Monday, May 5, 2008

Paradox of Choice

As a trainer and a serious exerciser for all of my life, I am fascinated by the exercise paradox; in spite of feeling better, looking better, and becoming healthier exercise is only performed, regularly by a slim minority (pun intended). It is free or cheaper than alternatives (diet pills, crazy diets, liposuction, antidepressants, blood pressure medicine, a fractured hip, etc). People don't have time, don't know what to do, aren't interested, or have found other ways to spend their time. A client, who has not trained in many weeks, told me that he was busy with his job now, and didn't want to train unless he was back into his routine. What? You would rather be stressed, grow weaker, accumulate fat and be sedentary than to train less frequently than before? It should not be an all or none proposition. Exercise should be done almost everyday. It should be part of your lifestyle. Even if you can't dedicate five days per week to go to the gym to meet with your trainer, once a week or three times in two weeks is a lot better than none at all. The scheduled training session is supposed to help you keep your health and fitness a high priority.

Well, close to the subject is the Paradox of Choice. I came across this book by Barry Schwartz while at Borders the other day. After reading several chapters, the Paradox of Choice is more true today than ever. In spite of wanting and begging for choice, whether it is what clothes to buy, where to live, what to watch on tv, where to go to eat, we are paralyzed by all of these decisions. In fact, we spend more time, feel more stressed, and are more depressed with all of these choices. What was supposed to make us happier has now made us less happier.
We can get more done when our choices are somewhat limited.

Getting back to fitness, if we spent less time choosing and more time doing, we would be more fit. Think about a time when you needed to get something done in a short amount of time. Maybe you were having company over in the evening and you have three hours to clean your house, prepare food, and make sure everything is ready. You didn't spend time thinking about much, except the tasks at hand. You diligently worked, got everything done, and when your first guest arrived you felt a sense of accomplishment. You could have pondered about the details, but since you were pressed you just did it! The same thing should be true of your exercise. Your scheduled training session with me makes the exercise a priority, you don't have to worry about motivation, or what to do, you just do it and move on with your day.

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