Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wednesday trainer ride/reflections on willpower

A shortish one, just an hour. I meant to do the entire 90-minute spinervals workout, but first the DVD kept jamming and then I found my attention seriously flagging. I did eat a PB & honey sandwich around 7 when I realized how late it was getting, I was not actually intensely underfueled, but it was 10:30pm and I decided that an hour was enough and I should stop and have dinner instead of finishing up in a half-assed way. The right decision...

A good article on willpower in the Times today. Nothing I hadn't thought of already, but it is well put: "The brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others."

I have never been a put-it-off-till-the-next-day procrastinator, usually I steel myself and get it done in the end, but I am certainly prone to leave off-putting tasks, horribly, till later and later in the evening--it was the case with taxes on Monday evening, I did not really get started properly until 6:30pm which was very foolish, and it was the case today with the trainer ride also.

The excessive willpower demands bicycling currently places on me are not intrinsic to that particular sport. It could be anything, really. But I have not set cycling up yet in a way that will minimize the drain on willpower.

(Swimming is great now that I've got good evening masters to go to. It's a routine, I show up if humanly possible, I do not have to get up brutally early like I was doing in the fall, I do the workout, it's delightful and not stressful at all except insofar as schedule is sometimes tight. Running similar--I only usually run three times a week, which keeps it feeling like a treat--and when I was finding it a bit of an effort some weeks ago to get back into a routine after being off for work and illness, all I had to do was make some dates with friends for runs and again the willpower question was solved. Ditto, obviously, working out with a personal trainer. It is all just a nice steady routine with no particular strain on the system.)

An indoor trainer ride no longer seems to require an excessive amount of willpower, though it certainly did at first. Outdoor rides still do, though. But taxes and work used up all my willpower this week!

Tomorrow if humanly possible I must get a short make-myself-comfortable ride in, in the lowest-possible-amount-of-willpower-needed way. Regular sneakers rather than cycling shoes, Riverside Park, no fitness-related workout expectations, stop after half an hour if I feel like it (but try and stay out for 45-60 minutes). I would say that in the grand scheme of things I have fairly strong willpower, but that the excessive exercise of willpower certainly comes with high costs, and the trick (this is very true with writing, and certainly with exercise also) is to set things up in a way that it feels like routine rather than a self-imposed challenge of one kind or another.


Leah said...

Outsmarting your willpower! Love it. That's a true sign of determination.

Levi Stahl said...

The Times article is fascinating. And your distinction between routine and willpower seems right on to me. It's not willpower that gets me out the door to run of a morning, it's routine. Willpower is what keeps me running on a day when I feel lousy, or what gets me through miles 19 through 26 on race day. But getting there in the first place comes back to the decision, more than a decade ago, to turn this into a routine.