When I say the word 'exercise', what is your immediate reaction?
Do you think... yippee?!? Or do you get this sinking feeling inside your gut?
For many of us, exercise has become a bit of a touchy subject. Especially if you have been stuck in the dieting trap for a long time, and you have tried so hard to make it work for you, but it has ended up becoming a source of emotional discomfort. You might even feel bad about yourself for not loving it like you think you should.
Let me just reassure you that you're not alone, and there is definitely nothing wrong with you. Just like anything, bad experiences can put you off and create negative thoughts in your mind.
Social media and the fitness industry hasn't helped. We see snapshots all over social media of people rocking their active-wear, which makes us feel like we have to go out and buy expensive gear, and have the perfect body before we dare venture out to exercise in public. We see personal trainers whipping people's butts with a "no pain, no gain" attitude that makes us feel like exercise has to be super intense and we can only participate if we are prepared to shed blood, sweat and tears.
It's no wonder the thought of another boring or agonizing hour of exercise makes us feel sick to the stomach. Exercise and procrastination have been besties since the dawn of time.
However. There is no denying that physical activity is a super important part of a healthy lifestyle and has a long list of benefits.
The secret to making exercise something we can tolerate (and even enjoy!) is to reframe our attitude towards it.
1 - Ban the word 'exercise'
I'm serious. I avoid using the word at all costs. When I think of exercise, I immediately think of it as a chore. We've just been programmed this way over time, with exercise being something that we have to force ourselves to make time for, as a necessary part of being desperate to lose weight.
Instead I try to refer to it as physical activity, moving your body, or doing some fitness training. Fitness training gets me excited because it makes me feel like an athlete who is working towards a really cool goal. Or I get more specific, like "I'm going to do some yoga today".
There is a whole science behind the power of vocabulary in changing our mindset. You'd be surprised how powerful it is.
2 - Choose love over fear
When we force ourselves to exercise because we are desperate to lose weight, we are making the choice from a place of fear. Fear of being out of shape. Fear of being judged. Fear of being unhealthy. Fear of not being fit enough to get the most out of life. Fear of not being attractive enough. Fear of not being enough.
But what if we made a choice to move our bodies every day, from a place of love? Love of how energized and alive it makes us feel. Love of how amazing our bodies are and what we can achieve. Love of tuning in and really paying attention to the messages our body is telling us. Love of working towards being healthier and happier. Love of making the time to nourish and care for ourselves, because we deserve it!
3 - Break it down into smaller chunks
We're all busy, right? So setting aside an hour each day to do a workout can be impossible.
How often do we have good intentions of doing an early morning workout before work, and end up sleeping through the alarm, then thinking that we have missed the opportunity for the day, I'll try again tomorrow. What about the rest of the day? What about a 10 minute brisk walk on your lunch break? What about busting out a few stretches while you wait for the kettle to boil?
There are lots of ways to incorporate movement into your day, in tiny bite-sized chunks. And it is certainly still just as effective. Definitely more effective than doing nothing at all! We just have to get a little creative.
Short bursts of high intensity exercise can really rev up the metabolism, to the point where you continue burning calories long after you finish - that's a win!
When my daughter was a newborn, I wanted to learn yoga. But there was no way I was going to make it to an hour-long yoga class. So I asked Google to tell me five easy yoga moves for beginners. I memorized those five, and I practiced them at random times throughout the day. I love doing a couple of yoga moves right before bed, as it relaxes me and helps me sleep. Then when I had mastered those five, I learned another five. And gradually built up my repertoire over time.
Don't underestimate the value of incidental exercise. Vacuuming the house and even a bit of late night bedroom activity (wink wink) can do wonders for your waistline!
4 - Track your progress and celebrate small wins
One of the most motivating things I ever did was buy myself a Fitbit. Now this isn't a product endorsement and I don't get paid for recommending it. And there are lots of other similar products on the market too, which are all great. Even a $10 pedometer from Kmart is a great tool.
If you haven't got a tracking device to measure steps or heart rate, you could always simply use a journal or diary and record other parameters, like repetitions or duration.
The whole point of using a tracking tool of some kind, is so that you can compete against yourself. This allows you to set goals, and gives you a sense of achievement when you do better than you did last time.
Achievement gives you confidence. Confidence gives you motivation.
5 - Make it fun!
It's your body. Your life. And there are a million ways to move your body and increase your fitness. There aren't any rules (only that you keep yourself safe and don't do anything that poses a risk to your health).
Find what you love doing, and do more of that.
Don't like working out in public? Get a fitness DVD and workout at home!
Don't like structured workout routines? Try dancing, or swimming, or even gardening. Whatever floats your boat.
Put music on. Mix it up. Do something different every day. Bust a few moves at random times. Get up from your desk and walk around. Grab a buddy and go walking together.
Move your body, your way.
What are your favourite ways to move? Let me know in the comments below.