Motivation to exercise when there are no goals, or they are vague?
November 26, 2013 1:53 PM   Subscribe

I have read in numerous places that exercise can sometimes help with mood and concentration. My only exercise goal is to help alleviate these possible issues, but I couldn't keep any motivation and stopped after only a few weeks. Specific considerations:

I do not wish to lose weight, gain weight, be stronger, etc., so without clear goals I am not sure what to work towards. "Feeling better" is so nebulous as to be a useless benchmark, and part of my problem is that I don't have the motivation to do much of anything, let alone exercise (which is what I was hoping would help solve my motivation issues through the magic of mood enhancement).

I was trying to do cardio at the gym in my building a few times a week, but it was pretty mind-numbing, if I could even get the willpower to go. Even music didn't help because my mind just wanders, and I need to be very mentally engaged with something in order to retain a modicum of interest. I was trying to go every other day, for a month or so, and I didn't feel any better after the workouts, as some people report. I just felt more tired but with the addition of sweatiness. Since it's cold and awful outside now, I have an active aversion to going outside or somewhere more interesting, at least until spring (I seriously think I'm a lizard maybe, because having a heat lamp and a rock to lie on doesn't sound all that bad. Eating bugs however...blech). I've had people recommend that I play a sport (I can't think of anything I could enjoy, especially in the yuck and cold, and am not willing to put that much time into it, and that's a very social activity, and I am more of an intravert), do high intensity short workouts (again, motivation), etc., but nothing really seems feasible. I do kind of like hiking, but that is a nice summer weather activity, and one that requires a drive outside the city, and is hence not something I can do for 30 minutes to an hour every other day.

So, what physical exercise can a somewhat socially anxious, easily distracted and bored, sedentary person, who dislikes the outdoors in general and sports even more, and has a (perceived or actual) shortage of free time, do when she has vague, non-physically measurable goals and no motivation?
posted by polywomp to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
You need to find an exercise that you like doing, and then do it because it's enjoyable. "I love swimming, time to go swimming!" works infinitely better than "I hate swimming, but [vague and unverifiable possible benefit goes here]". Substitute an exercise of your choice for swimming.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:56 PM on November 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Do you have a pool nearby? One with a hot tub? My reward for doing 30 minutes of laps is sitting in the hot tub afterward, and there is seriously nothing better in the cold winter months.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:56 PM on November 26, 2013

Best answer: Welcome to (indoor) rock climbing.

You can interact with other people as much or as little as you want, especially if you get into bouldering (shorter climbs that don't require a rope and therefore don't require another person to belay out). There's not just a workout to do, there's a problem to solve, which provides built-in goals, focus, and start/end points. No need to go outdoors; no inherent competition unless you want it. I climb because I enjoy climbing, and because I like the feeling of progress and improvement - the fact that I happen to be getting a great workout and getting stronger and feeling better is a huge benefit but I don't have to think about those things as 'goals.' I just think "I'm going to figure out this route" and the rest takes care of itself.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:59 PM on November 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'm an introvert, but I still love group exercise classes. You're only in a big group for a little while (30-60 minutes), and in my experience, no one expects conversation since you're all panting and working hard.

So Zumba, other dance, barre classes, boot camp style classes, Crossfit, spinning?
posted by peep at 1:59 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have read in numerous places that exercise can sometimes help with mood and concentration

Consider the fact that maybe it will not help with mood and concentration, or anything else. I too find it mind-numbing and tiring. I dreaded getting ready to go to the gym, and I didn't feel the slightest bit better afterwards. And I didn't have any weight goals. So I stopped going. Nothing lost, nothing gained.
posted by Melismata at 2:00 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding taking a class! If you can at least motivate yourself to get into a gym or wherever, the instructor and being around people motivates me to stick with whatever I'm doing for an hour.
posted by missriss89 at 2:00 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I listen to mentally-engaging podcasts while I exercise, and honestly that's the only thing that gets me to the gym or out on the street to run, some days. (It may be the main thing that stands between me and loving swimming, too.)

The terrible truth about the endorphin thing is you have to work pretty hard to get it. You can't just paddle away at a low level of exertion on the elliptical machine. You have to really get your heart rate up. Doing this obviously is much more bearable if you're doing something that you enjoy rather than something you hate.

Even with an appropriate level of exertion, if I'm starting to exercise again after a lapse, it takes me two weeks before going to the gym feels good instead of terrible.
posted by BrashTech at 2:01 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you tried reading on a elliptical or bike? Using a cardio machine by itself gets boring for me, but I end up using it to read books on my cell phone. Although I like the exercise exhaustion high I get after a 30 minute workout.
posted by DetriusXii at 2:02 PM on November 26, 2013

Best answer: I wonder if you might like hot yoga. (Do Baptiste or some other vinyasa flow, not Bikram; that shit's dangerous.) It's very much a love it or hate it type of thing, but if you love being warm in the winter, and you're focused on the mental benefits, it's basically a combination of exercise, meditation, and sitting in a sauna. I've never found anything like it for the endorphin rush.

You will sweat a fuck-ton, though.

Edited to add: This is the article that got me addicted, so you can see if it speaks to you.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 2:09 PM on November 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have a bunch of high-interest tv show series that i only watch while at the gym. I put them on my ipad and watch them while biking ir treadmilling. I find that I sleep a lot better which was the real problem to be solved for me, and that was the motivation. Shows I watched included

- Downton Abbey
- Tudors (maybe a little porny for the gym)
- Elementary
- House of Cards

I also have all of my best toiletries at the gym so taking a shower there with all the stuff I love is sometimes good motivation to get my ass out the door. That said, if the gym just sucks for you could you plan a city walk that gets you someplace you like to go? A 3-4 mile walk would take about an hour and if you hoof it, will be devent cardio exercise depending on how in shape you are and what pace you keep. For me one of the things about wintertime exercise is getting back inside to a hot shower/cocoa/whatever. Only you know what motivates you, think about the other things you don't like to do but you do anyhow. Why do you do them Can you apply any of those lessons to getting exercise?
posted by jessamyn at 2:10 PM on November 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Even though you don't have a specific stated goal to get stronger, I suggest Crossfit. My Crossfit place have only one goal: fitness. (Health or wellness are used interchangeably with fitness for this purpose, which satisfies your more amorphous goal of feeling good, I think.)

I'm a pretty misanthropic sedentary creature, but this one time at Crossfit . . . I was plank-walking across the floor with a weight plate on my back with a partner in the middle of winter thinking "this is awesome!" The routine changes every day, the only goal is to feel good and best your last record and the people are generally friendly but not in a peppy perky way.
posted by mibo at 2:12 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know exactly what activity you should do, but I suggest that instead of having a stated goal, you simply think of exercise as an act of maintenance. Do it for the same reason you brush your teeth: because it might save you some suffering in the long run. In time, even if you don't come to like it, you will come to miss it if it is gone.
posted by dzot at 2:15 PM on November 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Boxing might appeal to you. It's high intensity and will help you work off any aggression you might have toward the world. And you usually work with a trainer, so you have to show up and be engaged.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 2:16 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

You do not wish to get stronger or loose weight, but are those off the table? If you arbitrarily select to get stronger lifting can be very mentally engaging, I find. I am constantly thinking about how much I lifted last time, by what percentage did I increase the weight, how many more weeks at this rate of increase will I get to 1.5X my body weight, is my form perfect, is this lift more comfortable if I angle my leg this way, etc.

Exercise can be really mind numbingly dull if you don't put your brain into it. It isn't advanced math or philosophy, but if you make little games for your brain it doesn't have to be a dull slog. So, make an arbitrary goal, design metrics for it, and measure them while working out. It has helped me from running away screaming.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:28 PM on November 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've done pretty well with programs that have strict(ish) schedules. Things like couch25k, 30 day shred, for example, but there are lots an lots of 30, 60 or 90 day programs that give you a daily workout plan over weeks or months. I find concrete goals, even if sort of arbitrary, to be a good motivator. I put every workout I do on my calendar so I'm constantly reminded of my progress. Even if you can't tell a difference physically, you still feel like you accomplished something by sticking to the program.

I find workout videos are good because you don't have to leave the house and you barely have to get dressed. It isn't fun, but it's efficient. You don't waste time getting to and from the gym. A workout really is 30 minutes or an hour not 1.5 or 2 hours when all is said and done.

I've never found a practical physical activity that I can do several times a week with the time and resources I have available. Other than walking and yoga to a certain extent, which I do enjoy, I've never found the elusive exercise that I would "love" and look forward to doing. So I decided to go for workouts are short, intense and convenient and it's worked pretty well.

Once you've done a video a few times you can turn down the volume and listen to a podcast or whatever you like and it cuts down on the boredom.

I've found the benefits of exercise hard to perceive on a day to day basis, but over time I realize I've started sleeping better and lowered my anxiety level. It's very incremental for me and it took a long time before I realized there was a difference. It really may take 6 months for you too look back and realize hey I've felt a little bit better these last few months.
posted by whoaali at 2:30 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I like workout DVDs. There's a huge variety of types of exercises, difficulty levels, and lengths of workouts. There's no travel time involved, no need to go outside in the nasty weather, and no other people. I find them fun, and they're certainly efficient.

As for goals, like you, I'm mostly looking for general mental and physical health. I set myself a goal of a certain number of minutes a week (150 minutes currently; I'm tired and time crunched). I keep track and feel pleased with myself every week I meet my goal.
posted by Kriesa at 2:33 PM on November 26, 2013

Dancing with yourself? Indoors, no social interaction required, and the motivation is to see yourself becoming better at something.

This video spawned giveit100, where people attempt something for 100 days and post daily videos of their progress, so lots of other ideas there.

Also have a look at 5BX (or XBX), these are exercise programs designed to be done indoors, they take only 11 minutes, the motivation is to level up and progress through the charts.

If you'd like to confront your social anxiety head-on, maybe Aikido? It's a non-violent, non-competitive martial art, with focus on agility and fluidity of movement, you train with a partner but swap partners frequently, the goal is to make the technique work with partners of all kinds of experience levels and body types. Motivation? Getting to wear badass samurai pants someday.
posted by Tom-B at 2:35 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Think about what motivates you specifically, and see how you can build that into your workout plans. Make your quirks work for you.

Like you, I have a lot of difficulty getting motivated to exercise and am not particularly disciplined.
The thing that helped me more than anything else was finding a reasonably priced personal trainer I liked and developing a good relationship with them. On days when my motivation was low, the commitment to someone I liked and had a good working relationship with got me into workout clothes and out the door.

And here's why: I'm very socially motivated. I will keep commitments for and with other people (esp people I like) when I would not keep those same commitments for myself.

Think about your own personality quirks, and see what you can leverage. Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 2:46 PM on November 26, 2013

I found wearing a Fitbit and tracking my steps, stairs, etc. to be really motivating. I'm not competitive, except against myself, and this allows me to keep track of where I stand, week to week.
posted by rpfields at 2:46 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your initial premise seems based on a solipsistic trap. Exercise comes in all shapes and forms, some of which require concentration, any of which can be enjoyable. So hearing that a thing that requires concentration and can be enjoyable aids concentration and is mood lifting isn't really helpful to someone who doesn't enjoy exercise.

So if your goal is to better your concentration and lift your mood (not necessarily exercise for excercise's sake) then try your hand at the wide range of activities that might help with those goals. Chess, for instance, or crossword puzzles, or needlepoint, etc.

Back to exercise. Exercise of any kind can make you physically tired, which will likely make you sleep better and better sleep can aid in concentration and lift your mood the next day. So, in addition to the very tangible benefits of exercise such as good fitness, better coordination, having an activity and so forth, you might find that the secondary benefits also help you with your goals.
You say you like to hike. Why not add a walk to your daily routine? Layered clothing can make any weather bearable. take a camera, snap some pics, pick up the NYT and do the puzz when you get home. take a small daypack to add or subtract layers when you get too hot or too cool, take water, listen to tunes (in other words, set yourself up for success). you might just feel better for just having done it, and then build upon that -- longer walks, trot or jog, biking etc.
Good luck. spring is coming.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:13 PM on November 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have never been bored or distracted during Zumba and the energy from the instructor, music and everyone else really makes for a fun workout.
posted by hazel79 at 3:31 PM on November 26, 2013

I feel your pain.

If you are specifically wanting something more mentally engaging you could try tai chi (or yoga etc for that matter). Because the point of the activity is to do the movements correctly you have to engage and focus your brain. You can't just blandly be going through the motions.

It is obviously also a class based activity which may not fit your desires. On the other hand having a group, especially when you get to know them and also paying money puts another incentive on turning up.

I find tai chi practise much more fun and practical than running....which is actually turning into a problem.
posted by Erberus at 3:50 PM on November 26, 2013

There are a lot of great suggestions in this thread. One more thing that may help is to find a way to track your exercise. I have a calendar up by my front door, and I put a sticker up when I exercise on my scheduled exercise day. Sticker charts are not just for four-year-olds! It's nice to see it every time I leave the house.

Personally, I enjoy running because my mind can wander. I also enjoy climbing for the opposite reason: I'm focused on trying to solve the puzzle ("ok, if I can get my right foot there, I can get my hand over to there, which means I can shift my weight to the right and stand up to grab that hold up there, and...").
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 3:52 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I need to be very mentally engaged with something in order to retain a modicum of interest.

Don't laugh, but Dance Dance Revolution is this for me. It may not be as physically intense as other forms of exercise, but I'm somewhat better able to stick with it because it's also mentally challenging.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:02 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've found that trying out different activities leads to goals, because there are certain types of strength or endurance you need to do those activities. I became very motivated to increase my strength and endurance after starting aerial classes, because it became less "exercise for the sake of exercise" and more "I want to be strong enough to climb the rope 3 times in the row so I can complete my routine".
posted by Kurichina at 4:12 PM on November 26, 2013

Best answer: For what it's worth, I've been working out regularly for five years now, mostly because it makes me feel good. Here are my observations:

-First off, if you suspect you may have clinical depression or dysthymia, exercise alone may or may not help your mood. When I had untreated depression, I didn't feel as much mental benefit from exercise, plus I'd dread working out, sometimes to the point of crying. If you think your mood needs more than a small boost, make exercise just one part of a multi-pronged treatment.

-A challenging workout will have a greater effect than an easy one. Don't make yourself dizzy or pukey, but push yourself a little.

-I like yoga classes a whole lot; they're guided, so you don't have to think about anything but the pose you're doing, but your mind doesn't have time to wander either. They're great for introverts since you don't have to talk to anyone, and most yoga studios welcome beginners. Yoga is also super relaxing, I've found.

-Have a backup mini-workout in case it's snowy or the gym is closed or you're just not feeling up to it. It can be something as small as ten push-ups or twenty sit-ups. That way, you've done something and reinforced the habit, and you'll still get a little bit of benefit from getting your blood flowing. Use the substitute mini-workout sparingly, though; don't cheat yourself.

-Don't jump head first into a daily routine. Start with something manageable; 30 minutes twice a week is fine. But set a schedule and stick to it. The most important thing is showing up, especially for the first couple months.

-This is the hardest part: it's not always a matter of finding your perfect activity and having the rest fall into place. There may not be any exercise you immediately love; there wasn't for me. Don't stick with something you hate, but be prepared to give it at least a month to take, possibly more. Developing an exercise habit is hard, but it's also well within your reach.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:23 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm similar in that I exercise for the mood and sleep benefits and don't get much out of making it a goal-oriented activity. It seems counterintuitive, but for me, exercising daily is much easier to keep up with than trying to do a few days a week. If I'm aiming for, say, three days a week, then it's super easy on any given day to rationalize putting it off until tomorrow. If it's part of my daily routine, it's harder to bail on. For me it's all about habit formation.

Also podcasts, absolutely. Exercise is not interesting enough on its own.

In terms of actual activities, I alternate days between running (outside or on a treadmill) and lifting weights. I enjoy having the time to myself; I would hate working with a personal trainer or doing group classes. And even though I don't have defined goals, it is sort of nice to watch myself get a little stronger and a little faster.
posted by yarrow at 4:27 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: what physical exercise can a somewhat socially anxious, easily distracted and bored, sedentary person, who dislikes the outdoors in general and sports even more, and has a (perceived or actual) shortage of free time, do when she has vague, non-physically measurable goals and no motivation?

I'm the worst person in the world to chime in this thread because I love, love, love sports and exercise. On the other hand, I pretty much do, or have done, everything suggested above. I've got two suggestions for you.

#1 You don't have any fitness goals. I'm going to suggest that there are two goals you might consider. First, not to get injured. Harder than it sounds - an absolute plague in the running and CrossFit communities. Second, as you get older, not to go backwards. I'm in my late 40s and this is something I now think about alot - not how to get faster/stronger every year, but rather, how not to slip backwards.

#2 A couple of people suggested yoga. I'm going to nth that suggestion. Specifically, vinyasa flow yoga. Which may or may not be hot yoga (I love hot yoga, but would say that you will want to spend some time learning the basics first). It is indoors, works great for introverts (no expectation of interactions with your fellow students), has some structure to pull you along, and will certainly help with mood and concentration.

Good luck!
posted by kovacs at 4:49 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Consider training for a triathlon. The variety of the three disciplines means it's pretty hard to get bored because of the training variety. Also, you can vary your workouts depending on the weather. Raining out? Go to the pool. No time? Grab a quick run. Hot out? Hop in a lake. Feel like exploring? Go on a bike ride.

None of these activities are particularly social though often there are clubs that arrange group workouts, which can be a help in staying motivated. And even races aren't terribly competitive since people start in waves and are racing against a clock more than each other.
posted by funkiwan at 5:57 PM on November 26, 2013

without clear goals I am not sure what to work towards

Choose an exercise that you don't completely loathe, and sign up this week for an competition/event in it.

Your profile lists you as living in Atlanta, so, for example, I'd look at the 2014 Bike MS: Cox Atlanta ride in September 2014.

Can you ride 100 miles yet? I bet not. How about a marathon?

If you put money down for something now, you've got a pretty solid goal to work towards.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:28 PM on November 26, 2013

Best answer: I recommend a martial art. Someone suggested boxing, but I think aikido would be better. You might find it less intimidating as a woman (as I could tell you were from your profile). It's beyond just taking a cardio class or whatever. If you get into it, you'll be aiming for constant improvement and always finding more to learn in it.

It checks off several of your requirements. It's indoors; the class structure will keep you on task; it's mentally engaging; it can help with concentration...

If that's not for you, I do recommend seeking exercise in some sort of larger art or discipline (dance, gymnastics, yoga, etc.). The desire to improve in the discipline will be your driving force, and the health benefits will be incidental.
posted by Leontine at 8:23 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could try equipment pilates if there's a studio near you. I find it much more engaging and interesting than mat pilates, it feels kind of like you're playing with big fun toys.
posted by ootandaboot at 9:14 PM on November 26, 2013

I have read in numerous places that exercise can sometimes help with mood and concentration. My only exercise goal is to help alleviate these possible issues

It doesn't sound like you are convinced that you have mood and concentration issues really. On top of that, how do you measure improvement of mood and better concentration? You can stop and say at some point, "I have a better mood and concentration now-post exercise," but unlike losing weight, improving health metrics, or some other goals, it is hard to have benchmarks on these two. That makes it tough to gage incremental progress and sustain motivation.

I think there are great suggestions here to help make exercise fun and interesting if you want to go that route, and exercise is definitely brain food, so I think it can help with your goals, but as others have said, learning a second language or doing crossword puzzles or a thousand other things can help improve brain power/concentration. So can getting better rest. That may also put you in a better mood. So there are alternatives if you decide you don't want to exercise at this time in your life.
posted by Sonrisa at 11:00 PM on November 26, 2013

There are two options:
  • as munchingzombie said, just set a goal. This resolves the problem of not having a goal. If you're having a hard time picking, try basic strength benchmarks. Just about everyone should be able to do a pull-up, squat and deadlift half their bodyweight, and run a mile without stopping. Once you can do those you pick other goals: bodyweight power clean, 8:00 mile, finishing a 5k, whatever. The direct solution to not having a goal is to set a goal. Make it concrete and achievable within three months. Achieve it. Pick another three-month goal. Repeat. At some point you will notice that you want to set a long-term goal. That is success.
  • be social about it. Go to the gym with a friend and catch up between sets or while on the machine. Become a regular at yoga/spinning/cardio-kickboxing class.
It sounds like you identify as a sedentary person who dislikes exercise. That can change. You can be active and enjoy it, if you're willing to create a new self.
posted by daveliepmann at 12:55 AM on November 27, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all. There are some really great options to explore here!
posted by polywomp at 4:41 AM on November 27, 2013

Just wanted to add, you mentioned being introverted but you can still consider an amateur recreational sports league. They have dodgeball, volleyball, softball, soccer... I was never very sporty myself but then I found a group of people who played for fun and were very encouraging. It got my butt to the field once a week, you can be as social or as quiet as you like. Like you, I can't stand a treadmill, but I will chase after a soccer ball for an hour no problem.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:24 AM on November 27, 2013

I know plenty of people have already said this and you've read that exercise can help with motivation and focus, but as a fellow ADHDer (and someone who also grew up being quite sedentary), can I just chime in and say: hellllllls yeah it's helpful!!!! I don't even take medication because exercise is that good (obv YMMV). It helps with pretty much everything: my attention, motivation, mood stability, anxiety, PMS and hormonal balance. I also feel more comfortable and confident with my body. It took me 4-6 months of regular exercise to realize all of these benefits.

As someone else said, even after a small lapse it takes a few weeks to start feeling the results again. Those initials days at the gym will be very gruelling and seemingly unhelpful. You will hate it. I know. We've all been there.

You said you felt tired after workouts. It's a good idea to have a small, healthy, carby snack (bananas or other convenient fruit are the best) about 30 min before you exercise. I wake up, eat a banana immediately, get ready to go to the gym and use the remaining time to prepare other stuff for my day. I also make sure to eat a nice big protein-filled meal within an hour after my workout.

And drink plenty of water. One time, my trainer asked me to use some BPM machine thingy that also measured my body's level of water and as it turned out, I was pretty dehydrated, but I definitely didn't *feel* even remotely thirsty. Dehydration can make you feel exhausted, natch.

Also: I've definitely had better results combining strength training with cardio. I was only doing the elliptical at first and not really pushing myself and subsequently not really feeling anything, but then I got a personal trainer who showed me the ropes (my gym offered a very affordable 12-session package). Having a trainer for the short-term helped me get over my fear of the male-dominated gym because I became comfortable with all the equipment and learned how to do proper form, and also learn how to look up new exercises to incorporate into my routine. I'll admit that it sometimes it can still get boring but, because I know just how good it can make me feel, that's motivation enough to be consistent about it. Once I have more money I'd like to look into other forms of strength-training mentioned here that are more structured, e.g. rock-climbing and maybe even a martial art.
posted by Menomena at 10:53 AM on November 27, 2013

I haaaaate exercise just for the sake of 'exercise'. I'm not even going to try to like the gym.
So, I identify with most of your post (except the not wanting to be stronger - I would totally happy to be stronger! Why wouldn't I want to be more of a superhero? But only as a side-effect of activities I ).

Things that do work for me:

Rock Climbing
- I'm gonna echo Tomorrowful. It makes my monkey puzzle brain happy. Also, it's something you can kind of take riskless-risks on, which I think is really good when I'm a bit depressed. There's the adrenaline, and I want to freeze up, but the best thing I learn rock climbing is that in most cases, it is always better to keep moving. If I can't make it and just leap for it? I might fail, in which case the rope will catch me, or I might make it, and that's another wall conquered. When I *got* this, it made me a better climber than my friend who was taller and stronger than me, because they wouldn't ever risk falling, or just trying to reach out with a 'fuckit' attitude.
(PS If by 'strong' you meant not wanting to be bulky? Rock climbers are super lean, and ridiculously strong).

- No localised soft tissue damage, ie no hitting, kicking, punching. Plenty of being thrown, thud into a mat, but I don't mind that. They teach you how to fall down without being hurt!
Seriously, this is SO undervalued. Hardly anyone gets into fights. Everybody falls down/gets tripped/is flung from a motorcycle at high speed (ok, not the last one, but it happened to guy at my club, and he came off a bike and automatically went into a rolling breakfall - his body hit the ground smoothly, no bumps, which meant his motorcycle leathers took all scraping/skidding damage, and when he skidded to a stop, he was completely uninjured).
As a klutz, this has been so, ridiculously useful.
Marker of a good club - they make sure beginners learn to break-fall correctly.

Depression and martial arts derail:
Another benefit - If you have read any of the research on work environments, hierarchy, happiness and depression, (basically, high paid executives do not actually have really stressful jobs. People in charge are not as stressed as those who are at the bottom of the totem pole, lackies to everyone else). I have a completely crackpot theory that sometimes depression or apathy is some kind of adaptive response to a feeling of danger or unsafety (often largely false, in the modern world - being late with your timesheets at work will not get you eaten by a tiger, and your boss isn't likely to physically injure you for it), to stop you trying to challenge the hierarchy around you. I'm uncomfortably aware there must be hundreds of generations of, for example, people in abusive relationships/families, where it was STILL a survival advantage to stay in that relationship/family. Being depressed stopped you trying to wing it out on your lonesome, where you might really get eaten by a tiger.
Anyway, that might seem like a big derail, but I think there's something really healthy about being in a supportive environment, where you are kind of 'play fighting'/challenging for dominance, but in an environment where no one is hurt, and everyone is really encouraging of your attempts, and thinks it's awesome you are challenging.

Honestly, I feel the supportive atmosphere of club is more important that the particular martial art, or style. So, I if you were interested in one of them, I would check out all the available Aikido, Judo, and possibly Jujitsu clubs (all somewhat related disciplines), and go with the best club for beginners. Or if you like kick-y type ones, then check out all the related clubs.

Ok, yoga, for all that I will be sweating from push-up type moves, is stretchy, which means I feel better in a different way to exercise. If I have an achy back, I don't really need a massage, I need yoga.
But, when I do go, I also go to a Hare Krishna run place (they have their culture/ideological problems), which has a 5 minute relaxation liedown under a blanket at the end, and then a delicious vegetarian meal. Lie down. Meal.
These are the things that keep me going, and tide me over during the lesson. So, you probably don't have that where you are, but can you arrange to go out for dinner or something with someone after a class, which makes the whole evening something you look forward to?

I take a large backback and trek down to the vege market most weekends, and trek back with it. Same with shopping. Help friends with moving house.
If I can walk, I do.
It turns out this has a significant effect on my muscle strength, as I discovered when I had a partner who drove me to do the shopping.
Walking, bikes, scooters, all good ways of making commuting easy enough that you accidentally get exercise.
posted by Elysum at 6:30 PM on November 28, 2013

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