Here’s a head spinner – exercise isn’t punishment.
You do not need to punish yourself for:
Enjoying what you had for dinner last night
Years of not exercising ‘correctly’
Not having the body that you or someone else thinks you should
Missing a workout
Having other things going on in your life that deprioritize exercise – like a global pandemic, perhaps?
Moreover, this mindset won’t work. You might burn a few calories in the mental effort to flog yourself about your (apparent lack of) fitness, but you surely won’t be motivated to sustain your fitness.
Simply put, if it’s not fun, why do it? Or as Michelle Segar would say in her book No Sweat, if your workouts don’t sustain you, you won’t sustain them.
In this context, the word sustain takes on multiple meanings. You won’t keep doing your workouts if they’re no fun. A workout doesn’t feed you if you’re doing it only because you feel like you should, or if you feel like you have to do that workout in some particularly unenjoyable manner.
If the goal is to have a sustainable movement practice – something that gets you out the door with ease, that doesn’t require excessive mental effort to convince yourself to do, something you can easily do nearly daily for about 30 minutes, something that keeps you effortlessly fit – then that movement has to be enjoyable and fit naturally into your life.
Here’s some good news - recommendations for exercise have changed in the last few years, but most of us are stuck in an old mindset. It turns out:
Multiple bouts of exercise – meaning 7-8 minutes here and there throughout your day – WORK. You don’t need to get a minimum solid 30 minutes of effort to count that bout as exercise.
Less intense exercise is ok! You don’t need to sweat or breathe hard to count what you’re doing as exercise. If it’s a hassle to bring workout clothes to work, just enjoy a walk over lunch without feeling like you have to get your sweat on.
Stuff you do in your normal life that requires a bit of exertion COUNTS as exercise. That might be mowing your lawn, wrestling with kiddie car seats, gardening, pushing a grocery cart, parking a bit farther from the front door of your workplace and getting a little walk.
If this is where you’re at, quit flogging yourself about not fitting into some perceived workout norm, and pay attention to what you do during the day. You’re likely already exerting yourself multiple times a day. Count these efforts as exercise and you might find it easier to be kind to yourself – and thus more motivated to add some additional movement when the time is ripe.
And then, think first – what do you LIKE to do? What kind of movement feels good in your body? Are you already enjoying something that you could do a little more of? In particular, is there something
you’d enjoy doing with a friend or family member? (Motivation loves company!) Don’t default to the workout norm just because you feel like you should. Have a kindly chat with the soft animal of your body, and then enjoy the movement that calls you.