Sunday, November 4, 2007

Pain for Dummies – Part VIII

or: I'll be back!
or: practice what you preach!
or: change in action!


Yes folks - I did what I always said I would: I started working out again.

There was no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I would start doing some form of workout again - I just had to find the right time and the right circumstances. That's what I call the economics of change - but that's the topic of another posting.

And - having paused for quite some time - it feels so good to physically exhaust oneself again.

You guessed right - I didn't take the slow methodical approach - I'm more along the lines of Jeremy Clarkson yelling "Power" when I start and "More Power" when something isn't going according to plan. ;-)

The biggest difficulty in starting an exercise program (or any other training regimen) is always the (felt) lack of time.

And while everyone knows that's not really the problem it is the most frequent reason people give when asked why they don't do regular exercise.

For me - as always - the problem can be tackled from a neuroscientific point of view - that's why the title of the blog is "The Neurotopian"; I envision a future in which every question can be answered from a neuroscientific basis.

So why don't people have time?

Well - it's the same process that's at work when it comes to visual perception - it's called filling-in.

Our eyes have a region called the blind spot - it's where the optical nerve leaves the eyes. There are no receptors there - so we have a big hole in our field of vision. You can test your blind spot and even map the size of it - here.

Curiously enough we don't notice it at all in normal life.

The brain employs a mechanism known as "filling-in" where it "calculates/estimates" what should be in that blind spot and fills in the missing information.

The same goes for touch, for hearing and all the other senses we have. If something is not there the brain doesn't leave a hole but presents us with a complete and whole picture.

Now try this experiment:

take a normal workweek - 24 hours and 7 days and try to remember what you did during that time.

Notice the times you slept, ate, drove to work, ...

Finally - try to remember the times when you did absolutely nothing! Nothing except breathing and staring at the wall waiting for the clock hands to move forward an hour.

I bet you can't find any such time.

Even "doing nothing" involves doing something - even something completely meaningless.

And those are exactly the times you have to identify. There is your ideal workout time!

For me it was coming home on Tuesday evenings at 8pm and just checking emails, looking through Flickr, reading a few blog entries and similar stuff - nothing really groundbreaking. But it became a habit.

Till I realized that none of it was really useful - I could do the same a day later too and have enough time to exercise for a full hour.

Surprise surprise - it worked perfectly. Even better than that - by exercising somehow time afterwards seemed to move more slowly - maybe all those endorphins kicking in - and I still had time to check my email and read a bit.

The problem like I said is not that there is no time - but time that is simply filled with something - anything.

Find it - use it.

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