Many people would like to be in better shape. Come New Year’s, gyms see an influx of new members. The problem? Many stop showing up by February 24. Likewise, exercise equipment dealers do a brisk business in December/January. But it’s practically a cliche that the treadmill will eventually become a place to hang clothes. If not that, at least it will be an expensive piece of dusty clutter.
This problem stems from the complicated relationship between stuff and habit. People often buy stuff with the hope that it will encourage a behavior they’d like to adopt. This isn’t totally misguided. It’s much more pleasurable to cook if you have high-performing pans. Exercise requires various gear as well. Unfortunately, gear alone won’t guarantee a habit. Even if you spend a lot, life can get busy. You start out with good intentions, but then the flu hits in late January, and then you’re behind at work and working late, and then you take a vacation over President’s Day weekend and next thing you know, it’s been 3 weeks since you’ve been to the gym. Building a habit back into your life is often harder than building it in the first place. The treadmill gets used for a few weeks, then not used, then turned into a towel rack. You’re back where you started, only out some space and cash.
So how to overcome this problem? My general thought has been to build the habit first, then commit the cash. Lots of activities can be done cheaply for a while. You can borrow or rent equipment. Even if you have to buy something (e.g. running shoes), the initial outlay can be relatively small compared to the cost of a treadmill. If you try something and find yourself wanting to keep going, and you do, then you can set a target date for shelling out for more serious equipment. You play a keyboard three times a week for a year, you can get a piano. You run 5 times a week for 10 years, including through 4 pregnancies, and then you can buy a treadmill.
That last one is, of course, me. I don’t particularly like treadmills. I’ve logged almost all my miles outside over the years, even in questionable weather. But I’ve realized as I try to keep a reasonable level of running in my life, especially during winter when it’s icy and dark 15 hours per day, and when I have multiple small kids who can neither stay home by themselves, nor want to go to the gym childcare center all that often, and when I need all the childcare hours I have for work, that there might be real upsides to having a treadmill in the basement. I’m pretty sure I’ve built the habit of running. I’ve even run 3 miles in loops in the backyard and front yard a few times over the last few weeks when necessary. I think I will use it.
So I asked for, and received, a treadmill for Christmas (my husband’s real gift was visiting a few dealers and trying out models and choosing an excellent True version and arranging installation). We got it yesterday. I’ve now “run” on it twice. I put “run” in quotes because, at 38 weeks pregnant, it’s more of a shuffle. However, both days I would have been hard pressed to get a real workout in otherwise. Yesterday it snowed most of the day. Today, my sitter is home sick so I’ve got the 3-year-old, who’s much happier watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse here than hanging out at the Y, even if she would be bribed with donuts from the nearby Wawa. It is, indeed, boring to run on a treadmill. But I knew that. We’ll likely figure out a TV situation soon.
I am a bit wary of the treadmill falling into disuse. I am a classic under-buyer, and I feel like I didn’t absolutely need the ‘mill. We bought a weight set 3 years ago that hasn’t been used as much as I would have liked. But I’m hoping it will wind up being an addition to my exercise routine, helping me get in a few extra miles each week during times that would otherwise not lend themselves to exercise.
Have you ever shelled out cash for equipment and not used it? Or did you use it? Did you know you would?
In other news: I’m writing a post on what to do with found time. What do you do with time you didn’t expect to be available? If I’m home, I guess I can now use the treadmill!