Brains Are Weird

Brains Are Weird

Athletes describe pushing their bodies to the limit and entering a euphoric state as their brain sloshes endorphins and other chemicals around their bloodstream. Some call it the runner’s high. Sadly, when I push my body to the limit, I usually just vomit. I have never achieved the so-called runner’s high, and perhaps that is part of the reason I hate exercising.

Don’t get me wrong – I like the results of exercising. I feel better, my body is stronger, I look better, and those are all fabulous things I very much want. But I really hate the actual act of exercising. A lot.

A few years ago, I started doing the 7-minute workout several times a week ( The idea is to do one exercise, like jumping jacks, at maximum exertion for 30 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, then go all out again on another exercise, like pushups, for 30 seconds, then rest another 10 seconds, etc., for each of the 12 exercises on the list. The best part, of course, is that it’s only seven minutes! To help me get the timing right and feel a little more motivated, I took a bunch of my favorite high-energy songs, clipped out the most motivational 30 seconds, and spliced them together with 10 seconds of mellow music in between to create a 7-minute exercise mix track.

I faithfully followed this program and saw surprisingly good results. Life, however, is at core merely a series of trade offs, and this was no exception. The unpleasant side effect was a Pavlovian conditioning that meant every time I would hear any of these incredible, beloved songs now incorporated into my exercise mix when I was not exercising, I would instantly feel nauseated. It was terrible. I had ruined for myself some of my favorite music. Music means worlds to me so that result was simply unacceptable. I decided to take a different tack. My brother’s taste in music differed greatly from my own, so I raided his music library and found a bunch of high-energy songs that I hated and created another exercise mix. I continued working out, this time using the awful mix.

Then the really strange thing happened. Over time, I began to like my brother’s music. This made no sense at all. I exercise to music I like and it becomes unpleasant. I exercise to music I hate and it becomes enjoyable (the music. I still hated exercising.). I still don’t know what’s going on there. The good news is that I am still faithful with the exercising and that I am once again able to listen to the songs I enjoy without my gag reflex kicking in. And on top of that, my repertoire of enjoyable music is even larger.

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