No self care series would be complete without a post on getting some exercise. I know it’s a struggle for many of us. The last thing you need in your day is to have to change your clothes, leave the house, get hot and sweaty, get yourself home, take a shower and then be too tired to do anything else, decide it’s too hard, don’t bother for another few days, feel guilty, give up. Sound familiar?
Like many things in the self-care sphere, exercise could use an image overhaul. We might have more success getting moving in a regular and positive way, if we start to think about it differently and take a different approach.
For those of you who have a solid exercise routine in place, you probably donˋt need to read this post, but PLEASE, share some of your tips and secrets in the comments, so we can learn from you.
For the rest of us, let’s figure out what we need to do to get moving regularly as another way to care for ourselves.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of exercise? For me it’s someone jogging. Specifically a slender tall woman in a gorgeous pair of spandex shorts and matching sports bra, with a generous pony tail floating behind her. She’s gliding along, glowing in the setting sun. You know her as well as I do. She’s the reason we don’t go running! We could never be like her. Right?
Or you might think of a buff dude at the gym, lifting an impossible weight on every machine on the circuit without grunting or groaning. He’s got a great tan. And he glows too. Maybe he oils his massive muscles. He looks like a freaking God.
We are fed so much bullshit about fitness and exercise. We are fed an idealised and perfect version of fitness, designed (in my not so humble opinion) to make us feel like crap about ourselves.
Who are YOU? What kind of body do YOU have? What kind of movement do YOU like doing?
Expand your vision of what it means to exercise. What kind of movement do you love? There are so many options. Walking, hiking, dancing, skipping, wrestling, yoga, kickboxing, tennis, stretching, skating, skiing, swimming, trampolining, rugby, netball, soccer, volleyball, rollerblading, bike-riding, gardening, and yes, weightlifting and running into the sunset.
Give this some time. Imagine doing some of these activities. What feels like it might be enjoyable and fun? What makes you want to run a mile? (Haha, there’s a source of motivation!) Are you more attracted to team sports or classes, or do you prefer solo activities? Tap into some memories of childhood. What physical things did you love doing as a kid? Maybe it’s time to give them another try.
One of my biggest obstacles when I first got serious about exercise, was fitting it into my already full day. I seemed incapable of doing anything after work or in the evening, or at lunchtime. I was just too wrapped up in my day, too distracted, too tired. I needed to get strategic. The only time left was in the morning, before I started anything else. Ideally it would be something that didn’t require a complete change of clothing and an extra shower. And ideally I would not have to drive anywhere to do it. But I couldn’t do it at home because I knew I would not keep a commitment only to myself.
My solution turned out to be a daily yoga class at a studio I walked past on my way to work. I signed up for a 40-day practice. I set my alarm for an hour earlier every day, packed my breakfast to eat at my desk when I arrived at work, and dressed pretty much as usual with yoga gear underneath. I walked to work as usual, but stopped for an hour of exercise on the way. It was hard, but those 40 mornings started me on a years-long commitment to moving my body every day. Given the right strategy, I could keep it up.
You will be very different from me. But do some strategizing and figure out:
· What time of day would work for you?
· At home or out of the house?
· Alone, or with someone else? In a group?
· At a class? Online or in-person?
· A long-term commitment or flexibility?
· Does a 100-day challenge appeal to you, or turn you off?
· Anything else?
· Get specific. During this process you will eliminate a lot of options. And you will be left with some realistic and achievable choices.
Just like all things sober, support is KEY for getting a new habit in place. Support can be anything from hiring a trainer, joining a team or group that meets regularly, or making a deal with your dog that you will go for a walk every day at a certain time. (Who can break a promise to their dog?)
My current exercise routine is going to the gym. A far cry from yoga. I used to hate the idea of going to the gym, but for some reason I am totally loving it. But I only go because I have support. I made a deal with a trainer, I pay her, and I show and do exactly what she tells me. I rely on her support and encouragement.
Tack it on to another solid habit
I read recently that establishing a new habit is much easier if we tack it onto another habit. This makes sense to me. My yoga habit was easier because I did it on the way to my other habit — work — which was already a non-negotiable part of my weekdays.
What routines do you already have that you could add some movement onto? Hint: you know all those times you are waiting for something and you fill in the time with phone scrolling? Could you use that time to move? Even 2 minutes counts. Could you do some stretching every time you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or the coffee to brew? Could you lift some hand weights while you are chatting to a friend online? Could you do a brisk walk around the block after you take out the garbage or the recycling? Could you walk up the stairs to a meeting or appointment or to your office, instead of taking the elevator? Look for opportunities in your day to move your body. There are many!
Are you up for a challenge?
This isn’t for everyone, but some of us are motivated by a challenge. There’s no shortage of multi-day challenges you can join online or in person. 30-days to 5km. 40-day yoga practices. 30-day cold shower challenges. From zero to full-distance triathlon in one year. I’ve done all of these. I love a challenge. Something to cross off the calendar is a huge motivator for me. Maybe they will work for you too.
I think these kinds of challenges are great for when you’re starting a ground zero, and especially when you’re very out-of-shape. It is so helpful to be in the company of other people in your situation, who can cheer you on and help keep you motivated.
How about turning fitness into a gift? All that money you’re saving by not drinking: spend some of it on your body’s health and vitality. For me it is a gym membership. For others a series of dance classes, or a pool membership. Right now I’m thinking about buying an online calisthenics series of classes for my upcoming birthday present. There is something very appealing to me about a 60-something woman doing spontaneous chin-ups! Is there something fitness-related you’d like to invest in? Could you ask the Santa in your life for a membership or class, a tennis racquet or a mini trampoline?
It’s so personal
Tap into your own interests; do what YOU like to do.
Do it your way: alone, in a group, as a challenge, or just to make your dog happy!
Do it in your own time: morning, daytime, evening, middle of the night.
Make it realistic: like any new habit, start right where you are, and build carefully and kindly toward your goals.
Forget about that gorgeous sunset runner or that buff dude at the gym. Be you. Move your way!
What’s your relationship with exercise? Do you make it a priority, or has it slipped to the bottom of your to-do list? Is it something you’d like to add to your self care? Let us know in the comments.