No, You Don’t Have to Want To.

My Physical Therapist, Pilates Trainer, Orthopedic Surgeon, and Doctor all agree on one thing: The most important exercise I can do in reclaiming (or not) my knee is called a sit-to-stand. That’s pretty self-explanatory: sit in a chair, feet flat on the floor, thigh and calf making a 90 degree angle, and without using my arms, stand up straight and sit back down. This is done in a controlled set of motions: stand smoothly and sit down smoothly. Do not jerk up or plonk down.

With me so far?

Now do it 25 times in a continuous succession. Then wait a minute and do 25 more. Wait another minute and do 25 more.

Can I do it? Barely. Do I hate it? Absolutely. Do I do it? Yes. Why? Cuz I want to be able to walk again without falling.

Of all of the roughly 2 dozen different physical therapy activities I do, I hate the sit/stand one the most. Of course it’s also the most beneficial. In fact, it is so beneficial it’s the best single exercise anyone over 50 can incorporate into their daily routine. It takes about 5 minutes.

Since I hate it, how do I manage it? I do that the way most people do what they don’t want to do to get somewhere they want to be: I schedule it and I adhere to the schedule and it’s slowly became just what I do. I wake up, put on the coffee, look at the stock market’s latest assault on my IRA, shudder, get back out of bed, sit down on the seat adjusted to the right height for me, and do the three sets. I then grumble (Why me?), and congratulate myself for having gotten that done for another day.

Notice that I do not contaminate my day with dread by postponing it until “later.” Later frequently never comes when we’re considering doing something we don’t want to do, but know we need to.

This is a micro-example taken from the macro-experience of four reconstructive surgeries on my left knee, months of casts, braces, walkers, and overcoming a year’s worth of muscle atrophy. And I have another year of physical therapy to go and, after that, a possible small surgery to clean up a couple of details.

Why am I inflicting this tale of woe on you this morning? A small part is just to pass on that sit-to-stands are good for all of us after 50 and, if your physician agrees, to encourage you to start early. But the real point I want to make is that we don’t have to wait until we “want” to do something that’s good for us.

We can plan, schedule, and incorporate until it becomes a new habit we don’t have to think about. Mary Ellen and I managed that 5:00 a.m., M/W/F gym session for 10 years until my knee injury derailed that. We also worked our 10,000 steps a day into our usual office hours.

And it not only works for things we don’t want to do but for things we do but don’t seem to get around to. Sex comes to mind as the most popular scheduling suggestion we’ve ever made to clients, once they quit grumbling about a lack of spontaneity (How much sex was “spontaneity” getting you?).

Leaving self-medication behind is largely a matter of creating new benign, or positive, habits to replace old malignant ones. It means replacing irrational thought patterns with rational ones (hence the CBT). It means letting go of passive, passive aggressive, and aggressive coping patterns with functional assertive ones. And it means maintaining motivation.

It also means replacing Stepper mythology with accurate information:

  • AA works for anyone who works the Steps (no, it works for the 5% who fit the Step Model designed for exceedingly immature people);
  • AA is the only way (of all of the ways to alleviate self-medication, whether abstinence or moderation AA comes in at about #36 in terms of efficacy;
  • People who self-medicate are either “alcoholics” or “alcoholics in denial” (very few people are either “alcoholics” or “in denial,”); You must hit bottom (an absurd statement, as usual, the earlier the correction, the easier the reversal and the greater the number of outcome c=options);
  • You must stay away from “normies” (in fact, you need to stay away from people who self-identify as “alcoholics.” It’s the normies you want to join and become);
  • You must be “in recovery” and attend meetings for the rest of your life (remember ex-smokers, and that nicotine is far more addictive that alcohol. Ex smokers simply say that they are ex-smokers, if they mention it at all and they certainly don’t sit around dreary back rooms competing as to who was the worst smoker).

The list is endless but the point is the same. Don’t fall victim to cult dogma and end up with a worse problem than drinking – and one that’s far harder to escape.

So consider what you actually need: some structure, accountability, education, motivation, new or resurrected coping skills, assertiveness, positive rewards, and an updated self-image that doesn’t include either self-flagellation or demeaning labels.

Need some short term help with all of that?