It’s time. You knew it was coming.
I mean the new year is right around the corner, and I’m sure many of you are gearing up for some serious resolution making. Am I right?
So, here it is…a rather timely post on (drum roll, please) exercise.
Let me begin by saying that exercise and I go way back.
When I was young (elementary school young), “exercise” was fun! Of course I didn’t identify it as exercise at the time. Living in the country, my summers were filled with bike rides, games of kickball, and hikes in the woods behind my house. I was outside from sunup to sundown. And during the school year, recesses were filled with activity from baseball, to games of tag and tetherball. Biking to school was exciting and fun. (Did I mention that I was a country kid? Not only did this mean a long ride, but my school was on the top of a big hill!)
My junior high school years introduced me to the world of organized sports. I played basketball, ran track, and was a cheerleader. Again, I didn’t think of these activities as exercise, per say. At the time, the important thing was that I was able to hang out with my friends outside of the school day, and I was having fun doing it.
And then I lost focus on what was truly important. I no longer exercised because it was fun or because I enjoyed it, or even because it made me feel good.
I exercised to burn calories.
I exercised to punish my body for not being perfect.
And this continued for far too many years.
Thankfully, I have rediscovered the simple pleasures of exercise. I now truly appreciate the fact that I have a body that is capable of moving.
Today, I thought I would share some of the lessons I have learned. (Most of them the hard way.)
Get rid of the “exercise” to lose weight mentality. This is the worst reason ever to exercise. Exercise because of the endorphins. Exercise because it relieves stress. Exercise because it gets you out in nature. Exercise because it gives you an opportunity to meet new people. Exercise because it makes your heart healthy. Do not exercise for the sole purpose of losing weight. Bad idea. Bad, bad idea.
Exercise because you enjoy it. Nothing kills your quest for fitness faster than forcing yourself to do an activity you don’t enjoy. Personally, I really enjoy running. Last year, a broken elbow forced me to take time off from running. I did not welcome the break. (HAHA…pun intended!!) But in hindsight, I am thankful, because what it really did, was help me realize that I really love to run! Find your passion!!
Vary your routine and don’t be afraid to try new things. Shake it up once in a while. Cross training is smart. Especially if you are hardcore about one activity. Especially if you are old. Like me. This past summer, my goal was to love yoga. You can read about that here, here and here. Yoga pushed me way outside my comfort zone. And it is the best fitness decision I’ve made in a long time.
Find balance. I no longer run 7 days a week. I even take a rest day once a week, and I enjoy it!! In the past, a missed workout was cause for panic and anxiety. And restricting what I ate to “make up for it” was the norm. I now understand the importance of recovering from a tough workout, I understand that somedays, listening to your body means that the workout that was planned may not happen. And it’s okay. Somedays, a walk with the hubby is the best fitness choice. On other days (especially those glorious, fall Wisconsin days), a bike ride is the best decision. I understand that strength training is important to my fitness, and I dedicate a couple of workouts each week to focus on it.
Fully engage yourself in your exercise. If your intention is to workout, then workout. Get in tune with your body. Focus on your workout. Get in touch with your body. Listen to your breathing. Feel your muscles. Concentrate on your form. Live in the moment. Get rid of the distractions. My best workouts are electronics free.
Keep your fitness goals in mind. While it is a great thing to set goals, understand that there is a much greater goal than running a marathon, or getting a six pack. Set a life long goal to stay active. This may make you reevaluate your immediate fitness goals. Don’t push yourself to the point of burnout or injury.
And, make sure your fitness goals are your fitness goals. Do not compare yourself with others. Do not compete with others. Focus on making yourself the best YOU that you can be. What is your heart rate saying about the intensity of your workout? Listen to it.
(I’m avoiding going on a rant here, but please know it is forthcoming. I have some serious issues with fitness fads and some people I see working out at the Y.)
So go ahead. Start making your resolutions. You are ready. Remember, your primary goals of exercise should be to take care of your “insides” and to make yourself feel strong and confident.