This week I wanna dive into some talk about fitness. Specifically working out.
Just the idea can make people break out in a nervous sweat, but if that’s you, HANG IN THERE! If you think “working out” equals trading the few moments of relaxation you sneak in at the end of the day for hours of agony, in which your muscles scream and cry and every movement is brutal, you are not alone. pain of trying to move the next day, you are not alone. If the idea of “exercising” makes you immediately frustrated as you imagine fit, toned and gorgeous people judging you while you attempt to run while keeping your thighs from jiggling, you’re still not alone. If the idea of working out is so scary and intimidating and repulsive that you get frustrated and depressed at the very idea and instead so buy some ice cream and potato chips, you’re still not alone.
That was me. 100%. I rolled my eyes at those workout sadists, cringing and grunting and making fitness look like the most appalling thing in the universe. I made up all sorts of reasons not to workout. But I knew that exercising was important for my health and wellbeing and somehow I wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to feel good after beating myself up for hours. I wanted to experience those “endorphins” they talked about that kept you going back, but instead of working out for me, I worked out because I knew that I should, and gritted my teeth doing things half-heartedly and wondering why it wasn’t working.
Somewhere in this process I had heard people talk about the things we do as kids and how we need to get back to that space, but it never resonated with me. Exercise experts who would talk about the “working out” we did as kids usually made it sound boring and lame! Exactly what it wasn’t. They would say things like “we didn’t even know we were getting exercise but we were” and I would hear “you need to enjoy squats and Burpees. You did them as a kid and you loved them, so get it together!”.
Umm, no. I did no Burpees as a kid. Why on earth would I? Maybe I would do something like a Burpee crawling under a branch or the car, and maybe I would jump up on the other side, but no way was I doing 20 and telling myself “Keep it up. You can do this. Think of how toned this will make you!” We were just having fun, learning Double Dutch, running through the woods, swinging as high as our legs could take us and jumping off to feel the earth smash under our feet. Exploring the under-water world of the pool, not doing laps to burn calories. When I jumped and danced around my living room making up songs at the top of my lungs, “workout” was as far from my mind as “bills” and “taxes”. What those well-intentioned folks were trying to say was very different from my perception, but it took a long time for me to get.
After beating myself up through dozens of workouts that I hated in the name of fitness, I had begun to think that being active and healthy was just something that was always going to be terrible. A huge and literal pain in my booty. A laborious task that no one ever wanted to do. That’s what all the magazines and movies were saying too! Talking about ways to make the workouts shorter, reiterating “no pain no gain” as their muscles and brains were crying, selling products that would eliminate the need for a workout that no one had time or motivation to do.
And then, I discovered YouTube workout videos. (Oh, man. If every other YouTube video got mysteriously deleted, we would still have an incredible gift to mankind in the form of the plethora of workout videos on YouTube. Love.) My fitness guru cousin shared some BeachBody workouts. I ran for the fun of it, because I could. I found workouts that made me a better snowboarder. I did yoga until I was more flexible than I can ever remember.
Somewhere between doing a free weight workout with an amazing trainer on the beach in Bali, and sweating buckets while dancing to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” I discovered something.
I was having fun. So much fun. I was feeling tough and capable and accomplished and happy. While working out.
I had finally cracked the code of working out. After about 15 years of random workouts that I hated. Hours on the treadmill crying inside and begging for it to stop. Doing random moves and calling it a workout to make myself feel fit. All of that led me to this brilliant place of enjoying the activity of working on my body.
Here’s the deal:
- Exercise can take many forms.
I’m pretty sure that when you hear talk of “exercise” you immediately imagine a particular kind of workout. For some that’s free weights at the gym. Others imagine running, either on the treadmill or the street. Some luck folks immediately conjure images of leotard-clad aerobics instructors Jazzercising ala Richard Simmons.
If you have an idea of one specific action that IS exercise, chances are good that you have tried it and either loved it and continued, or more likely, found that it wasn’t for you and decided that then fitness wasn’t for you. I’m here to tell you, THERE’S MORE TO WORKING OUT THAN YOU CURRENTLY KNOW!
It took ages, but I am finally to the point in my life that I have fully embraced enough types of movement that I can “work out” every day and never do the same thing twice. Actually, I have worked out about 5 days a week for the last few years, and have only ever done the same workout more than once about four times. Then I stopped. It had already gotten boring. We need variety in our clothing, our food, our entertainment, how could we possibly think that we don’t need it when training our bodies?! (If you are one of the people who does the same thing in your workout every time you do it, I’m sure that even that has variety. A different length, different weight, a different flow or route.)
You can do great work with your muscles in fairly simple ways. You know about taking the stairs and parking away from the building, maybe taking a bit of a walk at lunch time. There are entire Instagram accounts dedicated to ways for moms to get fit while doing housework, some even include the kids. There is always a way to throw in some fitness time and get the most out of what you’re already doing.
- Your body was made to move in all sorts of ways.
This goes with the last one, but I want to emphasize this. Our society has created an unfortunate work environment that keeps most of us pretty stationary throughout the day. We move a tiny fraction of the amount that we used to move in history. The human body has such incredible muscles and tendons and interwoven pieces and it’s a shame that we usually only use them to stand up, sit down, bend a bit and lie down again*.
The body has these incredible parts to enable you to move in some pretty incredible ways. Powerful ways. Intricate ways. Mind boggling ways. Ways that make you feel strong, gorgeous, graceful, and talented. If you don’t believe me watch some YouTube videos and take some time to marvel at the incredible ways in which people can move. Then go try it. Do what they’re doing! I’m pretty sure I only started doing yoga after spending a few hours lost in acrobatic videos. Music videos inspired me to do some dancing training. Soccer drills? You bet it was World Cup time.
- Far from a punishment, physical activity should be a celebration of your body.
This was a big one. So many of us, especially women, see working out as a way to pummel our unruly and unattractive bodies into submission. I would work out most vigorously and most often when I was feeling the least confident about my body. Maybe the day after having eaten an ice cream sandwich the size of my face and an entire bag of popcorn as a snack before dinner. I’d do some insane workout until I wanted to throw up and then never want to think about exercising again.
It takes some serious work to move out of this mindset, so we’ll be talking about it again. One of the things that I found most helpful to kick out this thought pattern was to ONLY listen to the people who had a high view and respect for their bodies and what they can do. I read books by women who learned to love their bodies and used that love to get fit. I watched documentaries about appreciating our bodies for all that they do. Podcasts of encouragement and affirmation were, and are always playing. When I worked out I would immediately stop the session if the instructor said something that degraded the body, or focused more on how this move would make me look than how it should feel. I wanted none of that. Your body is an amazing, beautiful vessel for your fascinating, brilliant soul. Respect the incredible vehicle that God has given you and let it show you the power it has inside. I promise it will amaze, enthrall and surprise you.
- If you don’t find a workout at least slightly pleasurable you shouldn’t do it.
Umm, yes. If you absolutely hate running, you should probably stop. If lifting weights makes you want to drop a barbell on your face, cancel your membership. Sure, making gains in your physical health will be challenging at times, and you should embrace that, but if there is no part of you that enjoys your fitness practices you need to find some new ones.
There are more workouts in the world than people, so you CAN find one that you enjoy. Probably even a bunch. So, here’s what you do. You get your computer and open YouTube. Search for “workout” maybe with a time limit, or a specific target (total body, with weights, men/women, low-impact, cardio, etc.). Try some. Keep trying. Maybe a few months. I guarantee that if you try a new workout every few days for a month or two you will without a doubt find at least a few that are interesting, challenging, invigorating and dare I say, FUN.
Find what you like. I currently do a variety of workouts ranging from cardio with peppy blondes who are incredibly encouraging and squeal sometimes to weights workouts with a team called “Buff Dudes”**. I dance until the sweat literally pours off my body with The Fitness Marshall**, and practice Yoga With Adriene**. Then sometimes I need to feel the wind on my face and feel like I’m really doing something and I’ll run. With a podcast so I maximize that time and get double the fun. Or I go to the beach and frolic in the waves, or ride my bike to the store because I want to be active but I also forgot to buy carrots.
Long story short, I have fun when I work out. Not every moment, and I’m not always giggling, but if I’m not enjoying it anymore I change it up. Because my health and fitness are really important to me, and if I’m not having fun I know it’s not long until I find something fun to do instead. Like watching movies and eating Little Debbie pies.
Give it a shot this week!! If you enjoy your workouts, awesome! I’d love to hear about them J If you aren’t working out, or are and find yourself dreading it every day, try the steps above. Take back the fun of being active. I know you will love it ❤
-With tons of love for you, your journey, and what you’re achieving.
*Check out THIS** podcast for more on that!
**These are links that I can’t tell if you can see or not. Go ahead and click em!