Saturday, March 15, 2014

My Biggest Cheat (So Far)

There are a lot of articles out there about how long it takes to form a new habit.  And we're all familiar with the fact that most of them state two weeks to 21 days as the standard time frame in which a new activity goes from being something you force yourself to do to something that is now part of your lifestyle.  

In my experience, that's a huge load of crap.  

Over the years I've tried multiple times to make exercise a part of my life.  After about a month of hitting the gym every-other day or so (and hating every stinking, sweaty minute of it!), I always gave up.  Mostly because I would get to the point where the pain it was causing me just wasn't worth any possibility of gain. But then the guilt would set in as I'm totally aware of the biology of pain and the fact that exercise would ultimately make me feel better...on a long enough time line...that I wasn't  apparently ever capable of sticking out...

It's not that I lack determination or sheer stubbornness.  Ask anyone who knows me: once I've "decided" something, its ON!!!  For instance, I set my mind to losing weight and I lost over 20 pounds.  That's just one example, but serves to prove that I do have the capability of setting my mind to a goal and achieving it (and after all, I'm not in a wheelchair despite popular medical opinions over time, so there's that!).  The problem with exercise was that no matter how I tried, I couldn't make myself WANT it enough to get that stubbornness to kick in.  When Rik started his fitness journey in October, I really wanted to want it.  I did.  I told him (and myself) that come the first of the year, I was going to change my lifestyle.  I was going to exercise.  I wanted to get better.  I wanted to get off my meds.  I wanted NOT to be in pain all of the time.  I spent hours --nay, DAYS!-- psyching myself up about exercise in an attempt at self-brainwashing which sadly failed miserably.  

And January grew closer.  

Meanwhile, Rik was gung-ho.  He never missed a workout.  He'd come home from work, change his clothes, and hit it hard.  There was no pansy-ing about.  It was heart-pumping, sweat-dripping, balls-to-the-wall exercise, and he would come out of his workout exhausted, shirt dark with sweat, and a filled with an exhilaration to which I aspired.  And up to January 7th, failed.  

True to my word, I started working out the first week of January.  I drug myself out of bed every morning 30 minutes early to do the 25-minute T-25 workout that had given Rik such great results.  And, as with every time before, I hated every moment of it.  I resented the time taken away from sleep.  I resented that my heart was beating at 158 BPM before 7a on a Monday.  And I resented the peppy hot man with 6-pack abs telling me I could "DO THIS".  Enter my biggest cheat.  

Last year I worked with this fantastic woman named Candy who had quit a 30+ year smoking habit over night through hypnosis.  As she was sharing her experience with me and how happy she was that it was out of her life, I cracked a stupid joke about "Geez, I wonder if someone could hypnotize me to like exercise!". She looked at me with a straight face, said, "Why not?",  and gave me the name of her hypnotist.  

About 2 weeks into my workouts, things still weren't better, so I made a call.  I found a hypnotist on Groupon who for a mere $49 (which was in my price range) promised that she could get me results.  She was willing to do it over the phone which meant I didn't have to take time off work to go to her.  So I set up an appointment.  

The night came and the phone rang at 5p, and I answered it from the floor of our bedroom closet where I'd created a nice cocoon out of blankets and pillows with my earbuds in away from any noise or household hustle that might interrupt my concentration, ready to for magic to happen.  I remember the entire session.  It's not like you see in the movies or at your local Renaissance Faire:  I didn't bark like a dog, or "wake from a sound sleep thoroughly refreshed".  What DID happen was, this woman's voice in my ears totally relaxed me, and her suggestions that I "enjoy the process of exercise" and "know that this is the best thing I can do for MY body" and "I am capable of this change because I WANT this change" were totally believed by that relaxed mind.  Some part of my brain that would normally sit on the sidelines during such an event and jeer was totally into this.  Every affirmation was met with "YEAH!  I CAN DO THIS THING!" in a way that my conscious mind (whom I know well!) is thoroughly incapable!  Thirty minutes later, I hung up the phone feeling exactly like I had at 4:59p though maybe more relaxed. But I still wasn't looking forward to 0630.  I got up, fixed dinner, went through my usual evening rituals, and went to bed.  

Courtesy of St. George News
It's still dark out, and 0610 the following morning finds me wide awake thinking about getting up to exercise, 5 minutes before my alarm is going to go off.  I just laid there and took inventory.  The alarm went off and, just to test it, I told myself I'd lay there for another 5 minutes.  Three minutes later I was out of bed.  I couldn't lie there any more.  Something was pushing me to get up.  It was so insistent, I couldn't ignore it.  I threw on my workout gear, popped in the DVD, and started working out.  Ok.  The first day may have been a coincidence.  But by day 4, I was still doing it.  I was incapable of lying in bed any longer than the boundary of my alarm.  I was doing it!  I was working out every day.  But...

There was still this part of me, this little portion of my brain that would stand in the background of my mind watching me working out with this amazingly puzzled (and slightly angry) expression wanting to know WHY we were up so early and why the HELL we were sweaty?!  I took this to mean that my hypnosis needed a tuneup.  

I hadn't really 'clicked' with the first hypnotist, so decided to try a different one.  I found another here in Colorado who also did phone sessions and as an added bonus would record them and send you the file so that you could use it for "backup" sessions of self motivation whenever you needed them, so I called Tammy Carpenter at Mind Over Body Hynotherapy in Loveland, CO.  I immediately liked her. Tammy is a NATH certified (National Association of Transpersonal Hypnotherapist) therapist with a Masters degree from the University of Wyoming, with the clinical thoroughness of a physician. We talked briefly and set up an appointment for just a few days later.  Her approach was very different than my previous experience in which the woman had called me up, asked me 3 or so questions, and then did the 1 hour session I'd paid for in about 25 minutes.  Tammy asked in-depth questions about me, about my physical issues, and about what specifically I wanted out of our session.  She was very thorough and very engaged.  I told her that I'd always been very drawn to yoga, not only as an exercise but as a practice.  But that even my experiences up to that point had been "tainted by the exercise part" and I just couldn't get into it like I wanted to.  I told her that I realized I was cheating by not being able to just pull myself up by the bootstraps and MAKE myself do it.  She pointed out that apparently I had been for the last month or so, which was in all actuality quite true!  But I know myself.  And I know I would eventually throw in the sweaty towel. So we began, and once again, I remember everything that transpired during my 60-minute session, and mentally participated in my hypnosis. The following day found a voice file in my email inbox with a nice note from Tammy.  The file was easily downloaded to my iPhone to be used over and over whenever needed.  But I've found I haven't needed it.

And this time I think we achieved the big-picture change that I was hoping for.  

Me: smiling at 7a after workout
About a week ago as I was in downward dog pose, I realized that I felt amazing.  There wasn't a single part of me that was angry, no part of me that was in the moment at the end of the workout rather than the actual moment I was physically IN.  I loved how I felt.  I loved what I was doing right then, in that moment, sweaty hair and all.  In fact, I'd changed my workouts from 25 minutes to 45 minutes 5 days a week and sometimes on Saturday.  I'm doing cardio 4 mornings a week, yoga on Friday's, and sometimes an extra yoga session in the evening after I finish work just because it's so enjoyable to me.  I left T-25 after 5 weeks realizing it just wasn't what motivated me, and have switched my cardio to dance which makes me amazingly happy at 6a for some reason.  And I'm meditating again.  My dreams are more like they used to be colorful, interesting, and memorable.  I sleep better.  I've cut one of my three sleep aids out completely and the other two in half.  And it's a little too soon to tell with certainty yet, but I seem to be requiring less pain meds.  And last week I hit an amazing milestone:  I can reach my ankles in staff pose, something I haven't been able to do since my accident 14 years ago.

So yes.  I cheated.  I couldn't find the wherewithal to just MAKE myself do this by sheer force of will as I have other things in my life.  I was incapable.  I was weak.  There.  I said it.  But thank's to the open mind of my friend Candy and my own unwillingness to accept defeat at my own hand and ability to maybe think outside the box to find a solution, I'm now not only a morning person, I SUCCEEDED in changing my lifestyle.  It's been almost 3 months now.  And in that time, I've missed 4 workouts.  Four.  I still have work to do.  But that angry part of my mind that stood back asking rude questions is now on board with the rest of me, dancing her ass off at 6a every morning.  

And feeling AMAZING!!!