I think this has turned out to be one of the most personally impactful books I've ever read. I found it at a local bookstore in my early 20s, read it, and absorbed its worldview without fully remembering exactly what it had said. Rereading it years later was like having someone explain "my own" exercise philosophy to me, because apparently this is where I had originally gotten pretty much all of it.
The book's main points are easy to summarize:
- People often exercise to change their physical appearance or to avoid heart attacks, but these goals take months or years.
- Long-delayed gratification makes it hard for anyone to stick with a habit.
- People think that exercise has to feel miserable, which makes it even harder to persist.
The solution to everything: learn how to enjoy the *immediate* benefits of exercise. If your last workout felt good, you're more likely to show up for the next workout. You can accomplish this by lowering the intensity of your workout and being mindful of your body's sensations.
The book cites compelling evidence for each of its claims. I find it particularly interesting that exercise can lift mood at many levels, including everyday stress and severe anxiety and depression. The book also provides reasonable introductions to two of the fundamental practices for changing one's life: habit formation and cognitive behavioral therapy. All of this content is broken up into very readable short segments, which is helpful if your mood afflictions affect your ability to concentrate.
Years ago, this book taught me how to love running and gave me the tools to exercise for the longest period I ever have (18+ months). Now, as I work to recover from both upper body and lower body chronic injuries, I hope it will help me stay afloat until I regain all of the abilities I took for granted.