The picture on the left is likely what the downtown YMCA looked like in the days following the start of the New Year. The picture on the right is what the YMCA will probably look like in the next few months. My guess is that the attendance numbers are already starting to thin. The question is, why does this happen? Why do so many people start the New Year committed to improve their health in some way, only to find that their resolution has fallen flat on its face in a surprisingly short period of time?
While there are many possible answers to this question, one of my favorites came from the book, "Born To Run", by Christopher McDougall (which I HIGHLY recommend, by the way). The title of this book comes from the theory that human beings evolved as long-distance runners on the plains of Africa. We would engage in "persistence-hunting" which essentially means we would simply keep running after a gazelle or an antelope until it simply fell out due to heat exhaustion. And then...dinner time.
Anyway, in the book, the author ends up speaking to Dennis Bramble, one of the professors who developed this theory. During their talk, he asks the professor the following question...
"If we're all 'born to run', why don't more of us enjoy it?"
Dr. Bramble's response was, "Because the brain is a bargain shopper."
Our brain's primary responsibility is for our survival. Unfortunately, we are stuck with a brain that, on some deep level, still thinks it's living in prehistoric times. Our modern society with all of its conveniences (fast food, refrigeration, grocery stores) barely registers a blip on the overall timeline of human existence. For about 99% of the time that human beings have been in existence, we were hunter-gatherers who didn't really know when our next meal was going to come loping along.
So, if you were a caveman or cavewoman who had just enjoyed a nice hearty meal of antelope or gazelle, and another one comes walking down the path, you'd let it keep walking. Your goal at that point was to conserve energy and not waste it unnecessarily by chasing after another meal. You were already full, and you didn't have a nice Kenmore fridge nearby to store meat in order to keep it from spoiling. You sat there, didn't move, let it go, and conserved your energy.
You didn't move because you didn't NEED to move.
Essentially, we're all just a bunch of cavemen and cavewomen sitting around with full bellies, and a brain that is telling us not to move and conserve our energy. Our brain is constantly looking at ways for us to not expend energy needlessly. Hence, the escalator and the TV remote control. This is why many of us "fail" at keeping our New Year's Resolution to lose weight or get back into shape. We are dealing with an enemy that is commonly referred to as "Our Brain". Unfortunately, this is just one of the many ways our beloved brain gets in the way of our plans to hit the gym.
Right now, I need to tell my brain to shut the heck up, because I'm feeling the need to go exercise. I've have some stress and anxiety that needs to be taken care of!