Why Deferred Fitness is a Bad Strategy

My real estate agent called it deferred maintenance. I thought he was being kind as he walked through my house for the first time. I clearly was embarrassed by its condition brought on by years of neglect.

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In that simple two word description used by my agent that January afternoon was a powerful truth I would fully understand nine months later. It’s a truth that can also change your life.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ve probably come to realize it’s really not about walking. Nobody needs a weekly instruction about walking. You learned how to do that when you were one and I’m certain you’re still nailing it.

No, this blog is really about motivation. How do we find and sustain the motivation for fitness?

Exercise is hard. Creating a lifestyle of fitness takes work. Thankfully, walking is the best way to get started. It’s exercise that is sustainable for the long haul and it’s fun. Walking is perfect for building a fitness habit that’s also enjoyable.

But, even walking for exercise requires motivation on days when you don’t feel like it or results feel elusive. Motivation is the hard part of fitness…not the exercise itself.

A big part of my job at the radio station (in addition to being on the morning show) is directing the on-air fundraisers we do twice a year. The revenue to keep our station going comes in part from the limited commercials we play and part from listener support.

Over the years of running these fundraisers I’ve observed a truth about motivation. A lot of us, maybe even most of us, are more motivated by preventing a bad thing from happening than we are to helping a good thing.

I loved reading magazines when I was a kid. I think that happened because I’d get bored during our Sunday afternoon visit with the grandparents and they always had lots of magazines to read. Anyhow, I remember one full page magazine ad featuring the picture of a malnourished child with the headline, “You can feed this child or you can turn the page.” Talk about manipulation, but it worked. I’ve come to understand that if the ad featured that same child well-fed as an example of what your donation could bring about it probably wouldn’t have worked as well. We are motivated to prevent bad things from happening!

Years of deferred maintenance on our house finally caught up to me this year. After that first visit with our real estate agent I spent the next nine months getting our house into good enough condition to sell. It cost a lot of money and took most of my spare time. Yes, that’s our falling apart chimney (picture above) before it was repaired earlier this year.

Doing projects around the house are hard, require skill, and cost money. I eventually lost almost all motivation because it felt never ending. As soon as one project was finished (or at least reaching “good enough”) there were several more that needed my attention.

I had no motivation.

It’s kind of like exercise. It’s hard, requires some skill, and can be costly if you join a gym or need special equipment. And, just like my house, it’s never ending. You can’t exercise for a month and call it a finished project. Exercise today is followed by more exercise tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that, and…

I thought my real estate agent was being kind when he called it deferred maintenance. He wasn’t. He was actually telling me what was coming. Just like when we defer fitness. When we ignore exercise there will be a deferred cost.

My nine months of deferred maintenance cost a lot of money…even more than if I had taken care of the issues as they came up. I spent most of my free time doing projects or setting up contractors to handle different jobs. And, always lurking, was the fear of what might turn up during the home inspection.

I’m one of those people who is motivated to prevent bad stuff from happening. If I had known what those nine months were going to be like back when I was making decision after decision to defer the maintenance I wouldn’t have.

But, now I know and it’ll never happen again. I am highly motivated to prevent this bad thing from ever happening again.

I can’t even fathom how much money is spent on research and marketing to tell us the benefits of exercise. And, yet studies indicate less than a quarter of us exercise enough. At this point I want to yell WHY NOT?

Well…all I have to do is look to my own years of deferred maintenance for the answer. The positive outcome of doing the work when it was needed was not motivating enough. It wasn’t until I experienced the negative consequences that motivation kicked in.

This isn’t really a blog about walking. It’s a blog about motivation. Deferred fitness has a real cost. Please, don’t be like me. Don’t wait until you experience the negative consequences to finally get moving.

If you need a little added motivation I suggest you try a 30 Day Walking Challenge. This free guide has three different levels to choose from ranging between beginner to already walking a lot.

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the brand new Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.

(By the way…if you use the link above to buy a Fitbit Inspire 2 this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

One comment

  1. Dave—thanks, once again, for this inspiring post to keep on moving one step at a time to better health. I’m in the process of getting back on track after a bout with COVID-19 and, then, pneumonia. Before that, I didn’t miss a day of getting at least 10,000 steps in. I’m working on getting my stamina back and walking again. Your support and encouragement mean so very much! Thank you!

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