It’s been 6 months since my exercise routine went off the rails–ever since the osteopath warned me against jogging on the beach. He said the incline is jarring my back unevenly and exacerbating my right low back pain. I’ve been trying out other aerobic exercise here and there. Sometimes I just walk on the beach or skip the beach entirely. But then I miss it. This morning I was walking on the beach and a woman with a little dog came up behind me. She was jogging, slowly, on the flat sand, farther away from the water where the sand is looser. It’s harder to jog on loose sand. Maybe jogging slower on loose sand is an equivalent workout to jogging faster on the compacted sand close to the water. (Stick with me here, even if you’re not a runner.) So, I tried it and, sure enough, I got a great workout jogging slower on the loose sand. I think my back will be fine with this. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of this earlier.

As humans we have a legacy of evolutionary adaptations that are ruining our health. You may hear a voice inside your head urging you to eat ice cream and pizza. It’s likely we’re biologically programmed to seek out and devour calorie-dense foods. For almost all of human history food was scarce and we had to be highly motivated to obtain calories in order to survive. Another voice in your head admonishes you to conserve energy since you might need it at any moment to flee from a predator, or chase after prey. Let’s name that voice the lazy Sloth (although Sloths aren’t actually lazy, they’re slow, and cute.). The Sloth has sneaky ways of inhibiting creative problem-solving, and convincing you to lie around more than is good for you. I wasn’t even aware of my inner Sloth until the woman jogged by me. I thought I was just taking care of my back, but I’d let exercise slide for a long time. In retrospect, I wonder if I had been more alert to the Sloth’s wily ways, I might have found my way out of Slothdom sooner. No big loss in this case. But, how many of us have self-sabotaging voices in our head for years? And what are the consequences of believing those voices? Do you have an inner Sloth? Or a Cookie Monster? What is (s)he telling you lately?

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