Exercise or movement is an integral part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Movement or exercise can be a form of self-care—relieving stress and empowering you. Those that exercise regularly are at lower risk for all kinds of health complications including high cholesterol, depression and type II diabetes. Movement is a way to take care of yourself body and mind and an important part of keeping your new, healthy lifestyle in balance.
Too often, exercise and dieting go hand in hand—exercise becomes something you “should do” or you “have to do” in order to lose weight, instead of something you do because you enjoy it.
I spent years torturing myself at the gym.
Going every day and spending an hour or more on the elliptical or other cardio machine. Running in place until the calorie counter on the dash said I’d burned 500 calories. I was exhausted and unmotivated, but I felt compelled to keep up my routine no matter what my body was telling me.
If I couldn’t get to the gym, I’d panic: I was convinced that if I didn’t burn more calories than I consumed every single day, I would gain weight. I put off going out with friends so that I could go to the gym and I would actually cry if I couldn’t get there.
To me, exercise became something that I had to do in order to lose weight, or to keep myself from gaining weight.
After years of playing sport and enjoying moving my body, I had turned exercise into something I dreaded.
It wasn’t fun anymore.
There was so much pressure on my exercise routine that it became similar to a restrictive diet: something I absolutely had to do in order to have the body that I wanted.
After exercising this way for about six years, I finally got burnt out. I ran an 8 mile road race and then just stopped going to the gym cold turkey.
I’d had enough.
For a while, I didn’t miss it. It felt like a relief to not exercise—I had more time for friends, family and other things I enjoyed. I took about a year off from any kind of exercise whatsoever and I loved it.
When I starting thinking about working out again—feeling like I wanted to start moving again—that’s when I knew it was time to get back into some kind of routine. I started exercising when I wanted to instead of sticking to a rigid schedule and trying out all kinds of workouts until I found something that I truly loved.
Now movement doesn’t feel like an obligation.
It feels like a natural part of my life.
Because I love the way I exercise so much, it doesn’t feel like a chore to me: it’s fun and I almost always enjoy myself. When I stop enjoying myself, or it seems hard to motivate myself, that’s when I know that I need some time away to rest and recover.
The key to fitting exercise into your life is to find a way of moving that you like.
This way, you’re moving because it make you feel healthy and alive and all of the pressure of losing weight is removed.
Why is it so hard to exercise?
If you find it hard to fit movement into your routine, chances are you have some kind of mental or emotional blockage—something keeping you from exercising.
Whether it’s because you can’t find something you like to do or you can’t seem to find a way to fit it into your schedule, there’s a reason why you feel this way.
The biggest thing standing in most peoples’ way is that feeling of obligation. Feeling like they “should” be exercising if they want to lose weight or be healthy. As we talked about earlier, whenever you hear yourself using the word “should,” it’s an indication that you don’t actually want to do whatever it is. That you’re letting some outside force tell you what to do instead of listening to your inner body cues.
When someone tells me that they “should” be working out, that’s my first clue that there’s something else going on—that there’s an opposition to work through.
If you feel like you “should” be exercising, there’s a reason why you’re not.
Once you figure out that reason and pinpoint what’s standing in your way, you’ll be able to work around it and discover what you really like to do. When you find that way of moving that you really enjoy, it’s much easier to fit it into you routine in a way that works for you.
On the surface, there are two, typical reasons why someone feels they should be working out, but can’t get exercise into their routine:
- They don’t enjoy exercising.
- They feel like they don’t have enough time.
If you’re among those who don’t like exercising, it’s usually a matter of not having found that way of moving that excites you. You still haven’t found that way of moving that effortlessly fits into your lifestyle.
It could be a matter of exploring different ways of moving, pushing yourself to try new things like pilates, yoga, Crossfit, mountain biking or even walking, until you find something you enjoy.
Exercise doesn’t need to happen in a gym.
It can happen in your living room, in a lake or outside on the sidewalk. Try thinking of exercise as movement. What way of moving speaks to you? Are you a dancer? A boxer? A slow pitch softball player? There are endless possibilities when it comes to movement. You just need to commit to experimenting to find the right way of moving for you.
Feeling like you don’t have enough time to exercise is a more complicated issue.
- Is it hard to find the time because you don’t enjoy exercise?
- Is it hard to find the time because you’re too tired after a long day at work?
- Is it hard to find the time because you don’t feel like you can take time away from family?
- Is it hard to find the time because you feel like you don’t deserve that personal time?
If you find that you want to exercise, but you don’t have the time, or you don’t like exercising and you can’t find the time to experiment with new ways of moving, it might be that you have a hard time putting yourself first and making the time.
Just like an imbalance in the non-food areas of your life can affect your food choices, it can also affect how you choose to take care of yourself.
If you are stressed at work, or you don’t like your job, you’re more likely to be too tired and drained at the end of the day to motivate yourself to exercise. Or maybe you work such long hours that if you were to get some movement in after work, you’d miss precious time with your kids.
Or you might feel selfish taking time for yourself, because taking time for yourself means taking time away from your partner or your kids.
How can you start to feel okay taking time for yourself?
Is it a matter of setting some boundaries when it comes to work and making sure to leave at a reasonable hour a few times a week?
Is it a matter of working through those feelings of selfishness?
If you find that self-worth is the obstacle standing in the way of your exercise routine, maybe it’s time to start taking care of yourself as you would take care of your children.
You deserve the same amount of attention as you give your children (if you don’t have children, imagine how you would care for them, or think of your fur babies).
You’ve devoted your life to giving your children everything they need to survive and thrive—healthy food, love, and support in all aspects of their lives.
What does nourishing yourself as you do your kids mean to you? What does it look like?
It could mean supporting yourself to indulge in some personal time to go to the gym or take 20 minutes to walk the morning. Or it could mean nourishing yourself by practicing some relaxing yoga in the living room once your kids are asleep.
The next big question you have to ask yourself is: What do you need to change in order to take care of yourself in this way?
Figure out what area of Primary Food is out of balance.
What non-food area of your life do you feel is lacking? Could it be that an imbalance in this area is draining your energy? What can you do to fix this imbalance?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you strive to find a way to fit exercise into your routine (courtesy of MizFit):
>Have you spent time discovering what your body wants with regards to movement?
Set aside some sacred time to try different types of movement—whatever speaks to you. It could be walking, Zumba, Crossfit or yoga. You need to try different things or else you’ll never know what you like and what you don’t like.
>Have you considered your WHY behind exercise lately?
Do you associate exercise with weight loss? As something you SHOULD do in order to lose weight? Just like with food, shifting your focus from weight to health can help with your motivation to exercise. Experiment with focusing on fitness related goals—like being able to climb stairs with ease, or play with the kiddies. Or even back squat twice your body weight!
It takes time to adjust to big changes. The bigger the change, the longer it takes to adjust in most cases. I encourage you to be patient and forgiving of yourself as you work to fit movement into your life.
These changes are not meant to stress you out. The last thing I want to do is stress you out by telling you that you have to find time to exercise. It’s all about balance. If you find that what you’re trying is creating a more stressful home environment, or more stress in general, consider doing just a little bit less. It might be that you need to start small and work up to where you want to be as opposed to jumping right in with your ideal exercise schedule.
Get support from your family and friends. Find a movement buddy with similar goals and spend time with that person.