When you think about becoming healthier or working on general wellness, a few general things come to mind: food, exercise, and self-care. Self-care can include food and exercise but it can mean much more than that (read more on that here).
Today, I wanted to focus on exercise. Movement. Activity. Whatever word you want to use to describe it is fine but choose a word that feels empowering. If hearing the word exercise fills you dread, choose a word that makes you excited or that you look forward to getting to do…not a means of punishment or chore. There are two questions to ask yourself: What is exercise to me and why am I exercising?
why do i want to exercises?!?
Why am I exercising? If you answered to lose weight – it’s not likely going to be something that sticks around because A) you may lose weight and then stop exercising or B) you don’t lose weight and you stop exercising because it’s not working. Try to develop a deeper meaning with exercise by asking yourself why is movement important to you? I do not have children but I want to one day. I want to develop habitual exercise that brings me joy so that my children find joy in movement as well.
WHAT IS EXERCISE!?!?
Second question, ask yourself what exercise is to YOU. It is really common to believe that exercise needs to be a certain length of time, exertion, or done on a piece of equipment. For example, “I need to work out 5 times per week for at least 30-45 minutes and I need to be sweating and my heart rate needs to be elevated…otherwise I might as well do nothing.” That’s a lot of, “need to” statements which inherently produce feelings of guilt when we don’t fulfill that “need.” Redefining exercise to suit your individual needs and desires can help you feel better about how you’re fitting it in.
Instead of focusing on minutes, consider your feelings. I need to workout for 30 minutes, could be turned into I want to focus on moving my body and feeling good, this Zumba class sounds like fun! No matter if it’s 20 minutes or 60, you’re more inclined to keep going it if it’s something you enjoy. Or for lack of a better phrase, if it sparks joy (thanks Marie Kondo) you’re more likely to desire it.
It’s true that there are recommendations/standards set for activity and we are encouraged to get them done in a week. What standards don’t account for is the variables we face every single day. I have worked with a mom who even after we looked at her schedule, found it more doable to fit in more movements throughout her day rather than 30 minutes at the gym or even on her treadmill at home. Don’t give me that, “YOU’LL HAVE TIME IF YOU MAKE TIME FOR IT” BS either. I don’t want to hear it and it’s not a helpful statement for someone who isn’t doing much for activity because of habit or injury.
ever picked up an instrument and knew how to play it perfectly right away? Didn’t think so.
It can feel difficult to get started with an exercise routine. It is also difficult to pick up an instrument and know how to play it right away too. Exercise is no different. My best advice is to start small. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of 0 exercises per week you could establish a positive habit of once per week?
You might think…one day?? What’s that going to do for me? Change. It’s going to cause sustainable change. It’s going to start you on a path to a better relationship with activity. I think when we join a gym, club, or class, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to instantly get the most out of our membership by going at least three days a week. This can lead to all-or-nothing thinking which doesn’t lend itself to sustainability or positive self-talk.
So what to do? I encourage you to think of all the activities you have a positive association with. Mine include: Pilates, kick boxing, boxing, yoga, dance, running, walking, biking, elliptical, weight lifting, WODs (like Crossfit ones), short workouts, long workouts, workout videos, HIIT, or bootcamp classes. Notice you didn’t see sports? I’m not a fan! I’ve never been a fan, I turn into a 15 year old brat and I become increasingly unmotivated to participate. It’s just part of who I am.
You might even go to your friend Google and type in, “list of various types of exercise.” Maybe there’ll be something you’ve never tried or something you used to do but could modify and try again. Seated exercises are a fantastic way to get going.
Remember, just because you used to do a certain activity does not mean we can jump back in right where we left off. It’s important to treat yourself kindly and not judge yourself for modifying or starting somewhere less than where you were.
Okay so how am I supposed to fit in exercise?
As far as fitting exercise into your daily routine, if you already take a day to meal plan or just look at your week ahead, this is an opportunity to plan in one day a week of exercise/movement/activity. Look at each day, where could you fit it in and how? What will you do to ensure that it happens? Sometimes this means packing a gym bag the night before or laying out your clothes so that you’re cued to change into them instead of comfy clothes/pajamas. Or sometimes it takes accountability with a friend or coach.
After you’ve accomplished your one day…watch out for sneaky diet language like, well I ONLY worked out once this week. ONLY!? You’re taking steps to a healthier you! Try to reframe the sentence to, I am so proud of myself because I wanted to start working out once a week, I scheduled it, it felt really great to move my body, and it’s doable for my life right now. See how positive that sounds? Often time I think it’s our mind and thoughts (that are completely normal by the way) that get in our way.
Lastly, be okay with your routine needing to change. The only constant when trying to improve your wellness or lifestyle is change. Your life most likely won’t be the same week to week and year to year, so why should our workouts be? Remember that one off week or month does not define you as a failure. It does not mean you are note healthy, it means you had a week or a month where it didn’t happen and instead of asking yourself why…ask yourself how can I move forward today?
So tell me, how do you think you could start to build in exercise into your routine or change up your current routine?