Hello, and welcome to another week of living our most audacious lives. Wherever you are I hope you’re content, enthusiastic and refreshed.
In my career and community I talk with tons of people about how they want their lives to be. We talk about how they see themselves and where they are now, what they want to achieve, and steps to move the former toward the latter. From various walks of life, socioeconomic states, ages and personalities the thing I hear most often is “I need to exercise more”.
We know we should. Our doctors remind us; late night infomercials throw it in our faces; and our creaky joints, stiff muscles and gasping lungs reinforce it whenever we take the stairs, and yet consistent exercise is still this elusive thing. We create a million reasons not to work out, as many as there are reasons why it would improve your life. From the non-exercise side of the fence all those “fitness nuts” and “gym rats” seem like ridiculous people who must not have jobs, or value their families. They must not like having fun either, or eating junk food. And yet, in the backs of our minds, our heart of hearts, our crying knees and our gasping lungs, we know that if we want to be happier, feel better, move more freely, be stronger and live healthier, we should probably start taking notes.
I’ve read a million articles, books and inspirational Instagram posts about how to get myself to exercise and either rolled my eyes or nodded my head but immediately forgot every one of them. It’s taken years of actual trial and real error to get myself into the habit of exercise and while some of those hints and “tricks” and guides were real in my experience, just as many of them made me more frustrated and less likely to work out than before.
So in the spirit of sharing and caring I want to pass along the ways that I’ve been able to take exercise beyond a chore begrudgingly done, and into a happy addition to my life.
- Change your mindset around exercise.
Here are a few truths about exercise that I had to embrace and internalize before I could make being active a regular part of my life.
Exercise isn’t about changing your appearance.
Exhaustion isn’t the objective.
You don’t have to run. Or “do cardio”. You don’t have to lift weights. Or do HIIT.
It doesn’t have to take an hour a day, or 30 minutes a day, or even every other day.
You, yes you, can exercise. Can get fit. Can feel healthy by being active.
Being active feels good, mentally, emotionally and physically.
- Make it part of the schedule.
The only way I will actually work out with any consistency is when I know what day it’s going to happen and can plan for it. I used to try to exercise four times a week, but the days were my choice. So I would crank it on Saturday and Sunday when I felt like getting up late and taking my time with a morning sweat sesh, but then coast until Friday and be like “oh yeah, working out…”. I also tried the opposite and gave myself no real exercise expectations aside from like “yeah, you should work out a few days a week, but no pressure. Whenever you feel up to it”. Guess who worked out like twice? Uh huh. The thing that’s kept me consistent for the longest time so far is having a set expectation of working out every other day, and trying to do something active like a walk or yoga or stretching on the off days. It’s scheduled. It’s in my head. I know it’s coming and when to plan things. I like to be flexible so sometimes I kick butt and want to do it again tomorrow then take a day off, but then I know I’m back at it the next day.
The main lesson is that being active as an adult doesn’t just happen, you’ve got to make it happen. Decide what you are able to add to your schedule and be faithful to it.
- Psych yourself up for the workout a day in advance.
As soon as I know what days of the week I’m going to be exercising I start talking to myself about it, but especially the morning of. I think about what it will feel like to have things to do after work on days that I’m exercising. I remind myself of the plan in the morning and do my best to help my mind remember how good I feel after the workout. I’ve gotten this to enough of a science that it’s like anticipating a reward now. I think about it throughout the day and frame it like “This office is stuffy. I’m so tired of sitting, and I’m so excited to get out of here and go bust my booty at the gym!” It might sound silly, but it’s been a huge help in keeping me going and feeling good before and after exercising.
- Put your workout stuff on as soon as you get home from work, or as soon as you wake up.
People always like to add the advice about getting out your workout stuff the night before to remind you, and put your shoes by the door, but I have never found that helpful. What’s helpful for me is changing into my workout stuff straight out of my work clothes, or in the morning from my pajamas. One of the most annoying parts about working out is the changing. It takes like ten minutes to get my stuff on and put my hair up and get out my gear, then at least ten more when I’m done and I shower and change again. But you know what? Changing in the first place takes time, and I do that every morning and night anyway, and putting on the workout stuff is a lot easier when I’m already naked.
- Don’t take a last minute phone break.
No matter how tempting it is to catch up on email, scroll through Insta or start a conversation, if you do it right before your workout, you’re gonna be in your gym clothes, sitting on a bench an hour later wondering what happened. Once your stuff is on and you’ve arrived at wherever you need to be to get moving, just get moving!
- Keep your fitness plan fresh!
Nothing bores me quite like repeating a workout. I used to try to stick to workout programs and get frustrated when I tapered off and quit at about week 3.5. I used to think I was just the worst self-saboteur of all time, but then I realized that it’s really just because doing one kind of activity five days a week for three weeks is super boring to me. In the last month I have lifted weights, done Pilates and yoga, danced, ran, followed HIIT videos, kickboxed, and made my own resistance workout. I already know I’m going to work out, so while I’m doing my usual talking to myself about the workout plan I think about what would be fun. What would feel good for my body to do today?
If you’re still not solid on the whole exercise habit thing take a cruise through this series about fitness:
Whatever you do, take it easy on yourself. All the self-loathing, shame, frustration, and scolding in the world isn’t going to change your mind about this stuff. Give yourself a break. You’re amazing and wonderful and worthy and beautiful. ❤