping level, though, so the pain was of the hurts so good variety. The therapist told me she had only ever made a person cry a couple of times – laughter and the “hurts so good” sentiment being more common.

I was sad when she stopped.

Anyway, I woke up with my ankle feeling pretty good this morning, so either the technique actually works, or the placebo effect makes me think it does. Whatever the case, I’ll take it!